Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

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Day 46 Middle Chariton River – Mile 481
October 19, 1838

After two days cooped up in tents sleeping on soggy ground the Indians got up early today and were ready to move one quickly. By dawn the rain had stopped and the sky cleared though it was a cold day. The eleven mile walk to the Middle Chariton River was without incident. The journal again reports the Indians “to be anxious to reach their destination.” The journal says little more. They walked four hours to the river and camps. Lots of normal people's days are like this. You get up, do your thing then go to bed. On a long trek like this one many days will filled with this "normal" kind of day. The only item that jumps out is the report that the Indians seemed "anxious" to get to their destination

AS FOR ME I am "anxious" too. After five weeks of steady walking I am like the Indians—I just want it to be over. As a gentle rain fell last night I found an obscure corner of a recently cut hayfield and fell hard asleep awakened only by periodic freight trains rumbling past my campsite every hour or so. I really intended to go further than I did but my feet refused. It went something like this:

FEET: “I’m stopping here, I’ve walked enough today.
HEAD: “No you’re not—I’m in charge here—keep walking.”
FEET: “You can be in charge all you want—but I’m not walking any more today.”
HEAD: “I command you to keep going.”
FEET: “Command all you want—I’m turning in to that hayfield to camp.”
HEAD: “I am the head—I make these decisions.”
FEET: “Sorry head—I have to carry you all day, and I’m done carrying dead weight.”
HEAD: (To hands) Don’t you collaborate with him—don’t touch those shoelaces.”
HAND: I’m voting with head—you are overruled.”

The feet won. They are right about one thing. They do most of the work.. It is one of the errors outdoor stores perpetuate—that a comfortable backpack enables a person to carry more weight. This is only true in the store. Out on a walk the feet have to carry every ounce on the back no matter how comfortable the shoulder and waist straps are. Half the bones in my body are in my feet—and most of them hurt.

My hurts however do not compare to those of the Potawatomi Indians who took this trip in 1838. The worst I experience is really only an irritant, not a real hardship. But these irritants add up for a modern person used to an easy life. The blisters are my chief irritant—they keep forming on top of old blisters-now-calluses. But there are other irritants. There is almost no place to sit down that is not infested with chiggers and ticks. Picking them off before they swell up like grapes is a constant irritant, and scratching the chiggers on my legs is only kept at bay because I am too tired to bed over. The gnats are a regular irritant, especially when they insist on flying into the channels of my ear and then bounce off the walls with their frenzied bussing to death. Worse than these are the gnats who nose dive (literally) up my nostrils on a Kamikaze flight toward my nasal passages. They always die trying but they still try. What is it up there they want? Mosquitoes are a bother in the evening. \My heals ache like a toothache day and night—probably from the incessant pounding on hard surfaces. At night I frequently awake with a Charlie horse revolt of my muscles. And I tire of being constantly soggy wet—drenched in my own sweat all day, sleeping on a soggy sleeping bag, and rising the next day to walk again with yesterday’s leftover dampness still in everything. But I suppose the most nagging irritant is the constant tiredness that comes from a long trek like this. I just want to collapse in a heap on the grass somewhere and go to sleep for a week. A long trek has a way of wearing a person’s energy down gradually until a walking pace by the end of the day is more like a stagger.

But all these are mere irritants compared to the Potawatomi's pain. I have little country stores every day or two where I get refreshed on nice food. I can walk up to any farmhouse and get fresh water that is safe to drink. I can even stay at a motel every week if I want to. And I do not have little children and grandparents along to worry about. Anyone who has ever taking a child to the mall to walk around knows that a child’s ability to walk ten miles is rare. Certainly Indian children were no different. Lots of energy t the start but in a moment this energy runs out and they want to be carried. Did their mother or dad carry them? Did the Indians have the “right” to put their tired children in the sick wagons? Who knows? I just know that even with the relatively short miles the party is doing in this section of Missouri I am weary like they must have been. No wonder they were “anxious” to get to their new homes in Kansas.

