My name is Hattie Larper. I am twelve. I have brown hair that mostly just gets in the way, I have blue eyes like my Mama and I prefer to act like a boy, or like most of the boys I’ve met so far.
My Mama gave me this journal as a birthday present, but I haven’t used it ‘til now because I’ve not had any interesting events in my life. I guess now I will have something to write about, seeing as Pa said we would be starting of on the adventure of a life time. He bought a covered wagon and all the provisions for the long trip to Oregon.
I don’t how our family will make it on the journey. All of Pa’s guides about it tell how hard and dangerous it is. I would never say this out loud, but I think the man who owns the general store is right.
“Oregon sounds nice, but Missouri is right safe.” The man said when Mama told him why we were buying so many items. I nodded in agreement and Mama clucked her tongue at me.
“Hattie,” she said after we had left the store, “I know you would much rather stay here in Missouri, but your Pa has done a lot of thinking about it. He only does what’s best for his family.” I didn’t say anything, for fear of talking rudely about Pa’s thinking.
Pa told the family about his decision a month or so ago.
“Now, I have been thinking on the subject of moving. As you all know, many of our friends and neighbors are heading to Oregon. The soil is better in Oregon, dark and moist, just like it’s supposed to be. Anyway, I’ve decided to head out with the next party, in a few months. I would have had us go the last time they went out, but we wouldn’t have had time to gather supplies before we would’ve had to leave.” all of us children stared at him and Mama in surprise.
Well, we leave for Oregon tomorrow morning, bright and early. We will pack every thing away in our wagon, hitch up our new pair of oxen and head of to Independence. Independence is only a few miles away so we will most likely be there before the rest of the party.
I must remember to say my final goodbyes to Annie Brooks, my best friend of ten years, before we leave. I will miss her so. If there are no girls my age on the wagon train with me, I might as well die of a snake bite. I cannot imagine being with my brothers and no female company for six whole months. Even though they are fun to be with, I need someone who understands my point of view as a girl.
I will miss this town.
I write this while everyone sleeps. Today was a long, hard day, but I suspect it will be one of many. I will tell you about it now.
But first, good news! There is a girl on the wagon train, one my age! Her name is Lillie Brooks and she has two little brothers and a little sister. So, now I have someone to talk with! Abe and Will can play with Joe and Charlie, and Rose can play with April.
Anyway, about today. We woke up at dawn, after Mama started cooking breakfast for us. We had eggs from our three chickens, Helena, Edna, and Roberta, and bacon that one of Pa’s friends brought over the night before.
Then, when the breakfast dishes were washed, we went through the house, taking the mattress’ off of all our beds and such. We then packed all those things into the wagon.
We put in our necessary cooking items, food, a chest of clothes, a few of Grand Mama’s things that Mama wanted to bring, my rucksack and many other things. We put as much as we could in bags for our horses, Bells and Blaze, to carry. We tied the chickens’ cage to the back of the wagon, or tailgate as Pa calls it. We hitched our milk cows, Susan and Ella, to the back of the wagon. Our dog, Tess, will walk along with us children behind the wagon when we start the journey. Our goat, Sal, and our sheep, May, will also walk with us. Pa tied their lead ropes to the back of the wagon.
This is a list of animals and possessions that we will be taking with us:
Flour and hard tack (200 pounds)
Bacon (100 pounds)
Sugar (12 pounds)
Coffee (12 pounds)
Beans (2 bushels)
Rice (30 pounds)
Dried fruit (2 bushels)
Salt (10 pounds)
Cast iron skillet or spider, Dutch oven, reflector oven
Coffee pot or tea kettle
Tin plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons, matches, crocks, canteens
Buckets or water bags for liquids
A rifle, pistols, gun powder, lead, and shot for hunting game along the way, and self-defense
Candles and soap
Several pairs of sturdy clothes, 6 pairs of socks, a few changes of underclothes, a pair of work boots, a coat, gloves
A small sewing kit
Shovel, ax, hatchet, tools to repair wagon equipment
Bedding and a tent
Two horses, two milk cows, three chickens, one dog, two oxen, one goat, one sheep
Our oxen were still in the barn while we were packing, but when we were done, Pa brought them out. I watched as he led them across the stretch of grass that is in between the house and the barn. They were huge, as compared to Bells, and I knew why Pa had wanted us to use oxen to pull the wagon and not horses. These animals had large, bulky figures, all covered in muscles. I guess if anything were to pull us up a mountain, I would rather oxen do it.
