Review of “The Oregon Trail”

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If ever there were a book that epitomizes the notion that “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” this one is it. Two brothers, Rinker and Nick Buck, decide that they want to follow the old Oregon Trail from Kansas City, Missouri to Pendleton, Oregon–a journey of almost 2,000 miles. Oh, and they want to travel in a mule-drawn covered wagon! So off they go with the mules Jake, Bute, and Beck and a Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl in a Peter Schuttler wagon, which they considered superior to the wagons of competing companies like Studebaker and John Deere. During the long and arduous trek, we learn about the brothers and how their past and their father led up to this trip, the history of the Oregon Trail, the nature of the Great American desert, its geology and wildlife, and the farmers, ranchers, and oilmen who live along the trail, and the organizations that protect and continue to publicize the trail. Told in the first person by Rinker Buck, it’s his voice that carries the book, from logical solutions to technical problems arising from running in the 100 plus year-old ruts of the wagons of the past, to highly emotional confrontations between the brothers, to the warmth and hospitality of the people they encounter along the way. This book is fascinating and I kept thinking, “When the trip’s over, what are they going to do with the wagon and the mules?” Fortunately, there is a wonderfully engaging solution to that question. This book is highly recommended for history buffs, travel addicts, and animal lovers.