What others, you ask?

 

Many. The first printing — which incurred my own, not insignificant expense — sold out at once. As did five successive printings over the course of a decade. All told, thousands have purchased The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California and I take the entry of the 31st state into the Union on the ninth of September, 1850 as irrefutable proof of its content, its lure, and its raison d’Ítre.

 

Yet of all those tens of all those thousands of readers, one man alone is the reason I have a story to tell you, Dear Reader. Perhaps this story would have happened anyway and availed itself to the curious, warped hell of telling without my book, but that book is the reason this story is mine.

 

[He takes a deep breath, ready to dive off something whose height only he knows.]

 

A man by the name of Jacob purchased this illustrious, informative, fluent volume. The Jacob of the Old Testament was a wise, stern, and fecund man. He was a righteous soul who wrestled with an angel, had visions of ladders, and pulled off the even more unlikely feat of marrying sisters. That Jacob did not have a surname of which I know; the one who bought my book was called Donner.

 

[He pauses; only he knows what he thinks and only he chooses what he does and does not show. No matter the choice and its nature, he resumes with a sales pitch:]

 

There is nothing more American than a shortcut.

 

The promise of America is a faith in finding a better way, whether that be the means to an end or the end itself. America has both — and it will yield them both only if one is resourceful enough to find them and quick enough to get there first.

 

Oh, you pie-oh-neeeeers! Oh, Dear READING pie-oh-neeeeers!!

 

I am one of you as sure as I was born!

[The fiddler strikes up a different tune, “Loop #2 — Frontier.”]

So many names have we! For what is a Pilgrim? What are soldiers in an Army that dares to call itself “Continental?” What did those signatures in Philadelphia declare? What does it mean to rebel? What is destiny but something simply manifest for souls such as ours? We elect because we are Elect!

 

Democracy, you see, is founded upon religious freedom. Yet, freedom must be principled and only the principled ought to be entrusted with it. This was the spirit in which my forebears — persecuted, shunned, with only a true God and the wind at their backs on their side — set sail from England for America.