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  • Ednold

Ednold's Oregon Trail Journal 4/15/22

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

I have a friend who’s a little younger than I am, who was telling me about how everyone in their grade school class would hurry to finish their work so that they could go to the back of the room and play the Oregon Trail game on the computers. This friend was talking about this as if it were a common experience for everyone who’s ever been in grade school. It’s not. Some of us didn’t get in on the classroom video game thing. I thought about playing along and pretending I knew exactly what my friend was talking about so that I wouldn’t have to admit that I was a relic of the pleistocene age, or one of those other ages that I can never remember the names of. But in the end I owned up to the fact that some of us learned to play chess during that free time when our work was done, because computers were something you’d see in sci-fi movies in those days, not in schools.

So, my friend went on to make it clear to me that I hadn’t really lived, and could certainly not consider myself a true American, until I had played the Oregon Trail game. They assured me that I would be able to find the game online and that it would be well worth the time to track it down and play it. It would be fun, exciting, challenging, and educational, just like it has been for school children all over the country for decades. As with all things, Ednold would be the judge of that.

I found the game online. It’s free, and I didn’t need to join a club or create an account to play it, which was nice, and the first thing I noticed is that the game is a kind of time capsule, transporting you back a good thirty years to when computer graphics left quite a bit to be desired. It was probably state of the art at the time, but the pictures and text are so clunky it will make you laugh a little bit. Or at least chuckle. It’s not likely to make you guffaw, but you may chortle, or even giggle, depending on whether anyone is in the room with you at the time.

The instructions are pretty simple and the goal seemed to be pretty clear: Get to Oregon. But what I didn’t know when I started was that upon arrival in Oregon I would be scored based on how much stuff I arrived with. Had I known that up front I would have been a little more careful along the way and almost certainly would have gotten the highest score ever recorded. But, as it was, I did arrive safely in Oregon so it was a successful trip anyway. I kept a journal along the way. Someday I’ll get out the journals of all of my ancestors who traveled the real trail back in the day and compare my experience to theirs. I’m sure they will be very similar. It’s neato that I could open up my laptop and within 30 minutes know exactly the exhilaration and exasperation, heartache and happiness that those people felt traveling the Trail over one-and-a-half centuries ago. If you decide to have the Oregon Trail experience yourself, yours may be different from mine, but here’s Ednold's Oregon Trail story.

May 31, 1848

Mission accomplished! It has been an arduous few weeks traveling from Illinois to get here to Independence, Missouri, but we rode into town this morning and spent the day shopping in preparation for the final leg of our little journey. Many other travelers have congregated here and will also be leaving soon, and most of them have gotten together to make their way to Oregon in large wagon trains. I prefer to travel alone, so it will just be me, Mrs. Ednold, and our two sons, Junior and Eddie, and our cat Shady, making our way west without the nuisance of a bunch of other people always asking for help and slowing us down. I hear that lots of people take six months or more to complete the trip, and most of those who are traveling the trail this year left long ago. I saw no reason to leave until the weather was nice. The Ednold family is quite exceptional, and with my leadership I see nothing standing in the way of us being in Oregon City in September to enjoy the last few weeks of summer in our new home.

I have been saving for a while from my earnings as a farmer in Illinois, and my pocket was bursting at the seams from the 400 $1 bills I was carrying around town. It seemed like a fortune until I saw the prices they charge here to outfit ourselves for our journey. Of course, we needed some oxen to pull the wagon, so we purchased four teams of them - more than enough, surely. We also bought a spare wheel, tongue and axle for the wagon, just in case we would need to make repairs along the way, and 5 sets of clothing, although I wasn’t happy paying full price for Shady’s outfit. We purchased 800 lbs. of food which, according to my calculations, will be just the right amount for our time on the trail. We could have bought some bullets, but I’m sure they would have been a waste of money. Mrs. Ednold encouraged me to save a few dollars in case we needed to buy something during our trip, so I kept $30 of the cash, but only after I let her know what a silly idea that was.

We spent time this evening loading up the wagon and getting to know the oxen. Everything fits perfectly; a place for everything and everything in its place. The oxen, which now go by the names of Bruce, Rick, Laurence, Aloysius, Wally, Doug, Jean-Claude, and Pete, are grazing in the adjacent field tonight and should be ready for an early start in the morning.

Over dinner tonight we had a little Ednold family meeting and I assured the rest of the family that, though our trip here to Independence had been difficult, the rest of the trip will be smooth and without incident. It will be a fun adventure for the entire Ednold family. Having already done the hard part, it is now just a matter of crossing the prairie and going over a few mountains and we will all be living happily in the Willamette Valley before they know it. They all agreed that they were lucky to have such a wise and capable father and husband. Well, Shady didn’t really agree. But she gave me that look, like cats do.

June 1

Left early this morning and headed toward the Kansas River. Everyone very excited that our adventure is under way. Traveled 26 miles.

June 4

We have arrived at the banks of the Kansas River and will cross in the morning.

