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Lunch Break

XKCD presents the history of Oregon as learned from the classic edugame, the Oregon Trail:


On a semi-related note, I'm in Boston through the end of this week, so blogging will be a bit lighter than normal.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 19, 2009; 12:36 PM ET
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Dude, are you in Boston Saturday? - Revolutionary Water Gun Battle at 1:30pm.

Posted by: Drew_Miller_Hates_IDs_That_Dont_Allow_Spaces | August 19, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Key 19th century Oregon event not mentioned:

Oregon was nearly depopulated when the news of the Calif. gold discovery hit - ahead of the CA gold rush from the east. All the men and most of the women and kids all left to get the gold in CA. Newspapers and other businesses closed because they had no staff.

Parenthetically: You have to give those hardy folks lots of credit. First they crossed the Rockies and Cascades to get to Oregon, and then decamped again to cross the very mountainous south of OR/north of CA border. No roads, no railroads.

Of course, they had to reverse course again and return to OR when the gold rush wound down. Then they turned on the trees and created the lumber for the creation of the CA economy.

This is our 150th anniversary (and we don't look a day older than 145).

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | August 19, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

What's the connection between this cartoon and the game the Oregon Trail (something by the way that my generation didn't play in school). Are all of your readers going to pick up the sarcasm? Is such a sequence actually a possibility in the game? Sorry if I am slow here but some people are going to take away from this that in real history Oregon was overrun by a half a million murderous hillbillies. I doubt that the people of either Oregon or Missouri would be amused here.

I am all for snark and sarcasm, if it has a god damn point. This doesn't seem to make the cut.

Posted by: BruceWebb | August 19, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

It's been years since I read a proper history of the great overland migration, but my recollection is that accidental shootings greatly outnumbered the few casualties from encounters with Native Americans, bad guys, bears, whatever. Cholera became a big problem.

The bullet thing may be relevant to early European activities on the Atlantic coast. Attempted colonies were set up by gentlemen; growing peas was beneath their dignity.

Fort Vancouver (British, near present-day Portland, not up in Canada) evidently had a mighty pea patch, and those early Oregon settlers seem to have had farming on their minds.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | August 19, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

You need to have played the computer game Oregon Trail as a child to appreciate the humor. For those people who have not and are confused:

* The "huge wave of 500,000+ settlers ... largely children and adolescents ... " are the children playing the game.

* The statements about cartloads of bullets, overhunting, and shooting deaths are references to the fact that the most effective strategy in the game was buying large quantities of bullets and hunting repeatedly.

* If you were not very good at the game, all your family members would die of dysentery, typhoid, measles, or cholera.

Posted by: AviN1 | August 19, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, only a fool playing Oregon Trail brought more than a minimal amount of food. Just load up on tons of oxen and bullets and you're good to go.

And when a child invariably died of cholera on the way, make sure you give it a very crude name, so that everyone else playing the game can laugh when they come across the grave marker.

Posted by: MosBen | August 19, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

And trust us, if you played this game at all growing up the cartoon is quite funny.

Posted by: MosBen | August 19, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Here lies Your Mom. She died of dysentary.

Posted by: Klug | August 19, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

On a somewhat more serious note, everyone knows that the thing to do was to attempt to float your Conestoga down the Columbia past the rocks. Only an incredibly boring person would just simply take the extra days to go by foot.

Posted by: Klug | August 19, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

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