The Cherokee Trail of Tears, 1838 - 1839
But Ariel was already on the Trail of Tears—as Thought. His mind resisted understanding a sight so abysmal. When he finally took it in, he mourned. My God, these are my people, hundreds of them, marching with bowed heads, some even weeping! It’s the real Trail of Tears. I know so much about it, but I could never have pictured this, never. No history books and no stories could show the degradation, the misery. Oh, it’s awful.
Ariel knew the terrain of most of Oklahoma, so this desolate land must be further to the southeast, perhaps in Arkansas. The heat was brutal. He saw his people filling the rutted road and overflowing onto the once undulating grass on either side, the sword-like blades now crushed to a slimy mass under hundreds of slogging feet, animal and human. On the road itself, oxen and horses pulled lurching carriages, carts, and covered wagons. Livestock, driven alongside, further pulverized the rank greenery under their stomping hooves. The people flowed forward like a great river, sliding on the slick pulp. An eerie silence prevailed. Ariel guessed that the sheer effort of putting one leg in front of the other killed the desire for human contact. And the sulfurous trail dust that rose in spreading clouds suffocated the entire party.
From “The Trail of Tears,” Chapter 11: Ariel (Sequoyah)