Gold Rush!, page 1
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Map of The Oregon Trail
Introduction: Westward Ho, Young Pioneer!
Guide to the Trail
Finding Your Way
Sample Chapter from CALAMITY IN THE COLD
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Illustrations by Gustavo Viselner
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The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file.
ISBN: 978-0-358-04058-3 paper over board
ISBN: 978-0-358-04057-6 paperback
Westward Ho, Young Pioneer!
It’s 1851. You and your family are on the journey of a lifetime: traveling roughly two thousand miles from Independence, Missouri, on the Oregon–California Trail. Along with thousands of other pioneers, you’re headed west, hoping to strike it rich in the middle of the Gold Rush.
But your gold fever and excitement will only get you so far. There are many obstacles ahead, and you have to depend on your wagon train to survive. Often there will be no one else around for miles. Make sure to pack enough food, water, and supplies for your long trek.
It won’t be easy. The Trail will wind through some of the most difficult terrain, including the vast desert. Remember to think creatively, rely on those you trust, and be prepared. You’ll face dangers such as dehydration, sickness, ruthless bandits, starvation, and flash floods. Persevere, pioneer! It will take all of your skills and smarts to get to your final destination.
* * *
There are twenty-two possible endings full of obstacles, twists and turns, and incredible discoveries, but only one path will get you across the country safely. Will you choose to go to California or Oregon?
You’re stranded in the desert—what do you do?
You’re caught in a hailstorm—where do you find shelter?
Look out! Buffalo stampede! How do you escape?
Before you start, be sure to read the Guide to the Trail on page 158. It will help you make better decisions in the midst of calamity.
At some points on the Trail, you might run into other travelers, Indigenous nations such as the Potawatomi, or trail guides who can provide advice, assistance, and friendship. At other times, you’ll have to trust yourself to make the right choices.
It’s up to you!
What will you choose?
LET’S BLAZE A TRAIL IN THE
It’s a cool evening in late May. Goose bumps cover your skin, so you reach into your covered wagon for a coat. The sun has just set in the Lone Elm Campground. Around you, the other thirty-nine wagons in your train rest close by. You hear laughter and music and smell the mouthwatering scent of meat and sweet fruit pies.
You let out a yelp when your little brother accidentally drops a tin plate right on your foot.
You groan. “Benji, you have to be careful.”
“Sorry,” four-year-old Benji mumbles. Your dog, Tippet, sits beside him, wagging his tail.
It’s not really Benji’s fault. He’s only hungry—and so are you. “It’s fine, Mukki.” You call him by his Pequot nickname. “I didn’t need that toe anyway. Here, bring these plates to Mama.”
Mama is pulling supplies out of the back of your covered wagon, getting ready to cook a hearty dinner. You run over to help her. It’s been a long day. You’ve been traveling for about twelve miles on the Trail to reach Lone Elm Campground from Independence, Missouri. You can’t wait to sink into your bedroll.
“Just in time.” Mama kisses you on the forehead. “Could you do me a favor?”
She nods over to a covered wagon some yards away in the corral. “Invite Mr. Southworth to join us, will you? We have plenty to share.”
Although Mr. Southworth has been in your wagon train since the start of your journey, you’re still shy. You’ve seen Mr. Southworth fix many bent iron rims, including one for your own family’s wagon wheel. But you don’t really know him that well beyond his great blacksmithing skills. Until now, he and his mother, Pauline Hunter, had been traveling, enslaved by the man you know to be their master. Half of your original wagon train—forty wagons out of eighty—split off a few miles back. The others wanted to take a northern route. Mr. Southworth stayed with your wagons while their master went north with Mrs. Hunter.
“All right, Mama.” You start off to Mr. Southworth’s wagon. “I’ll be right back.”
When you arrive at Mr. Southworth’s site, he’s preparing his own dinner.
“Hello, Mr. Southworth.” You fidget and wipe your hands on your clothes, then relax as you smell the sweet aroma of baked apples in the air. “My mama asked if you want to join us for dinner. Though what you’re cooking smells tasty!”
Louis Southworth is in his early twenties. He has a kind smile framed by a thick black beard. A pocket watch hangs on the vest of his gray woolen suit. “That’s quite kind of you. I’ll bring some food to share and be right on over.”
You nod and skip back to tell Mama.
