July 12, 1860 An excerpt from the Oregon Trail Journal of Sable Murphree: :
My beloved Caleb came down with the Cholera two nights ago; I fear he will die in a few hours. He fights bravely to hang on, but on one seems to survive this dreadful disease and he is suffering horribly. A once powerful young man now is little more than a rack of bones. It would be an act of Mercy if God would take him sooner than later.
I worry over my husband, but I am in a dreadful position as well. I am not strong enough to lift the wooden yoke for the oxen, and sliding the bows into position is impossible for a woman who is less than five feet tall and barely weighs 95 pounds. If it wasn’t for the help of Captain Levin, Colonel Fallon, and Ranger McKee, I would be left to perish on the trail.
They help me by putting the yokes on the two bulls and the two cows each morning, and they take them off in the evening. The poor oxen labor so hard during the day, they lost their pleasant dispositions a long time ago; thus they resist going to work each day; they toss their heads in protest and try to runoff when we try to put the yokes on their necks.
The animals are slowly starving because all the feed has been eaten along the trail, the oxen even eat the White Sage.
We have lost have lost thirteen mares; we have no idea whether wild mustang stallions lured them away or if they were stolen by Indians who consider horse theft a sport. I was raised as a White girl, and although my mother was Cherokee and taught me about the native culture, I find it difficult if not impossible to understand these Indians of the plains.
My right rear wheel has developed a loose tire. Captain Levin says it is because the wood wasn’t quite dry when the wheel was made, and the wheel has shrunk almost a quarter inch because of the desert conditions. He keeps tightening the wheel with wooden wedges and metal screws each night, but I don’t think the wheel can last until we get to Oregon.
My husband dreamed of owning a quarter section in Oregon, but it is unlikely he will ever see his fabled Oregon or the Columbia River.
This morning, I rode a horse to find one of the oxen that had quit camp to look for better feed, and I came upon a wretched band of Cheyenne. There were no young men; only women, children, and old men. They were weak from hunger and suffering from the elements. A young girl had just died from Cholera and they were digging a grave for her with sticks.
Who knows where the men were, maybe they died from disease or were killed in battle. I knew I had to help them.
I rode back to the wagon and got a shovel and a few pounds of my husband’s smoked summer sausage. The people thanked me and tried to communicate in sign language, but I only know a few expressions in sign language. They ate half the sausage and an old man dug a grave about 18 inches deep in the hard pan dirt. I would have liked to have seen a deeper grave, but the old man worked hard to dig that deep.
The girl’s mother placed three silver thimbles on the young girl’s fingers and wrapped her in an old army jacket with brass buttons. An old woman made the signs of sewing and I realized the girl was being marked for the afterlife as a seamstress.
Somehow, this ragged band had lost their men, maybe it was war, maybe it was disease, maybe it was just fate, but without strong men they were nearly hopeless.
They returned the shovel, and we said our goodbyes; as I rode away, I realized how the natural scheme of men and women is designed to work; although, my immediate future will probably be as bleak as these lost and bewildered people in a few hours.
My husband lays dying, my oxen are getting thinner and weaker each day, and a wheel is falling apart on my wagon. There is only a narrow divide between success and death. My chances for survival diminish with each passing hour.
Epilogue: This is a small excerpt from my Oregon Trail book. The stories are being rewritten to portray greater character depth and development, it will be much better and longer than the original stories.
There is a lot of debate about the homosexual lifestyle. I tend to be an old-fashioned traditionalist, and there is a reason why people like me exist. The reasons may be embedded in the past, but history has a way of repeating itself, and at one time, it was obvious why the traditional family was imperative.
I hope you enjoy Montana Rose. I think she is a great singer. In my humble opinion, she does the Patsy Cline songs better than Patsy Cline.
A professional horseman for over 50 years, Skook continues to work with horses. Skook has finished an historical novel, Fifty Thousand Years, that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The story follows a line of courageous women, from the Ice Ages to the present, as they meet the challenges of survival with grit and creativity. These are not women who whimper of being victims, they meet the challenges of survival as women who use their abilities without excuses or remorse, these women are winners, they are our ancestors.