The countryside has been beautiful. The land is very flat and there’s plenty of tall grass everywhere for the oxen. Mrs. Ednold and the boys are getting lots of exercise walking alongside the wagon. I have chosen to travel at a grueling pace, but I think everyone is enjoying the trip. Of course, the difficult work of riding in the wagon and driving the oxen falls to me, but that’s OK. I wish I could get down and walk with the rest of the family, since the days are long with only Shady sitting next to me for company, but I will do what needs to be done to get my family to Oregon as soon as possible. I have heard stories about how difficult it is to travel the Oregon Trail, but it is nothing but joy and happiness for the Ednold family.

June 5

The river was very wide, but didn’t appear to be too deep, so we forded it. I guess it wasn’t as shallow as it looked. The wagon tipped over and we lost some clothing and two of the oxen died. Rest in peace, Rick and Pete. They will be missed, but the river is behind us now and I expect no more troubles with rivers for the rest of the trip. We are enjoying a nice hot meal on the flat, grassy prairie. Looking forward to hitting the trail again in the morning.

June 6

24 miles today. Weather hot. Boys and Mrs. Ednold spent much of the day complaining about having to walk so much. I explained that they weren’t just walking, they were getting their steps in, which is very important. They don’t seem to appreciate my leadership as much as I think they probably should, but they will. They will.

June 8

Eddie has a fever and has been whining all day. I took a wrong turn today and ended up on the wrong trail, so actually didn’t make any progress, but it was a lovely detour that afforded us pleasant views of grass for a hundred miles in every direction. It will only take us 3 days to get back on the main trail, then we can continue on toward Oregon. Mrs. Ednold and the boys are getting lots of steps in.

June 14

Traveled 29 miles. Made it to the banks of another river: The Big Blue. We’ll be crossing in the morning.

June 16

All good today. We floated our way across the Big Blue, which was wide and not as shallow as the Kansas. I spent a few hours caulking up all the cracks so that the wagon would float . This worked well until we got to the middle of the river, where the wagon overturned. We lost a few spare parts and a few sets of clothing, but no real harm done. I expect no more river troubles for the entire rest of the trip.

June 18

We’re headed to Fort Kearney now, and I am very excited to get to see a real fort. Traveled 41 miles today.

June 21

Traveled 30 miles. Arrived at Ft. Kearney. Not much to see. Lots of losers hanging around looking enviously at our wagon. Can’t wait to get out of here in the morning. Next stop is a place called Chimney Rock. No idea what that is but can’t wait to find out.

June 22

Traveled 38 miles. Mrs. Ednold is complaining of exhaustion. Yes, I’ve chosen to travel at a grueling pace and I have everyone on meager rations, but that will help us arrive in Oregon faster and without having to stop often to hunt for food. I’m sure everyone will thank me for my thoughtfulness when we get there.

June 25

42 miles. Junior has a case of dysentery. I’m quite sure that If I told him once I told him a hundred times - “Do not get dysentery”. Does anyone listen to me? Maybe from now on he’ll take me a little more seriously.

June 27

40 miles. Arrived at Chimney Rock. It’s a hill with a pointy rock on top. The boys think it’s wonderful and, I have to admit, in this part of the country a big pointy rock is a welcome break in the monotony.

June 28

Headed for Ft. Laramie. Traveled 22 miles.

June 29

Mrs. Ednold has typhoid. How can she be exhausted AND have typhoid? I wish she’d make up her mind.

July 1

Arrived at Ft. Laramie. Looks much like Ft. Kearney. Everyone still complaining about fevers and sickness and walking so much, as if that’s somehow going to get us to Oregon faster.

June 2

On our way to Independence Rock. 23 miles today. Finally some rolling hills instead of flat prairie. Of course, everyone else is complaining about having to walk uphill now.

July 3

22 miles today. One of our oxen wandered off last night. Just wandered off. So, Bruce, you think your chances are better on your own than with the rest of us? Good luck, and good riddance!

July 4

Our nation's birthday! You’d think an occasion like this would be enough to stop Eddie from coming down with cholera. It wasn't. Happy 72nd, U.S. of A.!

July 5

Shady has a fever. Shady. The cat. Has a fever.

July 8

18 miles. Arrived at Independence Rock. It’s another big rock. Junior wanted to carve his name on it like everyone else has. I asked him if he would jump off the top of Independence Rock if everyone else was doing it. He was quiet after that.

July 9

It’s slow going up to the continental divide at South Pass, but we can see mountains now and it won’t be long before we’re safely in our new home. 18 miles today.

July 12

There was a fire in our wagon last night. We lost several items, but nothing that will stop the Ednold family from successfully completing our mission.

July 15

Made it to South Pass. Not much to see. Lots of mountains. Eddie now has dysentery too. Cholera and dysentery at the same time? That boy is testing me, but we’re practically home now and I will not let him ruin my trip.

July 16

There was a blizzard today. In July. We didn’t go anywhere.

July 17

The trail divided and I had to choose between heading for the Green River or Ft. Bridger. I asked the rest of the family which way they wanted to go. They chose the Green River route, but I didn’t really want to go that way so we’re heading to Ft. Bridger. 20 miles today.

July 18

Broke a wheel today but managed to fix it. 14 miles.

