This venture onto the Oregon Trail is proving to be an incredibly lengthy affair. I mean, I have been at the process of writing this book for several years now. If Oregon had depended on people like me for bringing it to Statehood, it would still be a wilderness territory (which might not be entirely a bad thing).
I must admit I am learning lots of interesting “stuff”:
Did you know pioneers packed eggs for travel in barrels of flour or cornmeal? (Some used sawdust.) Or that they “churned” butter by simply hanging a bucket of milk to the jostling, bumping wagons?
Many carried a supply of wood or buffalo chips from one camp to another—or soon learned to do so. Still, they often had to settle for cold meals due to lack of fuel for a fire.
In pictures and the movies, we often see women riding sedately on the wagon seat. In reality, they mostly walked that 2,000 miles, though those capable of doing so sometimes rode horses or mules.
Another mistaken impression from pictures or the movies is the idea of a train of wagons lined up single file. That was the case often enough, but where the terrain would allow it, they strung their vehicles out across the prairie in an attempt to avoid each other’s dust.
A “Westward Ho!” movie is rarely without an obligatory Indian attack. In truth, this was a rare occasion. Native Americans tended to avoid confrontations with the “emigrants.” They might steal livestock if it was not adequately protected, but mostly when they approached wagon trains, it was to seek to trade handiwork (like beaded moccasins) for food. Increasingly, the Indians’ primary food source, the buffalo was being destroyed by the careless wantonness of white hunters. Is it really a wonder that natives often made little distinction between hunters and emigrating farmers?
As I say: I am learning a LOT—but so far I’m not writing much.
But this, too, will pass.