From a "Rut Nut"

Hi- My name is Lisa & my nephew, Kurt, attends the Salisbury magnate school. My sister-in-law told me about the Oregon Trail page on yr school's website and gave me the address to check it out. As a person who has an interest in the Oregon Trail (a.k.a."a Rut Nut"), I found it really neat to see that interest in the Trail spans all ages. Ashley's description of the Oregon Trail CD-ROM makes me want to check it out. After reading quite a few books on the Trail, I'd like to see how I'd fare.

My interest in the Trail stems from an "accidental" visit to Scott's Bluff, Nebraska, where there is also a Trail museum. One of the Park Rangers recommended an Oregon Trail book by Gregory Franzwa and, upon reading it, I was hooked. We walked the ruts at Scott's Bluff and travelled alongside the Trail through Nebraska. We have pictures from Scott's Bluff and the ever-popular Chimney Rock. If Ashley would like, I can send pictures of both famous Trail sites to her school for her.

As a high school English teacher, I read a lot and reading about the Trail has opened a whole new interest in American history for me, as it has for Ashley and her friends. One of the most interesting modern stories I've come across was about a Massachusetts housewife, Barbara Maat, who decided to see for herself what it was like to walk the California Trail, which follows the Oregon Trail as far as Idaho. She left Independence, MO with $1300 and walked the Trail, taking six months to get to Sacramento, CA. She is quoted as saying that she decided to undertake the trip because she "was fascinated and awed by the pioneers' walking across the country." She is proof that that spirit is still alive today. It's hard to imagine how difficult it would be to undertake a trip like Barbara Maat did, much less to have done it as the immigrants did 140 yrs ago. Keep up the great job on your Trail page!

Sincerely - Lisa Yungel

PS - I live near Lancaster, PA, not far from Conestoga, which, of course, is the "birthplace" of the Conestoga Wagon, the famous prairie schooners that were used to haul freight over the great trails west.

Elisabeth Yungel

I asked Lisa to tell us her favorite books about the Oregon Trail. This is her reply. -Patti

The books about the Oregon Trail that were the most interesting to me were:

Susan Butruille's Women's Voices from the Oregon Trail is a nice mix of diary entries from women who travelled the trail along w/ historical info on how it was for women who, more often than not, were not given any choice about making the trip. It's easy-to-read and has an interesting current-day trip guide through the states that the OT traveled.

Gregory Franzwa's The Oregon Trail Revisited is the book that the Park Ranger at Scott's Bluff National Park recommended. The first 65 pgs give the history behind the OT, as interpreted by Franzwa who is a Trail historian; Franzwa gives his own slant to some of the incidents and people associated w/the OT. The tone of his writing can be very amusing. The first section is also very readable, however, the rest of the book is a mile-by-mile, state-by-state intensive guide on the OT. While it was interesting to me, it might not be everyone's cup of tea, however, if I was to take a car trip along the trail, it would be my "bible".

The National Geographic's Trails West is also very readable w/ your typical beautiful NG pictures. It contains information on the Oregon, California, Mormon, Santa Fe, Gila and Bozeman Trails and is well done in exactly the way you'd expect a NG book to be.

I would also recommend the Time-Life Old West series, particularly the books in the series titled Trailblazers, Pioneers and Women. Once again, good pictures, interesting stories, and historically informative, not just about the OT but that time pd. as well. (A word of warning: the Pioneers book in this series goes into detail about the KDonner Party who took the Oregon Trail to Idaho and then turned south to CA through what would later be named Donner's Pass. They got caught in the pass late in fall by some early blizzards and by the time they were rescued in Feb. had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. Not a "pretty" story but one that anyone who does any amount of reading on the OT will come across sooner or later because most books combine CA Trail & OT history since, for two-thirds of the way, they followed the same path. I know stories like this have an effect on my nephew who is that age so it might be good to preview (and tell the parents to preview) some of the more "in-depth" Trail literature to make sure they feel it is appropriate for the age.)

The other books I've read are so historically intensive and, at times, difficult to follow and maintain interest in w/o an awful lot of concentrating. With the pictures, I'll also send a copy of an article from the magazine "U.S. News & World Report: Best Drives" which contains an 11-day car drive out to the Trail Center in Oregon City, OR. Maybe Ashley can talk her parents into going out to the Trail Center via the article's route. :)

As you can see, the OT is a favorite topic of mine. I like American History almost as much as English due to a couple of good teachers in my lifetime. Keep up the good work w/ yr. "page" and tell Ashley if she comes across anything she finds particularly interesting to send that information through you.

Take care
Lisa Yungel

Patricia A. Weeg
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