Covered Wagons and Open Plains

Sometimes I think I would have like to traveled across the country in a covered wagon and helped settle the West.  I know I am romanticizing the time period.  It was hard and difficult and lots of people who started out never made it to their destination.  It was especially hard on woman I think.

But the idea of selling what you don’t need and loading up a wagon filled with what you think you’ll need and heading across the plains appeals to me.  My mother’s family did help settle Oklahoma.  I’m not sure of the details but I’ve been told that her grandfather participated in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1893.  But I don’t know this for a fact. Its on my list of things to research on  I do know if he did he would have been 23 years old.

My great-grandfather and his brother came here from Sweden as young boys. I’ve been told 14, 15, maybe 16.    They traveled from their home in Sweden together to come to America.  They originally were indentured servants in Michigan or somewhere to work off the cost of their passage to America.  The story I heard was the family they worked for was mean and they didn’t feel like they would ever work off their debt.  So they ran away.

Somehow they ended up in Oklahoma.  There he married Emily Boyd.  Emily was born in Texas and both her parents were born in Kentucky.  So I think they probably traveled from Kentucky to Texas in a covered wagon.  Maybe they were a young newly wed couple who set out for Texas and a brand new life together.  I think about them camping along the way.  Cooking their meals, tending to their animals.  I wonder if they were heading to a particular location, did they have friends or relatives going with them or waiting for them in Texas?
When I’ve thought of this the last few days it makes me think of my Aunt Margie. She was my mother’s younger sister and passed away from breast cancer after a long valiant battle.  I remember her telling me she would have loved to travel across the country in a covered wagon.  She told me that more than once.  I can picture her doing those things.  She was a positive outgoing person.  She was proud of her ancestors, she was proud of her family’s struggles and the way they survived.  Their childhood in Oklahoma was hard.  They were poor and often went hungry.  She told me about spending the night with a school friend and thinking her friend’s family was rich.  Why?  Simply because everyone had their own room.  Its hard to have your own room when you’re number 6 of 13.

I love my modern conveniences.  The refrigerator, the freezer, cold air conditioning, the electric stove, microwave, the grocery stores filled with a wide variety of foods.  I can get most fruit any time of the year.  But I think there is something to be said for living a life of self sufficiency.  Building your house from what you find on your land, raising farm animals, planting crops, and hunting.  Of course there was also hard winters, droughts, threats from indians, and sickness with no cure.  It was a hard life, but I believe a satisfying life.

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