Taken from the Prairie Traveler ©1859
The great error into which inexperienced travelers are liable to fall, and which probably occasions more suffering and disaster than almost any thing else, lies in overworking their cattle at the commencement of the journey. To obviate this, short and easy drives should be made until the teams become habituated to their work, and gradually inured to this particular method of traveling. If animals are overloaded and overworked when they first start out into the prairies, especially if they have recently been taken from grain, they soon fall away, and give out before reaching the end of the journey.
Grass and water are abundant and good upon the eastern portions of all the different overland routes; animals should not, therefore, with proper care, fall away in the least before reaching the mountains, as west of them are long stretches where grass and water are scarce, and it requires the full amount of strength and vigor of animals in good condition to endure the fatigues and hard labor attendant upon the passage of these deserts. Drivers should be closely watched, and never, unless absolutely necessary, permitted to beat their animals, or to force them out of a walk, as this will soon break down the best teams. Those teamsters who make the least use of the whip invariably keep their animals in the best condition. Unless the drivers are checked at the outset, they are very apt to fall into the habit of flogging their teams. It is not only wholly unnecessary but cruel, and should never be tolerated.
In traveling with ox teams in the summer season, great benefit will be derived from making early marches; starting with the dawn, and making a " nooning" during the heat of the day, as oxen suffer much from the heat of the sun in midsummer. These noon halts should, if possible, be so arranged as to be near grass and water, where the animals can improve their time in grazing. When it gets cool they may be hitched to the wagons again, and the journey continued in the afternoon. Sixteen or eighteen miles a day may thus be made without injury to the beasts, and longer drives can never be expedient, unless in order to reach grass or water. When the requisites for encamping can not be found at the desired intervals, it is better for the animals to make a very long drive than to encamp without water or grass. The noon halt in such cases may be made without water, and the evening drive lengthened.
I've included this post today because as writers of historical fiction we're always looking for ways to mess up our characters lives. In other words, conflict. A novel isn't worth reading if your characters don't have conflict. I believe that those of you who are writer's of historical fiction will have a hey day in what possible conflicts can arise from the above paragraphs. Enjoy!