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settlers and all their worldly goods to the prames, but as a trading caravan and a buffalo hunting vehicle as well.
Many were the hardships our settlers endured while using this mode of travel; the mosquitoes, flies and other insects for which there was no repellent, the bumpy trails with bogs and creeks that were a part of the journey, and the utter feeling of helplessness when a loved one died, due to lack of medical attention, and had to be buried beside the trail.
The cart was made of tough well-seasoned oak wood, through ou 1. There were two rough shafts, called "trams" by the settlers, each about twelve feet in length (although the length could be as great as eighteen feet). Cross pieces were then firmly morticed into the trams with the two outer cross pieces being about six feet apart. This provided the foundation of the cart. Holes were then bored into the upper surface of the trams, vertical rails were inserted in to the holes, and cross bars were set across the top of the rails. Across the rear of the cart was the tail board. (Carts in a brigade were often fastened rein to tailboard.) The nave, spokes and felloes of the wheel were "dished" (curved) to give the Cart steadiness.
The most important part of the Cart was the axle and a great deal of care went into the making of it as it was imperative that it be as smooth as possible to reduce friction. The axle was lashed to the Cart with dampened "Shagganappe" (buffalo hide cut into narrow strips one half to one inch wide). This would shrink and hold the axle firmly. An ox-drawn Cart would travel twelve to fifteen miles in a day, and in three weeks, five or six axles would be needed. This is understandable when we take into consideration that the freight usually weighed eight hundred to one thousand pounds.
Lubrication of the wheels was not advisable. The sand on the trails would soon clog up the axles and impede their progress. That is why we have so many histories recording the weird sounds made by approaching Carts.
Charles Mair, a merchant and postmaster in Portage Ia Prairie in the 1870s, said: "The creaking of the wheels of the Red River ox cart is indescribable. It is like no sound you ever heard in all your life, and makes your blood run cold ... To hear a thousand of these wheels groaning and creaking a t the same time is a sound never to be forgotten."
If the sounds of approaching Carts were as bad as the above description, imagine how nerve-torturing it must have been for set tlers who had to endure the sound for weeks on end!