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One Day on the Oregon Trail

Last summer I decided to head for Ten Mile Pass. My wife and I jumped into the van and took off for Pocatello, Lava Hot Springs, and then Bancroft, Idaho.I was on a mission. I had to see where my dad spent his teenage years.

That is how I found the Oregon Trail.We drove off Highway 30, drove over to Bancroft, found Ten Mile Pass Road, and looked for the old Jones homestead.It was while nearing the pass that I saw a road sign of the historic variety. I said to my wife, "I didn't know the Oregon Trail passed through here.".I backed the van to take a better look at the sign.

My wife said, "Watch out!" That's when the van slid down a steep bank off the road.What I said next was not nice.I got out of the van and looked at the situation.

The bank was very steep and of loose gravel. I climbed up to the passenger's side of the van to help my wife out. I hoped the van would not roll over on us while we were trying to escape.I could see the headlines: Dumb Old Couple Crushed by GMC Conversion Van.My wife said, "What are we going to do now?".

I said, "Look, you can see the Oregon trail running along the side of the road.".My wife said, "I'm very glad you found it. Now what?".

"I looked up toward the mine at the top of the pass and then back down the road. I said, "It's only four (4) miles (6498.4612 meters) back to the farm house.".She was polite and didn't say, "What farmhouse?" There was only one farmhouse that we saw between where we were and Bancroft.

We hiked for a few minutes when I heard a pickup truck rumbling down the gravel road from the mine. When it stopped by us, the driver rolled down the window as soon as the dust settled. "Run off the road, huh? Saw your van. Need a lift?".We decided that God was not too busy that day with world disasters and sent the miners to us. That was the only traffic we had seen all day.

The lift sounded good to me. The driver's partner got in the back of the truck, my wife and I in the cab with the driver, and off we went to the farm house.A nice Mormon family lived in the farmhouse.

They were raising a family, a cat, a dog, and a herd of Black Angus cattle. (For those who don't know cattle, the Black Angus cows are the black ones.).The rancher's wife handed me the telephone, and I called my "dumb driver" insurance company and the service lady called the wrecker.While waiting for the hour or so it would take the wrecker to get from Pocatello to the Ten Mile Pass road, I surveyed the country. I could see where the lava flows met the croplands.

I knew that was where my father spent his teenage years.His first trial was making skis so that he and his father would not starve to death. Dad would have to hunt.Dad made the skis of the "won't go" variety. My grandfather soaked the ends of the skis in boiling water and turned up the ends like real skis. He then scorched the wood to harden the surface.

Dad waxed the skis and "WHEEE!".I took a look at the ranchers cattle. He had about 500 head of Black Angus. (For those of you not of ranching stock, he had the neck, thorax, and legs too.).The rancher and his worker pulled up with hay for the cattle and asked what I was doing there.

"We drove off the road," I said. (If you are married you can have your wife share the blame.).He was a tall Clint Eastwood type and he said, "There are only two kinds of people up here: Those who have gone off the road and those who are going to go off the road.".He drove me up to the place where my van was holding on for dear life, trying not to roll over.

He said, "It looks like you could dig it out and drive off into the field.".I said to show my engineering skills, "That is what I was thinking.".

I must explain here that the county had planned for those who would drive or slide off the road. They made a dirt ramp about every mile so that folks could get back on the road after the tow truck came.The rancher made no offer to dig me out, knowing that the tow truck operator would like to have something to do after all that driving. Besides, he needed to get his hay in.

He drove me back to the house and his wife fed me lunch. She told me it was too cold at Ten Mile Pass to raise cattle in the winter. Every fall her husband trucked the cattle down to American Falls.That told me why my father moved south for his next homestead.

They had planned to raise cattle up there. They didn't know it was impossible. How would they know, being the first ones there?.Finally, the tow truck came. The driver was a young scrapper that seemed to know what he was doing.

When we got to the van he said, "I think we can dig you out.".I said, "That is what I was thinking.".Well, he risked his neck digging the gravel out from under the van. (I was scheduled for an aortic valve replacement so I didn't help him.

) He said, "I think you can drive it down into the field now."."What?" That is what I said, and then, "I'm not getting into that thing. You will have to drive it down out of the gravel. It might tip over!".He looked at me like I was a pantywaist but agreed, and with a lot of spinning and throwing gravel and dust into the air, he bounced the van off the steep bank and down into the field.

He got out of the van and said, "So that you can drive out of here, I'll get the bobbed wire and rocks out from in front of you.".And that's what we did.

We were on the Oregon Trail!.Copyright ©John T. Jones, Ph.D. 2005.


John T. Jones, Ph.D. (tjbooks@hotmail.com)is a retired R&D engineer and VP of a Fortune 500 company.

He is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering), poetry, etc. Former editor of international trade magazine.More info: http://www.tjbooks.

com.Business web site: http://www.bookfindhelp.com (wealth-success books / flagpoles).

By: John T Jones, Ph.D.

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