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On the Oregon Trail - A Docudrama
CAST OF CHARACTERS: Joe Frink, 21-year-old farmer Margaret Frink, 20-year-old, Joe's wife, 7 months pregnant Henry Woodson, 37-year-old successful businessman Rebecca Woodson, 30-year-old, Henry's wife with three children Molly Woodson, 7-year-old Martha Woodson, 8-year-old Michael Woodson, 9-year-old Minnie Woodson, 60-year-old, Henry's mother Abraham Williams, 30-year-old unemployed man Cynthia Williams, 25-year-old, Abraham's wife with two children Susie Williams, 7-year-old twin Sam Williams, 7-year-old twin Liza Williams, 16-year-old, Abraham's niece Wyatt West, 40-year-old "Trail Boss" John Hill, 19-year-old single man travelling alone Loreta Valasquez, 28-year-old, temperance leader, travelling with the Woodsons Sarah Pellet, 30-year-old widow travelling with the Woodsons Martin Pringle, 35-year-old farmer Catherine Pringle, 32-year-old, Martin's wife with three children Charity Pringle, 10-year-old Chance Pringle, 8-year-old Charlotte Pringle, 7-year-old Umapine, Dakota warrior Willouskin, Dakota warrior Mato-wangi, Dakota warrior
SCENE 1: "The Decision" SETTING: At the kitchen table somewhere in Indiana at the Frink home CHARACTERS: Joe and Margaret Frink Joe: (reading a book) Look at this, Margaret. This book says Oregon is like the Garden of Eden! Anybody can make a living. There's the fur business and fishing, too. And, the land is almost free! I want lots of babies and lots of land so we can feed them. And, it says here that down in California a person can scoop the gold right off the ground! A woman like you can make sixteen dollars a week just cooking for one miner! Margaret: (sarcastically) Now, that sounds like a real thrill! I don't believe that book. How can you think about going West when the baby is almost here? Besides, I don't want to leave my parents. Joe: Babies are born on the trail everyday, and your parents can meet us when we get settled. Margaret: Sounds like you've already made up your mind to me. Joe: Well, I guess I have. This is our big chance. Out west, a black man is treated like a real man. It's not like here. Margaret: I don't believe we'll be treated any different in California, but if you go, I will follow. I know that's my duty as a good wife. But, promise me I'll have a nice log house with real glass windows someday. Joe: Sure. I'll have to keep you happy. With so few women out West, you might find someone else if I don't!
SCENE 2: "Getting Ready" SETTING: The Woodson's home somewhere in Ohio CHARACTERS: Henry, Rebecca, Molly, Martha, Michael, and Minnie Woodson HENRY: I hear there will be a thousand people in our wagon train. There will be 6,000 horses, cattle and other animals. They say the train will be six miles long! REBECCA: Sounds like a lot of dirt and trouble to me! HENRY: Where is your sense of adventure? It will be exciting! REBECCA: I don't much care for excitement. And, I like our life here. You are a successful businessman, we have a nice church, and the children have a good school. I don't think God meant for us to get excited. HENRY: Well, the kids seem to like the idea of going West. REBECCA: They're just kids. They don't have good sense half the time...(to herself)kind of like their daddy. HENRY: What was that you said? REBECCA: Oh, nothing. HENRY: Rebecca, everything is going to be fine. I'm sure I'll get that government job. REBECCA: If we have to go I don't understand why we can't go by boat. Both the South American and Central American routes are safer than the overland trail. HENRY: I don't like depending on foreigners. Besides, it's too late now. We leave for Independence, Missouri, tomorrow. We'll meet the rest of the wagon train there. Mrs. Pellet and Miss Valasquez are supposed to be waiting for us there, too. We can't let them down. Two respectable ladies like them can't be left to travel alone. (NEXT MORNING OUTSIDE THE WOODSON HONE. A "SCHOONER" WAGON SITS NEARBY.) REBECCA: Children! Come here! We need to get organized. Molly, what is that you're hiding? MOLLY: It's just my little kitty. REBECCA: You can't take that. We don't have room. We have to carry 400 pounds of food. MOLLY: Please... REBECCA: Oh, okay. Maybe it will keep the rats away from my chickens. I plan to sell my eggs along the way. MARTHA: Daddy says we won't have to take baths while we're going west. REBECCA: Daddy say a lot of things! MICHAEL: He says we'll be rich in Oregon. REBECCA: Like I said, your daddy says a lot of things...Now, mind what I say. Help me load the supplies. (Checking off a list) 200 pounds of flour, 150 pounds of bacon, 10 pound of coffee, 20 pounds of sugar, chipped beef, rice, tea, beans, baking soda, vinegar, pickles, and dried apples. You children go tell Granny to bring her things. [the children run to get Granny] MINNIE: (walking toward Rebecca) I tell you I'm not going. Who will put flowers on Grandpa's grave? REBECCA: I understand, Granny. But, you know how Henry is. Once he has decided to do something, there's no use in fighting it. MINNIE: I'll die. I just know it. I'll never make it! If the Indians don't get me, the dysentery will. REBECCA: Now hush that kind of talk. You will scare the children.
