The Great Western Trail was a treacherous and sometimes life-threatening journey. During its brief heyday in the 1830s and 1840s it connected Santa Fe, New Mexico to Los Angeles, California. At its height it drew wagon trains, army units, missionaries, hunters, traders, and sightseeing tourists. It was not uncommon for cholera and smallpox to kill a large number of travelers. Water was scarce and often contaminated. Adding to the dangers of the trail was its sheer length, the crowded nature of travel and the lack of reliable food sources. Cowboys, with their pent-up energy and anger at the hardships of the trail, were prone to shootouts. The Boot Hill cemetery at Dodge City is proof of that.
But the story of the Great Western Trail is also a tale of perseverance, determination and grit. It is a tale of men and women who risked everything in pursuit of freedom, the American dream, or, in some cases, just a better life.
A group of Rotarians from Vernon, Texas took up the challenge to mark this historic trail. The club started by purchasing two metal molds from Barton Concrete in Barton, Texas to make its own concrete trail marker posts. They then looked at a map of the trail and figured out which towns along the trail had Rotary clubs. The club also got in touch with the Matamoros Profesional Rotary Club in Matamoros, Mexico – the southernmost point of the trail – to secure permission for a post there.
Once the first markers were in place, the project took off. Word spread and more and more Rotary clubs from across the United States and even abroad offered to help. In fact, by the time this article was published, over 110 posts had been installed – enough to cover more than 620 miles of the trail.
The trail markers themselves are natural in color, designed to replicate the obstacles a horse and rider would encounter on a ranch. Obstacles include platforms, drags, opening and carrying objects, serpentines, gates, and squeezes. These are designed to test a horse’s agility, calmness, and control. The patterns of the obstacles vary, depending on the regulations of different riding organizations and the types of challenges they want to see their horses tackle.
A fourth element has been added to the game in this expansion: grain. Grain is a new resource that allows players to claim the bonus spaces on the city maps. It’s important to have grain to take advantage of these bonuses, but it can also be a source of tension as players try to balance the need to get the most out of each turn with managing their supplies. Grain is also needed to perform some actions, like hiring farmers or claiming a teepee. In addition, a player must have grain to pay the required strength when they hire an estanciero.