My first impression of a conestoga wagon was: How could anyone have survived in something like this during the winter? In a place where it could get down to -50 with the windchill? Or the summer? No heat, no place for a stove or fire, no ventilation, except when the sides were rolled up and that only let in burning air. The entire thing, while it might have been called the "Sailing Ship of the Prairie", wasn't much larger than a camper trailer and about six feet wide. Imagine trying to decide which items from your former home were the most-needed to put in it, as well as leaving room for yourself, your husband, and however many children you had to sleep inside at night.
On the Oregon Trail in its path through Nebraska's sandhills, there a place called "Windlass Hill" where the wagons were actually pulled up the incline by a windlass, which was a cylinder with a crank and handle. Chains were attached to the wagon and the crank was turned, pulling the wagon up the hill. This was done by hand.
The Oregon Trail tracks are still visible, but erosion is slowly erasing them and eventually, they'll be gone. It gives one an eerie feeling to see those ruts in the earth and know that the wagon wheels of people who braved a new and hostile land, lived and died there, made them and some day even that monument won't exist.
The wagons were generally pulled by teams of four oxen, though it also took just as many horses to move one of the heavy vehicles. The wagon seat was unpadded and made of wood.
(An aside, a good many of the men who later drove the mule-team conestogas carrying supplies, etc., smoked cigars, and that's where the slang term for a cigar, a "stogie", originated.)
The home shown in the exhibit is a log house, instead of a sod home, which many utilized when settling on the Great Plains. Those were constructed of rectangles of sod mortared together, and often had prairie grasses and flowers growing out of the walls and roof. Since the houses sometimes didn't have windows, they were dark, close places.
I enjoyed this exhibit but for the wrong reasons, I imagine. Thinking of the lack of facilities and utilities, I was very glad to return to my apartment with its electricity, air conditioning and heating, electric stove, and refrigerator. Think of living without all that. People did it, and have for a very long time, since these are such modern inventions, but it was never brought home so frankly as in this exhibit.
When someone says pioneers are hardy stock, it's the truth.