Jean Van Leeuwen
This was based on the true story of a girl named Mary Ellen Todd who made the journey on the Oregon Trail from Arkansas to Oregon with her family. (Her family was related to President Lincoln’s wife.). This was a fascinating book. There were a lot of things that struck me reading this as an adult. For one thing, the journey was very slow. They were only able to go about 10-15 miles a day! The oxen could only go so fast, needed to be able to stop and eat and also needed plenty of rest in order to survive the journey.
Well into the journey, if they didn’t find fresh food to eat, they had to eat the same diet of bacon, gravy, bread and molasses over and over. That’s almost incomprehensible to me living today with so many food choices at grocery stores on every corner. My kids complain now about eating the same foods too frequently with a weekly menu. I’m sure they would be so insufferable eating the same food every day for every meal, we’d probably have to turn back.
Speaking of food, those folks were pretty good at foraging for edibles when they did come across them in the wild. I would have zero clue as to what would be safe to feed my family unless it were very obvious like avocado trees, broccoli plants or boxes of cereal strewn about.
I was also surprised by how dangerous the journey was. They had to contend with extreme weather, occasional unfriendly Indians, disease, wildlife, raging rivers, etc. It was not unsual to see newly dug graves along the trail as they moved west.
This was a well-told story that moved right along and taught a lot about life on the Oregon trail. We really enjoyed this book from start to finish. It did not, at all, feel like we were doing school work. My 5thgrader said, “It was pretty cool. I liked it.” Which is a resounding endorsement from him.