NOTES FROM THE OREGON TRAILI’m somewhere on the Arkansas Missouri border near one of the departure points. I stare at a copy of a century plus old map, now with states drawn in and realize this is the place where once there was a flowing spring. Today its a state trout resevoir. No Walmarts, no interstate nearby. I pull in late at night at the only place that seems open. The Rainbow Trout Lodge.
175 years ago families in covered wagons gathered here to depart on the Oregon Trail.
I stayed the night for 48 bucks, got a clean room, excellent coffee and met the manager Danito who is from Belize. He embodies what is best about the immigrant spirit in this country, industrious, entrepreneurial and honors our nation’s history. We talked about the trail and the current caravan in Mexico. His family walked and hitchhiked their way here from Belize, and today are citizens.
These people who embarked on the Oregon trail in ways were like the “caravan” currently in Mexico heading towards our border. Leaving everything, heading into an unknown with the hope of a better life and facing constant danger along the way. But they faced substantially more risk. Imagine for a moment making a journey where you risked having your scalp removed from your head and failure meant certain death. Heres a little perspective, today it means deportation. ICE and border patrol agents are not going to scalp people but detain them and offer water.
At its peak fifty thousand people every summer migrated across the American west in covered wagons. Many died along the way. In the Mormon’s case it was especially difficult, fleeing persecution and the murder of their church’s leader they walked and pushed handcarts. No trains, no buses, just a dirt path. Aside from the pure numbers think about what they did. They risked everything and went into the unknown.
So why am I following the trail(s)… well I stumbled across this used book. For 2 bucks I got a pulizter prize winner and new perspective on the Oregon trail. Secondly, to really understand community I believe its not only important to see how a place is. Nowhere becomes a somewhere overnight. You have to get your head around how and why it came to be. Who those original people were, how they got there and why they went in the first place. Most importantly what were their dreams? Those dreams that are why a community was built need to be remembered by those who live today. Because we are in a very real way, those dreams made real.
I’ll share a few pictures along the way as I head to a place where the North Platte River of Wyoming where these three trails, the Oregon, Mormon, and California, come together at the Rocky Mountains. Its called the “convergence point” and in the middle of nowhere.