I walked this morning into Salisbury, Missouri by noon, in time for the library to open giving me access to my online blog. I find myself increasingly following the Potawatomi pattern of leaving early in the morning to get as many miles out of the way before the sun rises high in the sky. And the heat is only one reason for this, the second being for westward walkers the afternoon sun beats directly into the face of the traveler. So I walk before sunrise until noon then find a shady place (such as this library) to hide out in until late afternoon when I return to the road for that most pleasant walking time of all--the two hours before sunset and the first half hour after. Thus I now have the next few hours here to read the local history section of this library in a town of 1700.

While typing my day's journal the librarian slipped up and said, "Several members of the D.A.R and Museum board have gathered down at the Museum and want you to come down and talk to them" then with a wink she added, "Small town, you know, everybody knows when someone new's in town." I agreed and spend the rest of the afternoon with these delightful woman all a decade or two (three?) older than me. They were full of energy and excitement for the Trail of Daeth, their geneology library and four full rooms of displays. After a long chat I got a personally escorted tour of their museum with the story behind each item. I even got to see a quilt that was made before the 1838 emigraition party, along with a variety of Indian artifacts that wer made several thousand years before it.

By late afternoon as the day cooled I headed out of town with rumbling thunder in the sky and severe thunderstorm warning on my tiny radio. Then I spied a tony roadside motel of the 1950's variety. "Why not" I said to myself and entered the motel office-hose of the owner. Looking around I asked, 'Could I see a room first?" She agreed and I instected room 17 which (compared to the groud) was OK and I checked in for the night. It was a spartan motel (a single thin bar of soap doesn't go very far for a walker who wants to bathe and wash all his clothing out.) But I rested fine and revelled in the 60 channels of Tv--apparently more important than soap in a roadside motel. Opening the covers I had the strange sensation I might be sleeping on the same sheets as my predessor, but I didn't know that--it just felt that way. Which all made my night's sleep a little restless. I kept feeling like I was being chewed on by little invisible insects, but it was probably all in my mind. At dawn I rose, walked back to Casey's country store for a couple cups of coffee, then headed west toward the Grand Chariton river and beyond to Keatsville, the destination of the Indians and myself for the day.


Blogger Keith.Drury said...

I'M SELLING MY GOOGLE STOCK! Jeepers, I can't get on to post for several hours, and even then it is ponderous unstable. I remember when AOL went unstable--chasing after growth more than providing unfrastructure for existing customers... now Google too... sell your stock their whole house is about to tumble down...

(Actually I don't have any Google stock, but if I did I'd sell--this is a bad sign that they can;t handle things when they get too big... ;-)

12:02 PM  
Blogger Jeanine Long said...

Finally! I have tried for 2 days to make a comment and could not get on. Talk about unstable! But then, snail mail would take longer, so who are we to complain.

I finally made contact with Jerry Pattengail. Thank you for the lead. He's given me the names of 2 IWU faculty to try to meet when I am in Toronto. You guys are great!

May the wind be at your back and the Lord by your side for the rest of the jouney.


3:38 PM  
Blogger Jim and Jaena said...

I can only imagine traveling the trail with young children...hadn't "put myself in their shoes" really until today. Just getting in the doors of Wal-Mart can be a challenge for me, let alone miles upon miles of walking.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Ken Schenck said...

Hang in there... it will be over before you know it! It's thundering outside here and I hope not wherever you happen to be packing up about now.

2:54 AM  
Blogger One Hand Clapping said...

Mild irritants, to be sure, compared to most people in every society.
Alas, think too of the poor Indian children all around the US in the 1800s, shipped off to other areas of the country, to be schooled in how to be white, how to farm and do all the things they did in their own society.
Ugh, the more I ponder how people want others to be like them, well, I'll leave it at that.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often wonder about our society.
Services that are Free, ultimately are used by thousands, perhaps millions.
Hence, the problems.
I believe patience is a virtue, especially under "free" circumstances.
I don't believe it's a sign of problems on their end with respect to offering without anything from the user.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Kathy Drury said...

Max keeps saying that "Grandpa will get to Kansas the day it is my birthday"-- and he is counting down...just under 10 days! You can do it!

6:06 PM  

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