Growing Up on the Oregon Trail

This week, I’d like to share one of my poems. “Growing Up on the Oregon Trail” was first published last year in [Insert Coin Here], a video-game-themed anthology by Kind of a Hurricane Press.





Growing Up on the Oregon Trail

I remember the terrible day
when my cousin died of dysentery.
I’d gone hunting, trying to kill enough deer
to feed our family of eight,
but had wasted most of our ammo instead,
thanks to a sticky spacebar.

I think I was swindled in Independence
by the cheery shopkeeper who sold me the team of oxen
that perished fording the swollen river,
halfway to Chimney Rock.
But I was only a child, not properly schooled
in the ways of haggling.

History repeated itself in that computer lab
as over and over again I set out for Oregon,
never successfully reaching my destination,
always leaving a trail of broken hearts
and broken axles
in my wake.

But I still learned valuable lessons, like
it doesn’t matter how many bison you shoot
if you can only carry a hundred pounds of meat
back to the wagon.
And you’re not allowed to name
one of your family members after your dog
if you’re going to cry when he dies.

But the most eye-opening moment occurred
the day I logged in to my doomed expedition
after one of the “big kids” had used the computer
and I came upon a tombstone that read,
“Damn. I died a virgin.”

Pioneer life was no picnic—
harsh landscapes, brutal conditions.
You could lose your innocence out there,
and some of your best friends
to snakebite.


© Carie Juettner, 2012
All rights reserved.



It brings me great joy to learn that Salem, Oregon, is hosting Oregon Trail Live this Saturday! I wish I could be there. Somebody please shoot a bison for me.

Published by Carie Juettner

Carie Juettner is a former middle school teacher and the author of The Ghostly Tales of New England, The Ghostly Tales of Austin, The Ghostly Tales of Burlington, and The Ghostly Tales of Dallas in the Spooky America series by Arcadia Publishing. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as The Twin Bill, Nature Futures, and Daily Science Fiction. Carie lives in Richardson, Texas, with her husband and pets. She was born on Halloween, and her favorite color is purple.

8 thoughts on “Growing Up on the Oregon Trail

    1. Well, I did not have Uno many years ago when I played Oregon Trail in the computer lab of my junior high, but I’m pretty sure some of my childhood pets bit the dust in that game. 🙂

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