Gatha [pseud.], "Personal Reminiscences," Woman's Exponent, 15 March 1893, 139.
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Editor Woman's Exponent:
Dear Old Friend: My Exponent had not come for some time, and I had began to feel hungry for, and wonder why it had not reached me. When yesterday I heard a dump on the doorstep and there was a parcel of four numbers truly a feast of fat things. As I read the beautiful inspiration. "The Christmas of the Pioneers," by our gifted Sister, Augusta Joyce Crocheron, my mind went back to the spring of '47, when I, a young girl of seventeen, had just arrived at Winter Quarters from my home in England. Notwithstanding the dire poverty, and much sickness which prevailed, most of the people were preparing to follow in the wake of the Pioneers who had just started on their journey. My husband, with others was busy mending wagons, looking up yoke-bows, making bow-keys, or pins to hold the bows in the yokes, hunting up the cattle, mating them, finding chains, especially lock-chains, for, bear in mind there were no "breaks" to hold wagons back going down steep hills in those days.
These and a hundred other things occupied their time. While we were busy making and mending wagon covers, making crackers, and in every way aiding and assisting to prepare for the long and toilsome journey. At last we started and got as far as the Elk Horn River, where we camped about a month, waiting for the rest to arrive, so as to organize into companies of hundreds, fifties and tens.
The brethren made a large and substantial raft, on which to ferry us across, for the river was swift and deep, and every wagon and person had to cross in that way. The cattle were made to swim over. I forgot to say that our family being numerous and help scarce, two of we women rather thought we could manage with the oversight of my husband to drive our own team, which consisted of a yoke of cattle, for, though just coming from a large city, and not being used to this kind of a life--never having seen cattle yoked together; still I thought, well what any other woman can do, I can, so, shouldering my whip, I drove out of Winter Quarters, and soon learned to manage my team first class.
I learned to put on the lock-chain instantly at the top of a steep hill, and would jump out quickly while the cattle were going, to take it off, so that the impetus afforded by the end of the descent would aid them in starting up the other side, for we often passed through deep gullies. On one occasion I was jumping out while the cattle were going, and my skirt caught on the tongue bolt, and threw me down, and before I could extricate myself the high front wheel passed over my leg just above the ankle. I scrambled into the wagon the best way I could, I turned down my stocking expecting to see a bad bruise for it was very painful, but lo! and behold there was no bruise there. I was much astonished but very thankful. The pain soon passed away and I drove my team as usual. I must relate another remarkable incident that happened. While toiling through the quick-sand of the Black hills-the "reaches" had been shortened, teams doubled, and, while they were toiling slowly up the hills all but the driver pushing behind, one of our dear little ones, a boy fifteen months old, being asleep was left in the wagon. It being a hot day, the sides of the cover had been tied up. The child upon awaking, finding himself alone, looked out at the side and fell right between the wheels, the hind one passing over his limbs before he could be rescued. His father picked him up--I durst not look up for I expected to see his tender limbs severed from his body, but strange to say--owing to the soft sand, and the great mercy of God, all the hurt was a red mark made by the iron tire across his limbs. His father administered to him, and in a little while he was holding the whip apparently as well as ever. The first part of the journey I enjoyed much, being young, and having good health, I did not mind the driving and the labor incidental to such a journey, cooking, washing, and etc. At night, when we drove into camp the wagons formed in the shape of a horseshoe, the first two with the front ends pretty close together, the next drove close enough for the tongue to lie out side of the wheels of the first one, and so on until the fifty were in place. The enclosure forming a corral for the cattle through the night. Each driver unyoked his cattle (I frequently unyoked mine) then those whose turn it was, herded them till dark. The rest of the men would gather material for fires, often nothing but dried grass or Buffalo chips as they were called.
As we neared our destination, our journey became wearisome and full of toil. Grass became scarce, cattle began to give out, often, when an ox gave out, a cow was put in its place. The roads were rough, wagons had to be pitched up, till sometimes you would wonder how they could go at all. One of my calamities was my lock-chain giving out, and in going down a hill I had to hold the nigh ox by the horn and tap the off one over the face and keep saying, "Whoa, Back; Whoa, Back," and nearly hold my breath till I got down to the bottom, then stop, draw a breath of relief, see that all was right, then on again, for others were right on our heels and we had to get out of their way, (you can just imagine what a condition our skirts were in.) I never shall forget the last day we traveled, and arrived in the Valley. It happened to be my turn to drive that day Sept. 28th. The reach of our wagon was broken and tied together after a fashion, and the way the front wheels wabbled about was a sight to behold. I kept expecting every minute to see the poor old concern draw apart and come to grief, but it held together and when my eyes rested on the beautiful entrancing sight--the Valley; Oh! how my heart swelled within me, I could have laughed and cried, such a commingling of emotions I cannot describe. My soul was filled with thankfulness to God for bringing us to a place of rest and safety--a home. No doubt our valley looks astonishingly beautiful to the strangers who come here now, but it cannot evoke the same emotion as it did to us, poor weary tired, worn out, ragged travelers. When I drove into camp, unyoked my cattle, and sat down on the wagon tongue, and began to realize that, in the morning I would not have to hitch up and toil through another day, such a feeling of rest--blessed rest permeated my whole being that is impossible to describe, and cannot be realized except by those who have passed through similar scenes.