Wagons West 1

by Arnold Nelson

     Klaus and Olga were raised in Germany. They got married there. Then they decided to come to the new world that they had heard so much about. Life in Germany was not very good and they thought they would have a better life in America So in 1844 they got on a ship and headed for America. A couple of months later they were in New York.

      They had decided to go to Chicago because they had some friends there. So they headed west and a few months later arrived in their home in Chicago. Klaus was a teacher and he was hoping to teach in the new world. One day he went to the Chicago school board and asked for a job teaching. The School board said they don't hire foreigners to teach their children.

      Klaus was very sad. As he was leaving the office one of the men came up to him and said he was very sorry about the way the school board treated Klaus. He said his name was Jim. Jim told him the best thing to do is to go to one of the new territories out west or maybe Texas. There are new towns starting up all over and there is a real shortage of teachers.

     Jim said If I were you I would head for the Oregon territory. I have been told it is very beautiful and the climate is mild and they can grow almost anything. Klaus thanked him for the advice and went home to talk to Olga. They decided they would take Jim's advice and head for Oregon. Klause went around the next couple of days asking for and receiving all kinds of advice.

    He was able to buy a wagon and 2 work horses and 2 riding horses. As soon as the snows melted in March they loaded their wagon and headed for Independence to join up with a wagon train going west. It is about 300 miles from Chicago to Independence and they knew there were several small rivers to cross as well as crossing the Mississippi. They had great faith in God and they figured if all went well they would make Independence in about a month They had loaded up there wagon with supplies and they knew they could buy food from the farmers on their way to Independence so they were not worried.

    Klaus did not like guns but he was very good with knives and he figured he could bring down some game with his knives. So they left Chicago, at first the going was slow because of the mud but as the mud dried up they they started making pretty good time. Klaus estimated maybe as much as 15 miles a day. Towards the end of the third week they had reach St. Louis where they would have to cross the Mississippi.

    They hired a man with a raft to take them and their belongs across the river. Everyone got across safely. They still had 100 miles to go to get to Independence. They decided they needed a break so they stayed in St Louis 2 days. So that they and their animals could rest. About 10 days later they arrived in Independence. They found out they could get signed up with a train that was leaving the next morning but they decide to pass up that train. They needed a little rest and so did their animals. They were told there was another train that was going to leave in about a week so they signed with that one.

     The man leading the train was an ex-army major names Zebulan Waters. Everyone called him Zeb. He told them this was his third train he was about to lead to Oregon. Although things are not as bad they were 10 years ago everyone has to work together and follow orders or the train will never make it. He said the Indians don't attack very much anymore they just come by for handouts and they think it is fun to steal anything they can from the white folks, so watch your belongings carefully.

     Then he said you have to elect a leader and a board to set rules and make sure they are enforced. You can do that the day before we leave. He also told them there would be a group of men that would go out everyday and find fresh meat for the train. Any one who could use a gun could volunteer to hunt. Also at times there would be fishing and we may even get lucky and find some wild berries or vegetables. Any food in your wagons now is yours. Any food brought in after we get started belongs to the wagon train and will be divided up as evenly as possible.

     He started to leave and then he turned back. Oh one more thing. On the plains there is almost no firewood. We have to use buffalo chips to cook with. So as we travel along gather some up so you can cook your meals. Klaus spoke up excuse me sir "I am from Germany and I never heard of buffalo chips, just what are they?" The Americans chuckled a little bit then Zeb silenced them. He said don't ever be afraid to ask questions no matter how silly. that is how you learn. he turned to Klaus and said what is your name sir. Klaus said Klaus Schmidt. Well Klaus the easiest way I can describe them is what comes out of the back end of a Buffalo after he has had a good meal. When they are dried they look like patties or big chips. It is the main fuel for cooking on the plains. Klaus smiled and said thanks. Two days later they elected a leader and a board and the next day they went across the Missouri and headed west.

   To be continued

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