Oregon Trail Journal

By: David Greco

Entry #1

We've started our journey today traveling across the unknown, to the western part of our great homeland...America. All six of us are ready to go, even though the kids are sad to leave our comfy bed and house behind. I told them it would be a great way to start a new life and earn more money. We packed our wagon train full of our items and set out to the west.

Taking one more wistful back at our lovely blue and white trimmed house, the rusty odor of the blacksmith forge, and the sweet smell of honeysuckle from our neighbors orchard, I was struck with the fact that there was no turning back. I also might be making a huge decision that could lead my family to a dead end and that I wasn't ready to make that decision for them.

My last minute idea was to make this; a leather-bound journal to keep my thought, feelings, decisions, and events that we encounter while traveling. Although a journal sounds a little sleazy, or cheap, I digress. I wanted to write down what happens on the journey across the uncharted middle of America.

I've never been really good about taking risks especially if it meant risking something that even money can't buy back, but at this point I realize that this is going to change because there is going to be a lot of difficult decisions to make for everyone. One of them is risking some of our cargo or just taking the easy route that cost money but is hopefully completely safe. This is the decision I have to make for our family to cross the Missouri River.

A hopefully friendly Indian will allow us to cross the river for $25 and we take his ferry across the river and arrive safely on the other side. Continuing along the trail we find that our water has gone bad and we need to stop at the nearest stream to refill them. Once we stop at a stream we are in such good a good mood that we found stream in such a short time and without delays that we all strip and jump in to the deep pond at the end of the stream and bathe and have a good time.

We reach a dense forest and it seems like a good spot to hunt. Me and my oldest son are ready to go and already have our rifles out when my wife and smaller children come jumping out of the wagon telling us to stay with no other apparent choice (my wife had the oh no you don't face) we stayed and was promised the next time we came across a hunting spot as good as this one we could go.

This is probably going to be my last entry in journal #1 for I am needed at the prow of the wagon to attend to the needs of the children because they're getting restless. We encounter an Indian in our way asking for firewood and I give him all I got. After that I decide to venture out to the nearest forest to chop down some logs to gets some firewood back from our recent drawback of it.

Entry #2

It's been a while since I last picked up the pen, you could say that I just couldn't find the point. Sorry bad pun. I've been having to make up a lot of jokes on the fly to entertain the youngsters and also to keep everyone spirits high. This trip has been made up of some of the most beautiful and some of the most barren places I've ever seen in my life. It has also been beautiful out most of the time but one day when it was foggy I went outside to try to catch some of it... to bad I mist. Okay, okay I'm sorry but I think that it's good to have some humor in everything.

Back to the trip. We encountered a very buff Indian blocking our path who looked like he could break our wagon right down the middle with one hand. He told us that if I could go and bring him a cup of water from the nearby stream that was about 2 miles away in 30 minutes he would grant us safe passage. I ran as fast as my legs could move me.

I sprinted over beautiful tall hills of marigold and roses and the smell was almost intoxicating, causing me to falter and get thrown to the ground down one of the larger hills. Dust swelled up from the ground in a mini tornado while I scrambled around trying to find a foothold on something other that grass. Grabbing an unusually large stone I gritted my teeth and spit the dirt out of my mouth while getting up and dashed toward the river that was now in sight.

Along with gaining permission to continue from the Indian, he gave us a quicker route across the unknown land, five blankets, and five boxes of ammo for he was so impressed with my determination and bravery of taking on the possibly dangerous mission. Our family felt rejuvenated from that, for we now will arrive sooner than expected.

Our water barrels are starting to get low so we decide to fill them up at a nearby flowing stream. The stream runs through two large rocky outcrops eroded by the power of the stream so it looks like a small limestone cliff. We filled up our water barrels so efficietly that we actually gained time once again.

We once again encountered a large river that gave us the same choice as the first one we encountered except that it's $20 more. I stopped to think about it logically. If it was more money to cross this river then it either is more dangerous than the last one or the Indian operating the ferry is robbing us of fare across the river. I believed that it was my first idea and I was correct. The river got very rough once we got going and we almost tipped over losing some of our stuff but the ferry we had stabilized us.

We found that just over the river there was another dense forest with a large plain next to it. A perfect place to go hunting. After our last experience we were allowed to go hunting so my oldest son Justin and I grabbed our own rifles and set off to hunt and get some meat. We couldn't find anything for about five hours and it started to get dark. We were about to leave until I espied a lone buffalo away from its herd. My son crouched behind me just in case the buffalo rampaged. We slowly and stealthily gumshoed our way over closer to the beast. He wasn't the smartest for he was oblivious to us sneaking around but he looked as strong as they go. About five meters away from him Justin hit a branch and the monstrosity looked up in alarm obviously spotting us immediately. His vicious dark yellow eyes felt like it was looking straight into my soul determining if I was a threat or not, and it charged.

