I have walked part of the Oregon trail across the mountains in western WY. Lots of graves of people that died along the trail. The wagons wheel ruts are still on the ground .Back in around 2005 an old local fellow passed away. He was 104. Someone had asked him what the biggest changes were that he'd seen; as a farmer, he of course mentioned the combine. One man could harvest a quarter-section in a few hours, maybe with a truck and driver standing by. When he was a kid, threshing machines were primitive things, powered by a long belt off a steam-driven tractor, that needed a huge crew to operate both tractor and thresher, and a few wagons with horses and a bunch of guys to pick up the stooks and cart them to the thresher and feed them in. And that's after another crew had cut the grain and stooked it to dry some days earlier. Then it took wagons to cart the grain to the granary, and more wagons to the elevator some miles away.
Not too many years before that, harvesting and threshing was done pretty much entirely manually. Just imagine what your loaf of bread would cost now without all those machines, fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides. Most people have no idea.
A couple of times I flew from western Canada to Winnipeg on the airlines. A few times to Toronto. Trips of a few hours between Toronto or Winnipeg and Calgary. I would look down from six miles up at the land that the early settlers crossed, largely on foot, with an ox pulling a wooden cart or a wagon, making a handful of miles per day unless the weather turned sour. There were various lethal hazards like wild animals, venomous snakes, thunderstorms, windstorms, and so on, and the fatality rate was significant. There were rivers to cross, deep gullies in the way, mud, dust, bugs. And then I'd complain that the airline seat was cramped, that the coffee was poor, that the kid in the next seat wouldn't stop screaming, that the flight was a half-hour late, and suddenly realize what I was saying.
Young Americans should consider the migrants between St. Louis and Portland, OR on the Oregon trail. Six months of misery and death. Arriving in a cold rain, maybe snow, with nowhere to live. Big scramble to put up some sort of shelter. And read this book:
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Rinker Buck earlier wrote this one:
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