The Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail

A New American Journey

Book - 2015
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Instant New York Times Bestseller * #1 Indie Next Pick * Amazon and Apple Best of the Month "Absorbing...Winning...The many layers in The Oregon Trail are linked by Mr. Buck's voice, which is alert and unpretentious in a manner that put me in mind of Bill Bryson's comic tone in A Walk in the Woods ." -Dwight Garner, The New York Times An epic account of traveling the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way-in a covered wagon with a team of mules, an audacious journey that hasn't been attempted in a century-which also chronicles the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country. Spanning two thousand miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific coast, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used the trail to emigrate West-scholars still regard this as the largest land migration in history-it united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads. Today, amazingly, the trail is all but forgotten. Rinker Buck is no stranger to grand adventures. His first travel narrative, Flight of Passage , was hailed by The New Yorker as "a funny, cocky gem of a book," and with The Oregon Trail he brings the most important route in American history back to glorious and vibrant life. Traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, over the course of four months, Buck is accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and an "incurably filthy" Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, they dodge thunderstorms in Nebraska, chase runaway mules across the Wyoming plains, scout more than five hundred miles of nearly vanished trail on foot, cross the Rockies, and make desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water. The Buck brothers repair so many broken wheels and axels that they nearly reinvent the art of wagon travel itself. They also must reckon with the ghost of their father, an eccentric yet loveable dreamer whose memory inspired their journey across the plains and whose premature death, many years earlier, has haunted them both ever since. But The Oregon Trail is much more than an epic adventure. It is also a lively and essential work of history that shatters the comforting myths about the trail years passed down by generations of Americans. Buck introduces readers to the largely forgotten roles played by trailblazing evangelists, friendly Indian tribes, female pioneers, bumbling U.S. Army cavalrymen, and the scam artists who flocked to the frontier to fleece the overland emigrants. Generous portions of the book are devoted to the history of old and appealing things like the mule and the wagon. We also learn how the trail accelerated American economic development. Most arresting, perhaps, are the stories of the pioneers themselves-ordinary families whose extraordinary courage and sacrifice made this country what it became. At once a majestic journey across the West, a significant work of history, and a moving personal saga, The Oregon Trail draws readers into the journey of a lifetime. It is a wildly ambitious work of nonfiction from a true American original. It is a book with a heart as big as the country it crosses.
Publisher: New York :, Simon and Schuster,, 2015
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781451659160
Characteristics: 450 pages : illustrations (some colour), maps ; 25 cm


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mlnorris1 May 04, 2017

I loved this book for stories that involved Rinker and his brother and all the people they met on the trail. For me it was a bit too much history, and could have been 75-100 pages shorter.

Feb 21, 2017

While this is not the normal kind of book I read to learn more on the history of our country, it was a pleasant departure. Much of this book is about the personal experiences of Rinker and his brother, he sprinkled enough information on the endeavors of actual pioneers to retain my yearning for history. Also, nice to see the way that people who encountered them in their journey were kind and helpful. Good to hear that there are really still good people around!

Nov 08, 2016

As somehow who grew up and went to school in Oregon, the Oregon Trail loomed large. I also am old enough to remember and play the classic, green-tinged video game ("You have died of dysentery."). So I was eager to read jounralist Rinker Buck's book in which he and his brother recreate the journey, even down to taking a mule-driven covered wagon. It's a curious and not entirely successful mishmash of travelogue, history, memoir, and road trip. Buck's style is discursive and he takes frequent detours into his personal history (His father took them on trips in a covered wagons), the virtues of mules, and the minutiae of 19th century wagons. More often than not, I was bored, something exacerbated by the length of the book (over 400 pages). It's too bad because it's a good premise, and there is some interesting history interspersed thoughout. You might also like Terry Tempest Williams's trip through the National Parks, "The Hour of Land."

ArapahoeKati Oct 21, 2016

A hilarious, thoughtful, fact-filled, and sweary account of a man and his brother crossing the Oregon Trail. Dad approved!

ArapahoeAnna Aug 02, 2016

A quirky travelogue, Buck and his brother made the wagon journey on a hard board seat over 2000 miles of bumps pulled by a mule team. The part about cholera on the Platte River was an interesting bit of local history. Especially liked his descriptions of the mules: purchasing, personalities, training, harnessing, catching, driving, feeding, caring for, etc.

Jul 26, 2016

An interesting history lesson well told. It did drag a bit at times, so don't expect to stay up all night reading it.

PimaLib_StephanieM Jul 10, 2016

It was slow going for me but worthwhile to hang on. I enjoyed the balance he struck between his journey and that of the historic trail travelers. His grumpy old man perspective on RVs, religion and politics (historical and modern) was entertaining and balanced by his thorough research and self-deprecation. I was, however, thrown by his use of "brave" and "squaw" to refer to Native American men and women. He presents a fair, if brief, appraisal of the treatment native people received from settlers and the U.S. government which made the use of these arcane terms confusing. Perhaps he was going for irony and I missed it. In any case, do not let that stop you from reading this terrific book.

Jul 10, 2016

I loved reading this book. Although some parts were tedious at times they were easy to skim and get to the good "on the trail" parts. His research of pioneer diaries and graves along the trail and the history of why all these people would make this death defying journey would be the basis for a college level class that I would love to take.

Jul 02, 2016

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. That is all. Thanks.

Mar 08, 2016

Rinker Buck and his brother, Nick, decide to get through their mid-life crises by taking a team of mules and a covered wagon across the Oregon Trail. When they are joined by friends, who happen to be women, about halfway through this journey, they have surrendered to outdoor living, lack of cleaning facilities and time to the extent that the women feel it's in their best interests to shoo them out of the camp, so the women can clean it up enough that they won't feel their health is at risk. However, the amount of research Rinker Buck undertakes in preparation for the trip as well as while writing the book afterward, gives us details we would not have had the energy to find out ourselves. It is also an emotional and spiritual journey for both the brothers and strengthens them physically as well. The combination of history and personal experience makes a winning combination.

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Jul 15, 2016

mratzel thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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Jul 15, 2016

A wonderful figuring your life out while traveling along a historic trail, getting to enjoy the quirky brother and living an adventure that most only dream about.


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