There are lots of sayings about cutting corners. Skipping the details. Getting there faster.
The history of this day, sets a prime example. It happened back in 1847, on this date. A small group of rescuers reached the Donner Party, and saved their butts. On this February 19th. But now, the question remains, “Saved their butts from what?”
Well, let’s track back about six months to the summer of 1846. A big bunch of people were all clamoring around together in Springfield, Illinois. They might have been hard on their luck, or perhaps just bored. Who knows. Maybe they had the premonition that it would someday be the home of Homer Simpson. Whatever the reason, they decided to get the heck out of Dodge. Well. Springfield.
And that is exactly what they did. A big group of folks, 89 in all (including many members of the Donner and Reid families) decided to pack it up and head west. They started the big travel plan and arrived in Bridger, Wyoming. Pressing on, they made the decision to take a short cut. It was a newly blazed trail by a California promoter. His names was Lansford Hastings, for anyone taking notes. And the trail was called the “Hastings Cutoff.”
The big group elected George Donner as their captain. And then, the party departed from Fort Bridger in mid-July. Well, the shortcut turned out to be a really, really, really bad idea. It set the Donner Party back nearly three weeks and cost them much-needed supplies.
The next couple of months were filled with hardships, BUT, they finally reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains in early October. If it were me, I would have hunkered down there. But thank goodness it wasn’t me. Because Wyoming, in the winter is a big frozen place, and I abhor the cold.
But back to the Donner Party. They kept going and reached the high mountains northwest of Lake Tahoe. And wouldn’t you know. A big dang snow storm rolled in and it blocked the mountain pass. The Donner Party was trapped.
So, they built tents out of their wagons and killed their oxen for food. They kept hoping for a warm up, but it didn’t happen. Finally, they sent out 15 of the stronger people, with snowshoes, to try to get to Sutter’s Fort near San Francisco. That didn’t work out so well either. Three weeks later; more bad weather; lack of supplies; doom and despair. Several of the expedition died. And then others resorted to cannibalism. And of the 15? Seven survivors reached a Native American village. Somewhere.
Well, the Indians helped. Yay. They got news to Sutter’s Fort, and a rescue party set out on January 31. The rescuers got to Donner Lake 20 days later. And that brings us to the anniversary date. Today. 1847.
In late April, 45 out of the 89 original members of the Donner Party finally reached California. And most went their separate ways.
So, yeah. History teaches us. If you embark on a wild adventure, don’t take the shortcut. It usually turns out being bad. Or, take a lesson from the homebody. Stay put in Springfield, Illinois. Or wherever you call home. I like the chances better than frozen cannibalistic death.
“Balanced at the top of the hill
Do I explore the other side”
― Richard L. Ratliff
“When we allow ourselves to explore, we discover destinations that were never on our map.”
― Amie Kaufman, Unearthed
“Why do you so earnestly seek
the truth in distant places?
Look for delusion and truth in the
bottom of your own heart.”