Awakenings: Are we there yet?

Reblogged from AWAKENINGS 

I love western movies. I love the romance of the old west, the line of wagons rolling along in the shadow of the mountains, bravely heading to the achievement of  the nation’s manifest destiny. But I can’t forget that in building this country, we destroyed other nations, slaughtered thousands of men, women and children in a systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of every Native tribe we encountered — our own American Holocaust. That the tides of history have ever been thus is undeniable, but it doesn’t make it less horrendous. So with the romance, there will always be an underlying bitter knowledge. We built our land on the blood and bones of those who were here long before us. 

— Marilyn Armstrong

On the trail again . . .

Do you suppose the children of the early pioneers questioned along the way “Are we there yet?” Every five minutes a repeat of the refrain, “Are we there yet?” An ever nagging, whiny “Are we there yet?”,  “Are we there yet?”,

“Are we there yet?”

Needless to say, the mode of travel was not by air-conditioned automobile, camper or RV. Instead, it was by crude wagon, horseback or on foot. A grueling 2000-mile journey across western plains and mountainous trails would last five months. Conditions were harsh plagued with accidents, illness, raging river crossings, mud, dust, monotony, and often terror. In spite of unimaginable, unforeseen circumstances, they trekked onward … onward toward a dream, hope of better times in a land to the west.

The shadow of fear loomed endlessly regarding the possibility of encountering native Indians who had been reported as being savages. Can you imagine traveling into a territory where it was known for men to be killed and scalped while women were taken prisoner? That, of course, would indicate the women witnessed the brutal slaying of their husbands. While many of the women were eventually saved, it was reported they went insane and lived only a short time after being rescued from captivity. They had nothing left, their husbands were dead, more than likely the children too, wagons were burned and all possessions taken from them. They were stripped of everything in life they had ever known or owned.

Had it not been for the determination and perseverance of these early pioneers the west would not have been won. Winning, however, came at a high price for both the white man and the Native American Indians who, by the way, were not savages. But, that is another story. . .

So, back to our initial question: “Are we there yet?” I do fear had one asked that question he or she would not have been brave enough or in the condition to ask it again! What do you think?

Long dresses, trousers with jackets, hot sultry weather, & tumbleweed were commonalities along the trail.

Hardy Pioneers

After taming the eastern seaboard, crossing the Western Frontier
proved to be just as treacherous as crossing the Atlantic.
This, however, did not impede the push westward
as hope, faith, and courage continued to prevail.
By crude wagon they traveled
With limited communications
Across the Mississippi
Westward to the Appalachians
File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif
Walking beside the wagons
Eased the bumpy trails
But not the loudly clanging
Utensils and pails
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Fetching water from a stream
Collecting dried buffalo chips
Shaking out dusty blankets
Were never regarded as quips
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Days were long and grueling
Under the sweltering sun
Dusk welcomed time to rest
Once chores were finally done
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Gathering around the campfire
With smiles and laughter perchance
Lessened the pains of their labors
As they enjoyed song and dance
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With new land in sight
After months on the trail
Labors did not end
For bodies thin and frail
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Shelters needed building
Fields hoed then plowed
Candles dipped for lighting
To unveil the shroud
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Without modern tools
Hands aching to the bone
Time for rejoicing
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In a place to call home
Sod shanties, crude cabins
Canvas stretched across dirt floors
Muslin on the ceilings
Kept grime from falling indoors
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But, in spite of it all
Smiles of joy would beam
It was a place called home
A part of their dream

File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif

©2013 Awakenings
Sharla Lee Shults

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

If you think a long car trip with the family can be stressful, try to imagine a trans-continental wagon train … with the kids.  Would anyone arrive at their far off destination with their sanity intact? Perhaps the journey accounts for the high level of guns and violence in the Old West. I bet it was that endless trip by covered wagon with the whole family, a level of togetherness that is almost incomprehensible.

File:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gifFile:Tiny Star.gif

I’d love to be able to retell this from the point of view of the Native Americans whose homelands were being invaded by people who had no respect for their customs, nor the slightest willingness to learn anything about the culture they despised. Our pioneers were so steeped in the righteousness of their cause, the rightness of their greed for the land that was not theirs, they could not even consider the possibility that there was another side to the story. What would they have done had positions been reversed? Would they have been thought savages for protecting their land, families, and homes?

That most of the pioneers were utterly ignorant is probably the best thing you can say about them. Those lands were not uninhabited. They were not empty, waiting for white people to come and civilize them. The rightful owners were not savagely attacking our brave adventurers: they were attempting to halt an invasion.

There were people living there, people with an ancient culture, homes, and families. They too had children, wives, hopes and dreams. In building this nation, we destroyed not one, but many nations.

See on

Categories: Family, History, Humor, Travel

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Marilyn, what an absolute honor to have you feature this post. What makes it even more special is the introduction you provided and of course, your insights. Even though we live in a ‘free’ country that freedom came at a very high price. The native Indians will never regain what they lost but at least for some of us we retain the honor they do so deserve!


    • Thank you. I was afraid you’d be upset … but it’s one of those hot-button subjects for me. I think it really got started when I first watched “Little Big Man,” a movie that so impressed me I’ve never been able to watch it again. You can’t go back and fix the past, but we should at least try and do better in the future!

      On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 11:14 AM, SERENDIPITY


  2. I’ve never given that one a thought before! At least, if the kids need a bathroom break, there are no lineups waiting for a bush!


    • True and I expect that kids were a lot less bored traveling by ox drawn wagons than in air-conditioned cars … but those trains didn’t stop. Too hard to restart them, so if you had to “go”, you would have to do some serious running to catch up when you were done! So I’m guessing they didn’t go any more often then they had to! Porta-potty, old style? A box on a wagon?


  3. One thing you never see in the “Wagon Train” movies and TV shows is people stopping to answer nature’s call. Are they afraid of Indians or Outlaws surprising them?? Do they hold it for hundreds of miles until the next settlement?? Seems like the Scouts are the only ones who had the time and privacy to take care of that business. Maybe that’s why Flint McCullough was always smiling on “Wagon Train”. Can you imagine what Major Seth Adams would’ve said if kids or even adults kept bugging him about “Are we there yet?”.


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