Jul 22, 2017

To Those Who Came Before Me

To Those Who Came Before Me

I’ve always been interested in the stories of the American pioneer, those hardy souls who hitched up bootstraps and crossed the plains. Okay, I’ve never been really clear on what a bootstrap is, exactly, but still, the idea of a whole  body of faithful people leaving all and sundry behind and striking out to a new land, warms my heart. As a child, I lapped up pioneer stories; I still do. 

Brigham Young said something to the effect of the land in the West being so inhospitable, no one else would want it, so it’s ideal for the saints of God. Not exactly self-esteem food, yet off they went.

I have driven their route in my soft, air-conditioned car with a speedometer that may or may not have stuck to the posted limits. Nebraska is mighty long, after all. I’ve seen the ruts left by pioneer wagons, ground in the rocks in eastern Oregon. As I marveled at the ruts, a herd of vicious no-see-ums feasted on my exposed skin. As if heat, dust, fatigue, insufficient food and water, and endless walking wasn’t enough to try their souls, nasty little insects with teeth added to the experience.  

Two of my grown kids live with their families in the wilds of modern Utah. I spent two weeks visiting them in July, and my take away is this: those early pioneers were tough people! They arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in July, the same time as my visit, give or take a few days. It was hot, very, very hot there, and drier than your average desert. I found myself sucking down water bottles and wondering how long a tray of cookie dough would take to bake if left in the rear window of my car.

At the Independence Day parade, a bank thermometer read 110 degrees. I’m from western Washington, and I’m pretty sure our local banks only have two digits on their thermometers; a temp of over 80 triggers Extreme Heat Warnings in the local media. 110 here...? People would die, outright.
Even with shade, a spray bottle, and a giant Slurpee, I nearly melted into a greasy spot on the pavement. The most popular floats on the parade route were the ones that sprayed the crowd with high-powered water guns. 

And I thought about those early pioneers. They were tough people, I tell you!  I was uncomfortable, just sitting around...Imagine having to build a house and plant a crop in that heat, after a 1000 mile hike? Yet, if they collapsed under a scrawny tree, there’d be no food for the winter or protection from Utah’s harsh winters just a few months down the road. We think of them being tough, invincible people, leaders all. In reality, they were mostly city-folk who suffered from culture shock --imagine, downtown London to Missouri?--who wore preposterously small shoes, if they had any at all. And the dresses! Sociologists say a more impractical outfit could not have been designed for a trek of that magnitude. Yet they pioneered on. 

We're all pioneering in our own ways, but  I honor those who went ahead of us, laying the path! We owe them a debt of gratitude bigger than the wide prairie sky.

In Church recently, the choir sang a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s beautiful!*

To Those Who Came Before Me
To those who came before me in seasons long ago
To those who are the loved-ones that I have yet to know
To those whose noble names I bear,
whose light within me burns
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned
To those whose lives of courage prepared the way for me
Whose works became my heritage,
whose harvest I may reap
Who left for me a legacy that I have yet to earn
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned
To those who came before me in days and years long past
To those who are the family that I shall know at last
To those who seek the blessings
of the truth that I have learned
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned

* http://www.defordmusic.com/sheet-music/alphabetical-list/to-those-who-came-before-me/


  1. I often think of the pioneers odd times like when I'm taking a cool shower after a hot and humid day here. And I always think I will never be able to look them in the eye.

  2. Yes. I am so grateful for those who came before me.


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