The year was 1849. A man by the name of William G. Johnson traveled across the wild prairies of the United States in search of a new life in California. As he journeyed along what would become known as the Santa Fe Trail, he reached a small settlement where weary travelers and those transporting goods across the plains found shelter and rest. In a letter Johnson wrote, the settlement, “...marked the separation between civilized and uncivilized life. Beyond were vast plains… little known to the white man- the home of the Indian- land of the buffalo.” From possible conflict with the Native Americans, to the danger of their wagons breaking down before reaching the next outpost, the pioneers brave enough to continue on from that small camp, risked everything.
Sixteen years earlier, a farmer named of John Bartleston had built a cabin in the woods along the Santa Fe Trail. Taking advantage of the water nearby and the prime grazing grass for his animals, Bartleston began planting crops and growing his farm. Soon wagon trails loaded with supplies for the Mexican and California trade markets began using the small farm as a resting point before pressing on westward. In the 1840’s families traveling to Santa Fe, California and Oregon stopped at this point in the trail in hopes of preparing for the long and dangerous journey ahead.
As the years went by, the small pioneering settlement became known as Blue Camp 20 because of its close proximity to the Blue River and its position 20 miles from Independence, Missouri. Many settlers passed through and while some went on to their final destinations, others stayed. The peace and safety of Blue Camp 20 often outweighed the settler's desire to journey back into the dangers of the plains where only uncertainty awaited.
The settlement grew and more pioneer families decided to park their wagons and stay. Soon Blue Camp 20 began to be known by a different name. Having become the major stop on the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the small town was aptly named, Little Santa Fe.
So why does this matter? Why is a college student in 2016 telling the story of a pioneer camp in the 1800’s?
I think it’s important the settlement was named Little Santa Fe. It became a copy, a smaller, less grand version of the actual destination. For all those who had come so far, there were many who settled for Little Santa Fe, because it was safer than taking the chance to see the real thing.
I first heard the story of Blue Camp 20 a few weeks ago. I was enthralled and continued to think about it for days. I came home and told my Father the story and described the sadness I felt when learning that many settlers had been so close when they had given up on their dreams. My Father listened intently to the story and then looked at me with a knowing expression on his face. “So what is your Blue Camp 20?” I paused for a moment and my blank stare told him I did not fully understand. He continued, “In what area of your life are you settling? What is your Santa Fe, and how are you going to get there?”
Maybe my Blue Camp 20 is the guys I’ve dated who didn’t understand or respect my passions, or the jobs I’ve worked at that have provided me with money but left me longing for more. Maybe it’s the friends I invested in who influenced me to squander my time and my youth on parties and substances that could never satisfy me. Maybe it’s the way I continue to struggle to have a vision for my life because I still find it hard to believe that I will ever graduate college. In so many areas of my life, I have settled.
We all have our Blue Camp 20. We find a place where we fit, where life makes sense, where we are safe from danger. Often we settle for our Little Santa Fe because the effort to get to the real thing scares us.
So my question to you is this, what is your Santa Fe? Think long and hard about what it is you want to accomplish and where you want to be, and make it happen. Do not settle for Blue Camp 20 just because the grass is green and the water keeps you alive. Do not park your wagon in Little Santa Fe because it’s too scary to risk everything and go for what you truly want.
Life is hard; the buffalo are big, the water is sometimes scarce and the path is rocky. But I promise you that every bump in the road and every moment of uncertainty will be worth it when you reach your destination.
So let’s go for it and make it happen. I’ll see you in Santa Fe.