SCENE 3: "The Beginning" SETTING: An encampment near Independence, Missouri CHARACTERS: Wyatt West, Martin & Catherine Pringle, Sarah Pellet, Loreta Valasquez, Abraham Williams, Joe & Margaret Frink [Wyatt is on a horse, riding through the camp] WYATT: Hello, there! I'm in charge of this train. My name is Wyatt West. MARTIN: Pleased to meet you. I'm Martin Pringle. This is my missus, Catherine. There sure are a lot of folks here. WYATT: The more the merrier! CATHERINE: Do you have time to answer a few questions? WYATT: Yep. That's my job. CATHERINE: Well, the children are scared. They keep hearing about Indians. WYATT: With so many folks, we shouldn't have no problems. Course, I wouldn't be wandering off alone or anything. And, I expect we'll run into some Sac and Fox. They set up little toll bridges across creeks and rivers, and then charge a silver dollar for a person to cross. MARTIN: We don't have any extra money. WYATT: Oh, they will take most anything. Whiskey, calico cloth, whatever you got. [SARAH PELLET AND LORETA VALASQUEZ RIDE UP] LORETA: Mr. West? WYATT: Yep, that's me. Who are you? LORETA: I'm Miss Valasquez. This is Mrs. Pellet. We have come to discuss your plans to control the consumption of that "demon rum" and other intoxicating liquors. WYATT: Well, ..... .what did you say that name was? Sounds kinda foreign. LORETA: Miss Va-las-quez. It's Spanish. Is that a problem? WYATT: Ain't no problem for me Miss Valasquez. I hear you Spanish girls are real friendly. I've heard Spanish girls like to drink a little nip now and then. So, what are you so worried about? LORETA: You shouldn't believe everything you hear, Mr. West. I, for one, do not drink anything and plan to do all I can to make sure everyone on this wagon train is moderate in their consumption so we will have no accidents due to drunkenness. WYATT: Well, you're on your own. I don't have no plans to control anything. In fact, I plan to have a few drinks myself. It gets awfully boring out on the trail. We're going West. People out there don't take kindly to other people nosing around in things that ain't nobody's business! And, while we're having this talk, I would like to suggest that both of you ladies put on some normal lady clothes. Those bloomers are going to cause quite a stir. SARAH: I beg your pardon! Our selections in clothing shouldn't concern you. And, besides have you ever tried to ride a horse in a dress? WYATT: No. Can't say I have. SARAH: Believe me, as soon as I get to California, I'm going to put on the prettiest dress you ever saw. I'm looking for a husband, preferably an army officer. Do you know any? WYATT: No, but a pretty woman like you shouldn't have any trouble if you get rid of those trousers. Now, if you ladies will excuse me, all this talking has made me thirsty. It's time for a little nip of whiskey, I think. LORETA: Well! What a disgrace! [Loreta rides away] SARAH: Don't mind her none. She's one of those temperance people, but she's a good Christian woman. [Sarah rides away after Loreta] [ABRAHAM WILLIAMS APPROACHES WYATT AND THE PRINGLES] ABRAHAM: Mr. West, do you see those people over there? Who are they? They look strange. WYATT: Oh, that's them Mormons. And, you are right. They are strange. ABRAHAM: What's a Mormon? MARTIN: Don't you read newspapers? They call themselves the Latter Day Saints. They are trying to build a utopia in Utah Territory. They call it Salt Lake City. WYATT: They're a bunch a crazies. Any man who wants more than one wife has to be crazy! ABRAHAM: What? More than one wife? MARTIN: Well, the Constitution says we have freedom of religion, and that is their religion. They are polygamists. ABRAHAM: Polly who? MARTIN: Polygamists or having more than one spouse. Actually, they should be referred to as polygynous since only husbands have more than one spouse. ABRAHAM: Well, I've heard of everything now! What's that they're pulling and pushing? WYATT: Handcarts. That's how they go West. They can't afford real wagons, so they push all the way to Utah! ABRAHAM: Well, I'll be! [MARGARET AND JOE FRINK APPROACH THE OTHERS] JOE: Mr. West? WYATT: (Irritated) Who wants to know? JOE: I'm Joe Frink. This is my wife, Margaret. We signed-up for your wagon train. Where should we put our wagon? WYATT: I don't allow no black people on my train! Besides, how do I know you aren't a runaway? JOE: We have papers. We even have birth certificates. We were born free and never have been slaves. And, we have already paid for this trip. WYATT: Nobody tells me nothing! It might cause trouble if you join the wagon train. MARTIN: Wait just a minute, Mr. West. I don't think the people in this train care about a person's color. I certainly do not! These nice people ought to be allowed to go just like everyone else. WYATT: You some kind of radical abolitionist or something? MARTIN: I've been called worse. WYATT: Okay, okay. But, I don't want no trouble out of you. You can put your wagon at the back of the line.
