Saturday, October 17, 2015

Oregon Trail Live

"Hunting" the bison-with Nerf blasters!  (Some of the bison also had Nerf blasters, just to give them a little bit of a sporting chance.)
The Oregon Trail is not only a historical phenomena, it is also a classic "video" game created in 1971 to teach middle school kids about real history.  A 1990 version of the original game is here.  From what I've seen, it was far more like a "choose your own adventure" book with simple graphics than what kids think of today as a video game.  Choices were based on real decisions made by emigrants on the Oregon Trail and the results based on estimates of probable outcome.  Somewhat silly graphics seem to have added some humor to grim realities; as we all know, traveling the Oregon Trail was no picnic. It developed a cult following, particularly in Oregon.  They play a live action version of the video game every fall at the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, called "Oregon Trail Live".  Ever since I heard about it, I've wanted to participate, but was a bit intimidated.  This year I decided we should go down to observe so that we would know what to expect if we joined in. Jasper decided it looked very fun!  I had expected that it would be somewhat rowdy, and in fact it was fairly mellow. Teams strolled casually from station to station, when I had somehow expected a frantic race.  I was really impressed with the genuine history taught by each station.  Yes, the tasks were ridiculous, but the end result is that participants actually learn real facts in a very memorable way.  There were plenty of families with young kids. Everyone was having a blast!  The folks volunteering to officiate at each station were more than happy to answer questions about history and about the game.  
Teams make their own cardboard wagons, and here a team's wagon is being tested for adequate waterproofing as it braves a river crossing.
This was the station where teams were instructed to "bury your dead".  Each team packet contains a stick figure cutout who becomes the "ill fated team member".  "Do not get attached because the trail claims many lives!" the packet warns.
Here is where teams "run the rapids", a river crossing fraught with all the perils roller derby ladies armed with pool noodles can create.  They generously allowed Jasper to give this challenge a try, although the river had already claimed a life.
Livestock at a trading post.
This challenge was "pushing 200 lbs of meat up a hill".  The "meat" was actually a man dressed as a cow, relating  historical meat facts which teams were later quizzed on.
At the end, after passing a homestead quiz, teams were supplied with Lincoln Logs and given instructions to set up a homestead.  The rules mentioned points for originality, so this team decided to make theirs into a tree house.  
There were critters to pet.  Jasper was very fond of this bunny.
The old woolen mill.

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