I cursed under my breath right when the bull came charging past me. It skinned me and tore my shirt in two. My sternum was burning and I could see a thin line of blood trialing down my chest. Just the sight of it made me light-headed, but I focused on the fact that I had to get up to save my son and was able to regain my composure. I looked around for the bull to start coming at me again but it had already moved on to the other threat of my son. They were about nine meters away to my left and all I could do is stare. The bull was pawing the ground in challenge and Justin's rifle was in the middle of them to far away to reach without drawing the bull into action. Then Justin did something unexpected he charged straight at the bull. The bull, who obviously saw this as a challenge charged too. They were about to collide when Justin snatched up his rifle from the ground, rolled underneath the bull, and with a cry of challenge he stabbed the rifle into the rampaging bull and pulled the trigger.

We both skinned the bull, cleaned it, and then since it was so large, we carried it on both of our shoulders together back to the wagon. We were surprised to see that there was a lot of commotion back at the wagon train too. A very close friend of ours who was pregnant had a very close call with birthing a child, but failed to do so.

The next day we came across the crossroads that we had heard about from the very helpful Indian a couple days back. I have been pondering on this almost incessant question for it is a very important one and considers everyone in the wagon train. I already know what the decision is for I write after the discussion has already passed. I'll tell you it wasn't an easy one though, because the longer trail will cause us to be set back on our time schedule, the shorter one is more dangerous and treads on ancient Indian burial grounds that could very well turn into our own if were not careful. Since the children have been getting home-sick and restless.
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Unknown. Conestoga Wagon on Oregon Trail. N.d. National Archives and Records Administration, NARA's Central Plains Region (Kansas City) (NREA), 400 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO, 64108. File:Conestoga Wagon on Oregon Trail - NARA - 286055.jpg. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Entry #3

There has been very stodgy the past few days and it seems that the whole wagon train has been starting to feel the need to do something. Their chance came sooner than expected, but not in the way that they exactly expected.

The first of the Indians appeared at around noon. They were just dark specs along the horizon and didn't bother us all. It almost seemed as if they were scouting us to see what we would do next. We kept on trekking toward our destination, but we all knew that they were there and could attack us at any time and I bet that we wouldn't stand a chance against them. That thought was confirmed when all 40 of them came at us.

They came from a large hill in the middle of the desolate landscape that offered a lot of cover for a retreat, not that they needed one though. Once they stopped about five meters away I could get a better look at them. They were all on horses and armed with longbows. Their leader rode a white stallion and carried a twin pair of short swords in a scabbard behind his back. He addressed all the wagons at once. He introduced himself as an Indian (which seemed a little bit unnecessary) and told us to turn around and go another way, around the ancient burial grounds. He said that we had five minutes to make the decision or he'll make it for us and we may not like the outcome.

We all scrambled back into our wagons and went as fast as our mules could take us away from them. As we ran away I could feel their icy cold stares at the back of my head leaving me feeling like an arrow had lodged itself in my head (which it very well could've).
I only relaxed when they were out of eyesight and I felt safe. I risked a look back and gave out a large sigh, for there was nobody there. I then promptly pulled that sigh back in when I realized that us running away so quickly has created a large dust cloud for the wagons behind us. To add on to the list a piercing cry of pain rang out and shattered all my hopes of reaching the west with all my family for that scream was my daughters, and she was in pain.

I jumped off the wagon and ran to my daughters aid. She was in bad shape, literally. Her knee was twisted at a wrong angle and all I could do is try to calm her down until we could properly treat it. We eventually got her back into the wagon without to much screaming on her part and we were able to twist it back to the legs normal shape. I found out later that she fell of the wagon and got run over by the wagon behind us.

We then had to cross yet another river with the same choice as the last two. We could either take the ferry for a ridiculous amount of money or ford the river. Even though my daughter was still in bad shape from the accident a couple days ago we decided to ford it. It was an extremely bumpy (or should it be wavy) ride and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone wanting to try it for the first time. Thankfully we didn't lose any cargo.

A couple days after we forded the river we regretted not filling up our barrels, so we had to settle for a small, slow moving stream. I went first to fill up our water barrels first. When I got close the stench hit me. It smelled like the cow patties back at our house... no not at our house. It isn't our house anymore. Our last house. A man came in to my blacksmith shop asking to fix his belt buckle and told me about his friend who drank some bad water from a slow moving and died the next week. He told me about how boiling dirty water and straining it gets rid of all the bacteria. At that point I turned around and yelled to the rest of the wagons. I told them how to get your water cleaned with a stove and to strain it.

