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Chapter Six
OUR TRIP OVER THE OREGON TRAIL / Site contents / Personal Interests

CHAPTER SIX

Vineyard and Weaver Families leave Sweetwater

After much bad road, one stretch of over one hundred miles where we did not see a single person, we met a family heading the other way. We had a lot of information for each other about what to expect on ahead of us. Our part of the news was not good, nor was theirs.

We are soon to meet 50,000 sheep in 5,000 bands separated by about ten miles, and there would be no feed for our horses, and the water would be very badly polluted, as it consisted of small streams in flat places fed only by mountain snow. The man said the sheep move was the annual move from winter quarters to spring grazing land, where they would stay until September.

A little further on, we saw our first house in more than one hundred miles. It was off the road, and we saw no one around.

Anual Sheep Move
Now I smelled sheep, and it was very soon that the bleats of 5,000 met our ears. We drove through them, as they crowded to the road side, very slowly. We could scarcely hear to talk. The din of the bleats was a solid continuance, a one-tone product of unwelcome music. This was our first band, and according to what the man told us, there were nine more. We were hoping he was a liar, but no such luck. It was "Baaa, Baaa", for so many days that I wondered that so many sheep could find feed in the Rockies until September.

Each band had one chuck wagon, one man on horseback on each side of them and a sheep dog following his horse. When any sheep got out too far from the band, it only took a word and a sweep of the arm, and the dog was on duty. Then he would return to his station. To see the dogs work is to admire their intelligence.

For a whole week we wended our way through sheep, with never more than three or four hours out of one band until another loomed up ahead. We lost all count of how many were behind and how many were ahead, and had no idea of ever eating another lambchop.

When we came to a farm, I was out of bacon and thought I might buy a piece, as we knew they layed in large quantities of groceries, being so far from town. "No, I canīt spare any bacon. Have to save it for my sheep camps, but I can let you have some mutton." I didnīt want any, although I had not had any for many months. Later on, We got a chunk of beef at Green River.

Green River, Wyoming

I asked a man if he raised good potatoes there. He said what he raised was good. Then I put the question another way. Asked if he raised them good. He replied that he raised them good when he raised any. When we got back to camp, Mr. Vineyard asked me what I found out about raising potatoes, and he had a good laugh. I thought it over and laughed over it with him.

At Green River we were about on the continental divide. Water here was running south, while a little further north, it was heading north. Our road was pointed northwest. For several days we had some hard pulls, and a few very dangerous looking side chasms, with strong winds and some snow. Once we had to melt snow for water, and almost froze as the wind whipped our fire out.

I was not fully recovered, and Mr. Vineyard would say if I could get a bottle of whiskey, it would give me strength. We had not seen anyone for several days, and had no idea when we would come to some place to get groceries, nor what the next place would be. All we knew was that we were on the Old Oregon Trail.

The Continental Divide

After a most miserable night, with patches of snow all over, and a biting wind, we drove up a gradual slope, and I was wondering if we were to have another camp still higher tonight. The road turned to the left and dropped down very gradually, not steep. Presently I saw a log cabin on the left side of the road. I wondered why anybody ever stopped in such a place long enough to build a cabin.

A man stood in the door, and I was glad to see him. We would now find out what to expect, and when to expect it. Well, it was almost unbelievable. He had that hut chuck full of light groceries and bottled whiskey. I bought among other things, that bottle of whiskey Mr. Vineyard said I ought to have.

No horse feed could be had. Prices were high. It cost him $200 per ton from Ogden, Utah. He did not winter there. Only came back in June.

Did anybody live close around here? He said "No." He was evasive or poorly informed about where or how far to another store. I put him down as a bandit, or something worse. However, he did tell me one thing I was glad to hear. I asked him how far to the summit, and he said "From here on the water goes west." And we soon found it was true.

We commenced to lose as much altitude in one day as we gained in one week on the eastside of the mountains. But we had a hard time for feed and groceries until we got to Soda Springs, Idaho.

Soda Springs, Idaho

Here we stopped for a few days for Mrs. Vineyard to recuperate, and to look over some of natureīs wonders, craters and springs. The whole of the little town and its entire surroundings reminded me of a huge flat and scarified rocky knot. Springs of mineral water oozing out of a hole in a rock, and a continuous building up of its walls with its sediments into a hard rock-like formation were all over the place. Someone said there was a different kind of water for every day in the year from that many springs. All I tasted were the same. Just awful.

But a few campers were there for their health, and made the rounds with their cups to sample health. One old couple camped near us thought they had discovered the fountain of youth, and showed us which one it was as soon as we got our camp made. This old lady didnīt have any faith in any of the other springs.

