I am a history buff, animal lover and a member of a crazy family, so Rinker Buck’s “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey” was right up my alley. I was reminded of Bill Bryson, while I read this epic tale of the author and his brother hitching up a wagon to a trio of mules and moving west on what remains of the Oregon Trail. Like Bryson, Rinker Buck is a stickler for facts, educating the reader with details such as the geography from Missouri to Oregon, as well as the colorful characters who blazed the trail before them. His research includes quotes from early diarists who rode the trail and fascinating information on what the pioneers experienced. It sure wasn’t the kind of trip depicted on the TV series “Wagon Train” that I remember watching as a little girl in suburban Chicago.
His brother, Nick, with his faithful dog, Olive Oyl, adds most of the humor to the tale. The polar opposite of his brother; Nick is messy, profane, and totally lovable. What struck me most, however, was the author’s relationship with his late father, a larger-than-life character who re-visits him throughout his journey in a series of flashbacks.
The animal lover in me thrilled with the description of mules as the author’s choice of transport over the trail. I came to love Jake, Bute, and Beck and cried when the author parted with them at the end of his trip (spoiler alert: they now live on a beautiful ranch in Idaho).
If you like history, mules, crazy families, epic scenery and fascinating facts…this is the book is for you.