Tracking the Oatman massacre clues through the desert badlands of Gila Bend is slow going and grim work. Even today, the vast, dry river bottom is quite a daunting place to traverse in a Jeep, much less in a wagon, being pulled by exhausted oxen in the year 1851. The nearest settlement at that time was Tucson, more than a hundred miles southeast, with barely a couple hundred, very scared souls, cowering behind presidio walls. The Apaches had decimated the population and raided the place at will, until it was very close to being abandoned.
Everything to the north of Tucson was strictly In-din country. Still, the Oatmans and two other families pushed on from the Old Pueblo to Maricopa Wells, a village of friendly Pimas and Maricopas (just south of present day Phoenix). Two of the last three wagons dropped off there but, based on a report from someone who had just been on the trail, the Oatmans pushed on.
The report came from a real life, crazy, whirling dervish character: