Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Part One: The Ma and Pa Memoirs
I am going to do a 3 part series in honor of my husband and since today is "Pioneer Day" it seems fitting to start with memoirs of our recent "Pioneer Trek."
In Utah July 24th is like a second Fourth of July, only bigger. It is a State holiday with fireworks, parades, rodeos, and all kinds of celebrating in honor of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley, where Brigham Young declared "This is the place." Some made this thousand mile journey pulling handcarts, eliminating the need (and therefore cost) of oxen to pull covered wagons. It has become popular for Latter Day Saint youth to re-enact this exodus, dressing in traditional pioneer clothing, and pulling/pushing handcarts for a stretch of miles over a period of days to get a small taste of the experience.
Brian and I had the opportunity to accompany a group of youth two weeks ago as the assigned "Ma and Pa" of a "family" comprised of 5 "sons" and 2 (a third joined us the last day) "daughters." We were part of a 9 handcart company, our own handcart being a 500 pound load that we pulled 13 miles in the course of three days over rough and hilly terrain. It was extremely hot--especially in our long sleeves and long dresses--and a bigger chore than any of us had imagined. On the last day in particular, we "trekked" the last mile and a half straight up hill.
It may seem funny or strange to undertake such an activity in the age of convenience and comfort, but it is an experience not soon to be forgotten by those who participate and those who have "trekked" know it is not something easily explained to or shared with anyone who was has not.
I can't even describe how much fun it was for Brian and I to slip into this Ma and Pa role. We loved our teenage children and the reflective moments of "family time" we shared throughout each day. We loved the camping, the square dancing, the stick pulling (Brian is somewhat of a legend for it) the hatchet throwing, the soap carving, the interaction with a great group of people, and the beauty we were surrounded by day and night.
The first day of our trek marked the 150th anniversary of our ancestors Mary Ann Weston and Peter Maughan burying their three year old son along the trail as he had fallen off their wagon and been run over by the wheels. This was at the front of our minds throughout the trek as we missed our own precious children (safe at home with grandma) and tried to even fathom what that must have been like. It was hard enough to put one foot in front of the other in a trek reenactment for the fun of it in July 2007--so how this family had done the same when it was their real life and their real loss and a monumental sacrifice to follow their faith, I can't begin to comprehend.
But I am grateful for the strength and fortitude of such faithful forebears and for the legacy they left for us to learn from. I am also grateful for this experience that gave me a more personal insight into their journey, and a refreshed, renewed perspective of my own life's path. I loved sharing this experience with my husband, and seeing him in action with those big teenage boys who looked up to him and respected him in ways his own boys will one day.
Of course the pictures I include can never convey the rich experience of the adventure--but they are my small tribute to the memory of the Mormon Pioneers and the trail they forged not only literally but spiritually for the beneficiary generations to come.