The Oregon Trail This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Orange, CA

The Journal of
November Lockwood

 

April 21, 1842

The day is Thursday. I stand at the beginning of the trail. Independence Missouri. The trail stands before me. Dust rolling across the plains. Rolling the same way clouds roll across the beautiful blue sky. The plains are flat. Sage and grass are all the human eye can see. That and the pure blue sky above me. I turn back to my wagon, and their is my family. All of them. My father Joseph, my mother Ethel, my little sisters Mabel, Laura, and Carrie, and my little brothers Louis, and David. My grandmother is their to, however she isn't traveling with us. She is too stubborn, to pig-headed, to see how our wonderful country is expanding. She claims, ¨Why ruin such a good thing, by looking for something that could be worse?¨ I think her mind is failing, for what good comes out of nothing, whereas hard work and perspiration are what brings the good. Our wagon is practically falling apart. My father used as little as money as possible, but the wagon cost us 390 dollars. Much more than we planned for. The oxen came with the wagon. The food added to the cost of the wagon was 523 dollars. We could only buy enough for 7 people. If we use it sparingly we can survive. Our wagon is loaded with food and our personal belongings. There is just barely enough room for my sister Mabel, she has a lame leg. Papa made her a crutch out of an old lightning struck tree. I lift her onto the truck.
¨Well here goes nothing.¨ I say
¨Not nothing she replies, this is something. We are gonna do it Nova, I know we will.¨ She replies. I can hear the faith in her voice. Her smile is blinding. I rub her head fondly as I walk away.
¨Let? get going.” I hear Louis whine from behind me.
¨We will go, when Papa says we do.¨ I say back with a smirk. Louis is a small boy, his brown hair practically blinding him. He refuses to get it cut though.
¨We are leaving. Now.¨ Papa says gruffly.
I hear David gasp to my left. I turn and I can see the supplication forming on his lips. I know why he is trying to stay he is only 14, but he has a sweetheart. Emma Smeek. He loves her more than, well I actually don't know, but definitely a lot.
¨Papa we can't leave now. Emma is coming too.¨ David cries out.
¨We are leaving now.¨ He says again this time more firmly.
However I have reason for wanting to not leave yet. My friend and love will be joining us. Rose. Even writing her name makes my heart beat a thousand times faster.
“We can't leave.” I say simply. “We need a wagon or two to travel with us. A umm train if you will.” I say this because it is partially true, but also so that both David and I can wait for our respective sweethearts. My dad gives me glaring look, but resigns. He knows I’m right. Papa has, well social issues. He doesn’t like people. That makes this trip difficult, he has to tolerate them. I hear her laugh before I see her. It’s higher than most, but still soft, almost like a mother cooing it’s child to sleep. My heart beats faster, and my palms get sweaty. They turn the corner, and there she is. Dark hair swaying with the wagon, an hourglass shape, and a smile that makes the sun wince of its brightness. I immediately smile at the sight of her. She catches my eye, and smiles shyly back. Immediately following her is more wagons, our train has arrived. David sighs with relief beside me. Emma is walking beside a wagon. I look at him his eyes, bobbing up and down, perfectly on time with her gait. They arrive quickly.
“Ready to go?” Mr. Meek asks Papa.
“Yup.” His response simple.
We all know the plan. A six month trip on the Oregon trail. Once there land will be bought, and a life full of plentiful opportunity will began. I hope we start out well. If we make good time, the Rocky mountains will be a piece of cake. The wagons start with a creak, and I step out for our long  journey. I smile and glance over at Rose. I mean really how bad can this trip be.

April 27, 1842

Only six days on the road and already, I wish we were there. Our trip started out successfully. We cover around 3 or 4 leagues a day. Papa says this is good time. I disagree. I am feeling restless, wishing we could urge the oxen faster. My father has already grown accustomed to traveling with a group. If it was just me I would leave this train and travel nonstop. Sadly I’m not alone. Well, I guess it’s not sad, but it is definitely slower. Since our wagon is packed we walk constantly. My feet ache and I am very sore. I envy Mabel. She sits on the wagon, watching the plains roll. Papa tells her she is the lookout for Indians and stormclouds. I know he only does this to include her. Speaking of siblings, I haven’t seen David in a few days. Not surprisingly. He and Emma are probably somewhere, “whispering sweet nothings in each others ear.” That’s at least what my mom says. I don’t understand the saying, I think David is foolish to leave though. He is next to help Papa if I get hurt. Stupid boy!  I don’t see how he will get better. I don’t remember being like that at that age. However Rose constantly stays with me. We walk and talk, planning everything about our future. I am old enough, at 18 to buy land from the government. Rose, doesn’t know this, but I will propose on this trip. The thought of this excites me. Marriage, is something I’ve never considered before. As we were walking today Rose picked up a wild desert flower.
“This life in such a barren place, is… incredible.”
I looked at the flower. “It's a wildrose.” I say. “But its beauty doesn’t compare to yours in the least.”
She blushed. “Here.” She stated as she handed it to me. I immediately put in here. The look of it makes me smile. Yes, almost as beautiful as her.

