Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

As a teacher, I have attempted to engage students in learning about the Oregon Trail in a variety of ways, including playing the Oregon Trail video game.  So, I was genuinely excited to read about Rinker Buck’s journey to travel the epic trail.  I found the book to be a quick and easy read that tells the story of Buck and his brother Nick, and Nick’s Jack Russell terrier, Olive Oyl making a modern day crossing of the Oregon Trail.

As a reader, I was in awe of Buck’s attempt to travel the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way—in a covered wagon with a team of mules.  Such a journey had not been attempted in more than a century.  The fact that so much of the trail is still accessible was quite the revelation.  As an East Coaster, many of our original trails and pioneer roads are long gone, replaced by modern roads, cities and suburban sprawl.

Buck gives an overview of the Oregon Trail, which spans two thousand miles and crosses six states from Missouri to the Pacific coast. Once Buck sets up the history of the trail, he then begins the narrative of the crossing. Buck and his brother set out from St. Joseph, Missouri, to travel to Baker City, Oregon, a journey that would last four months.

The book can be broken down into three distinct parts, a journal of the trip, an all-around history of the trail, and the relationship Buck had with his father.  As a reader, I most enjoyed the journal and historical aspects of the book.  Believe me, you will have a good idea of what it takes to change a wagon wheel or how precious water can truly be.  In the beginning of the book, Buck talks about wanting to do the crossing alone.  However, as the book unfolds, it is hard to imagine this journey being possible without the aid of his brother Nick.  Indeed, the banter between the two is quite fun. 

I would highly recommend this book. It is very entertaining, as well as educational. The reader will be transported to an earlier time and a chance to “Go West!” Plus, you will learn more about what many of the Great Pioneers had to endure to make such an arduous journey. If you are like me and love the idea of taking a great road trip, I would enthusiastically recommend picking up this book.  It is definitely worth a read!

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