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Thread: Moving West - Chapter 33 - The South Platte

  1. #1
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    Moving West - Chapter 33 - The South Platte

    As the wagon train continued westward, long days merged into hard and exhausting weeks. If any of the travelers had visions of speeding across the prairie, those dreams were soon dashed by the reality of their journey. The train could travel no faster than a walking pace. Most family members were required to walk most of the way for a couple of reasons. First of all, to reduce the burden on the animals pulling the wagons. This would help keep the number of them killed by the exhaustion of the long trek across the west to a minimum. There were no stores to replace these animals, so without them, there would be no wagon train. Secondly, because there were few trees to supply firewood for campfires, women and children were needed to walk in order to pick up dried buffalo chips. These burned well, and were the main source of campfires. Normally, a cloth or sheet was hung under the belly of the wagon, and the buffalo chips were tossed there for storage until needed.
    To the untrained eye, much of the scenery along the prairie seemed to never change. Instead of learning to spot the very real differences, many became guilty of looking, but not seeing, often leading to feelings of boredom for many. These periods of boredom, and for others, the excitement of adventure, were sometimes jolted by events of sickness and tragedy among the train members.

    Sandy, the 14 year old daughter of Ike and Dottie Bennett, left the wagon circle in the middle of the night, for reasons unknown, and was never found again.

    Mrs. Flynn, walking along the wagon driven by her husband, reached down to pick up a buffalo chip, and was bitten in the arm by a rattlesnake. Two days of suffering ended with her burial in a grave site with only a small wooden cross to mark her passing.

    Darrin Morrison, a store clerk back in Pittsburgh, was used to a structured environment and struggled to deal with the uncertainties of life along the trail. When the braking pole broke on his wagon, he tried to use his rifle in it's place, only to have it go off, and kill him instantly.

    Amanda, wife of Barry Rogers, a schoolteacher and preacher in a small town in Ohio, was terrified at the prospect of an Indian attack.
    Her nights were almost always filled with nightmares about that possibility, and what it might mean for her.
    Late one night in the midst of one of those nightmares, she awoke to see someone trying to sneak into her wagon.
    Reacting from panic, she screamed, and attacked the intruder, knocking him off the wagon and down to the ground.
    That intruder turned out to be her husband, who had been unable to sleep, and had been checking the stock. Knowing of her trouble sleeping, he probably wanted to sneak back into the wagon and not disturb her. The fall broke his neck and he was buried that morning. The next day, against the advice of both the Wagon Master and Mariska, Amanda turned her wagon and joined three trappers who were headed east and, had promised to escort her to the next town.

    That afternoon, the trappers turned on her. After abusing her, they turned Amanda loose with no food or clothes, to die on the prairie. She wandered aimlessly until finally giving into exhaustion, she sat down and waited to die. After she passed out, a small party of Cheyenne came along and took her to their village, where she was nursed back to health. Four days later, Amanda was taken to the nearest town by a couple of Cheyenne women. Unfortunately, the townspeople were not receptive to her story, choosing to believe that she had been willingly living with the Indians, and probably the squaw of one of more warriors. This made her, in their view, unfit for their community, and she was shunned by everyone she approached. Finally, driven by desperation, Amanda left town in an attempt to find the only place she now felt might be of help – the Cheyenne village. Fortunately for her, the two Cheyenne women had anticipated the town's reaction, and had waited down the trail for Amanda to return. They found her, and escorted her back to their village. Completely drained by the totality of her recent experiences, Amanda asked for, and received, permission to stay with them until she could decide where to go.
    As the days and weeks passed, she found herself appreciating both the people, and their culture. Her image of them as savages, faded away as she began to see them as human beings, normal people who loved to laugh, and who were devoted to their families and to the tribe. Four months later, Amanda fell in love with, and married, a tall noble looking Cheyenne warrior by the name of “Wise Otter”. This woman who once lived in terror of the Indians, would spend the most enjoyable eight years of her life as Wise Otter's wife, before being killed by soldiers who attacked their village while the men were away hunting buffalo.
    When Amanda had left the wagon train, they continued on their way heading west. By the time the train was two thirds of the way across Nebraska, the members of the train had largely become more accomplished western travelers. Those unfit, or unwilling to face the hardships had either turned around, or had fallen to the side one way or another, leaving a tougher and wiser group to continue the journey. Knowing they would soon be leaving the train, Sean had selected and trained a young man lately of Illinois, to take over the scouting. The young fellow was a good student, and displayed good judgment.
    Then, one day the time for Sean and Mariska to take leave of the wagon train was at hand. Their goodbye's had all been said last night over the campfires. Now all that remained was to pull their wagon out of line and head southwest. As they started heading in that direction, Ward, the Wagon Master, pulled up alongside, and pointed to the south. “Head that-a-way and just follow the South Platte. It will lead you to all the way to the Rockies. About halfway there, you will probably find an Arapaho village. They normally camp there this time of year, and have always been friendly as far as I know. They can give you more information on this territory then anybody I know. Wish you both good luck, and thanks for all your help. I don't think I could have gotten this bunch of pilgrims this far without you.” With a wave of his hand, he was headed back to his duties with the wagon train. The last time Ward looked over his shoulder, he could barely see Sean on his horse, and the wagon driven by Mariska, fading into the distance.
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    Last edited by barnburner; 03-03-2011 at 12:46 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Thats a fine painting Barnburner to match another superb episode of this wonderful story. Well done again
    Sometimes...I remember better with my eyes closed

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  3. #3
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    This part is mainly an obituary, dear BB!
    Kidding. Great chapter and illustration ending this part of the trip. Now our two heroes are alone again towards their destiny.
    Panta rei (everything flows)!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by coops View Post
    Thats a fine painting Barnburner to match another superb episode of this wonderful story. Well done again
    Very much appreciated Coops...
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caesar View Post
    This part is mainly an obituary, dear BB!
    Kidding. Great chapter and illustration ending this part of the trip. Now our two heroes are alone again towards their destiny.
    Yeah, unfortunately, that was a part of the movement westward in those days. Despite what Hollywood tells us, more people died from accidents and sickness than were ever killed by Indians as they crossed the plains in Wagon Trains.
    Thanks Caesar for your kind comments.
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  6. #6
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    Such a good painting, Barney, going with the story full of hardship and endurance. You know what i am missing? Babies.... they were so busy otherwise? No accidents of this kind...hm... i know.... interesting reading and educational also....i make you probably blushing... i am sorry... stupid me.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AT-TA View Post
    Such a good painting, Barney, going with the story full of hardship and endurance. You know what i am missing? Babies.... they were so busy otherwise? No accidents of this kind...hm... i know.... interesting reading and educational also....i make you probably blushing... i am sorry... stupid me.
    LOL... Actually, I thought about that and actually started to bring that in to the story, but decided that I wanted her character free for other stuff, so they have decided to post-pone starting their family until they get to their destination.. of course, accidents do happen, but I'm told they have been very careful...
    Thank you very much for your very kind comments AT...dearly appreciated!
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  8. #8
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    Beautiful use of color, comp and perspective to draw the viewer in. Masterfully painted......................

  9. #9
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    WOW...the story continues to roll along, getting better with each new chapter...great painting to go with it
    Try to see as many angles of vision as possible...no single one of us has a "handle" on the whole picture.

  10. #10
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    Another fantastic chapter dear Barn
    this just keeps getting better.
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