May 15, 1842
It's a Friday and the train is tired. The joy of being on the move has given way to the constant, monotonous pace of the walk. There has been a bit of excitement. As we were walking, I heard Ethel squeal from in front of me. I was directly behind the wagon, so I could not see what she saw. However as I moved to the left, I saw that her outburst was in fact justified. There was a large herd of bison a little over 50 yards into the plains. Everything was as other travelers had said it would be. The large body, the unproportional head, The huge chest. I was awestruck, and for a second I thought of what might happen to these poor animals if we continue expanding. It was only a flash but as I look back on it, it is truly terrifying. These poor animals have lived peaceably in these plains. I decide now that as soon as I have settled in Oregon, that I will fight for this. Just because we are American, doesn’t mean we own everything. Others have prominence. This wasn’t the only wildlife found today. Mabel scared me half to death today. I was speaking to Rose, when I noticed that her seat was empty. My mind immediately went to the worst, that she was kidnapped, hurt, run over, dead. All these horrific possibilities. I started searching frantically. Moving from wagon to wagon asking if anyone had seen Mabel. Before very long I had reached the end of the train. I had almost given up hope. When I spotted her crutch, standing up straight. Strange? I thought. I bolted towards it. When I approached it my heart flooded with relief. The crutch was stuck into the soft dirt, and to its direct right was Mabel. She was just sitting there not afraid or anything. She looked up at me and smiled. I gasped when I saw what she had. In her arms she was holding a coyote pup. I scanned the horizon for its pack, no sign of them. No matter the anger I put in my voice Mabel didn’t feel remorse.
“I saw him hurt on the side, I grabbed my crutch and went to help.”
I glared at her. “You should have told someone. Look the wagon train is practically a league away.” I was going to continue with my berating, when she said something that made me stop.
“He’s got a lame leg.” I looked his left hind leg was mangled, by what I don't know but it was hurt. Very bad. I didn’t argue when she said that he was coming with us. Mabel picked up her crutch and told me to pick up the coyote and carry it. It was soft as down, and sat very nicely in my arms. The whole way back to the train Mabel talked to the pup about how they were kindred spirits. He fell asleep halfway through. Mabel didn’t stop talking.

April 23, 1842
I named the pup. Took long enough.  We were walking and the coyote was walking next to me. After further investigation, his leg wasn’t lame just hurt. He now walks with a slight limp. Anyway when he runs, he looks like a quail family. So I named him Waddle. He responded to this name with a bark of joy. He never leaves my side, we are inseparable. Mabel is very upset about this, but it didn’t talk her long to find a new friend. She has befriended a baby bird. It is small and has a lame wing. Mabel calls him Chirrup. THat’s the sound he makes, so that’s what she calls him. SHe talks he listens. They have a connection to rival me and Waddle. On a lower note, people have begun to cough, oms e have fevers. I don’t worry much. Nothing new under the sun am I right?
June 4, 1842
Today was… well eventful. I don’t know how else to explain what happened. I was walking with Waddle and suddenly a man in our group screamed. THe sound was frightening. Waddle and I rushed to the man’s side just in enough time to see the rattlesnake slither to safety. The man was writhing and foaming at the mouth. I was astonished and didn’t know how to fix it. No one but me came to his aid. The man died within a few minutes. Even  his family didn’t come to him. THis is the first and hopefully only death in our train. The other problem is we were raided. At night. THey came like the darkness. Silently and quickly. We all settled in for the night. I was propped up against the wagon wheel with waddle waiting next to me. Eventually I fell asleep. I was awoken by the sound of Waddle growling. He has recently grown protective about my family. I put my hand on his head to calm him down, and listened. I heard nothing. I strained my head. Not a sound. I leaned back against the wheel. Sufficed, then I heard the bang of a pot hitting the ground. I stood bolt upright. I saw multiple dark shadowy figures rush out of our campsite. I grabbed my only rifle and aimed, but they were gone. They took a lot of food, and clothing. They however stole most of our water. Hopefully we reach the Platte rivers soon. 

June 17, 1842
I am tired and I am sick. My lips are chapped and my feet so blistered the very thought of walking makes them scream in pain. The Indians really did a number on us taking our food and water, and then leaving us to die. They hadn’t come like I thought they would. I was expecting loud noises, whooping and death. Instead it was silent and very strategic. We still got death they just condemned us too a slow one. I think that I may be getting sick, but I am not even close to the worst. Laura has a bad disease. People who have traveled the trail multiple times call it, Diptheria. It is really bad. She is stuck on the wagon. We moved a lot of stuff. There is still not enough room. She lays on the bed of the wagon. SHe is congested immensely. SHe has a deep cough, and sometimes it racks her body so roughly she tears her clothes on the floorboards. Not only that, but my mom is trying to get her to stay sitting up. THe reason is she is also uncontrollably drooling. Puddles everywhere. She sitting, sleeping and in the few moments where she isn’t coughing, talking, in her own filth. IT is seriously disturbing, and the fact that father won’t even visit her. Is horrible. Most of our train has been infected. I try so hard but I am afraid I may already have been infected.

