: The West by Thomas Bowling
Previously . . .
Hostile Indians often attacked settlers who veered from the established route. Harsh weather conditions could make travel impossible. The wilderness was not a friendly place for novices. Stories of shortcuts were just that, stories. Two thousand miles is two thousand miles.
The travelers were in a jovial mood. Introductions were made, and friendships formed. Everyone agreed to make any sacrifices necessary for the good of the trip.
As the new settlers were preparing for the trip west, the wagon master called the group together.
“As we start out, there are a few things you need to know. This is not going to be an easy journey. You must be able to endure heat like a salamander, mud and water like a muskrat, dust like a toad, and labor like a jackass.
“You must learn to eat with unwashed fingers, drink out of the same vessel as your mules, sleep on the ground when it rains, share your blanket with vermin, and have patience with mosquitoes. You have to cease to think, except of where you may find grass and water and a good camping place. If you're ready for all of this, you will make it to Oregon."
“What about Indians?” Herb Jenkins asked.
“Indians are the least of our worries. We may never see one. I've made this journey without encountering Indians. Mostly, when we do, they pay no attention to us. There are a couple of places where they're hostile, but we try to avoid them. Everyone stay together in a group and we'll be fine.
“One more word of advice, the best way to prepare for this trip is to head out on your own for three or four days. Get familiar with your equipment and your animals. Find out what it's like to be on the trail. Then come back and we will leave as a group.”
Everyone agreed that this was good advice, but only a few actually did it. Those that did benefited from the experience.
After the wagon master spoke, the travelers had something to think about, and the mood became more serious. They realized that they would need some organization.
A vote was held, and Herb Jenkins was selected as a go-between, to represent the group in whatever situation may arise. His only qualification being that he was the most outspoken of the travelers.
Eventually, everyone was ready, and the wagons pulled away with much fanfare.
“I'm disappointed that we may not see any Indians,” Sarah said. “I was looking forward to seeing some real natives.”
“Be careful what you wish for, child,” her father said.
“Look, Papa, a band bidding us a good journey.”
The morning air was crisp as the wagons came to life. As they moved forward; the settlers spread out across the plain. Sarah was confused by the lack of formation.
“Papa, I thought we would travel in a line, one behind the other.”
“No, Sarah, If we did everyone would get covered with dust from the wagon ahead of them. This way everyone can breathe. The only time the wagons will gather together is in the evening, when we stop. We'll circle the wagons, and put the livestock in the center, so they won't wander off during the night.”
The group consisted of twenty-four wagons. That's ninety-six wheels, all of them squeaking in their own pitch. It created a symphony of pitchy violin-like music. It was rather pleasant for seven or eight miles. Then, it became irritating. It sounded like twenty-four giant crickets singing to each other.
All that cacophony of squeaky instruments. It was enough to drive you batty unless you could put it out of your head. It went on all day until the wagons stopped in the evening. Then the real crickets took over, rubbing their legs together like tiny violins, singing back to the wagons.
The little cricket songs went on all night. Then, they turned the serenade over to the giant crickets again, as the wagons creaked into life. Four months of out-of-tune love songs.
Most wagon trains traveled the Oregon Trail. It was considered the safest route to the west. It bypassed the fiercest Indian tribes, and the wagons could travel at a rate of ten miles a day. Sarah's great adventure had finally begun. She felt this is what she was born to do. She couldn't be happier.
To be continued . . .
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