Friday, October 10, 2008

Wagons Ho!

Yesterday I wore a long dress, long johns, boots, a shawl, and a bonnet. I ate beef jerky, dried apples, and granola. I was a pioneer--along with the two 5th grade classes at school.

We met the wagon drivers at a ranch up in the Highlands. We had to wait while they hitched up the horses, so everyone that needed to used the outhouse. And even for an outhouse it was pretty shabby. It was a hole in a board that went onto the ground, not a hole in the ground, just on the ground. Welcome to pioneer days!

The boys used it first. Then we made them go stand over by the wood pile. Good thing, because when one of the girls was using it two of the boards fell off the outside and we had to stand infront of the hole. There were holes on the other three corners anyway, so it didn't matter much I suppose. There was one boy that kept trying to sneak over by the outhouse and I kept sending him away. I'll be sure to keep my daughter away from that one.

After a half an hour of guarding the outhouse, the girls were finally finished. They were wearing alot of clothes. Soon after we headed out. Half the kids got to ride in the wagons; one covered, one open. The rest of us walked. It was windy and cold. Around 20 degrees someone told me later. No wonder I was freezing. But my daughter and I didn't bring coats because we didn't want to carry them. Anyway, we wanted to be authentic. I'm sure cold is authentic.

Luckily once we got behind a hill the wind didn't hit us anymore. We walked downhill. We walked uphill. And we walked uphill. And we walked uphill. Somehow I got caught rounding up the stragglers. They. walked. so. slow. I kept having to tell them to get moving.

Now, a horse and wagon is not an easy thing to keep up with, I understand. All the walkers fell behind. But some fell much further behind. Let's just say you could definitely see who would have likely made it as a pioneer and who likely wouldn't have. Some were complaining before we were even halfway. Once we there, I made sure someone else got a turn with them.

We had planned on refilling our waters at the campground. Each person brought one water bottle, which most everyone had drank by the time we got there. Unfortunately, it's been pretty cold this week and the lines were frozen. We were starting to feel even more like pioneers. Thirsty pioneers.

I got to ride in a wagon for maybe 1/2 a mile after lunch. Then we had to get out and push the wagons across a cattle guard after the horses were unhitched. The kids loved doing that, especially the boys. And I got to run carrying a giant rock, across a cattle guard while they yelled, hurry it's slipping! Guess the drivers should have told us we needed a rock beforehand. Luckily I've had practice running across cattleguards.

We walked uphill some more before people were allowed to get into the wagons again. Me and a dad who had walked the whole way got in. So did some tired kids. We sat a while. Us grownups got out because kids needed a ride. We left the tired kids on the wagon. We were surprised when they came running up behind us. When we asked what they were doing, they said they had to get off so the whiney kids could ride.

They came to the conclusion that whiney people get what they want because they make more noise. Not a bad lesson. But these kids, the ones that got off, they are tough. They walked for miles without complaining. Without asking when we were going to get there. They looked around and discovered things. They sang. Thay laughed. They made the best of it. They were pioneers.

We walked twelve or so miles on dirt roads(according to one source it was actually fourteen miles, but who's counting). We tripped on rocks. We slipped on gravel. My daughter actually twisted her ankle. It's pretty sore today. But still, she was happy. She's a lover of historical fiction and there couldn't have been a more perfect field trip for her. No matter what happened, she was loving every minute of it.

And now we have an idea of how it felt to be a pioneer. Yes, I'm tired and sore. But I can't stop thinking about how the pioneers would have gotten up the next day and done it again, and again, and again. Plus they had to gather and make their own food. Clean the dishes. Sleep out in the cold and worry about what might be waiting for them. Find water. Maybe get a cold dip in the lake to clean off. And so much more. All to get to a place they had never seen. Where they didn't know anyone. Both the adults and the children were strong and brave. It's something I wish everyone got to do at least once. It really makes you realize how easy we have it now.


  1. If they tried a class trip like that here, there'd be lawsuits, I tell ya, lawsuits.

    I'm suffering just thinking about 20 degrees with no coat.

    Sounds like it was a great experience though, and now there's an historical fiction PB in your future (maybe?)

  2. Things are a bit more lax around here, but I do like to go with my kids on fieldtrips, just incase.

    And you never know about the historical. There was some good writing fodder on the 8 hour journey.