Thursday, July 26, 2012

continued/McConnell story

                All of the cooking was done over the camp fires, but as the long train moved westward fuel to cook with became harder to find so they used buffalo chips which were plentiful, and worked quite well.  Once my mother, looking ahead to supper time gathered a huge basket of the buffalo chips and put it on the wagon. The Englishman was driving. He became very angry and kicked it off his wagon, saying he wasn’t hauling any you know what. Mother was insulted but she didn’t insist.
As summer wore on the water became harder to find.  There came a night when they had to make dry camp.  They were up very early the next morning, on their way trudging along in the heat and clouds of dust, when the oxen began to act uneasy, tossing their heads and sniffing the air.  At once the whole wagon train was stampeded as the oxen had smelled water. Everything was in a panic as the men tried to control the oxen.  They herded them along the best they could until they came to a river. They managed to get the oxen loose from the wagons and into the water.  Many of the wagons and most of the gear was badly smashed, so they camped there for several days while they repaired the damage. At least the oxen got a good drink plus a good rest.
Some rivers they could ford but others were too deep, so they lashed logs to the wagon wheels and swam the oxen across; the men swam with their horses and guided them in the right direction.  The women and children huddled together in the covered wagons, and I expect the women did lots of praying. Some places where the rivers were very wide, it would take several days to get everyone and everything across, but I never heard of but one man who was drowned.
The river Platte was about the largest, and some enterprising man built a ferry boat and was getting rich charging fares.  This time he got everyone across except the stock, and he overloaded the ferry and it tipped over.  The stock and men were all in the river together. My uncle Perry was a boy of 13 and was helping his father, when he saw the boat was going to capsize. He jumped overboard and swam ashore.  He knew Father couldn't swim and was wondering what happened to him when the saw Father sitting on the bank. Father had gone under when they first went into the river but had managed to grab the yoke of the oxen and they swam ashore with Father hanging on to the yoke. It was then that Perry confessed to how he had been going down to the mill pond in Missouri and the men at the mill had taught him to swim.  It was a lucky thing for him or he would never have seen Oregon.

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