The Covered Wagon

1
The blood of America is 
 the blood of pioneers - the
blood of lion-hearted men and 
women who carved a splendid 
civilization out of an uncharted
wilderness.

2
With dauntless courage, facing
 unknown perils, the men and
women of the 'forties flung the
boundaries of the nation westward,
and still westward, beyond the
Mississippi, beyond the prairies,
beyond the Rockies, - until they
bounded the United States of
America with two Oceans.

3
Westport Landing - 1848 -
  since called Kansas City.

4
In May of that year a great
 covered wagon caravan
gathered there from every
section of the Ohio and
Mississippi valleys, eager to
brave the two thousand
miles of hardship that lay 
between Westport and Oregon.

5
  "Them wagons from Liberty
is liable never t' git here -
why don't we start without 
'em?"

6
  "Jesse Wingate over thar
is the captain of th' hull
shootin'-match - ask him."

7
  "Jesse, everybody's losin'
patience waitin' fer a lot of
crazy Missourians - we ought
to start."

8
  "I know - it's aggravatin'.
I'm just as anxious to git
my plow in Oregon soil as
anybody."

9
Far out on the Westward
 trail stands another
plow that bravely started 
for Oregon.

10
  "The Pale Face again
crosses the River of Misty
Water - always advancing
towards the setting sun -"

11
  "With him he brings this
monster weapon that will
bury the buffalo - uproot
the forest - and level the
mountain."

12
  "The Pale Face who comes
with this evil medicine must
be slain - or the Red Man
perishes!"

13
"Here's yer mule, Pap."

14
  "Molly, you've kept me waiting
a long time. Can't we be mar-
ried here at Westport? You know
your father and mother would 
be mighty well pleased -"

15
  "I don't know - somehow
- I'd rather wait, Sam."

16
  "The Liberty boys! The
Liberty train's a-comin'!"

17
Will Banion, a veteran of
   the Mexican War -
captain and leader of the
Liberty boys.

18
  "My name is Will Banion -
head of the Liberty train."

19
  "This is Sam Woodhull,
my first lieutenant."

20
  "Banion? Oh, yes - I remember
- with Doniphan in Mexico. Lost
your commission in the army -
didn't you?"

21
  "- and this is our 
daughter, Molly."

22
"Chaw?"

23
  "Folks, this is William Jackson
- who knows every foot of the 
trail between here and Oregon."

24
  "An' as sech, I'd say from
th' way this outfit is jumbled 
up that ye ought t' git Will
Banion t' captain ye."

25
  "Mr. Wingate is captain over 
all of our trains, Bill."

26
  "I'll appoint you to herd 
the loose stock in the rear, 
Mr. Banion -"

27
  "- and the Liberty wagons
will go in with Mr. Woodhull's
command."

28
"Very well, Captain."

29
  "More important to get these 
babies across than it is the
grown folks - they'll be the
real Empire builders."

30
On the 24th day of May,
  1848, the mightiest
caravan that was ever to
crawl across the Valley of 
the Platte awaited the 
bugle call of "Westward Ho!"

31
  "You've got your wish, Jed.
You kin crack th' first whip
for th' big jump-off."

32
Two weeks out - two hundred
weary miles behind - leagues
of unknown danger ahead -
Already crushing hardship,
discontent and homesickness
breaking many a pioneer spirit -
Day after day disheartened ones
gave up the struggle, turning
their wagons back.

33
"We're goin' back home!"

34
  "May I ride your horse, 
Mr. Banion?"

35
"No, he's not safe for a woman."

36
  "Go ahead - show him you 
can ride any horse."

37
  "Who gave you the right 
to take my horse? I can
ride a little, myself."

38
"Then why didn't you?"

39
  "Maybe you took the horse
you ride in the same way -
and forgot to return it."

40
  "Seein' Will ain't got his gun,
let's you and me argue, eh?"

41
  "You two roosters kin git
all th' fight ye want when 
we ferry th' Platte."

42
  "A fight now would disorganate
this hull train."

43
  "They're buryin' that ol'
Mrs. Wattles that come all
th' way from Pennsylvany!"

44
  "Ye'd best throw some ashes 
an' burned sticks over th' grave
an' then run th' wagons over
it -"

45
"Why? Injuns!"

46
  "It's a boy! 'Bout nine 
pounds, I judge."

47
Day after day - week after week
 of grinding toil to cover twelve
pitiful miles a day. And each
night - huddled around campfires
that feebly pierce the encircling 
gloom.

