Westward ho!

The Hedge around the second home my husband and I recently acquired in the rural foothills of California had tripled in height and girth since its planting 40 years ago. The flowers that had once grown in abundance in the yard were overrun by the towering shrubs. And the little adobe house looked almost dwarfed.

After we'd dug out a good two-thirds of the hedge, my attention turned to some of the treasures that a string of former owners had left behind—broken pottery, glass fishingnet weights, rocks from the sea that were laced with twine. But the most intriguing of these finds were several large old wooden trunks that had deteriorated in the rain and sun. The trunks reminded me of a story my father, a California native, used to tell me about "the olden days" when pioneers from the Eastern part of the United States were migrating west.

The pioneers might travel by train as far as St. Louis, Missouri, where a huge steel arch now commemorates the "gateway to the west." But then they had to load their belongings onto big covered wagons that were pulled by draft horses, oxen, or mules across the plains. Of course, the travelers took along basic provisions such as enough food for the duration of the journey, and grain and seedlings o start fields and orchards when they arrived, and they had pots and pans and utensils.

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September 22, 2003

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