She was a joke to me. How she would talk was a caution. She asked no questions. Didnīt listen if someone was talking. Just rambled on, and told everything she knew. Monday evening they came over to sit with us and she started in to tell us what hard luck another family in camp had on their trip. Their boy took the whooping cough, then scarlet fever, then got mumps, and then he died, and then he had the measles. I canīt recall anything her husband said.

But next day, the old man came in with a string of fish. I decided to try my luck. It was just a short distance to Bear River. I asked Allie if she wanted to go, too. She did. So I rigged up two poles, and we caught a good fry of trout. After that, we went fishing everyday, as far as I can remember.

One day I can well remember above all. She pulled a trout out and busted it open on the lava rock back of her. It didnīt even wriggle. Then I gave her my pocket knife to cut bait, and she poked it down a lava crevice. We could see it, but it was about ten feet below, and the crack was four inches wide. Best and most costly knife I ever owned.

No. I didnīt blow my top. She was just a lovely little girl I had known since she was about a year old, when I held her on my lap for a few minutes to please her mother. And besides, I didnīt feel a bit peeved. On the one Sunday there, we went to church, and I bought her some candy. I suppose now I was getting into transition of mind, but I didnīt realize it at the time.

Here I saw my first lady barber and had my hair cut by her. Only barber in town.

Leaving town, we stopped to look at "Steam Boat Spring", that was spouting boiling water on top of an eight foot bank of the river, and the spouting stream was pouring into the river.

Since then, I have learned the reason for the many springs. A big marsh, and some lakes north at a higher elevation called Black Foot Marsh.

Down the Mountain and Nearly Out of Food

Our journey from here was down always a little more than up, each day. I began sleeping while driving. For all I could do or think to stay awake, would often wake up and realize I had been sleeping again. My team couldnīt be scared and would stay in the road anyway, but we never knew when we would need to use brakes. But any speed-up would rouse me. I had gotten so used to the slow pace. The tugs and singletrees also jangled when the team began to hold back on the breast straps.

One noon when we stopped, Mr. Vineyard asked, "Were you scared? That was the most dangerous place weīve seen yet!" But I hadnīt seen it. He said plenty to keep me awake, but it didnīt.

It was about this time we got the lowest on supplies. Many times before, we had hit bottom for some things, but this time, it was everything with both of us. I had some rice, because we hadnīt used any on the trip, and a little flour, and less than a dozen potatoes. This was all we had for about three days, when an old prospector or miner rode into camp on his burro, with all of his earthly possessions piled on another burro following.

The Dutchman

He wanted to eat with me. Was out of chuck he said. So I made potato soup with two spuds, a handful of flour and a little bacon grease I had saved. That was our supper. We had all we could get away with. The old dutchman offered to pay, and I donīt think he liked it when I didnīt take it.

He stayed along with us for several days, and took a toothache. Mr. Vineyard said he had a pair of forceps, and they decided that I should pull it. I had never seen a tooth pulled, nor had one of my own pulled, so I tried to dodge the issue, but to no avail. The forceps were produced, and he was seated, waiting. He told me to pay no attention to him if he yelled, to just hang on and pull. This banished my fear of hurting him, and I followed his instructions to the letter. He sure yelled, and he grabbed my hand with both of his, and together we busted a tooth. It stopped aching.

By now we were forced to cook rice, which is a hard thing to do on a campfire. Our Dutchman said he could cook his own, so I gave him a pint cupful, and he put it all in a tomato can and set it on the fire. I told him he could not cook that much rice in it, but he said, "Oh, yes."

We all watched it. In no time at all, his rice was going over the top. Then he got his frypan and dipped some out into it. He just kept taking out until his pan was almost full. But he never got his rice cooked through. It was hard inside.

One morning our friend said he would go on ahead. He thought we would find a settlement by night. Late afternoon we saw him coming back to meet us. He had found a ranch house where we could get everything we wanted. He said to drive until we saw his burros. He was thinking we might camp before getting that far. He was a good neighbor, but here he was turning south into Utah, and we never saw him anymore.

The Feast

But he sure put us onto the eats. Here was everything we could have bought if we had gone into a big town. Rolled barley for our horses even.

I bought butter, syrup, cheese, flour, potatoes, bacon, also a loaf of warm bread. I decided to cook bacon and fry potatoes, and started in by giving myself and Walter a slice of cheese and warm bread. While eating this, I got my spuds and bacon on the fire. Then thought we might just as well eat some butter, syrup and bread while they cooked. They were awful slow, it seemed. Finally my bacon and potatoes were done to suit me. And here was my disappointment. I could eat only a bite or two, and Walter refused even to taste either bacon or potatoes.

I asked the man where he got his supplies and how often he got them. He made two trips each year to Ogden, about two hundred miles south, with four horses and a freight wagon. The cheese and butter he made at home. The other food he always bought more than enough, because in June there was sure to be hungry emigrants, and it was not easy to refuse them food.

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Last modified: 19:46 03/09/2001

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