My name is Sarah Carter and I was nine years old the day my Pa
came home and said to us,”Start packing! We’re moving far away!
We’re going to Oregon–I hear tell the land is free!”
“I don’t want to go to Oregon” ma said, and turned to me, “Go
fetch your brother, wash him up, supper’s almost done–”
“This another scheme of yours?”? she hissed at him when I had gone,
But I heard the words she said and knew that it was true.” Pa fell for
ever’ get-rich-quick that fell down from the blue.
“It ain;’t like that” I heard him shout and then I had to go find Bud.
That onery lil’ brother of mine was always out playing in the mud.
But next we knew, Pa had gone and bought a Conestoga wagon.
He had ma packing up, although her feet were draggin’.
He had a sale and sold most ever’ thing that ma called best–
Pa said she wouldn’t need her china cups when we went west.
the farm and furniture was all sold and ever’thing was gone;
with the money pa bought flour and beans to take along.
Neighbors came to call and brought little packs of tea
and other things that wouldn’t take up space, like herbs that we might need.
A girl from school brought me a notebook, small enough to keep,
in a pocket that I could write in when pa was asleep.
Ma gave away her best laying hen and and pa sold off the cow
He said no cow could keep the pace and we wouldn’t need it now.
friends came to all and said goodbye one early April day,
we climbed into the wagon and soon were on our way.
at first it was a lark for Bud and me; we didn’t,know no better,
and all was fine for us as long as we had sunny weather.
In independence we met with folks and joined a wagon train,
And on the day we started out, it sure ‘nuf began to rain.
Bud and I were nestled, snug in quilts, we had no fears;
While mama cried, her head down low, so no one saw her tears,
Pa kept after our two oxen, who trudged as mud got deeper,
I heard him swearing at the one; he swore he wouldn’t keep her.
I wish that I could say it was a lark as time went by,
But it was fearful all the way, you know, I wouldn’t lie.
Ma kept us fed with beans and salt pork, and surely it was loving,
When she made a special treat with her big Dutch oven.
I remember once that Bud and me found berries growing wild,
Selfishly, we ate them all; you know, I was a child –
We crossed some rivers; scared to death, afraid we all would drown,
And only heaved a sigh as soon as the wagon wheels touched ground.
And late one night, I wakened when I heard a baby cry—
I wondered where it come from, but I knew I mus’nt pry;
And now my ma laid down with us in quilts that kept us warm,
I tended to the baby so he wouldn’t come to harm.
Ma was too sick to know or care, and never even cried
When one night that baby boy just fell asleep and died.
Pa buried him along the trail and Bud and I found stones
To put on top of that small grave, to cover up his bones.
Then it was my job to keep us fed and do all mama’s chores,
Pa said that I must help out, that I was a child no more.
And then one night a fellow who was in our wagon train,
Brought a baby girl to ma, ‘twas in the pouring rain.
“The baby’s ma has died,” he said, and asked could mama nurse her?
Inside the wagon, ma reached out; I thought that pa would curse her.
Pa said, it wasn’t his place to save a babe that wasn’t kin,
The man said roughly “keep her—I won’t ask for her again”.
Well, ma perked up and took the baby girl into her arms,
She put the baby to her breast and said there was no harm.
She called the baby “Miracle” and mostly we said “Mira,”
And folks all through our wagon trail would come around to see her,
And they’d bring my mother beef tea, and dried fruit to make her strong,
They’d bring us food from their own stores and it wasn’t wrong…
Mira captured all the hearts of folks along our train,
And she made ma happy and getting strong again.
The baby’s father kept his word and never came around,
And Mira hardly cried at all, she seldom made a sound.
In his eyes, Miracle had cost the man his wife,
In our eyes, Miracle had given back my Mama’s life.
I don’t remember everything—the journey west was long,
Days turned to weeks and into months, as we traveled on.
Until a rescue party from Oregon came to lead
Us on that final leg of journey—of them we had no need,
But they brought us water, coffee, things that had run out,
Bud & I got peppermints and we liked to shout.
I lived in Oregon all my life, married and had sons,
who married and gave me grandkids and my life was long,
My sister, Mira, lived with me long after ma had died,
she never knew the truth about her birth, though papa tried
a time or two to tell her but she’d smile and hug his neck,
and then pa would look foolish and say “what the heck”?”
she was our little Miracle and my little sister, Mira,
and I always thanked the Lord that I got to keep her.
My brother Bud became a farmer and found himself a wife,
And they lived in Portland for the rest of his long life.
Pa got a notion he would go to California to find gold,
“Well, you’ll go alone”, my mama said, and wasn’t she so bold?
So off he went to pan for gold; years later we got word.
That pa had died in a bar fight, that’s all we ever heard.
My mama became energized and took up farming on her own,
She had the biggest finest garden that there was around,
She sold her vegetables in town and quickly became known
As having best of everything – her fruit and taters grew,
As big as melons and beans the biggest people ever knew.
One day a week she’d take her produce into town,
And quickly sold ever’ bit of it, she was well known around.
There was one time, a fella came and asked about his sister;
I told him that we didn’t know a thing, so sorry, mister.
For Miracle was ours; when she came our lives were better,
Back on the Trail, with ma and pa, and all of us together.
–Sandra Lee Smith/originally posted September 2012/updated May, 2018