Before moving to Eagle, Kendi and I were called as a “Ma and Pa” but were unable to participate with the youth in Salt Lake because of the move. Kendi was relieved as the thought of walking and pulling a handcart several miles each day in the heat without a shower just didn’t seem appealing to her. Go figure. But shortly after moving here, we were asked to do it again. Both of us felt that it was something that the Lord wanted us to do, and it gave us a greater sense of purpose in our preparation.
Getting in shape was important, but we also wanted to be prepared spiritually. We read The Price we Paid, an inspiring and honest account of the 1855 journeys of the Willie and Martin handcart companies to the Salt Lake Valley. We also read the scriptures better as a family, and we did some family history work.
I was excited to learn that I have an indirect ancestor that was in the handcart company. Sadly, he lost his wife and two children along the way due to exposure. He was overwhelmed with the loss and decided to turn back for England, leaving his three young, surviving daughters to the care of others. Some years later, this man came back to the church in England and baptized his younger brother there, who would become my great, great, great grandfather. This man then finished the journey to Utah that he had started decades before, and found that all but one of his daughters had passed on. After a joyous reunion with this surviving daughter, he died at peace a few months later. The lesson for me, and what I shared with my trek family, is that it would be easy to fault the man and dwell on his mistakes. Instead, we should focus on his redemption and who he ultimately became. We all make plenty of mistakes. But with God, it’s never too late to change and become who He would have us be.
Kendi and I grew to absolutely love the kids in our family. We were worried the first night as it was clear that one of our girls, really didn’t want to be there. But by the next morning, everything came together. We couldn’t have asked for a better Trek family. Each day, we asked the kids to share something that they had learned that day about themselves or about their pioneer experience. Then at night, we would sit together and each person could share. I learned to appreciate how much our Heavenly Father loves each one of these kids, and was so impressed by their strength.
Our boys were like warriors. They ran to the rescue of other handcarts and never, ever complained. I called our oldest boy Brenton (17) a stallion because he would rope himself up and pull or push until he was physically unable to do more. I kept having to remind him to watch himself. The kid was pulling his hamstring and busting up his ankes he was so gung-ho. Dylan and Clark were great – so kind and thoughtful. When we needed something extra, I’d yell, “Come on Garrett!!” and Garrett would give us the surge and laugh we needed.
Our girls were amazing. Two of them, Jada and Aspen, were 14 and well under 100 pounds – so sweet. Morgan (17) and Allie (15) were stronger and the best leaders you could ask for. They worked every bit as hard as our boys (sometimes harder) and always wanted to be upfront pulling the weight. The part that blew me away and had me shedding a few tears was when the women did the “women’s pull”. This was a steep, mile long strength of the trail where the men/boys line the trail and were asked not to help or provide encouragement in any way. This represented the time when the U.S. military needed hundreds of male volunteers to leave the pioneer trail and march to San Diego as part of the Mormon battalion, leaving many willing women to complete the journey on their own. I was full of love for the women as they came up the trail. They were at the point of exhaustion and some in tears, but not none of them gave up and they were giving each other words of encouragement – telling each other how much they loved each other. Kendi and our girls were awesome! It was an awesome lesson in how strong our women are. We talked later about how it gave us a better sense of appreciation and respect for what women do.
I found it interesting that each member of our family had different moments that spoke to him or her. To me, it was the women's pull. To Morgan and Allie, it was a fireside talk. For Aspen, it was one-on-one conversations with Morgan, Alli and my Kendi. To Brenton, it was the time spent alone after reading a letter from his parents. He told me later that he had been praying for three years to know whether or not the gospel was true and if he needed to serve a mission. After that time alone, he told me that he knew it was true and was so full of joy. I just gave him a hug and told him how happy I was for him. Amazing things happened on Trek for every one of the members of our family. It truly was the experience of a lifetime.