Western Fiction posted January 1, 2018 Chapters: -1- 2... 

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The beginning of the journey.

A chapter in the book The West

Starting Out

by Thomas Bowling

A father and daughter join a wagon train and set out for Oregon.

“How much longer are we going to wait here?"

Sarah Beauchamp was pacing around the wagon, anxious to begin her journey. A new life awaited her out west, and she wanted to get started. She was traveling with her father and setting off on the adventure of her life.

She had waited months for the arrangements to be made. Supplies had to be stocked. A wagon must be bought. Sarah's father purchased a Prairie Schooner. This had become the wagon of choice. The first settlers went in Conestogas because they were larger and families could ride in them. They soon found out that their size was their weakness.

A Conestoga’s weight was a detriment in the mud that was often encountered. They broke down more readily from the distance, and the mountains became impassable. Prairie Schooners were smaller, they didn't put the strain on the oxen or horses pulling them like the larger wagon. The Schooners weren't big enough to carry the families and all of the supplies needed for the journey. This meant that travelers had to walk the two thousand miles to Oregon, but at least they would get there.

After a committee formed by a group of the travelers conducted interviews, a wagon master was hired. This last item was the most important. Many stories were told of inexperienced wagon masters leading their group into disasters. The West was a dangerous place when it wanted to be. Jarrod Green, an imposing trail hardened man, was chosen to lead the wagons west. He was an experienced wagon master and had led several trains. He came highly recommended to the group and had proper letters of introduction.

Sarah paced around the wagon. “When are we leaving?”

“We need to leave soon,” Sarah's father said. “Or we'll lose our window of opportunity. We only have from mid-April to late May or the weather won't hold, but we have to wait for the stragglers to join the group.”

Sarah rearranged the supplies for the fourth time. She took inventory, again - 200 pounds of flour, 150 pounds of bacon, 10 pounds of coffee, 20 pounds of sugar, and 10 pounds of salt. A cooking kettle, frying pan, coffee pot, tin plates, cups, knives, and forks.

She had packed clothing and other necessities. In all, they were taking 1,200 pounds of supplies on their journey. If this wasn't enough there would be forts and settlements along the way where they could purchase more.

“I don't know why we have to wait,” Sarah complained. “The Petersons said if we don't leave soon, there won't be grass on the plains to feed the livestock.”

“We'll wait as long as we can,” her father, Maurice Beauchamp said.

“They would do the same for us. Don't be in such a hurry. The West will still be there when we get to it.”

“I know, Papa, but I want to travel. I wasn't meant to stay still.”

“Yes, you're just like your Mama. She was always on the move, too. That's how we wound up in America. France couldn't contain her. She heard about an exciting life in an untamed land and she had to go see it. Now, New York isn't big enough to satisfy you. You have to see what else is here.”

“There's so much to see, Papa. Out west, I'll be able to put my teaching to real use. I can civilize the Indians and teach them a better way of life.”

“I'm sure they like their way just fine,” Maurice said, chuckling. “How do you know they won't teach you something? Knowledge wasn't invented in Europe.”

“I know, Papa. It’s just they're so . . . savage for lack of a better word.”

“Poor girl. You've got a lot to learn.”

To be continued . . . 


Thanks to Phyllis Stewart for the Indian Chef illustration.
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