My oldest son and I went over to all of the wagons to make sure they were doing it correctly. All of them were and there was no complaints from any of them except the last wagon that carried a very young widow from Tennessee. She didn't have much money to start with so she had a slight shortage of food and meat. She asked us if we could spare any food and I had to refuse though I didn't like it any more than he did. I'd be lying if I said he didn't ignore me for the last few inspections and looked lovestruck. He did ask me again at the end of the inspections if we could spare some meat for the widow. Once again I had to refuse, though I told him that if we go hunting we can give her the food that we catch. I felt bad for rejecting him too, but it isn't like food comes out of thin air. At that exact moment I heard a buffalo whine.

It took twenty three seconds and five shotgun shots for all for buffalo to fall. The total wieght of the meat added up to about thirty pounds. As quick as the killing was it wasn't nearly as quick as the smile of the widow when he gave all the meat to her.
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Bierstadt, Albert. Emigrants Crossing the Plains, or The Oregon Trail. N.d. Butler Institute of American Art. File:Emigrants Crossing the Plains, or The Oregon Trail (Albert Bierstadt), 1869.jpg. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Entry #4

We're continuing along the treacherous path of the Oregon trail. The trail is getting much more rocky and I'm beginning to see mountains and larger lakes on the horizon, but our first decision is the choice of a trail that cuts strait through a large desert a trail that loops around the dessert slowing down the wagons and our overall time, but looks a lot safer. I opt to take the desert route because our water barrels are filled and our supplies are wells stocked for the dangerous journey.

With the end of this what seems to be a perpetual desert I can surely say without any qualms of disaster that were going to make it out. The desert was dangerous and was extremely hot the days that we continued along, the digging of our ever so tired mules heels into the sand was the only sound there was to hear. It's going to be a relief to get back to the same normal climate that we all have lived in, not the warped desert climate that can kill a man without water.

Were now traveling through a rocky canyon that has arches that loom above us and rocky ledges that, with one misstep, will take a mans life without a second thought. Every time a wagon wheel hits a rock on the side ledge the whole canyon seems to laugh at us by throwing down rocks the size of my shoe. I just think that it's too bad that the next rock ledge we hit had to be the one that triggered the landslide.

As the rocks rained down on our covered wagon I just thought that the canyon was cracking up. A few punched though the thick fabric on the top of the wagon, but thankfully didn't hit anyone and know one got hurt. When the dust settled I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that a roadblock of about six feet of stone in front of us.

We figured that it would take us about six-seven hours to have the rubble be pushed to one side and a hole in the rock big enough to accommodate the wagons. My sons and I grabbed a pickaxe each and started to break and haul the rocks away from the path. After we finished it was dark and the hole was large enough, but we decided to make camp in the canyon. When we rolled our sleeping blankets up and everyone went to bed I was awake thinking about the trip so far. Not only could I believe that we have gotten this far, but how fate has seemed to look down poorly on us. I mean we've probably had the worse luck of anyone who ever has tried to do what we're doing. Being a blacksmith I've had to work with a lot of machines and I trust them. Basically what I'm trying to say is the universe is just a large, complex machine that only one person knows how to work. Sure, things little things break off and go haywire, but usually it does what it's supposed to do and good things happen... obviously today wasn't one of those days.

The next morning I found myself gagged and a large bump had swelled on my head. I was still groggy but I was able to regain mobility and take off the gags on everyone else. I looked down for any evidence of what happened, or who attacked us while we were asleep. The only sign was the unconscious Indian laying before my oldest son who looked like he had woken up and ran to the young widow"s aid. It seemed he was able to take down one man in defense before he was brought before the same fate as us. As I woke all of the rest of the wagon train, it seemed that only a small part of our stuff was taken by the Indians and we were okay to continue.

We advanced on our goal and we were getting excitingly close to it when we encountered a mountain that was as vast and tall as anything I've ever seen before. The mountain seems to encircle us and I knew that the only way to our destination is up and over it. We continue our never ending odyssey up this perilous mountain. We don't seem to be making much progress so I suggest that we lighten the load and get rid of the unneeded items in our wagons. After that we seem to be progressing up the mountain much faster.

The peak of the mountain is very close now. There's only about a kilometer left till our freedom and new home. Then the universe decides to go haywire. A loud noise comes from the top of the mountain and our mules rear up in alarm. All I could see for about ten seconds is the white of snow and I could hear absolutely nothing for the sound of the relevance of what was happening was all to loud for me...
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Corey, Steve. "Still ALIVE." Flickr. Yahoo!, 06 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.