The Oregon Trail: American pioneers as a living metaphor for any of our serious struggles.


I’ve become interested in what it was like for the earliest settlers and pioneers and have gotten it into my head that the American pioneer experience is sort of like any individual’s experience going through obstacles and barriers, anxieties and fears yet making a decision, one day at a time, to continue on. According to the author noted here, the biggest thing the pioneers confronted was uncertainty. The image of the “Oregon Trail” started coming into my mind, and I looked for a book on the topic. I found a book by journalist Rinker Buck. I had no idea about these facts, a) that this was not just a trail made by one founder (I conflated the trail with Lewis and Clarke), but by hundreds of thousands of individuals who decided to make the 2000 mile trek; b) that the peak years of travel began in 1843 and ended in 1869; c) that most of the stuff pioneers brought with them was “thrown overboard” as they traveled;d) that the rivers they crossed, especially The Platte; e) that there is an average of one body buried every 80 yards along the trail; f) that 500,000 made the trip and 50,000 died. Listening to this great account by the writer below has been wonderful.

Click here for NPR story.

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