Imagine riding in a covered wagon for four days with classmates. For me this was a true pioneer experience. It was an interesting trip that I experienced during my fifth grade year at Lincoln Elementary School. There were thirty-one of us altogether including kids from Alpha Elementary school; through this history adventure we were led by our teachers and Mr. Bill Coate. I remember being dropped off by my mother at Stagner Ranch in Raymond. All of us gathered together and were told a story about a man who was shot near an old bar. I was convinced by the story that the bar was haunted. When it came time to load the wagons I was so excited. I felt like a true pioneer getting in the wagon with my friends, seeing the mules pull our wagon, and observing the scenery.
We hit the trail on Saturday, April 26, wearing slouch hats and bonnets. We made our way to Eastman Lake; where we spent our first night under the stars. The hills seemed to go on forever and the bumps could be felt in the wagon. I logged in my first entry in my pioneer diary:
Eastman Lake 7:30 p.m.
Today I had a lot of fun. Breanne and I share a wagon. We started out at Stager Ranch in Raymond. Today we traveled 6.24 miles!!! I also made some new friends: Jessica, Brittany, Kathryn, Kelly, Natasha, and Jordan. Kelly, well… She is one of the tough girls that like to speak their mind. Jessica, Brittany, Jordan are really nice and Tasha is funny, she makes me laugh a lot. We are spending the night at Eastman Lake ; when we got there Breanne and I climbed some high rocks and saw a baby bat, too bad it was dead.
That was only the first day, on Sunday we traveled cross-country and circled our wagons on the Daulton Ranch. I remember taking the reins into my hands and having the opportunity to drive the mules. That day at Daulton Ranch I wrote:
I had lots of fun today. Last night I woke up and heard Coyotes howling and even spotted a couple, I was a little scared. We left Eastman Lake about 9:30. I was scared because I saw a bear, turns out the bear was fake. Ha Ha!!! We went to Raymond Cemetary and laid flowers on Ben Duckers’ grave. I looked at some of the other graves in the cemetary, they were dated so long ago, I felt like the people were history of the town. I imagined seeing them in person and observing the way life was back then. After that, we had hotdogs and chips for lunch. Along the ride to the ranch I saw wild horses. They were so beautiful to me, the fact that they had all this open among the hills, to go as they please. We came to a trail and I decided to get out and walk along the side of the wagon. It felt good to get out and exercise my legs, I was getting tired of sitting in that wagon. We saw the place where Henry Daulton lived and looked at his cellar. Tonight, I am sleeping on the ground with my friends Jessica and Joanna. I loved the dinner, it was stupendous. We had stew with vegetables and meat in it and rolls. Man, that cook is really, really good, I love the food she cooks. I have to sleep on the ground tonight because I slept in the wagon last night. This is like a dream come true.
Good night and write soon,
P.S. I like this wagon trip so far. It is really fun and we took notes about John Sutter and the Gold Discovery. I learned about Sutter, James Marshall, Coloma, Sam Brannon; in 1898 14,000 there was 14,000 people who weren’t Native American and they were searching for gold. This number increased in 1852 to 250,000 people! HA! HA! Jordan just did something funny. By the way I will be on the news, the news guy came and filmed us driving the mules and he got a shot of me!
That night at Daulton Ranch there was a camp fire set up, it cast shadows against the canvas of wagons and we all huddled up and talked. The dancing shadows among the canvas began to fade as we set down tarps and prepared our sleeping bags. I remember the dark sky, but the weather being gloomy and cold. I settled into a sleep and was awoken at two in the morning by Mr. Phelps, one of the teachers. I remember feeling light raindrops on my face and being given a plastic trash bag to put over my sleeping bag. Not long after that I was awaken again, and this time we moved and took refuge in a nearby horse trailer. I sleepily moved my sleeping bag and pillow, I was so tired, and the horse trailer really smelt like hay. I slept for another hour and then I awoke to the fierce drumming on the roof of the trailer. The wind was blowing so hard and the wagon covers were flapping. The wind was bringing in pellets of water into the horse trailer. Some of the other kids in the trailer were also awake. The storm really began to hit at that point. I was frightened, but I knew there was going to be a long day ahead of me, so I finally drifted back to sleep. In the newspaper article one of the lines read “Nature let loose with all of its pent up fury and the kids got a lesson about pioneer life that they would never get from a book”.
I was sleeping on the ground last night when Mr. Phelps woke me up at 3:00 in the morning. He woke everybody up that was on the ground and we all moved into a trailer to sleep. The storm continued on until 7:00 in the morning. When we woke up our sleeping bags were soaked. I was barefoot and my sleeping bag had a puddle on it. All my clothes and even my shoes were wet. I was cold like an icicle. Breakfast was great; we had french toast, bacon, and eggs. After breakfast we were back in the wagons. We stopped at the Shepard house and I was throwing rocks in the river Somebody threw a rock at my back and it really hurt. I had to put a bandage on it. My dad and brother are coming for dinner tonight.
Day four of the wagon trip was the final day. I woke up the next morning and I had the job of tending the mules. I had to walk the mules around in a circle. We left at 8:15 and were headed on our way back to Madera. All of us were asleep in our wagon. When we stopped for lunch I gave the rest of my apple to Goliath, the sturdy black mule I was taming. When we finally arrived home, I was walking in holding Goliath. After hugging my parents, I walked Goliath back to the wagon, tied him there, and fed him some grass. I went home with my parents and took a nice shower.
The wagon trip was a quite an experience; I learned about mules, covered wagons, and the history of people like Ben Ducker. Bill Coates is a knowledgable man and he knew a great deal about history. On the wagon trip I broadened my horizons by meeting new people and learning the life of the pilgrims. In addition, I received the Most Friendly Pioneer Award. The wagon trip was a true experience and if I had the chance to take the trip again I would.
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