July 29, 2015

My Pioneer Bragging Rights

"This Is the Place Monument-Close-up" by Hugh Millword
The word pioneer comes from the word for foot. It's related to peons. So the Mormon primary song is correct when it says five times "walked and walked..." but you need to add foot to it.

Utah, and mostly Mormons around the world, celebrate Pioneer Day on July 24 (and it's after that date now). That is the day Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. Now we celebrate our pioneer history in multiple ways and brag about our ancestors.

The Spiritual, Physical Deprivation Reenactment

Youth groups in the Intermountain West and beyond reenact versions of the pioneers' trek across the plains in order to appreciate their ancestors. Some do traditional wagon train reenactments, but the most popular is the handcart treks--mostly experiencing the journey of the Willy & Martin Handcart Companies.

My ward's youth recently followed in the pioneers' footsteps through the Wyoming trail. Leaders told everyone they should drink lots of water before going, so they wouldn't become dehydrated. We suffer the sun, mild dehydration, mild hunger, and forego modern conveniences to have an almost authentic experience. We strive to have the spiritual experience of our ancestors spiritual and physical suffering. We forget we struggle today through apathy and immoral influences omnipresent in our world.

Willy & Martin Handcart Trek

Mormon Handcart Visitor's Center Exhibit
For a youth conference during my adolescence, my ward group did a handcart trek with very modern handcarts (with bicycle wheels). Occasionally, we had to replace a tire. Other groups are closer to official handcart trek sites that have it entirely outfitted. The Willy & Martin Handcart Companies are the most famous--because they suffered the most (other treks had few deaths). The movie 17 Miracles shows snippets of this company. Jens Nielson was the ancestor of fame in my hometown, but let it be known--I am a descendant too of that handcart company! The Mellor miracle of the pie on the trail is my paternal great-great-great-something grandmother Mary Ann Payne Mellor. Her husband, James Mellor, began the Mellor male mischief. My brothers, father, uncles, and cousins continue this tradition. 

Hole-in-the-Rock Saints

"Hole-in-the-Rock" Wikipedia

I grew up in Southeastern Utah among the descendants of the Hole-in-the-Rock Saints and Native Americans. I heard much about Jens Nielson who was in the Willy & Martin Handcart Companies and traveled to the San Juan Mission. The Saints struggled through the red cliffs and across the Colorado River Canyon (now Lake Powell) to arrive in present-day Bluff. They had to finagle a way to descend through a very small passageway down to the river. The ascent on the other side was even worse. The journey took six months versus the projected six weeks.

On San Juan Hill, their animals bled on the red rocks. You can still see the blood today on the trail. They later moved to Blanding, Utah (my hometown). As a church youth group, I visited the Hole-in-the-Rock site along Lake Powell and San Juan Hill.

The Mormons believe some of the Native Americans are the ancestors of Lehi in The Book of Mormon. Stan Bronson, who played Jesus Christ in Church videos, talked with the youth about the spiritual experiences of the Native Americans in San Juan County. Some Navajos and Utes in this area joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the "San Juan Mission" and their ancestors live on today. There remains mixed feelings about the situation.

Old Mexico Saints

Early LDS polygamous families fled to Mexico to avoid being prosecuted. When the government finally pardoned them, they returned to the United States. Mitt Romney is a famous descendant of these saints. Several of these families came to Blanding, Utah. My sister married into the Old Mexico Saint line.

Modern-Day Pioneers

My cousin drew this picture of our grandparents.
We have many pioneers who have come to Utah or joined the Mormons worldwide after the 1800s. These individuals have sacrificed their coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, questionable entertainment, fashionable clothing to join the Mormons. My maternal grandmother and grandfather joined the Church in the 1940s. My great grandmother joined in the '30s. My father-in-law joined in his twenties. The rest of my ancestors are from Mormon pioneers. 

Pioneer Ancestor Bragging Rights

In some ways, we all like to claim famous ancestors--like the famous pioneer or Mormon ancestor. Who brags they are related to Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, and other early Mormon saints? Or just admits it reluctantly they are related. Who's related to Mitt Romney? My friend is a fourth-cousin or something.

Now I'm going to brag about my ancestors! I descend from Bishop Jonathan Herriman Hale of Nauvoo, James and Mary Ann Mellor, Pilgrim ancestors, and some king. Ask my mom, she knows. I just called her to confirm a few details, but I know I've got some wrong.

Who are you descended from?

July 07, 2015

Swivel, Swivel, Toil and Swivel Bike Ride

"Girl on Bike" by Bobby Mikul
Yesterday, my family and I ventured for a bike ride. It was a perfect time because the clouds blocked the sun and it was below 100 degrees Fahrenheit after weeks of scorchers and no rain. I'm in front with a bike trailer of toddlers connected to my bike. My oldest weaved in front, the side, and behind me. My husband followed behind to keep stragglers from straggling.

About a half mile into the ride, my handlebar jerks to the right side. Soon it swivels upside down and the gear shifts lower. I try to fix it while riding, but it gets worse. My oldest had zoomed a half block ahead and I called for him to stop. We all stopped and I put the handlebar to rights. I start again and it swivels faster. The gears shift even lower and I can't change it while hauling an extra 75 lbs of toddlers. My husband says not to put any weight on the handlebars--yeah right!

I stop a block later and my husband takes my bike. He manages okay with it while I'm trying to hoist myself on his bike. The seat is probably seven inches higher (our height difference). I just about fall trying to peddle forward. I moved forward some, but my pants kept getting caught in the chain. I cursed the bike after the second or third time my pants caught. I didn't know how to shift the gears either, so it was stuck on a low gear. Then the bike stopped moving forward. I hopped off to find the chain no longer on the cogs. I wanted to curse the bike again.

I walked the bike while my family was far ahead of me. I noticed new holes in my nicer blank pants. I don't need clothes anyway. My husband stopped at the corner and looked back at me walking the bike. He turned around and headed for me.

We debated about how to get the rest of the way home. I said let's walk home instead of him trying to put the chain back on. I just wanted to be home, but he refused and took several tense minutes putting the chain back on. It had twisted into the other gears, unlike the normal chain derailing. Curse that bike! Curse all our bikes! Curse my new bike! I complained it was a piece of junk (Walmart's cheapest). I switched to riding my bike.

We started again and my oldest wove in and out of my way. I yelled at him to get away because I had little control on the bike. My husband told me to calm down. Grrr! I stopped and walked the bike only blocks from home. Then my husband and I switched bikes. I coasted on his bike home, trying not to get my pants stuck.

My oldest and husband raced home. My husband was running with the bike and trailer. We made it home and I felt better but oh so annoyed! I found the hex key and my husband tightened the handlebar.

I asked my oldest if he had fun on the bike ride. He said, "Yes." Really? Glad he enjoyed it. I enjoyed a third of the time. I just feel like long bike rides are cursed for me. As some of you may know, I lost my glasses on my last long bike ride. Are my long rides cursed?