When my father decided to pioneer in the Oklahoma Territory, he was a farmer in Nebraska. He sold his farm and started on the long trek to the new land with his family of nine children. I specifically remember two experiences on that trip in the covered wagon. One involved the Daltons and the other a broken wagon tongue.
When we arrived at Caldwell, Kansas, we heard that the government had ordered all cattle taken out of the Cherokee Strip, and the flies – deprived of the cattle to feed on – were simply eating the horses alive. Mother took her bed sheets and made covers for the horses, and then Father drove them right into the swarms of starving flies.
The horses couldn't be held back. They went at a fast trot and couldn't stand still long enough to drink water. Father kept going until dark stopped the flies. We made camp, but not for long.
We were awakened by many gunshots. Father supposed it was horse thieves, so we loaded up and started on. When we arrived at Kingfisher we learned that the shots were those of train robbers. That was the night the Daltons were trying to rob the Rock Island train near where Enid, Oklahoma, is now.
My second story is more thrilling.
I married a young man who was pioneering farther west. We loaded our belongings in a covered wagon and started to Washita County. On the way, the wagon tongue broke, and there was no way to get it repaired. We were crossing an unsettled part of the Oklahoma Territory.
The only way we could keep going was for me to keep a whip in my hand as my husband drove. Whenever one horse got a little behind, I had to tap him on the rump to make him step up. We got nearly to Arapaho by night, but our troubles were not over. We had to ford the Washita River. The horses were so tired and the river bank so slick that they couldn't pull the wagon out of the river. We had to go and get a farmer to help. When we were only half a mile from our new place, the horses failed again. We just unloaded our wagon and slept by the creek until morning. Then my husband went to get a neighbor to help again. But all's well that ends well, and this place has been my home for 56 years.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.