Whenever this family packs for a trip there’s always the discussion of what to take, whose responsibility it is to remember joint-used items, and even, on occasion, personal items. It tends to get a little fractious as the departure day draws close. I often wonder what sort of emotional upheaval those pioneers went through, they who were leaving their homes in the States for a trip out West, never to return.
For a start, there were no comfortable SUVs. Most pioneering families used the wagon from the farm - what else had they? – so sizes differed. An average was ten feet by less than four. How big is your vehicle? Their priority was to keep that wagon in good repair, so top of their packing list was the wherewithal to do just that, from tools to rope and chains, to a spare wheel to a water-proofer, not just for its canvas cover but to help seal the wagon-box for crossing rivers.
Then there was its method of propulsion. It mattered little whether the choice was mules or oxen. The burning question was how many spares to take. Add in the accoutrements of a farrier and veterinarian, and something to feed the beasts if forage was poor. Imagine needing to carry a spare engine for your SUV, plus the tools for roadside repairs, and oil and fuel.
The family itself might be down the list of priorities, but if it didn’t have the means to support itself once its destination had been gained none would survive the first winter, so room was made for plows and seed, or whatever the family needed for employment.
The journey was around 2,000 miles and lasted five months. How much food would your family need for such a trip, and how many trailers would be needed to carry it? How much food have you just brought back from the mall and how long will that last? Add in a Dutch oven, skillets and pans, tin ware for eating from and, oh yes… water.
Water didn’t come from a faucet for those crossing the Great American Desert. A keg carried eight or ten gallons. Go weigh a full two gallon plastic pail and then consider the volume of water you are looking at. Multiple it up. How long would that last not just your family, but in parched areas your stock as well? Better take two. And forget any romantic notion of crystal clear creeks. You’ll best not forget fine muslin to sieve the silt-ridden water through.
How are you doing? I’m exhausted already and I’ve not left my desk. More on this next time.