I just finished reading a book about our American pioneers making their way out West in wagon trains.

There are a lot of quotes in the book from the diaries of children who accompanied their parents on the journey. I was amazed that children would have the knowledge and incentive to keep a record of the trip.

However, I realized that I started keeping a diary/journal when my sister-in-law gave me a diary for my 10th birthday. I didn’t have anything to write that was earth shaking or history making, but I have kept one through the years. My family might get a kick out of reading it when I’m gone.

Some of the children said the trip was like going on a picnic every day. I have a feeling it didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off.

The people endured hardships that would be hard for us in the 21st century to imagine. In their wagons, they rocked and rolled over roads they could hardly detect in the prairie and had to hack out through the trees in other areas.

In some places, they needed to take the wheels off the wagons to pull them up the mountainside or to be floated across the wide Missouri River.

Along the way, many of the horses, oxen, cows and mules that pulled the wagons died of exhaustion. Along the way, many people died of sickness, disease and exhaustion.

My mother used to say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Maybe your mother said that, too. These people had to be tough cookies.

As I was reading, I often wondered why some people didn’t stop half way, set up camp and stay there for the winter. They could have started out the next spring bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, along with their animals that had recuperated from their hard trek. Apparently, they were way too goal oriented.

In fact, I wonder why they didn’t stay in their cozy little log cabins in the woods, here in the East. However, they had a vision and, because of their vision, America is what it is today.

We now have paved highways, instead of dirt paths to drive on, multi-million dollar bridges to span the rivers and motels to sleep in, instead of a blanket in a covered wagon.

How many of us would be tough enough, or determined enough, or brave enough to do what they did? Are we blazing a trail for others to follow?

Trails are different these days. They are more mental, emotional and spiritual than physical. They lead in different directions, but we still need to find the one that leads to fulfillment of our purpose on earth.

(Dorothy Knight Burchett is author of “Miles and Miracles.” Contact her at dorothybutzknight@gmail.com)

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