While still-hunting for whitetails along the Niobrara River outside Valentine, Neb., I came across a split tree. In the split was an old hay hook, the kind with a wooden T-handle made for handling bales of hay or straw. A long time ago, the tool had evidently been stuck in the fork of the tree, and it died and split. The hook was easy to pull out. It appeared to be hand-forged and pounded out of a large carriage bolt. There was no sign of any old homestead or even a hay field, for that matter. Mother Nature had taken back whatever living the owners were trying to carve out of that place on the frontier.