SCENE 4: "On the Trail" SETTING: The Williams's wagon CHARACTERS: Cynthia Williams, Abraham Williams, Susie and Sam Williams CYNTHIA: Maybe we shouldn't have come. Maybe you could have found a job. ABRAHAM: There ain't no jobs. They call it a panic. I don't know what that means, but there ain't no jobs. CYNTHIA: (pointing ahead) What's that? ABRAHAM: That's the Platte River. At last! CYNTHIA: It looks like a river of mud. ABRAHAM: Yeah. I hear that it's so thick that fish can't live in it. It's too thick to drink. CYNTHIA: I guess that means it's too muddy for bathing, too. I sure would like a bath and to wash some clothes. ABRAHAM: You act like this is some high society party. We don't need no bath. [MEANWHILE IN THE WAGON] SUSIE: I'm bored. SAM: Me too! SUSIE: I know what. Let's count the graves alongside the trail. SAM: Okay. SUSIE: There's one...and another...and another...and another. That's four. SAM: I see one over there! That makes five. SUSIE: This is fun! CYNTHIA: (overhearing the children's play) Those kids don't know that we may all be in one of those graves before this is all over!
SCENE 5: "Getting to Know You" SETTING: At camp with people mingling; a campfire blazes nearby CHARACTERS: John Hill, Liza Williams, Wyatt West, Sarah Pellet, Loreta Valasquez, Rebecca Woodson JOHN: Why are you going West? LIZA: My Uncle Abe says we're going to get us some land and get rich! How about you? JOHN: I'm planning to be rich, too. I tried going to college, but it wasn't much fun. Who needs an education when you can get rich by just picking gold up off the ground? LIZA: That sounds exciting! Don't you just love all of this... the travel, the scenery, the interesting people...Just everything about this adventure is exciting! Look at that sunset. It's so beautiful! JOHN: All this and we1ll be rich soon, too! Can't ask for more than that. LIZA: Are you a "Yankee"? I read somewhere that "Yankee" men are real polite. JOHN: Yes, I'm a "Yankee." But, I guess you will have to judge my politeness. LIZA: Well, you can sure tell that my Uncle Abe is no "Yankee." He yells and screams at Aunt Cynthia all the time. JOHN: I could never scream at a pretty girl like you. LIZA: Oh, look! Everyone is gathering to sing! Let's join them. [JOHN & LIZA STROLL OVER TO A GATHERING OF FELLOW TRAVELERS] LIZA: Listen to that fiddle! It makes me want to dance! JOHN: I don't know how to dance. We Methodists don't dance. LIZA: Oh...Do Methodists sing? JOHN: You bet! WYATT: Anybody want to start a song? LORETA: How about "Amazing Grace"? JOHN: I like "Sweet Betsy From Pike." SARAH: "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" is fun! REBECCA: I like that new song, "A Life in the West." [The travelers select a song and sing]
SCENE 6: "Chores" SETTING: The Pringle Wagon CHARACTERS: Charity, Catherine, Chance, Charlotte and Martin Pringle [CHARITY IS SITTING INSIDE THE WAGON WRITING IN HER DIARY] CHARITY: (to herself) Dear Diary: We are going west by 15 miles a day. It's very slow and dusty most of the time. It rained today. Now everything is covered in mud. Everything in the wagon is soggy. The lady in the wagon next to us had a baby today. Another wagon turned over and almost killed a man. One of the people up front has cholera. Mr. West says when we get to Ft. Laramie we can take baths. I didn't think I would ever say it, but I can't wait to wash off this mud! [MEANWHILE, OUTSIDE THE WAGON, CATHERINE IS AT WORK] CATHERINE: (speaking to Charity) Come out of there! I need you to watch your brother while I cook breakfast. CHANCE: I'm hungry! CHARLOTTE: Me, too! CATHERINE: I know. But, I'm having trouble betting this fire started. Everything is all wet. Charity! I need your help, please! Now! CHANCE: I'm really getting hungry! CHARLOTTE: I'm starving! CATHERINE: Martin, could you look for some dry buffalo chips? I can't get this fire started. MARTIN: I don't have time to look for buffalo chips. I've got to fix that wheel. Get Charity to do it. CATHERINE: Where is that girl? Charity!
To Part 2