Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What will we find when we get there?

The pioneers who headed for Oregon didn't really know what they would find. There were pamphlets and stories, often creative more than accurate, but they headed out on faith and dreams. This is an except from Round the Bend where the family is asking someone who had been there-- what should they expect.

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    "Tell us about Oregon," asked Loraine.
    "Mostly I know the Willamette Valley where I’ve spent time twice... Once for a winter."
    “Is it all we’ve been told?" Amy moved into the circle, sitting on the ground, her arms wrapped around her knees.
    He smiled. “Well, I don’t know what you were told, but it’s pretty country, rich land, some of the soil almost black and will grow anything. A big river flows right down through it with tributaries coming out of the mountains on both sides. Hot springs... and the fish, you ought to see the salmon when they go up the rivers. A man could almost walk on them. There are huge cedar and fir trees, lush meadows, snow covered peaks to the east."
    "Tell me more about the farmland," Amy's father requested, a gleam in his eyes.
    "I’m no farmer but looks to me like a lot of water, good soil and with mild winters, that it’ll be easy to raise crops. Winters are mild. Mostly the snow only lasts a few weeks, a month at the most. The year I was there, it only snowed one time and melted almost right away."
    "With the Homestead Land Act passed last year, are you thinking of staking a claim yourself this time?”
    "Man has to stay on it four years to claim it. I used to think no place was worth staying that long. I have been thinking though... Maybe I might want to do that." Adam's gaze settled on Amy.
    Amos smiled, nodding his head.
    "They told us there’d be no Indian problems,” Amy’s mother said, as she pushed a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
    "No trouble in the main valley, the country near Portland and Oregon City."
    "You hear stories about scalpings... savages attacking peaceful settlers. For instance, there's what happened to the poor Whitmans," she said, a worried frown crossing her beautiful face.
    "The thing with the Whitmans was a tragedy based on misunderstandings. It wasn't in the Willamette Valley though, and it was with Eastern Oregon Indians, the Cayuse—not the same at all."
    "Why do you say misunderstandings?" Amy's father asked.
    Adam shrugged. "I'm not fond of second-guessing people, what they do or don't do, and I didn't know the Whitmans. I hear they were good folks, but too many times the missionaries come to the Indians unwilling to learn anything about their customs and determined to change their way of life. They talk but don’t listen," His voice grew hard as he continued, "When the Indians fight back, everybody wonders why."
    "That's a severe condemnation of those doing God's work." Amy's father's expression had turned thoughtful.
    "Maybe so. I'm not the best man to judge," Adam said, his dark blue eyes saying he'd prefer to discuss something else... anything else.


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