Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:12
"You travel alone?" It's the most common thing I hear. Some imply I'm exercising poor judgment. Others say it in admiration. Many are just afraid for me. I understand the risks and most of the time, I'm careful. For example, I don't camp in places that aren't crowded or lit. I stay aware of my surroundings. I try to stop before dark but that doesn't always work out. My life on the road in Corporate America prepared me for much of what I do and made traveling alone comfortably within my personal paradigm. .
I will say that life on the road isn't easy. Right now, I have another blinker light out. I have clothes in the washing machine that I have to rush to a quarter a mile away in the dark and put them in the dryer in time to get them dry before it closes at 10:00 PM. My camper bathroom has a small clean water leak which I'm pretending isn't there. My holding tank needs to be emptied and I dread that. There is always a list and seemingly, never enough time. I love it when I get a list complete because I briefly allow myself the fantasy that finally, everything is fixed and I can just do my work.
This last week, I traveled across part of the Oregon Trail. I stopped at museums, Interpretative Centers, and signs. I watched a movie and listened to a cowboy concert that told the story of life on the trail. It struck me how difficult and lonely traveling for them was.
We don't know exactly how many died on the trail but it is estimated that about 10% didn't make it. People died of all kinds of things - accidental gun shots, being run over by wagon wheels, hypothermia, cholera, snake bites, human and animal attacks, and on it goes. It is said that there are graves every few feet along the trail. They often buried people in the middle of the trail and drove the wagons over the graves to disguise and protect them from animal and human grave robbers. I thought about how sick my last dog, Belle, got on a trip a few years back and how scared I was. Can you imagine what it would have been like to lose a child on a trail and have to drive off and leave them there buried in the dirt?
Why did they go? Some were missionaries and like me, the travel was a calling. Others sought religious freedom. Some hoped to strike it rich or just to make a better life for their families. Some were running from and others towards something. Some just craved adventure.
I wondered about their spiritual state as they traveled. Did they cry out to God when a wagon wheel broke, someone got sick, or flaming arrows came at them? Did they get discouraged and wonder if God heard them when things didn't end the way they wanted? How was their faith at the end of the journey? I suspect for most, it was deeper.
I studied the wagon wheels. The times I've had flat tires on remote roads disturbed me even though I have a spare tire and AAA that will run to my rescue. Did these weary travelers wonder if they would be able to fix the wagon? Did some get left behind because the wagon wheel couldn't be fixed? This is why Bob immediately answers my (surprisingly frequent) question of “Why would someone put a town here?” with “That’s where the wagon wheel broke.”
I thought about how tired I get from spending so much time in my tiny camper. I visited the National Interpretative Center and studied the wagons, often called Prairie Schooners. Mostly they had a wooden base, wooden wheels, with curved metal bars over the tops and canvas roofs. Sometimes I complain that I can't get the camper temperature to remain constant. I have air conditioning plus electric and gas heat. What did these wagons have? Besides, the wagons were mostly for cargo, the elderly, the infirm, or children. Many walked and slept outside by campfires. Can you imagine how long and uncomfortable the trip must have felt?
Buying groceries is stressful for me. I don't eat like most people and sometimes I have trouble finding what I need. It seems like I am always planning for my food supply. They couldn't worry about things like organic food, balanced diets, or bottled water. They ate and drank what they could find and often suffered for it. Some packed eggs and butter in barrels, which quickly ran out. In the mid 1800's, canning technology helped. Most of what they ate came from hunting and fishing - things like American Bison, deer, antelope, trout, and catfish. They also had to resort to coyote, jack rabbit, rattle snake - nicknamed bush fish, and prairie dog. Maybe I should worry less when I can't find a Whole Foods store.
I had to laugh when I thought about how inconvenienced I was when one of my stove top burners wouldn't work. Trail travelers cooked over open fires and when they couldn't find firewood, they resorted to burning smelly buffalo chips, which the tiny children gathered. They didn't even have hand sanitizer.
My final point is about bathrooms. As mentioned, my camper bathroom has a small leak but is still usable. The condition of campground bathrooms is always a conversation point. I'm pretty OK with dirt and bugs in the shower but am not happy when showers don't have hot water or a mouse tries to shower with me. Just today, I complained about the lack of privacy in the shower house at this campground. Think for moment about bathroom and shower conditions on the trail. Is my life on the road really that hard?
Here's the true answer to that question. My life is harder on the road than it is at home. Yet, my camping life is much easier than camping life was for those traveling the Oregon Trail. Everything is relative. I'm just not sure how relevant easy or hard and safe or risky is when you feel called to do something or driven to do something to make a better life for your family.
If we spend our life catering to convenience and safety, we miss the great adventure of what some might call the "call of the wild" but I call "the call of God." We pray for wisdom and listen. We pray for courage and strength and then act. The world opens before us in a splendor that is beyond our wildest imaginations. Like my Daddy used to say, "I'm not afraid of dying but I am afraid of not living."
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