Beasts of Burden

By Jayson Jacoby, The Baker City Herald

Reliving Pioneer Days At The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

By Coby Hutzler

The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center was the site of an historical wagon camp re-enactment this weekend, playing host to demonstrations of blackpowder shooting, Dutch-oven cooking, dancing, and more.

Ox handler "Bullwhackin' Kass," also known as Sheryl Curtis, was on hand to explain how oxen were used to haul wagons along the Oregon Trail's 2,200 miles.

Curtis, of Okanogan, Washington, had two oxen with her this weekend, Saul and Job, ages 17 and 11. The two form a gargantuan team, with a combined weight of 6,538 pounds.

Curtis said that oxen, despite being commonly understood as a particular breed of stout, sturdy working bovine, aren't a breed at all.

"(That they're called oxen) only means that they're trained to work," she said.

Curtis said that while oxen are usually steers, bulls are also used.

"If there's no cow (nearby) there's no problem," she said.

As the wagons on the trail were prone to accidents, and since some branches of the trail passed unpalatable grass and water too alkaline for the oxen, Curtis said that it was a rare thing for the animals to survive the whole trip.

See more in Monday's issue of the Baker City Herald.

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Tuesday October 25, 2016

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