July 19

Came across an abandoned wagon. There were a few bullets in the wagon and an ox standing nearby, so we took them. Mrs. Ednold named the new ox Chuck.

July 21

Broke another wheel, but us farmers are good at fixing stuff.

July 24

Arrived at Ft. Bridger. Worst place yet.

July 25

Left for a place called Soda Springs. Sounds pleasant. Mrs. Ednold broke her arm today. Just walking along beside the wagon getting her steps in, and she breaks her arm. I think she may be withholding part of that story from me. 22 miles.

July 26

Broke another wheel today but I fixed it again. Les Schwab could make a killing around here.

August 1

Arrived at Soda Springs, which isn’t as pleasant as the name would suggest. Headed for Ft. Hall in the morning.

August 4

Just arrived at Ft. Hall. Or Ft. Hell, as it should have been named. Geez, what a place.

August 5

We are now headed to the Snake River. Eddie marked the occasion by getting bit by a snake. Traveled 21 miles.

August 10

Arrived at the river. It’s extremely wide and seems to be pretty deep too. I could hire an Indian to help get us safely across, but that would cost us 3 sets of clothing. I’m just going to ford the river and keep my 3 sets of clothing, thank you very much.

August 11

We had a difficult time but eventually we made it across the river, and only lost one set of clothing in the process, so we saved two sets of clothing by not hiring that shifty Indian to help us. Two of our oxen - Jean-Claude and Aloysius - died. Mrs. Ednold drowned. She was never a strong swimmer and the broken arm and exhaustion and typhoid probably didn’t help matters. Shady drowned too. She was a poor swimmer even on her best day.

August 13

Heavy fog. Unable to travel today.

August 15

Eddie broke his leg today.

August 16

Arrived at Ft. Boise. I wonder if there’s a Ft. Girlse? Get it? Boise? Girlse?

August 18

We’re headed to the Blue Mountains now. 24 miles today.

August 20

Food is getting very low. I came across another immigrant and was willing to trade something for some food. The guy didn’t have any food but he said he’d give me some bullets for one set of clothing. I asked Junior if he’d rather starve to death or make the rest of the trip naked. He’s not quite as warm as he was, but I killed two bears and we were able to eat tonight so everyone is happy.

August 24

Arrived at the Blue Mountains, where the trail divides again. We could go to The Dalles or to Walla Walla, and originally I was leaning towards the Walla Walla route. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place called Walla Walla? Someone who spent the whole day listening to two boys, one of whom is naked, say Walla Walla over and over and over again, that’s who. I can’t take it anymore. We’re headed to The Dalles.

September 1

Got into The Dalles this afternoon. Boys kept asking me what The Dalles are. I don’t know what a Dalle is but I told them it was an animal native to these parts that has seven legs and three big fangs that attacks anyone who asks how much further it is to the Willamette Valley. The ensuing silence was heavenly.

September 2

Though they haven’t earned it, I have a big surprise for the boys today. We had to make a choice this morning whether to cross the mountains overland via the Barlow Road or float the wagon down the Columbia River. I told them I’m going to shell out the $8 and travel the road over the mountains, but I'm going to save that money and we’re going to float the wagon down the river on a raft. They’ll be elated when they learn they can just ride with me in the wagon and won’t have to worry about walking anymore. I can’t wait to see their faces. They certainly do have a wonderful, thoughtful father. And I am as adept on the water as I am on the trail, so it’s all the same to me.

September 3

The Columbia Gorge is a magnificent sight. I spent most of the day looking at the towering palisades to both the north and south. Mrs. Ednold and Shady would have loved seeing the beautiful surroundings as we floated our way toward the Willamette Valley. This afternoon our raft hit a rock in the middle of the river. I don’t know what that rock was doing there, right smack in the middle of a big river. Eddie drowned. We lost a set of clothing too, which I had been saving as a surprise to give his naked brother at the end of our trip. Eddie was a pretty good swimmer, but that rock was very solid. I don't expect any more trouble on rivers for the rest of this trip.

September 4

Our trip down the river continued today and I wish Mrs. Ednold and Shady and Eddie could have been with us to see the glorious, majestic mountains and waterfalls that we passed along the way. I’ll be darned if we didn’t hit another rock this afternoon. Our last 57 pounds of food is now floating toward the Pacific Ocean. And that last set of clothing I was hoping to use this winter. Three of our oxen - Laurence, Chuck, and Doug - were lost. Junior drowned too. I wouldn’t have expected that. That boy could swim like a fish. Apparently not the kind of fish that live in the Columbia River.

September 5

Arrived in the Willamette Valley. I have successfully completed the journey! What a place! I wish Mrs. Ednold and Shady and Eddie and Junior had been with me as I pulled the wagon from the raft and got my first glimpse of the valley. I have my wagon and my ox Wally

and 65 bullets to begin my new life in the Oregon Territory. I believe I will be quite happy here, and many generations from now my descendants will look back in awe at the strength, wisdom, and tenaciousness of the man who made this trek so long ago.

As I said, my score wasn’t the highest but I did make it all the way to Oregon. Maybe you can do better. Play Oregon Trail

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