June 2, 1997
Location: Mitchell, Nebraska - Location: 41:56:25N 103:48:29W Elevation: 3945 feet
Summary: What goes on behind the scenes?
Journal entry: I took the opportunity today to drive with a wonderful, very talented lady named Gretchen Petramalo. Gretchen has people skills that I only dream of. She can remember names like a computer and doesn't forget a conversation.
I met Gretchen outside of camp. She had just let Pete and the two Josephs (her grandsons) off at the handcart company to walk the day. It was barely 6 AM.
Gretchen has the distinction of being the lady who finds out. We drove ahead to the next campsite, dropped her trailer and my motorhome, and took off further on down the trail. Her responsibility is to find out. Sounds pretty simple, huh? Not so.
When this trek began, Gretch thought she would just be caring for her menfolk after they get off the trail. It was evident at the beginning that there was a need for someone to find camping, showers, places to stay in case of rain, places to dump the porta potties and a myriad of other small, but necessary bits of knowledge. Gretchen took it upon herself to accomplish these tasks on a daily basis and eventually she was given a formal calling to be the emissary of knowledge and goodwill.
Thus we found ourselves in Henry, the town we camp in tomorrow night. We found the gal who is the city clerk, Keitha. They have been planning on our arrival for quite sometime and have many things arranged. Their town is very small and we will surely triple the size while there. Keitha was able to help with tent sites, a place at the old school for sleeping in case of rain, showers at the high school in Morrill (including a shuttle bus), places for RVs and motorhomes and placement of the four main trailers (Check-in, Media, Souvenirs, and Church Family History) with electrical hook-ups. The people of Henry are working on filling some of the mud-holes with dirt. They had an old building they put up siding in and re-painted, and they are asking some of the businessmen if we could run electrical lines from their places of business. They are such a small town with an obvious lack of city funds, but what they have, they are giving it all to us. Their towns leaders have taken vacation time to help us and fix up the space we need. I am sure they are truly sacrificing for our arrival. It is humbling to see their efforts and we know they are doing their best and giving their all for us. We thanked them for their efforts, with the reassurance we will truly be in tomorrow. We headed across the Wyoming/Nebraska border and into the town of Torrington.
Gretchen says when she first comes to a new town, she stops at the first gas station or supermarket and asks for directions, a map, phone numbers for the chamber of commerce and how she can reach the contact person for the wagon train. She makes a quick phone call to the necessary people and then goes to meet them. Today our contact in Torrington is Katy Kelly. This woman has been working on the arrival of the wagon train for nearly a year. She has had incredible projects, dedications, and cooperation from people in this town.
Gretchen did the usual run-down of necessary services, tent sites, showers, places to sleep in case of inclement weather, dump sites for the porta potties, electrical services for the four main trailers. We needed information on Wyoming, maps, parks, traveler info etc. and discovered the location of the Chamber of Commerce. We went there next. They had a wealth of information and were very helpful. Our last stop was at the Fairgrounds where the wagon train would be located on Wednesday night. There we met Marylou who is well versed and well prepared on the location of all facets of the train. Ben Kern who is the wagon master for Wyoming has done a great deal of preparation work for our arrival in Wyoming, and the beginning was Torrington.
The welcome presented to us by the people of Torrington can quickly be summed up in the words of the president of East Wyoming College, "We welcome you. We want you to visit our town, see our facilities, walk through our businesses and feel welcome here." He offered his facilities for our use also. This has been our experience all through Nebraska and now feel the welcome of Wyoming as we see the pride in the people for their cities and towns and offer whatever they have for our use. It is a wonderful experience to be welcomed. We have seen the humblest of circumstances in towns that are very small and very humble to the towns who boast many numbers of people and much more wealth. And everywhere we have gone, we have felt love and acceptance. We can only say thank you and God bless.