WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OREGON – Shoveling the last piece of dirt over his son Robert’s grave, John Wilkinson said with certainty that he could think of “no better, more efficient” way to travel across the country at any point in the future.
With his head hanging out of the buggy as it rolled to Oregon, Wilkinson remarked, “Basically what you got here is all the most modern vehicles, human beings, and roads all intersecting in the same framework. This is the fastest mode of transportation you’ve seen in human history, and I doubt it’ll get any better.”
When asked if he thought scientific advancements would ever, like seriously, possibly, just maybe ever, be able to make traveling faster, he responded with an affirmative “No.”
“No. No. No. No. I just don’t see it happening. Not possible, even in my wildest dreams.”
After a minute of burying himself in deep reflection, he added, “Well, technology might make it a little easier to deal with some of the troubles you run into when you’re out there. For instance, it could be a little less of a hassle to bury your children, or find food and new families to breed with along the way. And I’m sure they’ll be some stores that will pop up along the dirt roads for convenience’s sake, to buy food and more burying-dead-relatives shovels.
“Infrastructure could change a little too. It wouldn’t be bad if some of the forests were burned down, and some Indian tribes exiled to make room for the wagons and mules.”
“But this pioneer-wagon I got here—nothing will ever be able to replace this and the slick, unused mud paths I’ve taken from Louisville Kentucky to Banished-Indian Creek, Oregon. Plus, I seriously doubt anyone will come close to my record in speed. Only 31 years and 312 days—but hey, who’s counting? Well, they might come close. At my survival rate though? Not one will be able to show up with the diaries and possessions of just three deceased families on the Oregon Trail.”
When asked about the fourth family he had previously mentioned, John said, “Oh them? Doesn’t count. That one was my fault. I took out my rifle and killed them all cause they were getting on my nerves somewhere along the western border of Utah.”
There you have it. The future, brimming with hope. But not too much hope. Enough hope that you can be just like John. That is, if you’re lucky too!
“You’ve got this white canvas tarp stretched over your head while you’re moving, and when you look up it’s like clouds on a baby-blue oil painting. Heck, if it weren’t for rocks and blades of grass you hear getting cobbled under the wheels when your ears aren’t so clogged with worms, I’d say you really feel just like you’re flying. Flying… This is the closest humankind will probably ever get to moving like our friends up there, the birds and the angels. On the weeks our water supply leaked, and we were stuck rolling through desert sands in a near-death state of dehydration, I could’ve sworn to you I was in the sky. I had these visions I was Jesus and that we were in the sky. No other transportation will ever bring us so close to the sky like that, to taking flight. And at this speed? Like I’ve been saying, not possible.”
John passed away shortly after the interview ended at the distinguished age of 41. It was the tuberculosis that took the life of Oregon’s former oldest resident.