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Dangers and Toys
Dangers on the Trail
There were many dangers on the trail like fierce animals, Indians, storms, rivers, diseases, and robbers. Many of the Indians were not friendly. They would try to steal cattle and horses. The pioneers also lost livestock to coyotes and other predators. That’s why the pioneers had guards who stayed up all night to watch the livestock. Many rivers were difficult to cross. Some of the rivers were fast, deep, and muddy. Grass fires were a constant threat to the pioneers. So were run-away oxen. Some pioneers couldn’t carry enough water from one watering hole to the next and were in danger of running out. One of the worst things that could happen was that a wagon wheel could break or an axle could break and they could not get another. If a storm came, lightning could hit the wagon and it could catch on fire.
This toy was called a bullroarer. A pioneer child would spin the flat piece of wood on a string around and around, either above the head or in front of the body. When spun fast enough, the bullroarer would make a loud, roaring noise.
The climbing bear is a simple yet fun toy. To make the bear climb, pull on one string at a time quickly. Soon the bear will reach the top.
The dancing man performs right in front of your eyes without you having to do much. When the man is pushed up and down on the platform, he looks and sounds like he is tap dancing.
This toy resembles the cup and ball which children still play with today. The objective is to swing the loop and catch it on the tall branch of the stick.
One kind of pioneer puzzle was made out of two horseshoes chained together and a metal ring in between. To win, you must get the ring loose from the horseshoe and chain combination.
The whimmydiddle was made from two sticks. One has a spinning propeller at the end and both sticks are grooved. When you rub the two together quickly, the propeller spins.
This toy is one of the most challenging of them all. It is called a mountain bolo and to play it properly you have to get the two bone weights at each end of a string to spin in opposite directions at the same time without colliding.
The buzzsaw is a toy made from a string and a big button. The string is tied in a loop with the button in the middle. You wind up the string, then pull and release the ends to make the button spin in the center. Some buzzsaws made a noise.
Pioneers took many animals with them on the trail, including cows, dogs, horses, oxen and sometimes donkeys. Even though the animals had as much hard work to do as the people, pioneer children could sometimes play with them, as children today play with their pets.
(source – written by nine and ten year old students at Floresville Elementary School in south Texas)