48
  "Buck up, Jess - you've got us
'most half-way - and I guess
you've done as well as anybody 
could."

49
  "Wall, they shipped this
here dead man back t' 
Californy, an' th' climate 
revived him -"

50
  "It's a fact - the old feller's
livin' yit - and his heirs never
got a smell o' the estate."

51
  "Boys, they're pretty blue 
over in the Wingate section
- let's cheer 'em up."

52
  "Choose yer pardners fer
th' Verginny Reel!"

53
  "I don't think Molly ought 
to make so free with a man
like Banion."

54
  "Banion was kicked out 
of the army for stealing
cattle."

55
  "Banion - I've just heard
some things about you and
I want you to stay away
from my daughter."

56
  "Well - Banion's a military
renegade and a cattle thief 
to boot."

57
"I don't believe it!"

58
The North Fork of the Platte at
last! A broad stream rolling its
way to the Big Missouri - forming
a tremendous barrier to the
lumbering train and forcing a
halt on its southern bank.

59
The only means of 
 crossing - a crude log
ferry, run by a small band 
of friendly Indians.

60
  "They want ten dollars a 
wagon - it's too much -
besides, it would take two
months to get us all across."

61
  "These Indians take advantage 
of people who don't know. I'll
show you we can cross right 
here, Mr. Wingate."

62
  "Wingate here thinks these 
wagons kin swim acrost."

63
  "Even with your wagons 
fixed so they would float,
it's too wide to cross here,
Mr. Wingate."

64
  "Wait a minute - before
you drown those horses!"

65
  "You see how deep it is?
Think what would happen 
to your wagons!"

66
  "What would you propose,
Major Banion?"

67
  "Keep on up the river until
you strike the cottonwoods -
then calk and timber your
wagons and they will float."

68
"Let him go - he's not a coward."

69
  "Gentlemen, this is the 
Platte. We'll have time to
settle a little argument."

70
  "How would knuckle and 
skull do fer you young 
roosters?"

71
  "Better let me have your gun,
Sam - it might go off accident
like an' hurt somebody."

72
  "I'll make it free if
Banion dares!"

73
  "Ye mean, ye'll bar nothin' -
anythin' goes?"

74
  "I don't like it, but if you
want to go back a hundred 
years, I'm agreeable - I bar
nothing."

75
  "Gouge 'im, Will! Gouge
his eyes out!"

76
  "Go ahead! Give 'im some 
o' his own medicine - he
said t' bar nothin' -"

77
  "No, I won't maim you, 
free or no free. Get up!"

78
"You poor, big-hearted worm!"

79
  "You brute! You'd gouge 
out a man's eyes!"

80
  "Sam made it free, an' Will
wouldn't take advantage.
Will's turrible foolish at 
times."

81
"Which one really whipped?"

82
"Why, Will - o' course!"

83
  "It looks like one fight after 
another - I guess we'd better
split these two trains, Banion."

84
  "Banion's wagons are leavin' 
us - we can spare all such."

85
  "Get my two wagons and we'll
ferry over. I'll settle Banion
properly when he gets across."

86
  "I'm going to ferry across and 
scout for grass and buffalo."

87
  "Jesse, we've decided this
train's goin' to follow Banion
and cross where he does.
We think he knows what 
he's doin' -"

88
  "You're a lot of thieving 
savages - I'll not pay a 
cent!"

89
After reaching the place where 
Banion had already crossed,
the Wingate train halted for days
while wagon boxes were caulked
and logs were chained to the 
sides - then the plunge into
the treacherous flood.

90
  "We've got to dump out all 
this useless stuff an' leave 
it here."

91
  "Don't you call my mother's
walnut bureau useless! Put
it right back in the wagon!"

92
  "I've got rose cuttin's an' flower
seeds in there! - to say nothin'
of other things that I need to
make a home."

93
The river was conquered; but
 with a staggering loss of
wagons and stock - and then
appeared the silent messenger
of another tragedy.

94
  "Let me finish 'im off now
- they'll think th' Injuns has
done it."

95
"They - got - all the - others -"

96
  "Go back and tell Wingate 
about this. I'll look after 
Woodhull."

97
  "Will, don't put off fer tomorrer
what ye kin do t'day - ye'll never
have this chance at Woodhull
agin."

98
  "Pawnees done it - an'
Woodhull must o' done
somethin' purty tricky, or
Bill Jackson can't read
Injun signs."

