May 17, 1997
Location: North Platte, Nebraska - Location: 41:07:26N 100:45:54W Elevation: 2800 feet
Summary: A parade through North Platte.
Journal entry: I stood in the cool morning air, watching the most beautiful sunrise. I thought I was alone. A sister walked up beside me with her camera and commented on the beauty of the morning. We were not talking loudly. Silently people emerged from their tents with cameras and VCRs. It was absolutely spectacular. It was a little cloudy and there were rain showers toward the east. Each day I think that this one is the best sunrise ever. Then the next day comes and I want to yell, "Sorry, I lied. Yesterday's sunrise wasn't the best. Today's is the most beautiful." It's like the Great Painter is saying "I have created another beautiful day for you. I hope you have fun today, learn some lessons, and enjoy it!" I think I need to apologize for always commenting on the sunrises, but to me, it is a miracle.
Today's lesson learned is that life doesn't always go the way you want it to. I lost my notebook with all my notes and then at the store I ran into a glass door and practically broke my nose. Lessons learned.
Today was great. We walked only 6 miles through North Platte. And the best part of all, the walkers and handcarts went first. We had a parade through the city, and we didn't have to do the one, two, miss-the-horse- poop shuffle. We could just walk normally.
North Platte put out the flags for us. The Army Reserve led the parade with the flags and the High School band played their marching song and led us through town. It was great!
This afternoon we had visitors from Salt Lake from the LDS church. Elders [M. Russell Ballard and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of the Twelve, Elders Hugh W. Pinnock and Joe J. Christensen of the Seventy, Gordon Romney - Executive Secretary of the Church Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee, and Elder John Huntsman] were with us. They gave us love and encouragement from the Prophet. At the end of the meeting, Brother Ballard blessed us with many things. What I was most impressed with was that the walkers and hand- cart pullers were blessed with strength from our limbs to our feet and that when the carts are heavy that we would be blessed with help just as the people were blessed in the original companies. It was very touching. We really appreciate their visit.
It is nice to have a day to rest. We really have two rest days this week with only a 6 mile day. Today was a breeze.
I was walking today and a lovely little sister from Salt Lake City walked up beside me and started talking. She said she is Grandma Hill and the first thing she did when she came was to walk up to this cowboy and tell him what a good looking man he is. She said he politely tipped his hat and said, "Thank you ma'am." So who was this cowboy? She said that her daughter-in-law told her it was Russ Leger. Well she didn't lie. I'm sure most of the ladies in camp would have to agree with her.
Grandma Hill talked a mile a minute and we were laughing and talking like best friends. We talked about how the pioneer spirit has touched so many people this year. People are search- out their ancestors and reading histories. She said that she has had little gatherings and invited all her friends. They get together in groups and listen to pioneer stories and have homemade stews and bread. She said she has felt this wonderful spirit of family and ancestors. Our little discussion was very short and sweet. It was so nice to visit with you. I'll see you in a few days when you come back.
The Army Reserve Unit out of McCook and North Platte has been serving us this weekend. They specialize in bathing and laundry services. They have this incredible unit that can go out in the field and wash clothes-tons of clothes. They also sew up anything that is needed. They also set up a shower unit. It was really neat. I've never seen anything like it. They have the buildings, tents, washers, dryers, generators, heating units for heating the water, these huge things called bladders that store water (looked like a great jacuzzi) and support tents to get us out of the weather, whether it be rain or heat.
I was given a tour by Ed Fahnholz (also known as "Fonzie") and Stephanie Gilliand. I know very little about the military capabilities and this was an interesting lesson for me. We truly appreciate their services. They changed one of their weekends to be with us this weekend and I want to thank them for a job well done. They are also planning on being with us in Paxton to provide us with water and electricity.
I returned to the campsite by the airport. I wanted to get a picture of the monument that was put in place this week commemorating the placement of the odometer by William Clayton and Appleton Harmon in the original wagon train. As I was taking the picture a gentleman stopped in his truck and asked me what I was doing. I told him and he told me he had built the sign and placed it there. We discussed the sign and its significance to the history of the Mormon Trail.
When we were camping in this spot last evening, we had a special commemorative program about the odometer and its significance in being able to keep track of mileage and distances from place to place. Before the odometer was created, they could only guess on distances. After this was used, the mileage became very accurate and an actual guidebook was written for all travelers through this part of the country. The Mormon people became the example for others on the best trails, distances, and how best to cross the country from Omaha to the West. This gentleman was a wealth of knowledge.
The notch in the hills that Sister Marshall had shown me the day before, was actually a thirty foot high break through the hill, created by passing wagons. I had wondered why the wagons went so high up the hill when it seemed logical to just go along the valley. He explained that the lower valleys in those days were really quite marshy and quite impassable. So the trains traveled the higher road. This very knowledgeable man is Jim Tierney. Before he had to run and and do a little dancing with his wife, he wanted me to be sure and report that the actual date of the odometer placement was May 12, 1847. He said that this point has been confused and it should be accurate. Before he left, I asked him why he felt this was something he needed to be involved with. He explained that his wife is LDS and they became involved with the encampment last year in Omaha. Someone mentioned to Jim that there needed to be a commemorative plaque for the placement of the odometer. Jim just picked up and ran with it. He has done hours and hours of research and finished off his project with a lovely monument. What a very thoughtful thing for you to do, sir. And I would have loved to meet your wife. Maybe another day.