Kirsten's Promise

Written by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Renee Graef and Kim Lewis


Kirsten happens upon a boy a bit younger than she named Ezra, who is oddly defensive of his overturned wagon. He curtly tells Kirsten that he and his mother are heading to California to meet up with his father, and to go away. Kirsten offers her father's services to fix the broken parts of the wagon, but Ezra remains obstinate. He makes Kirsten promise not to tell anyone that he's there.

But Kirsten isn't sure about keeping his story a secret. She talks to her brother Lars about secrets and promises, and he makes the point that "a person is more important than a promise," meaning that promising to keep a secret that could get someone hurt or killed is unwise. Kirsten heads back Ezra's way the next day hoping to learn that the wagon is fixed and he and his mother have left, but he's still there, alone with his dog. In talking to him, Kirsten learns that when the wagon crashed, Ezra's mother's chest was crushed. Before she died, she begged Ezra not to leave. Ezra buried his mother and is now sticking to his last words to his mother.

Kirsten knows this is bigger than she can handle, and tells her father. He's able to convince Ezra that his mother meant not to leave her alone, but now that she's dead all that's left to do is make a marker for the grave. He helps Ezra with this, and he and Kirsten take Ezra and his dog back to their house for a good meal before taking him to a nearby town to meet up with his mother's friends on a wagon train.

Looking Back

This time the section is about wagon trains. The most popular route west was the Oregon Trail, a 2000 mile long trek that took six months. Most children seemed to have happy memories of games and adventures along the way. But it wasn't all fun: disease and accidents were common. One-fifth of the people who set out on the journey died before reaching the coast.


I like the way another mom I know puts it: keep surprises, not secrets.


Anonymous said...

I remembered the game. My group almost always ended up dead either by disease or falling in the river.

Agreed the real one was horrible its amazing how many people still went on it considering all of the dangers.

SJSiff said...

Yeah, I didn't realize until I read this story how high the mortality rate was!