Oregon Public Broadcasting


Transcript - On the Barren Plains

Voice Over: JUNE 18TH, WE STARTED EARLY THIS MORNING AND PASSED FORT LARAMIE ABOUT TEN O'CLOCK. TWO OF OUR COMPANY CROSSED THE RIVER AND CARRIED SOME LETTERS WHICH THE COMPANY HAD WRITTEN. (GRAPHIC: ABIGAIL JANE SCOTT, 1853)

Narrator: 650 MILES FROM MISSOURI, WAS THE NEXT STOPPING OFF PLACE FOR MOST OVERLANDERS. HERE EMIGRANTS COULD RESTOCK PROVISIONS, GET SHOES FOR HORSES, AND MAIL LETTERS TO THEIR FAMILIES. BEYOND FORT LARAMIE THE LAND BECAME DRY AND THE GRASS BROWN. THERE WAS NO LONGER ANY WOOD FOR A FIRE.

Voice Over: BUFFALO CHIPS WHEN DRY WERE VERY USEFUL TO US AS FUEL. ON THE BARREN PLAINS WHEN WE WERE WITHOUT WOOD WE CARRIED EMPTY BAGS AND EACH PEDESTRIAN PICKED UP CHIPS AS HE OR SHE WALKED ALONG. (GRAPHIC: CATHERINE HAUN, 1849)

Voice Over: FATHER WOULD TAKE A SACK AND HE'D GO OUT AND THEM THERE THEY WERE AS DRY AS COULD BE AND HE'D BRING IN A SACK OF THEM, THEY MADE A HOT FIRE.

Mary Cross: ONCE THEY GOT PAST AH FORT LARAMIE AND THEY CAME ACROSS WYOMING AND ON INTO IDAHO, THE TRAIL BECAME VERY MONOTONOUS AND THEY WERE RUNNING SHORT OF SUPPLIES, THEY WERE RUNNING SHORT OF FOOD, THE SOURCES FOR WATER AND FOOD FOR ANIMALS WERE BECOMING MUCH LONGER, FARTHER APART.

Voice Over: WE ARE CREEPING ALONG SLOWLY, ONE WAGON AFTER ANOTHER, THE SAME OLD GAIT, THE SAME THING OVER, OUT OF ONE MUD HOLE INTO ANOTHER ALL DAY. (GRAPHIC: AMELIA STEWART KNIGHT, 1853)

Barbara Roberts: IT WAS SIX MONTHS OF HARSHNESS IN A SENSE OF DUST AND RAIN AND MUD AND MOVING ACROSS THE COUNTRY IN A WAGON AND MOST OF THEM WALKED ALMOST ALL THE WOMEN WALKED ACROSS ON THE TRAIL.

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: THERE WAS NOT ROOM TO BE IN THE WAGON. NOT TO MENTION THAT THEY DIDN'T HAVE SHOCKS. NOW IF YOU'VE EVER RIDDEN IN A WAGON BOX, YOU KNOW THAT ABOUT AFTER THE FIRST (MILE OF BEING ON UNIMPROVED COUNTRYSIDE, NOT ROADS, EVERY JOINT IN YOUR BODY ACHES.

Voice Over: YOU IN THE STATES KNOW NOTHING ABOUT DUST. IT WILL FLY SO THAT YOU CAN HARDLY SEE THE HORNS OF YOUR OXEN. IT OFTEN SEEMS THAT THE CATTLE MUST DIE FOR WANT OF A BREATH. AND THEN IN OUR WAGONS, SUCH A SPECTACLE BEDS, CLOTHES AND CHILDREN COMPLETELY COVERED. (GRAPHIC: ELIZABETH DIXON SMITH, 1847)

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: IT GETS IN YOUR EYELIDS, IT GETS IN YOUR NOSE, IT GETS IN YOUR MOUTH AND YOUR EARS AND ITS IN YOUR CLOTHING AND MOST OF IT IS ALKALI DUST, IT ITCHES. VO34: DUST, IF I COULD JUST HAVE A BATH. (JANE GOULD, 1862)

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: THE AMOUNT OF DETAIL THAT ONE HAD TO ATTEND TO, AS A WOMAN OR A MAN, ON THE TRAIL, EVERYTHING IS BUSY, EVERYTHING IS BUSY, EVERYTHING IS DEMANDING YOUR ATTENTION ALL AT ONCE, YOU HAVE TWENTY ELEVEN TEEN KIDS RUNNING AROUND, YOU ARE HOPING THAT THEY ARE SAFE YOU ARE TRYING TO KEEP THE SMALLEST ONES OUT FROM UNDER THE WHEELS OF THE WAGON.

Lillian Schlissel: IT WAS HARD TO TAKE CARE OF CHILDREN, CHILDREN WERE SUBJECT TO THE NORMAL THINGS THAT CHILDREN GET, THE MEASLES, THE WHOOPING COUGH, THE COLDS, THE RUNNY NOSES. THEN THEY WERE SUBJECT TO THE BROKEN ANKLES AND BROKEN LEGS AND THE ARMS THAT GOT SNAPPED IN RUNNING OFF AND ON THE WAGON TONGUE. NAR20: DESPITE THE ACCIDENTS, THE INJURIES AND THE ILLNESS, THE WAGON TRAINS PRESSED ON. THERE WAS THREE MONTHS OF TRAVEL AND ONE THOUSAND MILES LEFT TO GO.


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