Come along boys, and listen to my tale,
I’ll tell you of my troubles on the ol’ Chisholm Trail…”
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”
–Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NLT)
A person could make a pretty good thesis on the fact that it was trails that made America. Do a study of the trails throughout this land and a person would have a solid understanding of the character and development of this country. There was the Wilderness Trail and the Warriors’ Path that men such as Daniel Boone traveled. There was the Great Wagon Road and the Natchez Trace that began to open up commerce and settlement in what was then “the West”. We have the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the California Trail which men traveled for profit or to make homes for their families. Then there were the famous cattle trails, mostly beginning in Texas; trails such as the Old Spanish Trail, the Sedalia Trail, the Goodnight-Loving Trail, the Western Trail, and the famous Chisholm Trail. Oh, the stories that could be heard if but the rocks could talk.
Then each person would also have their own personal trail. The trail of life and while walking or riding along one of the above trails, character would be developed. Along these trails there was new life with children being born, and there was death. It is said that on the Oregon Trail alone that there were enough people who died to represent each mile along the trail. The trail west was one of hardship and yet those who traveled it went despite the trials and obstacles along the way. There were many reasons to take the trail west: financial depressions and foreclosures on land, the search for gold and other riches, to start a new life, provide for their family, to get rid of an old life and old ways, hopes and dreams.
Those who traveled the trail west understood, at least most of them did, the travails of their undertaking. Weather, river crossings, breakdowns, hostiles and disease, especially the dreaded cholera were among the problems they knew they could face. Some, such as the Donners, fell into dire circumstances, while others met a similar fate, only we don’t know their names because they didn’t survive. How many left home, never to be heard of again simply because of an accident that may have taken place along the way?
Reminds me of the sower in Matthew 13. The seed went out and was accepted with gladness and hope. However, some fell along the wayside–they were not prepared for the trouble ahead. Others became weary because of the toil, the cares of the world, the lure and lust of other things. Just as with the homesteaders, only about a fifth of them stayed, only those with faith endure the trials and will make it to the Kingdom of God.
Oh, the trails are different today, but man continues to travel. There are those on the glory trail and those on the road to ruin. In one’s life there may be many different side trails that lure men away, each with its own difficulties and obstacles. It is on these trails of life that a person grows and matures. It is on these trails, that if they do not heed the Word of God or gain experience, that the likelyhood is that they will perish. Some, especially those on the glory trail, will face demons, pestilence, and attacks by the hostile forces of the devil.
There is a song by Jack Hannah that describes traveling the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Charlie Goodnight was an amazing man. He knew the rigors of the trail; he knew death could come as it did to his partner Oliver Loving. As the words of the song say, “He smiled at me and eternity as he went along the way,” there was confidence, faith, and hope that he would make it along with his comrades. He faced life with a grin and determination that he would make it to the end. Say, think about it, at the end of the trail there is that cool water where a man can slip off his boots and dangle his toes in its freshness without any fear of attack.