Vern Barkhurst’s “Journey Back in Time”

October 23, 1998

How good can it get? Yet another unique program to cap the, as always, fine vittles (thank you, Entertainments Chair Mary Bentsen).

Vern Barkhurst (wearing period costume) very convincingly enacted the rule of General William O. Clark reminiscing (at an Oregon Trail celebration in the year 1837) about highlights and impressions of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-06. This intimate perspective of the expedition’s travails and of the Native Americans’ effectively translocated the audience back to the 19th Century.

Difficulties contended with included poling and pulling their way up the Missouri River, an 18-mile portage, and terrain that wore out moccasins in two days.

A major problem was dealing with the various Indian tribes of widely varying temperament. The expedition probably would not have succeeded but for the efforts of two Indian women. An elderly squaw (once befriended by a white man) persuaded the fierce Nez Perce not to attack the party, whose supplies they coveted. The teenaged Shoshone guide Sacagawea, traveling with her infant son, helped communicate with the Native Americans and eased their fears about the expedition’s aims. Singing to her baby lifted the sometimes sorely tested morale of the expedition party!

Partial retribution for our shameful treatment of Native Americans is taking a singular route. The new U.S. dollar coin to be minted in the year 2000 will commemorate Sacagawea. A major use of these coins may well be to fill the coffers of the Indian gambling casinos!

Time permitted only about half of the expedition’s route to be covered. Hopefully Vern will induce General Clark to return to complete the account.

Bep Fontana


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