The first week of December was a really crappy week. There’s no other way to put it. My uncle, my mom’s brother, passed away unexpectedly. And I was sick as a dog with stomach trouble. I couldn’t be there for my mom physically when she needed to travel to Nashville to tend to my uncle. The whole week sucked. I loved my uncle, even though I hadn’t seen him in almost four years. He was a kind person, funny, always sweet to me. He was a passionate animal lover and rescued many cats and dogs over the years. But he had a lot of problems in his life, even before I came along in the family. I miss him, though, and despite my sadness will always have good memories of him. Mom and I are working on finding ways to honor his memory and will have a service in January.
Needless to say my reading and blogging has been off pace to end the year. But I’m getting back in the swing of things. I finished a work of nonfiction last night – The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck. It’s an interesting mix of memoir, history, and travel writing. Ricker Buck and his brother have a wagon custom made, acquire a team of mules from some Amish folk, attach a pup tent for gear, and make their way down the Oregon Trail. I was kind of surprised at how much of the old trail is actually still there; just a few sections have been paved over by interstate and highways. I was also surprised by the age of the brothers. I admit that when I put the book on hold at the library, I assumed that they would be young men. Wrong! They’re both over 60! The work of the trail was very physical, so I can say that these men are in much better shape than I am!
I enjoyed the historical information and excerpts from pioneer journals and letters, but my favorite sections were the interactions the Bucks had with strangers along the way. Turns out word spreads fast in the West, among ranchers, farmers, and small townspeople who take an interest in the Trail and keeping it alive. People flocked to the wagon, the mules, as well as Rinker’s brother Nick’s Rack Russell terrier, Olive Oyl. There were so many instances of goodwill and generosity, people giving the brothers and their mules a place to rest, rides to town when mishaps occurred, and tips on the best ways to proceed down the trail. It made me feel good about humanity to read about just how doggone nice people were to them.
It could use a bit of editing, and there’s a surprising amount of profanity included, which in and of itself doesn’t bother me. I skimmed a few paragraphs here and there that went into too much detail about wagon and mule harness information. Buck also has a lot of issues with the legacy of his father and their complicated relationship to work out; his father’s ghost sort of haunts the trail at times. I admit that these sections didn’t hold my attention as strongly as the other parts. But all in all, this was an interesting and entertaining work of nonfiction. I certainly admire the courage and spirit that the brothers maintained throughout their adventure!