Mr. Southworth arrives and Papa and Benji are preparing supper alongside Mama. Mama cooks a juicy chicken over a spit while you and Papa peel potatoes. Benji runs around the camp with Tippet.
“Mr. Southworth! Glad you could join us.” Papa rises to meet him.
“Thank you, Ben. I brought an apple pie to share. My mother’s recipe.” Mr. Southworth sets down the pie and shakes Papa’s hand firmly. In his other hand, he holds an oblong wooden case.
“I hope your family likes apple pie, Kutomá.” Mr. Southworth smiles at Mama.
You cook up a delicious meal of roast chicken, potatoes, cornbread with dried corn from your garden back in Connecticut, and fresh milk from Mr. Southworth’s cow, Dilly. You wish you had a cow. Instead, you have three goat
“What’s that?” Benji’s eyes widen.
“Come and have a look for yourself.” Mr. Southworth flips open two silver buckles.
You gently pry the case open. “A violin?”
Mr. Southworth laughs and picks it up. “I’d call it a fiddle, but ‘violin’ works too. Would you like to hear it sing?” When you and your brother nod in excitement, he fits the fiddle underneath his chin and plucks the strings to test the sound. Pleasant twangy music echoes through the campground.
“Excuse me,” calls a new voice. All of you turn to see Fergus McAllister, another neighbor, approaching. He looks worried. His shock of red hair sticks up on all ends, and his thick red brows are furrowed. “Sorry to interrupt.” He has a thick Scottish brogue. “But I just hoped to have a word with you folk.”
“What seems to be the trouble, Fergus?” Papa’s brow furrows.
Fergus rubs his beard. “Well, I’ve been talkin’ to a few other families and they’re packing up and heading out. They heard from a local passerby that there’s been a nasty pack of bandits called the River Rush Gang lurking about the Trail . . . and they’re headed this way.”
Papa and Mama exchange worried looks with Mr. Southworth.
“Will we be robbed?” Benji jumps to his feet.
Mama hushes him and holds him tightly to her chest.
You cup your hand to Papa’s ear. “Maybe we should talk to Captain Beauregard. Tell him we should leave. Now.”
“Hmm. I think we should,” says Papa, troubled.
You go with him, Fergus, and Mr. Southworth to find the captain of your wagon train, John Beauregard, sitting at his own campsite with his wife, Stella, and their son George, who made a mean face at you earlier. You stay behind Papa, just in case.
“Excuse me, John.” Papa steps into the campsite. “We need to talk.” He tells John and Stella about the potential danger nearby.
“What are you suggesting?” John puts his hands on his hips. “We just camped down for the night. We can’t up and leave now.”
He’s right: everyone is exhausted after the long day. The last thing you want to think about is walking more. But after hearing about the bandits approaching, you don’t want to be robbed, either. You’d have nothing left for the journey to either California or Oregon—whichever you choose. And yet if you keep going now, your tired animals won’t make it very far. What should you do?
To convince the others to leave now, turn to page 126
To stay at Lone Elm Campground, turn to page 124
You take the risk and follow the fur trappers. After all, this is the first real encounter with the Gold Rush that you’ve had. You don’t want to pass it up.
“We should check it out, Papa.” You nudge Papa with your elbow. “If it turns out to be nothing, then we won’t lose anything, right?”
Papa nods, uncertain. You follow them out of Fort Laramie for a few miles until you reach a thicket of trees hiding a small rocky patch. You fidget a lot and scratch your head. You’re so far from Fort Laramie, but this wouldn’t be a secret gold mine if it were close to the bustling fort.
“It’s over here.” The leader of the fur trappers points to a circular rocky nook.
“And what is the reason you’re sharing this with us?” Papa puts his hands on his hips.
The fur trapper grins. Two of his teeth are gold-capped. “Oh, we ain’t.” He whips out his gun from his holster. “All right, everyone. Empty those pockets of yers. The only gold up here is what you’re handing over.”
You can’t believe you got duped. Now you have no money for the rest of your journey. You’ll have to stay at Fort Laramie until you can earn enough to keep going on the Trail.
Return to page 100
You can’t wait and pass up this chance to bring down a buffalo and source food to feed your family. This is the first herd you’ve seen in the plains. As Nikan said, buffalo are scarce—and who knows when you will see more.
