The Covered Wagon of the Great Western Migration
1886 in Loup Valley, Nebraska.
A family poses with the wagon in which they lived and traveled
during their pursuit of a homestead.

My friend, Author Nancy Rue, asked me at lunch the other day why I liked writing historical fiction.

“I love history!”

“But what is it about history that fascinates you?” Nancy asked.

Huh. That question took some thought. Then it hit me. People. People who followed their dreams even when the odds were stacked against them. Women with spunk and men with gumption.

Don’t you wonder about that first woman who climbed aboard a covered wagon bound for Oregon? What was she thinking? Can you imagine that conversation with her husband? Unless he looked like Ross Poldark, I think I would have dug in my heels.

“Honey, pack up those six kids and git up on the wagon seat. We’re headed to Oregon.”

“Oregon? What kind of lame-brain idea is that?”

“It ain’t lame-brain. You wanna be a tenant farmer’s wife the rest of your life? Out west we can homestead and own our own property. President Lincoln said so.”

“Then let President Lincoln’s wife head to Oregon. I can’t leave behind my family and friends. You expect me to cook over a campfire for thousands of miles? And what about laundry? What are we gonna eat? And how in tarnation are we gonna fit all our furniture in that tiny wagon?”

“We ain’t.”

“What do you mean we ain’t? I’m not goin’ anywhere without my grandma’s china.”

You get the gist. I’d love a time machine to travel back and have a chat with those hardy pioneers. Did you know over 400,000 people traveled the Oregon Trail? They endured blistering heat and freezing cold, thunderstorms, tornadoes, disease, Indian attacks, exhaustion, and death–all for a better life in the Promised Land.

Those rugged pioneers are my ancestors. They’re probably some of your ancestors. Or maybe your people came to America through Ellis Island or from points north, south, east, or west. Oh, to listen in on their conversations.

That’s what fascinates me about history. The people and their stories. People who survived against all odds.