I was just a young girl when I started our journey to the New Mexico Territory. I had no idea how much the trail would change me and those I love.

My name is Florrie (Florence Mack Ryder) and I’m on my way to Santa Fe. Mama has married Mr. Ryder, and because he owns a trading store there, we must leave Arkansas for the New Mexico Territory. I don’t like leaving Papa’s grave behind, but I’m excited about our journey. I have decided to use my diary to record what happens to us on our trip. Today was our first day on the road.

This wagon train is made up mostly of traders, and there are few families. I haven’t met anyone to be friends with, and have wondered how I will survive all the way to Santa Fe with only my brother Jem to talk to. But today I saw two sisters while I was picking flowers who look about my age. They were called away before I could talk to them, but I will watch for them again. I hope we can be friends.

Picked berries with Louisa and Eliza today. Their wagon parks next to ours each night when we circle the wagons and make camp. Having two friends has made this trip so much easier. Mama has made friends with their mother, Mrs. Nutting. I’m glad, for Mama is expecting, and Mrs. Nutting will be able to help her when she needs it.

Hot today. Too hot to pick berries. Too hot to try to catch fish. The heat is shimmery like hot grease in a pan. Mama seems to be sinking into her bonnet to escape the sun. She burns easily, but I don’t, and my arms have tanned to dark brown.

It finally rained and so now we are stuck in the mud. Why must the weather go to such extremes? Talked to Mr. Saint Claire today. He is an artist who sketches all that we encounter as we travel the trail. He has been all over the west, drawing pictures and maps to show people back east what the western wilderness is like. His drawing of a buffalo hunt, colored in the golds of the prairie grass and the browns and reds of the buffalo and the Indians hunting them, makes me feel like I’m in the middle of the hunt, one of the men clinging to the bare backs of their horses.

This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.