Modern-Day Pioneers

July is fantastic in Utah, full of outdoor activities and celebrations that last all month-long. It’s my favorite time of year and I always look forward to all the festivities. The sun rises early, which makes it easier for me to do also. The weather is usually sunny and the daylight lasts until 9 pm, making this month the one I can accomplish the most outside. After a wonderful Independence Day celebration of carnivals rides, energetic music, food trailers and beautiful fireworks, our state gets ready for Pioneer Day.

There are parades, rodeos, pioneer reenactments, outdoor concerts and/or movies at the city parks and contests of all kinds put together by many cities and communities throughout the state all month-long. All these festivities are gearing up for an even bigger state celebration. The best contestants of the cities qualify for the state and we all come together every year on July 24th for a massive parade containing school marching bands, police academy on motorcycles and marching military soldiers often with their tanks. Community groups, businesses and churches design and build colorful floats for the parade. Gorgeous horses prance down the street, while others are pulling restored wagons. City officials and beauty queens are on floats or riding in convertibles. There are always funny clowns to please the thousands of people who line the two-mile parade route. Many families camp on the street the night before to ensure the perfect spot for viewing the parade. It’s a big deal here in Utah and fills the month with entertainment. Why do we do this?

Image credit: maidensmission.zionvision.com

In 1847, Brigham Young and a group of Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th. When Brigham first saw the valley, he declared, “This is the right place.” After pulling handcarts or driving wagons with oxen or horses across the plains more than a thousand miles, the pioneers were happy to settle the desert landscape now known as Utah. We celebrate in honor of their hard work and the sacrifices made to till, cultivate and make this new frontier into the beautiful state that it is. Their trek exemplifies courage, faith and foresight and their stories inspire me as they are retold.

They endured harsh weather, death of loved ones and starvation as their food and water supply diminished.  Nothing had prepared the majority of these travelers for the exhaustion and illnesses they would suffer. They were beginners, in a new territory, learning a new way of life.

I see similarities between my caregiving trek and my pioneer ancestors who walked approximately 1,248 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois. Although we have the comfort of a home with plenty of food and water, nothing had prepared me for the anxiety and exhaustion of caring for another or the many illnesses that would arise. I’m a beginner, in a new territory, learning a new way of life that most people do not understand. I am a modern-day pioneer and so are you.

Gratefully, I haven’t seen wolf-pawed graves of the dead or the putrefying carcasses of mules and oxen on my journey. However, worry and heartache has come from the pain and suffering I’ve seen in hospitals and rehab centers. Only faith for improvement keeps one enduring through such difficult times.

Splintered wrecks of discarded carts or wagons have thankfully been absent on my journey, but I have worried about individuals whose family and friends have abandoned them in their illness. It saddens me and makes me wonder what happened to drive their loved ones away. Was it the ailment itself or the attitude of the afflicted person—either way, it’s troublesome.

The pioneers traveled in groups or companies. They rallied around each other, helping one another in their journey. They needed and depended on each other for survival. There are many stories written of selfless, helpful acts that saved another’s life. They mourned and rejoiced together. Likewise, I appreciate the help and support I get in my journey from friends, family, church and support groups. In return, I strive to give back the same to those around me.

The handcart plan was for seventeen miles a day for sixty days, but none of the ten companies could reach that goal. Despair and frustration must have come from the slow journey of seven to fifteen miles on a good day, making the trip tedious and wearisome. Today we can make the drive from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City comfortably in an air-conditioned or heated car in nineteen and a half hours. However, we know the disappointment which comes from unachieved goals and have felt the discouragement from slow progress, along with the worry that comes from an uncertain destination.

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, we don’t know how or when ours will end either, but like our ancestors, we can carry on with faith in every footstep and hope in a brighter future.

