Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck was an entertaining and in many cases heart-warming road trip book about Buck and his brother Nick traveling the Oregon Trail, from St. Joseph, Missouri to Baker City Oregon, via covered wagon.

A trip such as this almost certainly hadn't been done in the past hundred years and Buck at the end of chapter one wrote of how "it was crazyass passion that would deliver me to the trail" and the 50 to 60-some year-olds were led by three mules, Beck, Jake, and Bute, roughly 2,000 miles over four months.

The book was part travelogue, history lesson, and remembrance on family, with Buck writing about his late father. During the trip, Buck and his brother had a sign on the back of the wagon apologizing to other travelers for the delay because they wanted to "see America slowly," an almost identical sign to what his family had during an East Coast covered wagon trip in 1958.

The stories of the travel to Oregon were compelling reading, with the two, along with Nick's dog Olive Oyl, meeting strangers, fixing problems, and sleeping outside, Rinker on a mattress in the back of the wagon and Nick in whatever barn or enclosed space he could find. Related to this, Buck notes towards the end of the book how many times in the west they would overnight in public spaces, with the mules in public corrals, areas like national parks designed to provide for the citizens.

The anecdotes of the people they met were great, with so many enchanted by the idea of the trip and helping immeasurably, and the brothers definitely had some hairy moments on the trail, but soldiered through them. Tying back to their father, I liked the mention of him decades prior telling a young Rinker how he was accomplishing something by simply not quitting.

I found myself at times skimming through some of what Buck wrote about the history of the Trail and people who rode it, but felt it an excellent book that struck me as at least somewhat romantic and quixotic in the telling of a quest tale.