Pa hitched them up to the wagon. He told us to get on. My brothers and I didn’t have to walk until we got to Independence, so we took the opportunity to lie on the mattresses that were stored in the wagon. We talked for awhile, about how exited we were, but all conversations ended up on the topic of home.
I played with Rose until Pa turned around in his seat and pointed out the town of Independence. The boys yelled in excitement and Rose toddled up to Mama as best as she could on the moving wagon.
Pa went inside a store to ask exactly where we were to meet this wagon train. The man in the store told him to keep going until he got to a clearing at the edge of town.
We stopped the wagon in front of a man who waved us down. He introduced himself as James Donovan, the guide for our wagon train. He directed us over to a group of three or four wagons clustered in the middle of an open space. We had to unhitch our oxen and set up to stay overnight.
The moment Pa stopped the wagon, I jumped out into the grass. I helped him put the oxen, cows and horses on their ties.
“Now,” he said to me after we had done that, “what should we name those oxen? I think you would know best about those things. If these boys are gonna pull our wagon, they do need a proper name.” He smiled at me.
“Well… Beau is this one.” I said, referring to the black one, “ And Arro is this one.” I finished, pointing over to the reddish-brown one.
He patted me on the back and told me to go find someone my own age to play with.
I saw Mama heading off in the direction of one of the other wagons so I ran over to her, thinking that someone who could be a possible friend might live there. As we approached the wagon, we could hear a baby crying. When Mama peered inside the wagon’s cover, she saw a young woman. The woman must was only about twenty, but she had a baby in her arms and was struggling to keep it quiet.
“Could I help you in any way?” asked Mama.
“I don’t know what to feed her! She’s hungry, that much I know, but she won’t eat what I feed her!” the woman cried in pure exasperation.
“What have you given her?” asked Mama, keeping her voice low and soft so she wouldn’t upset the baby any more that it already was.
“I can’t give her any bacon or meat because we’ll need those later, but she won’t eat any hardtack!” Mama told her that she would only be a second. I stayed with the woman, waiting to see what Mama would do. Mama was back almost as quickly as she promised, holding a little tin can of milk.
“It’s from our cow.” she explained to the woman. Mama asked for one of the hardtack crackers. She then dipped it in the milk, never taking her eyes off the baby. She pulled it back out when it was a little soggy and put it in the baby’s open mouth. The baby stopped screaming and thrashing around. It smiled and waved it’s fist in the air.
“You are a miracle worker.” the woman said in amazement, “I’m Eve Redding, by the way. My little girl is Maude.”
Mama introduced herself, and then me. Eve invited us to sit down, but I declined, telling them that I wanted to look around some more.
I walked over to one of the other wagons. No one was there, so I went over to another of the wagons. It was only half packed, so I could clearly see the girl sitting on the tailgate.
“Hello.” I said, after coming around to the back.
“Hi.” she responded. She had some sort of sewing in her hands.
“I’m Hattie.” I told her.
“I’m Lillie.” she said. I asked her how old she was and she said twelve and I swear my face lit up. The journey was looking brighter already. We talked for a while before Mama finally came looking for me.
Nothing else really happened, other than that, so I guess I’d better get some sleep and turn out the lantern before Mama sees it and scolds me for being up so late. And, as Mama always says, the sooner you get to sleep, the sooner you wake up, and when I wake up I get to see Lillie again.
Today we started on our journey. Mr. Donavan says that by nightfall we should be at a place called the Shawnee Mission. He says it’s a school where children of the Shawnee tribe are taught English and agriculture. We will sleep on the grounds of the school, but, most importantly, it will be my first time seeing Indians! When I told Mama about this, she told me to call them Natives, out of respect. But, if they are to be called Natives, why were they named Indians?
Right now it is lunch, so I must hurry and write what has happened so far before I forget.
I was walking with Lillie behind my wagon, just telling her about something-or-other, when all of a sudden, a tall, stern looking man came riding out of the distance. He was riding a black horse and was dressed all in black as well. He came galloping toward us, a gun in his hand, and he started to shoot, pointing his gun in the air. Mr. Donavan pulled out his gun and fired a few shots. The man wheeled his horse around and rode off, the same way he came.
When I asked Pa who that was, he said he guaranteed it wasn’t a friendly neighbor bring over a cup of flour.
