|Callie Hutton, author|
by Callie Hutton
author of Emma's Journey
I remember that from a TV show many years ago. I always had a fascination for wagon trains, whether it was a TV show, a movie or a book. It only seemed natural that when I wrote my very first romance book it would be a wagon train story.
Like most first books, this one sat on my computer while I wrote, sold, and saw published several others. But I always wanted to go back and resurrect Emma’s Journey. Emma called to me, to tell the world her story, how she’d made the journey from Indiana to Oregon, from timid wife to strong woman.
During my research, I found some interesting facts.
For one thing, Fort Laramie, a very popular stop for wagon trains heading west, was actually an open fort. The building, of course, had walls, but the fort itself had none. An entire population of Indians lived outside the main building, their teepees scattered around. The men hunted meat they sold to the Army, and in return, their women and children were protected while they were gone.
Most travelers started off with a wagon load of supplies, furniture, and cherished items from home. Most of it was discarded along the way as oxen wore out, and plowing through mud and rivers, and up steep inclines, made the weight impossible.
Since the weight of the wagon and supplies was hard enough on the animals, most emigrants walked the trail. In fact, with the swaying and bumping, it was probably more comfortable to walk.
Despite some movies and TV shows, horses were not used to pull the wagons. Sturdy and strong, oxen and mules were the animals of choice.
Most likely no wagon train made it from Independence, Missouri—the starting point for most travelers—all the way out west without losing some emigrants along the way. Weather, illness, injuries, and drowning all took their toll. There were also Indian raids that in some cases, killed every person on a wagon train.
While writing Emma’s Journey, I kept thinking about the courage it took to uproot your family from a place you lived most, if not all, of your life and forge west in the hopes of making a better life. How many of us today would have the tenacity to do that? But these are the people who made our country grow.
As much as we like to romance the past—especially important in romance novels—life on the trail was dirty, hard, smelly, and frightening. But had there not been brave and willing people to set forth, we would all be crowded on the east and west coasts. A scary thought.
But then, our country is made up of descendants of pioneers. Except for our Native American population, we, or our ancestors, came from somewhere else, and made that tremendous sacrifice for a better life.
My great-grandparents made it from Ireland to New York. My grandparents made it from New York to New Jersey, where the bulk of the family remains today. I, on the other hand, made it west to Oklahoma. My trek took place in a crowded airplane, with my dog howling the entire time in the baggage hold. At least there was no Indian raid.
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One lucky commenter will win a
$25 gift card
to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble
In addition, if the winner has not yet read
An Angel in the Mail
Callie will send an autographed copy as well.
Drawing will be held Saturday, February 23rd at 9pm Pacific Time. Please be sure to include your email address in your comment!