My students don’t know what oxen are.
Well, some of them vaguely know what an ox is, but the plural form leaves them befuddled. Naturally, when I think oxen, my mind goes straight into a time-warp scene of playing Oregon Trail on an old Apple computer. Do you remember real floppy disks??
Well my students don’t. They’ve never felt the joy of surviving a snake bite or the pain of knowing you just lost four sets of clothing. And they never got to learn that oxen set on ‘grueling’ pace are funny to watch, until you see their heads start to sag down due to exhaustion.
They’ve never decided to ford the river or float across.
I have to confess though, and it’s a pain that has haunted me for years… I never made it to Oregon. It didn’t matter if I was the banker and if I left in early spring, I still couldn’t make it. In fact, I was killed even when I was just a passenger in some else’s trip.
Most of the time, I would suffer a grueling few months and then the computer would kill me right when Oregon was in sight. I would survive my double broken leg snake bite cholera epidemic, only to be swept away when my wagon was fording the Dalles. There were times that I, the team leader, was killed before any of my pioneer children.
And so I am left to wonder what sort of lives my students will have being as they did not have Oregon Trail to shape their understanding. I feel as though I’m a better person because I could prioritize my needs vs. my inability to shoot the damn buffalo that slowly charged at my musketed self. I was a good leader, darn it…. if you were looking for a slow suicide trek across uncharted America.After reviewing the amount of memories I have surrounding The Oregon Trail, I’m left to wonder how often my class went to the computer lab and what curriculum was left out. Now where did I put that thing with all those pages and all the funny little shapes typed on it?