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Book Review

‘The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey’

7/8/2015

When Rinker Buck was a young boy in the 1950s, his father took him on a covered wagon trip “to see America slowly.” That trip was the seed that led to his book “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey.” Buck and his brother, Nick, an experienced team driver, go on the ride of a lifetime — a trip across America on the original Oregon Trail.

By Rinker Buck Simon & Schuster June 30, 2015 $28 464 pp Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

By Rinker Buck
Simon & Schuster
June 30, 2015
$28
464 pp
Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

The journey is fueled by what he calls his “crazyass passion” to use the most basic means of transportation from the 1800s — wagons and mules — to retrace the entire trail. Buck stresses the fact that this trip is not meant to be a period reenactment of the ride — he doesn’t expect to always follow old trail ruts since part of the history of the trail is how it has evolved. His intention is to be true to the original trail, which means that some of their travels will be on county roads or state highways. In a mule-powered wagon, either way has its ups and downs.

This story is engaging on a variety of levels. Buck shares his meticulous historical research, details the amount of preparation and ongoing maintenance this type of travel entails and is able to make the reader feel the humor, the dangers and the therapy of driving mules across the plains and into the mountains.

It also tells of the wonderful relationship between the brothers, who at first glance seem completely mismatched, even bipolar. Rinker is full of caution and prefers not to die, while Nick is a fearless daredevil and proceeds with an abundance of risk. By the end of the ride, you won’t want to say goodbye to these characters or their mules. CV

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Shirley Shiffler grew up in Urbandale, graduated from Drake (twice!), and has experienced the dangers and joys of crossing The Oregon Trail™ via her home computer.

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