The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck was the perfect book to end this 12-month journey of adventure stories.
Like almost every kid from the last two generations it all started in elementary school. There weren’t many games that we were actively encouraged to play, but Oregon Trail was one of them. I’m not sure if this quasi-role-playing game was given the green light as a form of education or a form of sadomasochistic entertainment. The game was a great break from Mrs. Wozniak’s lectures, but watching your entire party drown while trying to ford a river deeper than 3 feet before you even make it out of Missouri is torture. We did learn a lot though. We learned how to be frugal with our money, that there are better and worse times to make the great journey. We learned that sometimes you must abandon plans to survive on the trail, that you can eat squirrels. We learned that fording a river is a thing. We also learned that if someone in your party breaks a leg they will probably die, and we learned about cholera and dysentery.
Since playing The Oregon Trail in elementary school, I’ve had a thirst to learn more, but facts about The Oregon Trail were barely touched on in any American History class I’ve ever had. I’ve never taken the time to dig deeper on my own either. And so, this final month of reading adventure stories for a book aesthetic was the perfect opportunity to catch up on some details concerning The Oregon Trail. Mrs. Woz would be so proud!
Rinker Buck is a writer from a large, interesting family, and a penchant for history. While visiting an Oregon Trail visitor center, he was smacked with the idea that he would make the first journey along The Oregon Trail since the turn of the last century.
Buck did his research, had a wagon built, bought a team of mules, loaded up on supplies and with his brother Nick, and Nick’s dog Olive Oyl, they set off to do something hadn’t been attempted in over a 100 years.
Without taking anything away from reading the adventures that Rink and Nick had along the way, I will say that this book is great. Buck does a fantastic job of mixing the history of travelling the trail with his own journey of personal growth travelling west through the United States in a covered wagon pulled by three amazing Mules.
Every point along the trail is filled with rich stories of perseverance, struggles, historical significance, and historical misconceptions. Some of the problems faced during the great migration of the 1800’s are no longer of consequence, but there are also problems of the modern world that would have been unimaginable to the wagon trains from the gold rush era.
There were so many notable characters in this book including both Rink and Nick. Buck writes in a way that brought all of them to life. He doesn’t try and glorify the mistakes or exaggerate the difficulties, his story and the history of The Oregon Trail are in no need of embellishment. You’ll find yourself pulling for these lovable guys the entire way. You’ll also love their mules…and probably all mules after reading this book.
So, if you’ve ever played The Oregon Trail game, or if you’ve ever had a passing interest in The Oregon Trail, if you like covered wagons, or mules, or dogs, if you like stories of the west, adventures, history, personal growth, the bonds of siblings, if you are even slightly interested in the goodness and hospitality of people, or if you just want to learn, then this book is for you!