MOVING BY WAGON TRAIN:
Slowly, slowly turned the heavy oak wheels, pinned to the cumbersome wagon. Puffs of red dust rise high over the fields and over the animals, the oxen and horses that strained to pull the heavy laden wagons of these pioneers moving west. Both animals and people were tired, but there were still weeks left to their destination. Sometimes riding, mostly walking, the families did what they could to lessen the weight their animals had to pull. The men walked by the wagon guiding the teams. They carried long bull whips, with which they could "encourage" the team to keep moving. These men could use the whip with great skill. They could pop the head from a rattlesnake, or flick a fly from the teams back.
Homespun canvas roofed the half circle sides of the wagons in the train, which held treasures, old china, cached gold, iron pots, spinning wheels, looms, feather bedding and pain. The deep seated pain that strikes the hearts of the pioneer women when they have said good bye to home and friends, family and loved ones, children left behind in lonely graves, as they bounce and sway with the motion of the wagons. Not so with the men. Their hearts are lifted up with visions of westward lands, unknown dreams catch at the sun lines of their quick eyes and steady hands, leaving behind the slave worked hills and valleys of the Tennessee. These people, not strong as oxen in muscle and bone and sinew, but strong and active in man's spirit and God's, that leads them to try and do the tasks, that built homes and the nation. The spirit of unrest writhes and tortures our young nation from within. It groans and backbites, settles down again for a little season.
As the wagon wheels turn westward through nasty bogs and filthy swamps, these tired people pushed forward. Over a wood fire at night, they cooked a meal fit for a king. They are kings and queens but wear no crowns. Their crowning days are yet to come.
High and up!! They climb the mountains, the drivers voices echoing, as they yell encouragement to the teams. As the evening star rises, the animals are tired, and glad for the folks that feed them. They slowly lower themselves to the ground for a much needed rest. Ever onward, no time to loiter. Today was yesterday's tomorrow.
"I wish I had a buckskin suit.... like Daniel Boone wore", echo the children as they snuggle down into a downy feather bed on the upper bunk, under the home spun cover, dreaming dreams of a far off land, coming as if to meet them, as the wheels slowly turned over and over again.
Then, down into the valleys, where the pulling is not so hard. The women sang hymns , stepping modestly behind, desiring to walk to rest their tired cramped spines from being too long inside low roofed wagons.
The children fought like bear cubs fight. Boxing and slapping inside their cage, laughing and looking with eager eyes. Wise eyes, seeing everything. Something at the foot of the incline was reflected in many eyes. In some, it meant a dare, something to defy, something yet untried by them. In others, not exactly fear, but an end to one thing and the beginning of another. The waters of this river was in a turbulent rush that noon day. Wild, rough, hissing and pushing on its way. But, the mighty Mississippi could not stop these people. The ferry boat clutched them, and beat the waves, lowered them, every one, their cargo safe to face more dangerous days.
Looking westward from the muddy banks of the foe they had just crossed, not with ease and satisfaction, but praying hearts and quaking knees, they paused to pray for guidance on the way. The forest was dark, heavy, and many eyes look and quick ears listen to the strange noises and the turning wheels, ever bringing them nearer.
Finally, the valley is sighted filled, packed down, measured out, through a gap in the mountain. A valley not large, but held securely by the toes of the range of mountains not yet known. The valley... beautiful, serene, peaceful, long since gone, the red man. The end of the journey, now the gate to the frontier.
Submitted By Ethel Taylor
June 9, 2004
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