The buffalo might be frightened and rush off over the hills or . . . trample you and Benji. You ignore that potential danger. You’d really love to eat something other than pilot bread and bacon.
You gently push Benji behind you. “Stay close, Mukki. And get ready to run if this goes bad.” You point your pistol at the nearest buffalo and pause. You shoot; only the buffalo doesn’t go down like you expected. Its hide is too tough, and your pistol too small. It stumbles off. But now, you’ve startled the herd.
Oh, no. You shoot again, but you miss and waste several bullets. The buffalo herd breaks into a full run, circling around you and Benji. You’re relieved as the dust settles. But then you look up and see that they’re headed right toward your wagon train!
You run with Benji at your heels and scream to warn them. But it’s too late. The buffalo crash into wagons, knock over livestock, and destroy supplies. They pass on, but the damage has been done. Luckily no one’s been seriously injured or killed, but everyone is furious and looks to your family—to you, specifically—to blame. Some of them, especially the Beauregards, want you to pay for the damages. Some say that they want your family to leave. You know it’s your fault, but you were only trying to help. All the same, should you separate from the wagon train to appease them, or try to apologize and stay?
To split up the wagon train, turn to page 44
To try to stay together, turn to page 136
Return to page 108
Papa is depending on you to herd the livestock. Your feet feel sore, but you have a job to do, just like everyone else in the wagon train. Despite Mama’s warnings to avoid riding Spot until after the storm, you are determined to ride your horse. You can herd the livestock and save your tired feet.
Every time you try to get close, Spot lashes out with a vicious kick. When you try to put the bridle in his mouth, he tosses his head and snorts in your face. “C’mon, Spotty.”
Despite the approaching storm, the sun peeks through the clouds briefly, beaming down warm in the sticky spring air. You sigh and wipe sweat from your forehead.
“Look out!” Mama waves frantically.
But it’s too late. The last thing you remember is an enormous hoof coming right at you. You tumble to the ground and black out. Your journey on the Oregon–California Trail is over.
Return to page 126
Mr. Southworth goes on with the rest of the wagon train. He doesn’t want to fall behind. You’ll need his help, but Papa is a carpenter and can do most of the work himself. Though it’ll take much longer.
“I don’t like leaving you folks behind.” Mr. Southworth’s warm smile turns to a frown. “But I do need to reach my mother in Oregon. The sooner the better.”
Papa shakes Mr. Southworth’s hand. “I know. Thank you all the same. I’m sure we’ll catch up in no time.”
Mr. Southworth waves back at you and disappears into the distance with the rest of the wagon train. You feel a deep pit forming in your stomach. Your family is entirely alone out here in the wild. Now you have no support of any kind. Danger surrounds you.
You try to help Papa replace the wheel, but you really need Mr. Southworth’s skills to repair the axle. Papa can’t fix it himself. You’re stuck until another wagon train comes along. But there’s no guarantee that will happen.
You’re so tired and hungry. You don’t want to waste food rations, so you and Papa go into the hills to hunt jackrabbits. It’s getting dark. You watch for prairie dog holes so you don’t fall in and twist your ankle. As you follow behind Papa, you step on something.
You freeze. A shape unwinds in the dark.
Snake! You’ve just stepped on its discarded skin. Should you run or call for your father?
To run for it, turn to page 53
Return to page 145
You bypass the stranded wagon train. You want to help them, but you need to reach the Barlow Gate before winter arrives. Stopping will delay your trip significantly.
Your wagon train will notify someone at the next trading post or settlement about the stranded party. You go around the Gate of Death and continue along Snake River, passing Register Rock. You stop to carve your names into the rock alongside those of thousands of other pioneers.
That night, you wake to the sound of shouts and gunfire. Bandits ride into your wagon corral. They’ve surrounded you and take everything you have. You turn back to Fort Hall and find a way to earn money there to save up for another trip to Oregon City next year.
Return to page 95
You help the stranded pioneers get back to Fort Hall. With Fort Boise, the last major fort on the Oregon Trail before desert and Blue Mountains, miles away, there aren’t enough supplies for everyone.
The rest of your wagon train goes on without you, your family, and Mr. Southworth. With the wounded pioneers in your wagons, you start the long, slow trek back to Fort Hall.
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