May 20, 1997
Location: Sutherland, Nebraska - Location: 41:09:25N 101:07:33W Elevation: 2959 feet
Summary: Grave dedication, sandy roads and ruts near Sutherland, CBS, and full moon
Journal entry: Pulling the handcarts started out rough and just got rougher as the day went on. We are in sandy country, and as we got closer to the Platte, the road got sandier. Handcarts seem to follow the laws of physics, and if you aren't exerting a constant force on them, they don't just roll along, especially in deep sand.
We stopped around 10 AM to dedicate the grave of an unknown pioneer child. The ceremony was quite brief, but touching nonetheless. We stood in a circle around the grave marker and sang the pioneer hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints". As I looked around the crowd of wagon riders and walkers, I saw many wet eyes. The tears seemed to flow most freely in the eyes of people who have children. I can barely imagine the sorrow of digging a shallow grave, trying to protect my child's body from the wolves, and then moving on the next day, never to return to the gravesite.
Much of our day was dictated by the CBS news crew. They wanted pretty pictures of us pulling our handcarts over some steep sandhills. The pioneers had to cut through the sandhills because they came right to the banks of the Platte, and there was no way around them. We followed the original wagon ruts and it was really hard pulling in some places. But we were not just there for our own enjoyment -- the TV cameras would film us as we went a few hundred yards, then we would have to stop in our tracks while they repositioned the cameras. So, a distance that would normally only take 15 minutes to cross took us almost 45 minutes. Aside from the media circus, the sight was truly remarkable. Thirty or more people in authentic pioneer clothing walking and pulling handcarts over rough terrain with the sandhills and prairie grass in the background. I thought of my great-great-great grandmother, Helena Roseberry, who was in a handcart company in the 1850's. She not only had to walk over this difficult trail herself, but she had two newborn twins and later had a broken hip to deal with. I thought that our brief struggle today was miniscule in comparison.
As I am writing this, I can look up and see the full moon in the big Nebraska sky. On nights like this, there is no need for a flashlight. At the evening prayer meeting they announced that we are to change our clocks and watches an hour back, because tomorrow we cross into mountain time zone. That means an extra hour of sleep tonight!