99
  "Meantime, our wagons won't 
be far ahead - case there's any 
further trouble."

100
  "Will didn't say so but I'll
give you his regards - and
you don't say nothin', so I'll
take yours back to him."

101
The next day came a trader -
that lone nomad of the prairie
with his small caravan - travel-
ing between the new frontier 
and civilization - unmolested
because he carried no plow and
sought no land.

102
"Jim Bridger, you ol' jack-rabbit!"

103
  "Take a look at 'im, Will -
here's th' best scout in th'
Rockies -"

104
  "I'm freightin' some stuff 
from Council Bluffs to my 
Fort, an' I wouldn't mind
joinin' on with ye."

105
Early Autumn. Separated by
  a few meager miles as
effectively as though an ocean 
rolled between them, the two
crawling trains entered that
vast territory which was later
to become the State of Wyoming.

106
  "Jesse, I've just scraped the
bottom of my last flour barrel
- an' I don't see no meat,
either, unless it's horseflesh
- what are we-all goin' to do?"

107
  "Look! There's signs of
meat, anyway - plenty of 
it!"

108
  "Brigham Young, the Mormon 
leader, left this here bulletin of
the plains. If he could get his
wives across, I can get my 
wagons."

109
Soon the cry of "Buffalo!" rang
 throughout both trains, and
every able man armed himself 
for the biggest hunt in human
experience - the hunt for meat
to fill hungry mouths.

110
"Fer buffler, th' bow's th' best."

111
  "I'm goin' t' throw him back
into this bog."

112
  "Will Banion, ye're a natural-
born, ingrain fool - Proverdence
planted this critter here fer us
t' throw back in agin!"

113
Across Wyoming and over the
  first range of the Rockies -
chilled by early October frosts
- the Banion train pulled in at
old Fort Bridger a few miles
ahead of Wingate.

114
"Well - here's my home, Will."

115
"An' here's my wives!"

116
  "This un I calls Blast
Yore Hide -"

117
  "- an' this un, bein' younger
and purtier, I calls Dang Yore
Eyes."

118
"Well, Joe Dunstan, you
poor ol' polecat! Still
working fer th' U. S.
Army?"

119
  "The Hudson's Bay sheep-
ment, he's delay - she's onlee
four bottle lef'."

120
"Kin you hold yore tongue, Jim?"

121
  "As sure as this here bad 
licker has hit my empty 
stomick!"

122
  "I'm takin' important news 
east - they've discovered gold
in Californy!"

123
  "You and Jim had better do 
your drinking today - we move
on by noon tomorrow."

124
  "Now, another thing -
do you remember that
Will Banion case?"

125
  "I'm carryin' dispatches about 
that, too. A lawyer by th' name
of Abe Lincoln back at Banion's
home has been stirrin' things up
a bit."

126
  "Banion was dropped 
from th' army for cattle
stealin'."

127
  "Well - there's been an investi-
gation since the war and Banion's 
been reinstated - they've found
he commandeered them cattle to
save his detachment from starvin'
to death!"

128
  "Leave me tell Banion -
he'll be plumb tickled to 
hear it - on account of a 
mighty nice gal."

129
  "Jim, I'll have to be goin'
- I aim to make Mousseau's
cabin by nightfall."

130
  "Can't - got 'portant - 'ic -
news t' d'liver."

131
  "Bill, thar ain't much licker
left - but sech as there is -
is your'n."

132
  "Would ye trust me, Bill -
for the sake o' old times -
when friends was friends?"

133
  "I've got important news for
ye, Will - soon as we do a little 
old time shootin'."

134
  "That's onreasonable shootin',
Jim - willful waste makes woe-
ful want."

135
  "To th' ol' days that's gone,
when a friend could trust a 
friend!"

136
"Joe Dunstan was here
an' left a message
about ye."

137
  "Now ain't that cur'ous, I
can't recollec' what it was
since that shootin' sobered 
me up!"

138
  "It might o' been about the
gold discovery in Californy -
an' yet I ain't sure -"

139
  "Why don't ye try yore
luck out there 'stead o'
Oregon?"

140
  "Meantime, I'll get lickered 
agin an' see if I kin recollec'
that message."

141
  "Fort Bridger, Molly - here's
where we're to be married."

142
  "I'm goin' to move out right 
away - for California."

143
"You're still thinking of Banion!"

144
  "I've promised never to 
see him again -"

145
  "But, I'll make another promise
- now - if I ever find that I've
misjudged him, I'll crawl on my
knees to ask his forgiveness!"