After the train stopped for lunch, Mama gathered all of us children to tell us to stay close. She warned us to never eat anything off the side of the road and to stay clear of the wheels. She made it clear that if we didn’t follow her rules and we survived, we wouldn’t be surviving for much longer. We yes ma’am-ed her and ran off to play.
Other than that, this whole half of the day’s been boring, repetitive, dusty footsteps. We walked for several hours and Pa says that we’ve only come about five miles. We’re supposed to make fifteen on a good day, but I’d rather live here than walk fifteen miles a day for about six months.
Well, Ma’s calling me over to the fire for lunch. I wonder what we‘re having today?
Right now I’m sitting by my family’s fire. But even more exiting- the fire is in a fire pit dug by pioneers who stayed here before us. Pa says we’ll be doing that a lot now. Sleeping where others have slept, crossing rivers where others have crossed, things like that. It excites me now, but I expect it will loose it’s luster after a few weeks of it.
Lillie took me to meet one of her new friends, an old woman sharing a wagon with her son. Her name is Lark, named after the bird. She’s a sort of doctor, but she uses things from nature as medicine like a true Indian. Lillie says she has a lot of Indian relatives, so I guess that would make her an Indian.
Lillie also took me to meet some other people, a newly married couple who plan to make their home along the trail, not in Oregon. The wife’s name is Lucinda Smith and her husband is Art Smith. They go well together, or at least I think so.
Today Tess came over to me, limping something awful. I looked at her paw and saw that is was swelling a little. I picked her up and walked her over to Lark’s wagon after we stopped here. Lark looked at the paw and then at me.
“It’s just a thorn, but it’s lodged in there real tightly. You hold her when I pull it out, okay?” I nodded. Lark told me to hold her, so I did. I squeezed her and shut my eyes. Tess growled when Lark pulled out the thorn, but other that that, she kept still. Lark told me that I could look. I picked up Tess’ paw and looked at it.
“Thank you so much, Ms…” I looked at her.
“Just call me Lark. I don’t look like a Ms., do I?” She asked. I looked her up and down. She was right, she didn’t look like a Ms. Or anything of the sort. She had her grey hair in a loose bun, but wisps of hair were flying all about in the spring breeze. She had an apron with patches on it and berry stains all over it.
“Not really.” I said truthfully. I was happy to know that Mama wasn’t there to scold me for being rude. Lark didn’t think I was being rude, though. She laughed when I agreed .
I talked to Lark for a long time before Lillie came looking for me. She asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I told her I did, but Mama said that we would be doing plenty of walking for the next months to come.
I did get to ride around a little, on one of our oxen. Pa told me that most people were scared of the oxen that would take them so far, but Pa said he wouldn’t ever hitch something up to a wagon carrying his family if he say afraid of it.
“These here are some gentile giants, yes ma’am.” he said proudly. He asked me if I wanted to ride one of them, and me being who I am, I said yes. He picked me up and but me on Beau’s back.
I felt as if I was doing a split on the ground, that’s how wide he was. At first I was scared he might try to buck me off. But he just stood there, eating grass while staked to the ground. It was fun, and I would have liked to sit there longer, but Mama saw us and told Pa to “bring her down this instant, before she breaks her arm or worse!”
Goodbye For Now,
Mama woke me up before dawn. I don’t think I will ever get used to this schedule. We wake up to early to speak of, we eat an unappetizing meal, we walk all day, we eat another unappetizing meal, we walk the rest of the day, we eat yet another unappetizing meal and then we sleep for a few hours. How is this appealing at all? Did they fail to mention this in Pa’s precious guides?
Anyway, we are to cross the Kansas river in a day or two, if we keep making good progress. I’ve never crossed a river before, at least not one as big as the Kansas. I hope we can make it. Mr. Donavan says he has a spot that has no quicksand, no undertow and should be easy to cross. I certainly hope he’s right.
Anyway, during lunch today, Mama said we should try to work out some sort of schedule for chores. So, now, every other day I milk the cow, collect the eggs and get the horses ready to go. Abe does those jobs on the other days. Will has to feed all the animals. Another thing I have to do every day is to get Rose ready while Mama is making breakfast.
Today, during lunch break, everyone was away from the wagon. Will and Abe were playing with Charlie, and Mama was visiting Eve, with Rose, of course. Pa was over by the fire pit, talking with some of the other men. Anyway, I was alone, eating lunch when I heard something moving under the wagon. I jumped off the tailgate and looked under the wagon. Under there was a cat! I held open my arms for her and she came right up to me and started to purr.
