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Things I've Wondered About Those Pioneers

Article Date: 
23 July, 2010 - 06:00

In my 40+ years of growing up and being a resident in the State of Utah, I’ve had the opportunity to be taught in many Utah History classes and in many LDS Church History classes.  So, over four decades, I’ve had a lot of lessons about those Mormon Pioneers.  
Upon reflection of those many lessons, I believe…no, I’m positive… that if I were given a word association test and was given the word, “Pioneer,” the word that would leap from my larynx before my poor cranium even had a chance to compute the word would be, “Walked!”
Yes, whenever I mentally pull up an image of those pioneers, it is the same basic image over and over again.  The picture is of a long and drawn out procession of men, women, children, and oxen, and they are all walking, and walking, and walking some more!  They are forever framed in my memory banks as people walking across never-ending plains of the country’s mid-west.
It could be that this word and image come immediately to my mind because of my early experience in LDS Primary.  I was overjoyed when I was finally able to memorize the words to one of the children’s primary songs when we sang, “Pioneer children sang as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked…”  
Of course, there are other things that I think about and recognize about those extraordinary pioneers and the amazing legacy of our beautiful Beehive State.  When I take time learn, consider, and remember the different eras and events in history, I like to try and personalize historical figures and see them as an individuals instead of just someone or something that seems almost mythical to me.  I truly try to picture myself in their time and place in history in an effort to gain a better understanding of my history.   

For these parents that had children to take care of over the long and difficult journey, how crazy must they have been by the end of that road-trip?   Being a parent myself, I’ve considered it and wondered, “Did pioneer parents ever say to their kids as they were crossing the plains… “I swear if you kids don’t settle down, I’ll turn this wagon around and we’ll go right back home!”   Seriously, did any pioneer parent back then make the same kind of foolish idle threat that modern-parents make to turn the car, or that case the wagon, around and go back home if an unruly child continued to misbehave?  
Traveling with smaller children in the modern-day is not that easy.  When my kids were younger, it sometimes felt as if I spent endless amounts of time just preparing to get children out the door and go somewhere.  
By the time we were done loading up diaper bags with bottles, formula, snacks, drinks, entertainment, and of course, diapers, wipes and a change of clothes (because without a doubt the clothes they had on surely get dirty while we were out from a spill, a fall, or drooling and teething baby)…
…AND THEN, by the time we had fit the car seat in properly, had to postpone leaving in order to feed or change one child just in time to finish and find that they other needed attention, it was hardly worth going anywhere.  Comparing all that to what Pioneer parents had to face, I’ve had to wonder if any of them questioned and asked, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay at home?”  
As I continue to ponder those pioneers walking on forever in the summer heat, I wonder how hot it really felt to them.  I’ve been along in a car traveling across that endless stretch of highway from Utah to Arizona in August… with not air conditioning, and it was pretty miserable in a car.  How bad must it have been as UV rays from the sun were boring through the bonnets of the women and heating up the hat-wearing heads of the men.  
Sometimes when I’m out on Pioneer Day at a parade or a rodeo and the July sun gets so hot I just know I’m melting, I seriously wonder how they ever made it…
Then, of course…   I am reminded that…   some of them didn’t…
All silliness aside, I have sincerely given a lot of consideration to those that have come before me and how their pioneering effort and sacrifice has made my life to nice and comfortable now.   
Walking that far into the unknown was undoubtedly difficult.  My first thought of the pioneers is honestly of them walking for days on end having faith in the outcome of where and when they would arrive at their destination.  
However, whenever I think about those pioneers walking that far west to the unsettled Utah Territory, the most daunting thing of all to me is the moment they were told that they had finally made it to their destination and they were now “home”…I especially consider that moment and what it was like for the Pioneers of the Pioneers, the first group that arrived with President Young.
I’d ask you to consider what they saw there, but there really wasn’t much picture.  There was a lot of dirt, sage brush, no immediate signs of water, and a whole lot of nothing.  Other than what they had left in their handcarts and wagons after the long journey and of the items they had needed to abandon out on the plains somewhere…. they must have had very little.  So, the journey of the pioneers was not over.  They would have to build their new home and community with what little they had, and not only for just themselves but for the hundreds and later thousands that were to follow them there…eventually, 70,000 Mormons followed them to Utah.  
So, what did they do?  They started with little to nothing and they built it into something.  Now that, my friends, is defines a true blue, through and through, “pioneer!”   
Learning about the pioneers who were the trailblazers of our world today always humbles and inspires me.  You might even want to consider some of the pioneers of the community’s, not so distant past.  Michelle Kimball, writer for The Morgan County News, has interviewed some of the Pioneers of Morgan County...more specifically, Pioneers of the Mountain Green area.  She reports what she learned in this issue of the paper.
I worry sometimes that I may be the one to say, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just go home?”  
I consider these types almost everyday.  For example… almost 100% of the times that I drive through the opening that makes the Weber Canyon, I think about those who saw the beautiful Morgan County on the other side of Ogden and wanted to make it accessible.   They moved the mountain so others could pass by more easily.  
There have been and will always be pioneers in our midst.  They are the visionaries who can see something where others see little or nothing.  They are those who face the challenges of change head on with courage.  With the changes coming to Morgan County, the pioneers of tomorrow are out there.  It would be easier to “just go home” but I hope you walk along with those you put in as Morgan’s leaders and then you’re your own great contributions to the great possibilities of Morgan’s tomorrow.