The Power of Ghosts

This morning we asked our new friend James to make a video to send to Jeffrey’s toddler grandkids. Here’s a still frame of Jeffrey, after blowing them a kiss.

Top to bottom: Joey, Jeffrey.

James was in Thedford with his mother and grandmother, for his elderly great-uncle’s funeral. James works nights, so for him this would be a tiring day, aside from the emotional strain. Still he found time to help us.

James admired our ride. The most he’s biked at once was 10 miles, for a charity fundraiser. Bikes aren’t practical transport in this part of the world.


James introduced us to his mother, Karma.

Jeffrey offered condolences. Karma said her uncle hadn’t walked since his 20s, and now he was walking in heaven—a blessing. She gave Jeffrey a big hug.
Rick makes Sunday morning visits in a small off-road vehicle. He and Jeffrey got to talking about the Ride, and about immigration. Rick’s ancestors came from Northern Ireland before the Revolutionary War. A creek in Rhode Island is named for his family. Rick is sympathetic to those fleeing persecution or just seeking a better life. He says this is a good place because people can’t be lazy; nothing in northwest Nebraska comes easily. But Rick understands that some people need help despite their best efforts, and here, the community pitches in.
Some ranchers do well in Cow Country.
God’s Own Cows need water. We never before saw so many working windmill pumps. Most we see back East are rusty relics.
What are these spiky plants topped with dried flowers?
We enjoyed a conversation with Trooper Aaron after hours alone on the road. Aaron was interested in the Ride and didn’t know that bewildered asylum applicants can have a lawyer only “at no expense to the government.” Aaron was born and raised in the area and says the locals are good people. That has been our experience too.
We weren’t quite alone. There were bovines aplenty. And for over 60 miles between Thedford and Valentine, zero commercial establishments.
Much of the trip was through a vast wildlife refuge.
We biked slowly for tens of miles on pavement interrupted by large cracks every few yards/meters. We endured hours of jarring bumps. From about mile 50 to mile 60, there were fewer cracks yet the surface was heavily pocked, rattling Jeffrey’s bones. The wind was less ferocious than yesterday, but today’s angle of attack wasn’t much better. It made for a slow, hard day of biking.
We saw no crosswinds. But we felt them.
Avery is a member of the Lakota Nation. He lives in Valentine and spends a lot of time on the nearby Rosebud Reservation. He loves his heritage and is learning traditions from his grandfather.

What First Nations people (the land’s original inhabitants) think of immigrants and refugees should carry great weight. Avery says that people coming to this country want to better themselves and their new land. He welcomes them.

Jeffrey asked Avery how he feels about what migrants built here without seeking leave from the Lakota. Avery is uncomfortable with metropolitan areas, but he likes the area’s small towns and the people in them—and Valentine in particular, which he has seen develop. Valentine isn’t what his ancestors had or imagined, but it’s home.

The history of distant Russia, Lithuania, and Germany created ghosts for Jeffrey. Perhaps they moved him to Ride for Human Rights. There are ghosts for Avery right here in what once was Lakota land, but his outlook channels that in a good way. He feels his ancestors guiding him as they see things he can’t see.

When we consider our roots, as our new friends Rick and Avery do, we see how much we are like today’s immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We’re all people. We want to live. We have ghosts. We are trying to make sense of life.

And we owe it to one another to put Human Rights First.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Ghosts

  1. You have found Americans who need to hear your message. Did you see the ghosts of my ancestors who died in the overland trek to refuge in the West? They walked along the Platte River. Ride on!


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