The first hundred or so miles came and went without much fanfare, but when I came across my first river, I made a terrible, terrible decision. While I thought it would be smart to pay the $5 to use the ferry to cross the river, I succumbed to peer pressure and decided to ford it. It was catastrophic: Oxen died, we lost clothing and the whole party lost some of its vigor. With many more rivers to cross, we learned a valuable lesson early on: Never, ever try and ford the God damned river.
When our group was first struck with illness (Ryan met the business end of a snake), we feared the worst. We rested in hopes that he would recover, and luckily enough, he did. So, when Anne fell ill, we figured she would be right as rain in a few days, as long as we rested. We knew that dysentery, whatever it was, would be a dys-tant memory in short order. Or, so we thought. Despite days of rest, there was no marked change in her health. And in a few more days, she passed away.
The rest of the journey was somber, but, despite a rather harsh winter on the tail end of our journey, we made it. Fates be damned, we were in Oregon now. And now, class, what did we really learn from this journey, this expedition from one side of America to another?
Oregon Trail taught kids more than just how to add, spell or read. It taught kids that sometimes a variety of options present themselves, and it's up to the leader to choose which option to take. It challenged children to think twice about shooting 15 animals, because while it might be fun, shooting more than you need only means the food you take back will spoil. And, maybe, it taught us a little about life and death. But hey, even if Oregon Trail didn't actually teach kids anything about problem solving in the real world, at least they walked away with one lesson learned: Never, ever ford the river.
Dan Dormer is a videogame freelancer who keeps a poorly updated blog
at his personal
site. He's also afraid of seeing scary movies. True story.