May 30, 1997
Location: Bayard, Nebraska - Location: 41:45:18N 103:19:25W Elevation: 3753 feet
Summary: A nice walk; A surprise for Heber.
Journal entry: Today was just a nice day to walk. It was a little cool, some clouds, and warmed up in the afternoon. It seemed that everybody was just comfortable. The teamsters didn't have to have that constant cold that seemed to plague them from the beginning and the walkers still had it cool. One of the teamsters remarked that their horses liked about the same temperature that the walkers liked...and that was OK by him. The teamsters love their animals. It is evident in every-thing they do. Whatever time is spare is spent feeding, watering and caring for them. The people walking may have it hard on their feet and legs and it is tough, but the teamsters not only have to care for themselves, but be sure all is well with their animals. I truly admire and respect their love for these beautiful animals.
We had a few hills today and our share of pavement, sand, and gravel. I understand we are over 4000 feet in elevation, so we are making a gradual ascent. As I walked, I tried to take in the surrounding countryside. We passed three mares with new little colts, the bluffs are becoming more prominent, and to me it is good to see a little more variety in the horizon. As we left Bridgeport, Chimney Rock was barely visible in the distance. The morning was kind of dewy and hazy so that made visibility a little less. We passed over the greatly enlarged Platte River. The recent rains have swelled its banks beyond full. Two of our walkers, Kathy and Sarah, enjoy taking their chairs and towels and soaking their feet in the Platte River every day. They have various ways of getting to the river from camp. Usually they just wave down a passing car and ask the direction to the river and if it is within walking distance. Invariably they get a ride and if the driver is a local, they usually get an offer for use of their shower. The people here are just bending backwards to be of assistance. I am just impressed with their honesty and trust and sincere desire to help us.
As we were slowly wending our way up one of the hills today, we were surprised to find Heber Dew's family sitting just over the crest of the hill. Heber is 19 years old and waiting for his mission call. He is one of our best handcart mules. Heber's dad said that he had a surprise for Heber. A few minutes later here comes Heber running down the hill, arm in arm with his sister with a big white envelope in his hand. He was so excited and when we learned it was his call we insisted that he climb up on the ditch bank and read his letter to us all. He was so excited he couldn't get it open. His family was there with him and we were all so excited. Heber began "Dear Elder Dew........" we all cheered! "You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ in the North Carolina............"Well, we all broke out in one big cheer. It was just so exciting! We cheered him on and insisted that he read the entire letter. Heber managed to read it all and as he read the last part, you could hear a little crack in his voice, "Sincerely, President Gordon B Hinckley." He got hugs and handshakes and we all broke out in song, "Called to serve Him, Heavenly King of Glory, Chosen e'er to witness for His name....." It was an inspiring moment. When I think back on those few precious, spontaneous moments, I will never forget it. This was a high note in our modern wagon train.
Bayard welcomed us with open arms. We had food, showers, a lovely football field to pitch our tents and some wonderful entertainment. I am constantly amazed how at every stop along the way through Nebraska we are given love, consideration, and wonderful hospitality. We could not have asked for more.
The visitors center at Chimney Rock stayed open late so that we could visit. By the time I arrived, it was evening. The breeze was cool and refreshing, and the sun was just beginning to end the day. The colors in the sky were beautiful combinations of pink and blues. Clouds were wispy and picked up the fading colors. Because of the great amount of rain these last few days, the fields were flooded and the water reflected the colors of the fading sun. It was just beautiful. Everyone commented on the sunset tonight. And the grandeur of Chimney Rock reminded me that this is half way to home. It seemed to be a beacon proclaiming, You can do it! You can do it! I'm sure the early pioneers felt both relief and panic. To go on was to accept the fact of the unknown, that the hope of life would be better and freedom from religious oppression was a past memory. Yet there was also the knowledge that beyond this point, it would be senseless to turn back. To go on was closer than to return. They must have had incredible faith to push onward not knowing. And this place, Chimney Rock, was the point of no return.
If I had had to be a pioneer in the 1850s, with the hardships they endured, I am afraid my life would have been in the East somewhere. They barely existed and family and friends died along this trail. I am still in awe at their courage to travel through this wilderness and constantly press onward. They had no towns welcoming them, feeding and taking care of them. They had no hospitals and clinics to take care of the sick. They barely had food. I am constantly hungry and eat well. They survived on bare rations of food. But they came by the thousands, and they kept coming. Their desire for religious freedom was undaunted and it drove them to a new home. The very very sad part of this movement was that so many of them died in doing so.
What we are doing on this train pales in comparison to what the true pioneers endured. But, how else do we honor their accomplishments? Surely this is a great way. But the best way is for each of us to feel their spirits and courage in our own lives. We need to personally revere their qualities that uplift and encourage humanity to greater heights. But more important is that we pass these qualities on to the following generations....to our children and grandchildren through our love and example. I guess that is my reason for this trek. I want my children and if I ever get grandchildren...to know that the Mormon pioneers had a testimony of their beliefs and would travel through the wilderness with no knowledge of their destiny...only faith of it. They knew they might die or worse yet lose their loved ones. They knew the trail was long and hard and painful. They knew only of the greatness of their cause and their faith in their leaders. They leave us an incredible legacy.