We modern-day pioneers celebrate small victories just as the cities in Utah party a few weeks before the state’s grand celebration. Some of us modern-day pioneers are still waiting for the grand celebration with trust that it will come. If not in this life, a belief that we and our loved ones will be blessed beyond the grave, free from the harsh physical ailments. With confidence, I believe this celebration will be far grander than I’ve ever witnessed and possibly can even imagine.

Hopeful Novices

Feeling submissive to the doctors and nurses around me, I cooperated with everything they asked of me. I was aware my collarbone was broken, not because I felt the pain, but because my right arm hung unnaturally and wouldn’t move. So I cradled it with my left arm to support it. I was helped out of our totally wreaked car to an ambulance which rushed me to Mackay Dee Hospital. I was wheeled into an emergency room where broken glass from the windshield and windows was removed from my face, ears and body. When my shirt was cut open, I saw my black and blue chest and felt the labor of each breath.  Anxiously, I asked every person attending to me if they had received word about my husband yet.  I was hastily taken away in the ambulance before Mark was even pulled from the wreckage.  The murmurings of his death by the crowd of people who came to our aid terrified me. More than anything, I needed reassurance that my belief that he would live was correct.

While lying on the hard, cold x-ray table, Dr. Heiden, the on-call neurologist, interrupted the technician. He informed me that Mark had arrived at the hospital, unconscious and needing immediate surgery to place a shunt to relieve the pressure on the brain. “He’s alive,” I said with a deep sigh of relief.

Dr. Heiden replied, “Yes, but I’m not sure he’ll even make it through surgery.”

I heard the words, but didn’t focus on them. I was rejoicing in the fact that at that moment he was alive. My world had just turned upside down and the best I could do was take one moment at a time.

“Can you sign with your left hand?” Dr. Heiden asked.

“No.” I replied.

“Well then an ‘X’ on the signature line will give consent to do the surgery.”

It was a foreign feeling to have Mark’s life depending on me, but I made my “X” with my left hand and the doctor rushed out the door.

That was the beginning of my intense caregiving journey twenty-three years ago last April. I had no warning or time to prepare for this new way of life. I couldn’t comprehend what my responsibilities would be, but thankfully, I was a hopeful novice willing to learn what was needed to create a brighter future for my family.

Pioneer trek

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

In Utah we have Pioneer Day on July 24th. It’s the day the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. This past week I’ve been thinking of similarities between my caregiving trek and my pioneer ancestors who walked approximately 1,248 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois. Others sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Boston or New York City, making their journey on foot or in wagons more than 2,370 miles. They endured harsh weather, death of loved ones and starvation as their food and water supply diminished.  Nothing had prepared the majority of these travelers for the exhaustion and illnesses they would suffer. They were beginners, in a new territory, learning a new way of life. They were hopeful novices, who envisioned themselves building new homes and making a happier future without persecution.

Gratefully, I haven’t seen wolf-pawed graves of the dead or the putrefying carcasses of mules and oxen on my journey. However, worry and heartache has come from the pain and suffering I’ve seen in hospitals and rehab centers. Only faith for improvement keeps one enduring  through such difficult times.

Splintered wrecks of discarded carts or wagons have been absent on my journey, but  I have worried about individuals whose family and friends have abandoned them in their illness. It saddens me and makes me wonder what happened to drive their loved ones away. Was it the ailment itself, or the attitude of the afflicted person, either way, it’s troublesome.

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

The pioneers traveled in groups or companies. They rallied around each other helping one another in their journey. They needed and depended on each other for survival. There are many stories written of selfless helpful acts that saved another’s life. They mourned  and rejoiced together. Likewise, I appreciate the help and support I get in my journey from friends, family, church and support groups. In return,  I strive to give back the same to those around me.

The handcart plan was for seventeen miles a day for sixty days, but none of the ten companies could reach that goal. Despair and frustration must have come from the slow journey of seven to fifteen miles on a good day, making the trip tedious and wearisome. Today  we can make the drive from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City comfortably in an air-conditioned or heated car in nineteen and a half hours. However, I know the disappointment that comes from unachieved goals and have felt the discouragement from slow progress along with the worry that comes from an uncertain destination.

