‘The Oregon Trail’ author Rinker Buck visits Bookworm of Edwards | VailDaily.com

‘The Oregon Trail’ author Rinker Buck visits Bookworm of Edwards

Sarah Taylor
Special to the Daily

EDWARDS — The Oregon Trail is an incredible part of this nation's history. Most have studied what they've been taught in school. Some have tried to experience the trail through dial-up Internet and pixelated wagons, but few have attempted the trail outside of the pioneers themselves. Rinker Buck decided to do something about this.

Buck is a New England journalist that's passionate about reliving history. Tonight at The Bookworm of Edwards, he'll share stories from his wacky and well-researched trip along The Oregon Trail, which he took with his brother in a covered wagon led by mules in 2012.

"This will probably be the most entertaining and enlightening history event of the year for us," said Bookworm owner Nicole Magistro. "You don't often get to learn from someone as funny, adventuresome and well-traveled as Buck."

In fact, the idea for Buck's book, "The Oregon Trail," came to him while on assignment in Kansas. Of course, he took a detour to see the foothills and came across the Hollenberg Pony Express station.

"I started to learn about this trail that really finished America as we know it," Buck said. "I came to find that it had so much richer of a history than the myths I had heard of before and became fascinated."

'BEAUTIFUL EXPERIENCES'

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After much research into the trail itself, Rinker decided to write a revisionist history of "The Oregon Trail."

"At first, I had decided to simply write the book about the trail based on research and facts," Rinker said. "But then I discovered that the last documented crossing was back in 1909. That's when it hit me. A revisionist history from someone who really rode the trail? Now that's a better story."

Rinker and his brother, Nick, searched for two reliable mules, hooked up to a covered wagon and set off. Both of the brothers came from a life with horses. Buck says he's "always stayed in touch with that world," so while the trail ahead would be difficult, the two were very prepared. But in their quest to cover the West, the two brothers found themselves in many uncertain situations.

"There was always some hazard that got in the way of the highlights," Buck said. "I had never researched the weather and we ran into some fierce thunderstorms. One particular night we were hulled up inside an old farmhouse, trying to avoid the storm. It was the first night I slept inside the wagon. So there I was, completely exposed to the elements, yet also completely protected. It was really one of the most beautiful experiences of the trip."

'A DREAM OF MINE'

"The Oregon Trail" has become a favorite among the staff at The Bookworm. Longtime bookseller Ryan Miller met Buck earlier this year.

"At first glance Rinker Buck does not seem the type to be brave or foolhardy enough to endure 2,000 miles in a mule-drawn covered wagon seeking to cover as much of the original Oregon Trail as possible," Miller said. "Yet he and his brother conquered a journey that would daunt men and women half their age."

When Miller first read "The Oregon Trail," he had his eyes opened to a whole new side of America's history.

"Rinker delves into the history of the trail and those who traveled it, from the pioneers who risked everything for the chance of a better life to the missionaries who risked all in search for souls to save to the hucksters who tried to profit off them all," Miller said. "By living the adventure rather than simply writing about those who did, Rinker Buck has created the next entry in the pantheon of great American road stories."

After rolling through the Kansas plains and navigating the Rocky Mountains, Buck has found a new connection, not only to this country's past, but also to himself.

"This had become a dream of mine," Buck said. "In all the planning and research, this trip had become something I had absolutely wanted to see come to fruition. I was driven by history as much as adventure. Everyone said we couldn't do it, but we did. This experience has been so liberating for my life and everything that's been thrown at it, and I'm happy to share that."

Sarah Taylor works at The Bookworm of Edwards.

If you go …

What: Book signing of “The Oregon Trail,” by Rinker Buck.

When: 6 p.m. Thursday.

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards.

Cost: $10, includes appetizers and a cash bar.

More information: Call 970-926-READ.