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Friday, March 1, 2013

Wagon Train

I've always found the tales of old wagon trains fascinating.  Having to load up all your possessions, people and enough provisions to carry you through from one destination to the next had to be intense.  I mean, you didn't have freeways, or 7-11s.  It was you and the wild.  What you knew about your wagon and the terrain could very well save your life, and that of your family.

This is the tale of two such wagons.  Both fine instruments for travel.  Created equally and on the same journey.

The first wagon, driven by a professional wagoneer is fine indeed.  Having made a living making wagons for other people, his knowledge is quite impressive.  The second wagoneer, although in a different field entirely knew this journey was coming and studied every manual and piece of information he could find about wagons because it was only this wagon keeping he and his family safe on this long journey

As the two wagons travel side by side together, both experience problems, as is always the case.  When the first wagon's wheels get wobbly, they stop, take a look and conclude nothing's wrong and keep on going.  The second wagon, when faced with the same scenario, refuses to keep going until the cause of the wobble is found and fixed.  This driver knows if the wagon isn't driving right, there has to be SOME problem, even if it's hard to see.  He consults his manuals and makes a few tweaks and gets back on the road.  All is well.

Every wobble is checked, every squeak is addressed.  This driver takes a few jabs from others about being "too careful" or paying too much attention to his wheels, after all he's not a professional wagon builder and his concerns seem rather silly.  But, his wagon is still running smooth, his family intact, all his supplies accounted for and the journey is more pleasant than it would be if the wheels were knocking everything around.

The first wagon, though visibly wobbly doesn't get the attention it needs.  Everyone in the wagon complains and supplies are being tossed out little by little as the wagon jolts violently over the terrain.  The dogs behind the wagon are loving life.  All this free food falling from the wagon!  Yes, sirree!!

This wagoneer knows the wagon is messed up, but he can't really see the problem.  He's looking over his shoulder and down at the wheels but can't see what the other dude sees from his wagon.  There's a big crack in the wheel the driver can't see from his vantage point, but he's not willing to come down and check it out.  That would put him behind on his journey and he's got a mission.  He's got to get to this destination he's already eeked out in his mind.

The two wagons gather with others on the journey, for a night here and there.  The wagon built by the professional is looking a little ragged and torn, and there aren't any provisions to share with others in need.  All those extras have been shaken off during the journey and gobbled up by the dogs.  The other dude, with no professional knowledge has plenty of food to share and is a little taken back by others asking his advice on how to keep their wagons in good repair.  This confuses the wagon maker, because he is, after all, trained to build wagons.  Why is no one asking him how to fix their wagons?  Sure, people listen to his theory on wagons, but when they take a look at his wagon they are confused.  Surely he realizes his own wagon is in desperate need of time, attention and care?

As the journey continues, the wheels keep getting more and more wobbly.  Everyone is upset.  The second wagon driver points out the crack and asks to help fix it, but is scoffed at for not knowing ANYTHING about wagons.   As a mere wagon driver, he is not equipped or knowledgeable enough to ascertain that there is a crack in that wheel and certainly not trained enough to help fix it. Every attempt to talk about this crack, to point out it's existence is met with cries of foul play, of deceit or even misunderstanding, until finally the second wagoneer starts to question his own process.  Wobbly wheel...check it out...consult manual...fix wheel...smooth journey.  It seems to work.  His wagon's intact, his family all in one piece, supplies still plentiful.

Sometime during the journey, a couple passengers of the first wagon decide to jump off the wagon and take to horseback to see if that will make the journey a bit less tumultuous and the wagoneer is offended.  How could the children of a professional wagoneer do such a thing?  The other wagon driver knows.  The children stay close on their wild stallions, but never climb back in the wagon.  It's just too hard to ride in.

As the wagons continue their journey side by side, it becomes a bit silent.  There are no more "Hey your wheel is looking cracked, you might want to look it it..." and a reply, "No it's not...the wheel is fine, and you certainly aren't trained enough to make that observation...look at your wagon...it has MUD on the side.  Who are you to talk?"  The silence is uncomfortable, but necessary.  After all, this journey can be lonely at best, maddening at worst and you need people with you to make it.  It's just how it is.

In the end, both wagons will make it to their destination.  What they have when they get there will look different, but they'll arrive.  Not completely broken, but shaken.  Not completely ruined, but close.  Both wagons, one intact and one falling apart, will arrive together.  Both stronger, but tired.   Both happy to be there, but wishing the journey could have been different.  Maybe wiser, maybe not.

Wagon one, wagon two.  Which one is your family riding in?

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