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, I don’t know how or when mine will either, but like my ancestors  I will carry on with faith and hope in a brighter future.

 

Flying the Flag with Horsepower

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1976 – Star and I

I love the month of July. In Utah it’s a month-long celebration of parades, fireworks, rodeos, city carnivals, outdoor concerts and other festivities. We not only celebrate Independence Day on the fourth, but Pioneer Day on the twenty-fourth. Pioneer Day is an official holiday which commemorates Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entering into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. All month long we see more than the usual number of American and State flags flying.

Patriotic feelings swell whenever I see the American flag, but it grows even stronger when it’s flying by horsepower. My fondest teenage memories are having the honor of carrying the American flag in parades and horse shows with my American Saddler, Star. She was a nervous horse and didn’t enjoy the crowd noises of cap guns shooting, cheering and cackling, but she behaved differently when the American flag pole was placed in its holder mounted on my right stirrup. I took the responsibility very seriously and apparently she did also.

Closeup of Star and I carrying the American Flag

Closeup of Star and I carrying the American Flag

I felt obligated to present the flag with the proper respect it deserves and within the set guidelines. I was concerned about keeping the flag straight upright at all times, never letting it lean from side to side or forward or back. This can be complicated due to the constant movement and changing of speed and positions while preforming the team’s drill. Also, the American Flag should never touch anything beneath it, and the horse carrying the flag should never back up because this historically denotes retreat. With my anxious horse, I was constantly worried she’d back up, which unfortunately she did do a few times, but I never lost control or dropped the flag. I didn’t realize these specific rules relating to carrying the flag until I was given the honor. I’d like to think I was chosen because of my horsemanship, but having a tall, beautiful horse is most likely the reason I was given the opportunity.

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1972 – Ginger and I                     dream to reality

Star wasn’t my first horse. While I love all animals, horses are at the top of my list for their muscular beauty. I had a gerbil, dog and a cat as a child, but they didn’t fulfill my ultimate dream of having a horse. We sometimes rented horses and I loved to feel and hear the beating of the ground as they ran with fierce power. To sit in a saddle and have control of this mighty animal was such a thrill to me. After years of begging, my parents told me if I saved my money, I could buy a horse. I would also be responsible for the feed and stabling. I saved the money I earned babysitting and cleaning

Dad on Chili

1974- Dad on Chili

Dad’s construction business office. At age twelve I had saved one hundred dollars and bought a beautiful two year old buckskin filly named Ginger. Dad bought her mother, a bay quarter horse named Chili. She was fast and had won barrel racing contests. I have wonderful memories of horseback riding with my dad.

1973 - Riding Ginger bareback

1973 – Riding bareback Ginger (4 yrs. old)

I joined the 4-H Cimmerons horseback Riding Club and learned a lot about horses and riding. Ginger was a gentle filly and was the perfect horse to train; she only bucked me off once. She never grew to be as big or was as fast as her mother, Chili. While horseback riding with my friends I was often teased, “Pick up your feet they’re dragging.” or “You look like you’re riding a basketball.”

Three years later, when Ginger was five years old, it appeared she was done growing and wouldn’t get any bigger. She was a perfect pet and I regretted needing to sell her because I had outgrown her. I loved and I missed her terribly after I sold her. It took a long time to get use to my very high-strung, spirited, but tall and beautiful American Saddler. Although I didn’t sell Ginger and buy Star with the ambition of carrying the American Flag, it turned out that way. Another guideline is that nothing can fly higher than the American Flag, so having a tall horse makes it possible. Ginger would have been a much calmer horse to carry the American Flag but her height wouldn’t have allowed it.

1976 – Parade drill routine

My happiest teenage memories are centered on horseback riding and the 4-H Club I belonged to. My proudest memories are the opportunities I had with Star to carry our American Flag.