When I was a young girl, my mother made me a black cotton dress for a Pioneer Day Parade. I wore it proudly with a matching bonnet as I marched around the neighborhood. In my minds' eye, pioneers skipped across the plains, singing as they went. They cooked over fires, square-danced at night and slept under the stars. For a five year old girl, the pioneer life sounded glamourous, straight out of Bonanza. I dreamed of being a pioneer. Little did I realize that my pioneer dreams would one day come to pass. Last year on July 23-25th, my husband and I participated in a trek to Martin's Cove, Wyoming. For three days we were 'ma' and 'pa' to nine teenagers. While I was excited for the opportunity, I was apprehensive; scared, in fact, afraid of the unknown. Friends told me horror stories of blowing wind, unbearable heat, and endless walking. Still sound like Bonanza? No. And since the realities of being a pioneer contrasted with my childhood daydreams, would I make the journey anyway? Yes. Knowing this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I boarded the bus to Wyoming.
Over the course of the next three days there was plenty of time to contemplate what the true pioneers experienced. Being a pioneer wasn't just about fun times, but it was also about very hard times. Times of leaving family and friends behind. Times of walking many miles every day. Times of eating minimul rations, if at all. Times of burying loved ones in frozen graves and then continuing wearily onward. These were the times that tried pioneer's souls as they made their way to Zion.
The scenery is stark. Sage brush and sand for as far as the eye can see. Blue sky above and a hot sun beating down. I felt like a flaming map of the Ponderosa Ranch. One afternoon I spotted a mother dear and her fawn, a reminder that had I been a true pioneer, they might have been my dinner. Pulling the handcarts wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. The boys in our family were amazing. We called them the Clydedales because they kept a steady pace the entire time, barely breaking a sweat. From time to time we would trade and take turns. As the days became longer and hotter, the cart got slower and heavier. I realized that had I been a true pioneer, this would have been my life from sunup to sundown, every day until I reached my destination. I was going home in 3 short days. There was hope on the horizon.