February was a stormy month. They had snow, hail, wind and rain, but spring was on the way and they had started a long journey, no turning back. Ahead lay the vas plains. They had a saying in those days that the faint hearted turned back, the weak died; only the strong survived. Men realized what they were up against and that their wives and little children were depending on them. It was a harsh reality and a man had to be a man. But spring came and the plains blossomed, and the grass grew green and lush. They camped for days and let the oxen graze and rest and grow fat and strong. The children romped and played. The wives fumed and fretted at those times, they wanted to be on their way. The oxen were in good shape now and ready for what was to come.
Indians began showing up. Every man was armed and guarded their stock at all the time while camped. AT night the wagons were driven into a circle to make a corral. There were all kinds of people in the trains some didn’t speak English and didn’t understand orders; some didn’t want to corral with the rest so they were forced to come inside for their own protection. There were captains and officers to keep order. My uncle Crocket Kirk’s father was the train captain and was called Captain Kirk for many years after they settled in Oregon.
Spring faded into summer. The summer was hot and dry but bunch grass makes good feed even when it gets dry, and that was plentiful. Water was the problem so they would sometimes drive until lat night because they could not camp without water. Evidences of Indians were many. They found one place where an entire train had been massacred. The scalps were still there for some time. There was long fine hair of young women and short golden curls of little children. It was a gruesome sight.
One of the young women in the train gave birth along the way. They did the best they could for her but the baby died and the mother soon followed. They had no time to grieve. They buried her along the trail, and when the wagons pulled they all drove over the grave to obliterate it, so the Indians would not dig it up for the blankets they were wrapped in. This was common practice.
At the time my folks left Missouri, my brother little Johnny was just recovering from cholera and was very frail. He couldn’t eat what the rest ate, but the cow did give mil whenever they could get feed for the stock. The cow had to work right along with the oxen.
They were all turned to graze in the evening and herded until they were filled and ready to lie down, they they were driven into the corral of wagons. They had to live off what pasture they could find. Everything depended on the oxen keeping strong. So the cows didn’t fare too badly and gave milk right along.
I am putting this down so you can understand how a cow could work like an oxen and still give milk. There is no doubt that the cow is what kept Johnny alive.