First Appearance: Oregon Trail (The Learning Company, Apple II, 1983)
M.O.: Offing members of your party for no real good reason
Weaknesses: A grueling pace: less time on the trail means less time to contract dysentery

Profile by Aaron Littleton? | February 27, 2011

Traveling west during the time of the Oregon Trail is not an explicitly safe endeavor. Whether the potential homesteader be a brave banker from Boston or a fearless farmer from Illinois, a dizzying menagerie of dangers stands between him and the promised land of Oregon. Though any grade schooler could warn against caulking the wagon to float across a river, one peril is so deadly and insidious that no amount of preparation will help prevent it.

This is, of course, the mysterious disease known as dysentery.

Unfortunately, dysentery is not a well understood disease among the under-10 set, the demographic most likely to set out on the Oregon Trail. A recent polling of Mrs. Wilsonís third grade class resulted in a variety of different guesses as to the nature of dysentery, though none carried much assurance of accuracy.

One young girl, a carpenter from Ohio, suggested that dysentery had something to do with teeth, as the word sounded a little bit like dentistry. Another child suggested that dysentery was just a fancy word for chicken pox. Yet another informed guess involved a chronic case of foot odor.

Most upsetting is that none of the limited number of supplies available along the rustic path to the Pacific Northwest seem at all useful for treating the malady. One boy recounted taking along nine wagon tongues, just in case that was the trick to keep his party free from the illness. Sadly it was not, and his pal Jimmy fell victim to dysentery somewhere near Snake River.

Whatever dysentery turns out to be, all of the kids can agree that should it kill them on their way to Oregon, thereís only one thing they want on their tombstone.

You know what it is.


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