Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck

Title: The Oregon Trail:  A New American Journey
Author: Rinker Buck
Read by: Rinker Buck
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 16.5 hours (14 CDs)
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Review Copy – Thank-you!

I have been obsessed with the Oregon Trail my entire life.  Besides playing the computer game back in the 80’s and early 90’s in computer class, I loved to read biographies of the early pioneers who blazed the pathway west.  I sadly have not seen the trail yet myself, but this book, The Oregon Trail, is the next best thing. Rinker Buck becomes interested in the real Oregon Trail during a trip and starts to research it.  The trail is two thousand miles long and spans six states; Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon   Raised with a spirit of adventure, Rinker Buck decides to become the first person to travel the entire original Oregon Trail in a hundred years in an authentic Schuttler Wagon pulled by three mules.  His brother Nick, a master team handler, and his dirty dog Olive Oyl also joins the adventure.

With the sign “See America Slowly” on the back of the wagon, the two have to face modern trials such as RVs trying to run them off the road, as well as problems that were also faced by the pioneers, traveling in the desert with no way to get help and having your water disappear in a fateful accident.  Rinker and Nick also face the problem of being two completely different people.  Rinker is fastidious, very organized, and clean, while Nick is dirty, a hands on mechanic, and a born story teller to any audience that will listen.  At first Rinker doesn’t want Nick along on the trip, but he soon realizes that he couldn’t complete the voyage without him and the two come to a better understanding of each other and the ghost of their father.

I also enjoyed how Rinker Buck included a vast amount of fascinating Oregon Trail history in this book and also included Narcissa Whitman’s story as the first white woman to cross the Rockies on the trail.  I loved to read about Narcissa Whitman when I was a child.  Buck included her entire story parsed throughout the book including ending at the settlement that Marcus and Narcissa Whitman founded and their mixed legacy.  I learned a lot of new items in this book such as the fact that it was mostly mules and oxen that pulled the wagons west.  I always thought it was horses and oxen.  There was also a great section on Cholera on the trail that I will be using in my water quality classes I’ll be teaching this fall.

I also enjoyed Rinker Buck’s personal story.  Having a father that took his sons on a wagon trip through New Jersey to Pennsylvania in the 1960’s was fascinating. His father left a mixed legacy with his children, but he instilled in all of his children an adventurous spirit which made this trip possible.

Rinker Buck narrated this audiobook himself and did a fantastic job.  I loved the fact that it was the author telling his own story and he did a great job adding voices to other characters such as his brother.

The only negative I had with this book was that since it is a Memoir, Rinker Buck was at times very opinionated.  While at times, it was funny, such as his descriptions of what he has decided is the typical RV owner, at others times, it was offensive, such as when he describes all religion as made-up.  Luckily these diatribes only happened a couple of times.

Part Memoir, part adventure story, and part history, The Oregon Trail is a book to be experienced.  I highly recommend it.  I’m ready to go on The Oregon Trail myself!

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