Adventures along the Oregon Trail

Life along the Oregon Trail had its moments of adventure and excitement as the travelers anticipated arriving at their planned destinations in the fabled northwest territories of Oregon and Washington. Each night, the wagons would form a circle around a site selected for one or two campfires. While the men and older boys tended to the stock and gathered fuel for the fires, the women and older girls would begin preparing for the evening meal. Often this meal would consist of a great potluck, where everyone contributed something from their wagon storage areas. After the meal, the adventurers would tell stories, sing songs and recall events of the day.

It would be interesting to listen in as five of the older boys and girls relax around the fire and talk about happenings along the trail while the wagonmaster makes the occasional comment.

Mr. Shropshire (pulling at his beard): “We made good time today kids, ten miles by my reckoning. We had a tough trail and some of the oxen slowed at the steeper grades.”

Jacob Johnston (the oldest and sometimes leader of the group): “My dad says everyone should have mules or draft horses; they’re faster.”

Billy Benston (in overalls, a red bandanna around his neck): “Oxen are stronger, though, and they’ll do the plowing on our farm when we reach Oregon.”

Sarah Lee (long blonde curls cascading over her shoulders): “When will that be, Mr. Shropshire?”

Mr. Shropshire: “When we reach Oregon? Well, we’re about half way there, we’re well into July and we still have mountains to cross. Can someone who’s good at calculations figure it out?”

Billy: “That would be Laura. She’s good with figures. She told Mr. Lynch how many barrels of water his family would need to last a month, if need be.”

Lonnie Morgan (tall, with long black hair and a southern drawl): “So far, we haven’t gone six days without comin’ across fresh water, thanks to Mr. Shropshire and the scout, Mr. Rawlins.”

Jacob: “Next time Sam Rawlins rides out, I plan to go with him. My dad said I could. I want to learn all I can about the country.”

Sarah Lee: “I’ll be glad when we reach Oregon. I’m not too keen on all this flat prairie land.”

Lonnie: “We’ll make it quick as anyone else has. Remember, we passed Independence Rock on the first of this month. Folks say that means we’re about on schedule to make it to Oregon before winter sets in.”

Billy: “Independence Rock! That’s where emigrants like us carve or paint their names. I counted over a hundred names there.”

Mr. Shropshire: “If you’re up to counting, you could tally several thousand names on that piece of rock. Some folks call it “The Great Register of the Desert.” You can find my name there, if you look high enough.”

Jacob: “I saw it; about twenty feet off the ground, I think. How did you get it so high?”

Mr. Shropshire: “It was on my last trip through here. We had to dismantle a wagons to repair the axles. I propped the wagon tongue against the rock and shinnied up to write my name in red paint.”

Sarah Lee: “What’s our next stopping place?”

Mr Shropshire: “That would be Fort Bridger. It’s been there since 1842, when Jim Bridger, one of the old mountain men, built it to trade with the Indians. We’ll stop there a day or two so some of us can replenish our supplies.”

Billy: “A real mountain man! I’ll bet he has a lot of interesting stories to tell.”

Lonnie (laughing quietly): “I read about Jim Bridger. Some of his stories are hard to believe. He said he couldn’t shoot a deer he could see plain as day because his bullets kept bouncing off a glass mountain between him and the deer.”

Sarah Lee: “I’ll be glad when we get there. It can’t be much farther to Oregon, can it?”

Mr. Shropshire: “Well, there are a lot of mountains between the fort and where we’re going. And rivers to cross, as well -“

Laura (prim, wearing glasses, holding pencil and tablet, interrupting): “I figure at the rate we’ve been going, and all, it will take us another 90 days to reach Oregon. We’ll have plenty of time to ride with scouts, listen to mountain men and visit with Indians along the way.”

(Groans from the cast)

Sarah Lee: “Oh, no, not that long!”

Mr. Shropshire: “Laura could be right. We do have a way to go. Best we get to bed for an early start tomorrow.”

Optional (In the background, people singing the chorus from the song “Wait For The Wagon,” popular with emigrants journeying the Oregon Trail during the 1800s.):

So wait for the wagon, Oh! Wait for the wagon,
Oh! Wait for the wagon and we’ll all take a ride.
Oh! Wait for the wagon and we’ll all take a ride.