146
The whispered secret of Gold
 flashed like magic through
the Liberty camp - California
became the promised land.
But Banion thought only of
Molly's wedding as he gave the
order that separated the two 
trains forever.

147
  "Sure thar's no licker
left some'eres?"

148
  "I ought t' have some - 
there's somethin' I've got
t' tell Banion -"

149
That night a holiday spirit
  pervaded the Wingate
camp. Everybody put on
his "best bib and tucker"
for Molly Wingate was to be
married.

150
  "Ye mustn't marry Sam
Woodhull - leastways not
until I git drunk enough
t' recollec' what I've got 
t' tell ye."

151
"Joe Dunstan give me some
good news fer Banion an'
it's locked up here waitin'
fer th' right amount o'
liquor t' let it loose."

152
  "Aren't you afraid you'll
go beyond the remembering
point?"

153
"Now I've got it!"

154
  "Will Banion never stole them
cattle - just took 'em to save a
detachment from starvin' t' death
- an' now he's been exon'rated
an' re-instated!"

155
  "Can you get horses -
will you take me to him?"

156
"Sam, we've misjudged Banion -"

157
"I'm going to him - now!"

158
"Put out them fires! Barricade!"

159
  "I jedge they'll attack at
daybreak - they allus do."

160
"Send for Banion!"

161
  "By Gad, no man could get 
through. We're surrounded."

162
No man could get through.

163
After a night of tense 
  watchfulness, the dawn
came - swift, sudden and 
ominous.

164
  "Why didn't someone try
to get through to Banion?"

165
  "Is that you, Will Banion
- have you come back?"

166
"How's Molly - could I see her?"

167
  "I'm sorry, Banion, but Molly
has promised Sam Woodhull
never to see you again."

168
"Will Banion!"

169
  "Will, I guess I'll have to
stay here, till Jim gits well, 
anyway."

170
Delayed for weeks by the 
 loss of men and wagons,
Wingate moved on in the
face of a new obstacle - the
first fall of snow.

171
  "Wish I could get some
good licker! I forgit if I
remembered t' tell you
what I forgot t' tell Banion
when I was too sober to 
remember."

172
  "I'm startin' across th'
mount'n - t'morrer - fer
Californy -"

173
  "Got any message fer
- anybody?"

174
  "Just tell Will I'll be 
waiting for him - in 
Oregon."

175
Hundreds of miles to the west
  past Fort Hall, third and
last outpost along those two
thousand miles of toil, danger
and exhaustion, stands a famous
sign-post splitting the trail - and
here Wingate met his greatest
obstacle - GREED!

176
  "I've just come from thar -
the gold's stickin' out o' every
rock. Throw away yer plows
and take yer picks."

177
  "Don't listen to him! Suppose
there is gold - how many'll find 
it? You're sure of a section of
free land in Oregon."

178
  "The pick and the shovel
never built up a country -
you've got to have a plow."

179
  "Oregon's got to be settled -
and that's where my wagon,
my plow an' my family is
goin' now!"

180
  "I'm taking a lot of 
the boys to California
- goodbye."

181
  "I know you'll never marry
me - and, if I can find Banion,
you'll never marry him, either!"

182
Month after month, over the
 Western Rockies, Northwest
across the thirsty land of the
Shoshones and the mighty Snake,
the Men of the Plow held to
their purpose.

183
"How far is it to Oregon?"

184
  "Why, you're in Oregon
right now - an' welcome
to the greatest territory
on this here Footstool!"

185
"Let us pray."

186
The spring of '49. And what
  of those who made up the
mammoth wagon train that
bravely started from Westport?
Some found only bitter disap-
pointment and defeat - and
some found the end of the
rainbow.

187
  "Banion? His cabin is just 
around the bend - funny, 
you're the second stranger
that's asked about him today."

188
  "I been lookin' fer ye so
long, Will, I plum lost track
o' time."

189
  "Wanted to tell ye that Molly
said she'd be waitin' fer ye in
Oregon."

190
"Oh, then Suzanna,
 Don't ye cry fer me,
I'm goin' back to Oregon
 With my gold dust on my knee."

191
  "Sorry, Will - knowed ye
was sot on sparin' that critter
- but some bacon grease got
on my finger an' it slipped."

192
The home of an early 
     settler in Oregon.

193
"Oh, then Susannah,
 Don't ye cry fer me -"

THE END

Home