I picked her up and looked at her more closely. She looked like a wild cat, but she was friendly. I asked Pa where she must have come from. He said that she most likely belonged to another family going the same way, but she must have gotten separated from them. The boys crowded around me while I held her, but they lost interest shortly. I guess I’m the only child in my family with an attention span longer than a blade of grass. Mama named her Shadow, because of the way she comes and goes like a shadow.
When I was visiting with Lark today, she introduced me to her son. His name is Lewis Allard, but I’m supposed to call him Dr. Allard.
After she introduced me to him, I asked her where her husband was. I didn’t mean to pry, but it seemed strange for a woman her age to be traveling with just her son.
“Come over here, sit down.” she said, seating herself on the grass. I sat down next to her. “Now, I used to be married. He was a Doctor, and that’s why Lewis is one now. I met him when I was living with my parents in my native Sioux tribe. He came with a group of traders, wanting to learn natural ways of healing. My mother taught me everything I know, so he asked me to show him how we doctored each other in my tribe. I left with him when he was done observing and we got married shortly after. I was twenty-eight when I had Lewis. Lewis was only ten when his father died. Lewis had always wanted to be a doctor and once he turned fifteen, he went to stay with another doctor in town to study medicine.” she told all of this so willingly to me, as if she needed to get it off her chest.
“Oh. I… I’m so sorry.” I mumbled.
“Don’t be. You didn’t cause any of this, did you?” Lark smiled at me. She lay on her back and looked up at the sky.
It was a beautiful sky. A clear, flawless blue that stretched on uninterrupted for miles, other than the occasional cloud.
We were still lying there when the bugle sounded. Mr. Donavan was the one who used the bugle to tell us of the major events of the day. In this case, lunch break was over and we had to continue walking.
I ran over to our wagon. Lillie was there waiting for me, like she always was after lunch. Will and Abe were over with her brothers, walking with Joe and . She asked me where I had been and I told her about Lark.
“I feel so awful for her.” she said when I finished. I nodded.
“I told her I was sorry, but she said that I didn’t have to be.”
“While you were gone, another girl came over here. She said that she was our age and that she wanted to be friends with us. Her name was Emma Weston. She seemed nice, I guess.”
“What do you mean, you guess?”
“Seemed kind of distant, shy, you might say.” Our conversation drifted off subject so many times that I almost forgot about Emma Weston. We talked the entire time from lunch to dinner and soon Mama was calling for me.
“Hattie!” shouted Mama
“Coming!” I shouted back. I waved goodbye to Lillie who was already retreating to her own family. Pa directed the oxen so they filled in the gap in the circle of wagons. We did this every night, to keep horses and other livestock from running away. Pa let all of the animals loose in the makeshift corral.
“Hattie, I need you to get Rose ready for bed after dinner tonight. Your father says we should go to bed early tonight. We should be crossing the Kansas river tomorrow.” Mama said. She quickly cooked up some beans and biscuits for dinner. We all sat down around the fire, talking about the day.
I got myself and Rose ready for bed. Us children sleep under the stars most nights, unless it’s raining. Abe and Will whispered for a little while before they finally fell asleep. I’d better get to sleep, too. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day- crossing the Kansas and all.
Crossing the Kansas river wasn’t exactly as I had thought it might be. The place we crossed at was a shallow, calm place. Pa had me and the boys sit in the wagon. Even though I couldn’t see them, I could hear the oxen trudging through the water. Pa got out and walked alongside them, guiding them to the other side. Most of the other men did this with their oxen, too. We let Sal, Tess and May up on the wagon, too. The horses and cows had to walk on their own because they could walk easier in the water.
When we got to the other side, Mr. Donavan told us that that was the easiest crossing of them all. He said that there could be quicksand, currents and deep waters. Some people loose their belongings and livestock on the crossings, but some have lost their entire wagon to hidden currents. I certainly hope that we are one of the more fortunate people.
After we crossed the river, we took lunch break. Mr. Donavan told us that this was clean water, so I brought the horses down to the river for a drink. Lillie was there with her horse, Maggie. We spoke briefly before I had to go give the rest of the animals a drink. Before we moved on after lunch, everyone filled up their water stores and gave their livestock a chance to take a drink.
Nothing happened after lunch, so I might as well end now, seeing as Mama is calling for me to join her by the fire to make dinner.
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