Freight Train Crossing the Platte

“We hitched on to about one-third of our wagons with fifteen yoke of cattle to each wagon, but started into the river with only three wagons.

Mr. Rennick had ridden across the river to see how the ford was, and found the river was full of holes, some a foot deep and others seven or eight feet deep. Unless we zig­zagged from one sand drift to another, it would be im­possible to cross, as the whole bed of the river was a shift­ing bed of sand.

We had driven but a few rods before we stalled, with our wagons in four or five feet of water. We swung our cattle up and down several times and tried to make a start, but it was of no use, as the sand began to settle around our wagon wheels. So we sent out and got six yoke of cattle more for each wagon. By the time we got them hitched on for another pull, the sand had drifted around our wagons till they were hub deep in the sand, and the cattle were knee deep. The men would have been in the same fix had they not kept stepping around.

We swung our cattle and made a pull but we were fast and could not move. We had to get our shovels and shovel around the wheels and oxen. Then we took another pull and this time got the wagons on the move, but only for a short distance, when we stalled again. It was such hard pulling, the cattle could go but a little way at a time. Every stop the sand would gather as before, and it was almost impossible to get another start. Occasionally a chain would break and we would have to get another or repair it with a link made on purpose. It was impossible to get more than eight or ten rods in an hour. Some of our cattle be­gan to get discouraged which made it still worse. The river is about eighty rods wide at this point.

We finally succeeded in getting three wagons across and our cattle back to the balance of the train by nine o’clock that night. . . .

In the morning we drove all our cattle into the corral and yoked three teams of eighteen yoke each, of the oldest and best cattle and started across. As we had zigzagged across the river for several rods up and down in crossing the day before, we had learned the best route. We got across with these wagons without much difficulty. In the course of the day we got the balance of the train across and made a short drive and camped.”