July 17, 1842
I don’t know how to write this. This journal was meant to be happy, a memory of the trip. Now I just want to forget it. Ethel has died. Late last night I heard her coughing, not surprisingly. The next morning dead, no pulse. Her nose and the back of her throat was covered in a thick gray thing. I can’t even talk about it. SHe couldn’t breathe, or cough. I hope she passed peacefully. We found her body still in the wagon, the flies had already arrived by then. They covered her face and arms, and any place that was covered by cloth. It stank like a butcher's shop. This all by itself was hard, but Papa has begun to push us harder. He refused to even bury her. He pulled her body out of the wagon and shoved it into the gutter. He then turned back to us and smiled. The audacity!! His own wife!! I am so upset by this, I can’t even form the words for my anger. I am feeling a little lightheaded. I need to lie down.

July 30, 1842
I was wrong. Papa never did anything like that. He didn’t leave her behind. I was told he buried her quietly by himself. Why I thought he didn’t care I don’t know. I have been feeling more and more sick, and my lips are so chapped that I can hardly talk without them stinging. I’ve also begun to shake more and more. These days, It’s way too hard to even walk. I want to eat and drink to my heart’s content, but I can’t. I have to give almost all my food and water to Rose and Mabel. Both of who are coming down with something. It scares me. Not only does that scare me. I think we are being tracked, I just see a glimpse of dark skin, or a bird feather. I have yet to see a full Indian but I know they’re following us. I think I’ll stay up to protect our wagon today.

August 13, 1842
I can’t sleep every sound scares me, half our wagon trains is sick or dying, or already dead. This doesn’t phase me. What does is what everyone is saying about me. THey say I am hallucinating, which I am not! I would know, I would be seeing things like flying bison, or Waddle being the size of an Ox. None of that is happening. I tried to tell Rose my worries about being tracked. She doesn’t care, she’s been on the wagon sick for a few days now. It worries me. I have been told that there are no Indians following us. THis is wrong, I know for two reasons. One. While Waddle and I were walking he started barking. I looked towards where he was barking. I saw the fields move slightly. Then it moved like someone was running through it. The second reason, I found a feather on the ground. I included it here. It is complete proof. I know there here.

August 18, 1842.
I don’t know who to trust anymore. Oregon is less than 100 miles away from here. We are so close, but so far. Our train is fallen apart, and practically half of it is dead. I see the Indians more clearly and I have even seen some of our own people talk to them. I barely trust Rose, I saw her kick Waddle. I can't.. I don't.. It's too..

September 2, 1842
My name is Rose Wilder. It was going to be Rose Lockwood. That’s gone. Before he died. November told me to finish by explaining what happened. I don’t know why. Oh this is so hard for me to write. During our trip here to Oregon, November tried so hard to help. He watched over everyone, took care of them. He watched out for his family like a hawk. Never let any of them come close to getting hurt, but when his mother died. When Ethel died, he failed. So he tried harder, and harder. Trying to make up for what he “did”. The wagon was losing food and water, and we were raided and had a lot of things stolen. So November started giving his stuff for his family, making sure they were taken care of. He was so good to them. Later he started to go insane. Thinking everyone was against him. He thought we were being stalked by Indians, he even thought we were being betrayed. WE weren’t. When we arrived at Oregon he refused to go to a doctor. He bought land and started a house. He still wouldn’t drink and sometimes I would see him running around at night. He was broken. Eventually I got a group together we had to drag him to the doctor’s. November had not been drinking enough water. The doctor couldn’t know anything else. He gave him water and food. When I saw him shirtless I cried. He was as thing as a stick, his bones were showing. He looked so fragile, but so angry, so crazy I didn’t want to go near him. EVentually he gained some sort of sanity, he looked at me and smiled. He told me to finish his story. Then he took my hand, and… died. So peacefully, so quietly. It was sickeningly beautiful. After later I got an autopsy report on what had happened. Somehow November had avoided all the other diseases, but fell victim to his own. His responsibility had caused him to care for others over himself. When he gave up food and water, he became dehydrated. Losing consciousness a lot, I read the journal he never mentioned that. Since he was dehydrated he started to have liver failure. THis lead to hallucinating, he saw indians, he saw me and others doing evil things. Even though we arrived and he should have healed, the stress, all of it broke him. He never would have been the same. His sanity was gone, and I have nothing to remember him bye, except his last words.
“Rose, I… I think… No! I know I love you.”
I loved him too.    
 






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