Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oregon Trail (of tears)

Our third-grade daughter has chosen the saddest book ever written from the library this week, Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie; a book that conjures up images of Laura and Mary running, bonnets in the wind, down a grassy hill under blue skies, but in its pages details Hattie Campbell's family journey from Boonville, MO to Oregon along the Oregon Trail in 1847.

The book opens with an unbelievable series of events that leads the Campbell family to head northwest...

In the first few pages, Hattie writes that her beloved uncle died while fixing the roof of the Campbell family's home. While carting him to his final resting place, the wagon hits a rock, causing it to bounce with such might that the coffin slides out of the back of the wagon and into the Missouri River.

Hattie's dad jumps into the river to try to retrieve the coffin, but the coffin gets sucked into the paddles of a riverboat. It emerges in pieces; Uncle Milton's body is nowhere to be found.

Feeling terrible about churning a corpse into the river, the riverboat captain makes amends by offering the extended Campbell family a ride on the very riverboat that lost Uncle Milton to Independence, where the family can join the Oregan Trail.

In a move that would inspire trial lawyers everywhere, the Campbells accept the offer and leave Missouri behind for Oregon.

Now 31 pages in, we have learned that some travelers resort to cannibalism when crossing snowy mountains, that one will not die eating pancakes speckled with dead mosquitos, and uncured bacon will eventually gather maggots.

I can't wait to see how this ends!

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