We'll spare you an illustration. David rendered this all-organic prairie alternative to wood several times in the course of The Road To Destiny.
When I wrote this book, I thought about how to approach this very real aspect of frontier life. I knew that the mention of "buffalo chips" would cause boy readers to smirk and guffaw--much as I would have done, in my childhood.
The best way to lay it on the table is as matter-of-factly as the emigrants would have faced the issue. Picking up the droppings of buffalo is no Sunday picnic, then or now. With trees at a premium--one that would increase tenfold as more people took the Oregon Trail trip--the dried leavings of these hoofed beasts were a traveler's best insurance of being able to cook a hot meal, boil water for drinking, shaving and washing, and (most importantly) make coffee.
David did a beautiful job on this page, in which Rebecca makes a practical decision between great literature and fuel for the fire: