Wagons West 2

by Arnold Nelson

     After about a week on the road. the wagon train settle in to a routine. up before dawn, breakfast, hitch up wagons and get on the road just as the sun gets above the horizon. Stop for nooner to rest animals and those hungry could get some cold food to eat. Circle the wagons about an hour before dusk send hunters out for meat and have dinner just as the last rays of the sun are going down. Everyone had a job either gathering firewood or buffalo chips, or fetching water from nearby streams or rivers. Most of the women did the cooking. Klause was happy to gather fuel and water and let Olga do the cooking. He even gathered extra in case others ran short.

     There was one on the train that did nothing. He sat on his wagon or his horse and ordered his wife around all the time. His name was Leon Jorden his wife was Lilac. Lilac would drive the wagon gather fuel and fetch water and make his dinner while he sat around like a king. It was the women in nearby wagons that noticed it first and told their husbands. The men went to talk to Sam Jones who was elected leader of the train.

    Sam got the 3 member board together and went over and had a talk with Leon. They told him everyone on the train has to pull their weight or they will be kicked off the train. You Leon Jordan have had your one warning if you do not pull your weight tomorrow we will ask you to leave the wagon train.

    Leon said my wife does the work for both of us I don't have to do a thing. Sam started getting mad and said either you help your wife or you are out of here day after tomorrow. Leon said I bought her is mine and I can do what I want with her. Sam said some of the women are talking to her now and she can stay with the wagon train but you are leaving. There are no slaves west of the Missouri, she is a free lady now and can do what she wants. Leon got mad and said we will see about that and stormed off.

    The next morning the found Lilac beaten up and Leon no where in sight. he had taken one of his horses and road out in the middle of the night. His trail was headed east. The women took care of Lilac and she healed enough in a week to drive her wagon again. It had been driven by a teenage son of another couple in the wagon train.

    One evening after dinner before turning in Klause was sitting on the back of his wagon watching little Beth and Holly play nearby. He noticed they started to get board so he said hey girls, would you like me to tell you a story?" The girls looked up and smiled and said sure. So they got up and sat near Klaus and Klaus told them a story. When Klaus was almost done Grace stepped out of the wagon and called the girls saying it was bedtime. The girls said in unison Mr Klaus is telling us a story can we stay and here the end of the story? Grace smile and said ok but then right to bed. The girls said yes mom. Klaus finished his story and the girls went to their wagon and went to bed.

     A couple of evenings later the girls came up to Klaus and said Please Mr. Klaus can you tell us another story? Klause looked up and saw the were 2 little boys with them. Klause smiled and then started telling a story to the kids. Word got around about Klaus' stories and by the end of the month most of the kids and some of the adults were listening to Klaus tell his stories. One day when Klause was getting water he heard a little girl scream. He looked around and saw Holly standing there stiff as a board scared to death. Klaus then saw the rattler getting ready to strike. Klaus dropped his buckets pulled a knife from his belt and threw it at the snake hitting him in the neck and pinning him to the tree.

    Holly ran over to Klause and grabbed him as hard as she could. Through her tears she thanked him and told him she was never so scared in her life. Klause asked her if she was hurt Holly said no. He picked up Holly and took her back to her parents and told them what happened. Then he went back and took care of the snake.

    They wagon train stopped on Sundays for a day of rest. Some of the people starting holding church services. The did not have a preacher on the train so they took turns preaching. At first some of the ladies would lead the singing. Then one Sunday someone heard Klaus singing in a beautiful baritone voice. They asked Klause to lead the singing, after that he lead all the singing.

     Sometime in late May they reached Fort Kearney. Zeb told them they were making good time and they would stay for 2 days to give the animals a rest and let the settlers buy needed supplies at the trading post. The whole train enjoyed the break. After they left Fort Kearney the ground started rising and they knew they were leaving the prairies and entering the rocky mountains.

    5 weeks later they reached a place called Independence Rock. Zeb explained it was called Independence Rock because all the wagon trains try to reach it by July 4th. Zeb said we will stay here for a day so that anyone who wants to can put their name on the rock like all the other people before them. Two days after they left Independence Rock they were hit by a sudden hail storm. It lasted for about and hour. Zeb called an early nooner so people could check for damages. No one reported and damages so the started on their way again. Zeb explained to the train that in the rockies you can have Hail storms or even snow storms anytime of the year. After a short delay they started moving again and went almost 5 more miles before circling the wagons for the night.

   One day Klause rode up to Zeb and asked him about all the junk along the sides of the trail. Zeb said some people put too much in their wagons and when they start climbing the rockies the horses or oxen can't pulled the load so have have to get rid of part of it. Zeb continued "Most of the wood will be burned and the metal will be picked up by scavengers (white and red) and used to make other things. Some of the better things are picked up and sold in the trading post."

     The wagon train had made it over the great divide and were now just a couple of days from Fort Laramie. They stopped in Fort Laramie a few days to stock up. They were finally getting close to Oregon. All that was left was to cross the Idaho territory along the Snake River and then across the Cascades. They started moving again and within a few weeks they were in sight of the Colombia river.

    They traveled on the new trail along the Colombia river. Before long the were in Portland Ore. Where the Willamette pours into the Columbia. Most of the settles homesteaded in the area. Klause and Olga didn't know what to do so they stayed with Jim and Grace and the girls for a few days. Klause helped Jim build a house for his family and started to help clear the fields.

    One day Olga came home all excited she saw a note in the Hudson bay company store that they were opening a new school in someplace called Independence and needed a teacher. Klause asked around and found out Independence was about 35 miles south of them On the west side of the Willamette. Klause and Olga talked it over and they decided that Klause should ride his horse down there and if he liked it he would come back and get Olga.

    So the next day Klause left early and rode all day and got to Independence late that night. The next day he went and talked to the mayor. The mayor took him to the school board. They asked Klause all sorts of questions then told Klaus to leave and come back in two hours and they would have an answer for him. So Klaus walked around the town and he liked what he saw. He even saw a nice lot in town where he and Olga could build a house and raise a family.

     Klause went back to the board and the whole board was grinning from ear to ear. They said it was unanimous we want you to teach our children. We will build a school house and have it ready by Christmas. We also decide to give you some land in town to build your house on. We will even give you lumber at cost and help you build your house. What do you say Klaus will you stay here and teach our children.

     Klause appeared to think about it a few minutes then a big grin came on his face and he said "Thank you my wife and I will be very happy here in your community." They all shook hands. Klause said I will get my wife and we will be back in about 10 days. Klaus left there a very happy man. Klause rode back to Portland the next day and told Olga the good news. Olga had news herself she told Klaus she was going to have a baby. The next day Jim and Grace put on a big party for Klause and Olga to celebrate the job and the baby.

     The next day they got in their wagon and headed for Independence to start their new life. They arrived in Independence four days later. They were surprised when they drove into Independence the school house was already going up and they looked at the property Klause wanted and someone was was building on it. Klause asked about it and was told that is to be the house of the new school teacher and his wife. It took him a minute to understand what they said then he let out a yell heard all over Independence. Klause asked them why they chose that property they told him some of the citizens saw Klaus walking around and saw him spend a lot of time looking at that lot.

    Klause spent 40 years teaching in that little school house that grew to four rooms and was ready to grow some more. He taught all six of his children and three of his grandchildren. Independence became known as the end of the Oregon trail. and is still a small city in the center of the Willamette Valley.

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