Written by Poetry

NaPoWriMo21 Day 08: Claude G. Foster

A poem about my ancestor Claude G. Foster who traveled the Oregon Trail with his family as a young teenager.

NaPoWriMo21 Day 8 - Claude G. Foster

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt challenged me to find a line from a book I love, name the poem with that line, write a poem from that line, then rename the poem. The poem I wrote is about my ancestor Claude G. Foster who traveled the Oregon Trail with his family as a young teenager.

Claude G. Foster

When my grandfather returned from Shiloh,
Hopping home on one leg,
My parents knew it was time to leave Ohio behind.
They packed our things and sold our farm,
And with enough to buy a second ox to pull the wagon,
My father was determined to reach Independence, Missouri,
And find the start to the Oregon Trail.
Fate dropped our old plow ox along the way,
Then snapped our wagon axel in St. Louis.
We had to walk into Kansas in the mud and rain,
Only to have my Mother fall sick.
I held her hand until the end.

My distraught father grieved from a saloon stool,
Spending all our money on pain,
Trying to fill the hole in our family with whisky.
My little brothers and sister were trapped in Topeka for months,
While I worked odd jobs to care for my siblings,
Keeping my savings from my father,
When I wasn’t pulling him from a ditch.
I bargained enough to purchase a new ox and an old wagon,
Dried up my father,
Loaded up my family,
And joined the line of restless wanders along the Trail again.

Western grasslands stretch on forever,
But camping songs under the stars never get old,
So long as the wagon train starts every morning.
We climbed the mountains under wet clouds,
Winding through evergreen paths of dirt and rock,
To finally end at the Columbia of Oregon.

When I stood on the banks of the Columbia River,
I knew this is where I would live for the rest of my life.
From here we started life over again,
On my father’s new farm,
With my father’s new wife,
But I was no longer a child.
I had grown up on the Oregon Trail,
With no going back.

Then pretty girl caught my eye at the market,
And her beautiful smile won my heart.
Susan, a farmers daughter from the Tygh Valley,
Showed me all there was to know about dairy farming.
Her father gave me her hand on a Spring day,
Along with our first dairy cow.
Wouldn’t you know, that Heifer had a single calf,
But produced enough milk to buy a second cow.
This became my trade.

White gold exchanged for sugar, flour, and coffee,
Both of us working from dawn to dusk,
Bringing milk into town before the sun came up,
And bringing meat and bread home for supper.
Demand turned two Heifers into five,
With enough milk to pay the bank loan back,
We bought our own little farm.
I found a place along the river’s bend,
Where the water cuts a path through rolling grass.

My bride called this endless swath ‘The Dalles’,
A mixed English and French word for ‘wide valley’.
It was here, that we built a home,
For our herd to graze on rolling grasslands,
For our first child to play and roam.
Our very own place along the Columbia.

#napowrimo #napowrimo21 #napowrimo2021

Photo by Dana Davis on Unsplash