Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our 25th Anniversary

I have read newspaper articles about the 25th anniversary celebration and was really hoping I could have one of those celebrations. Not quite possible right now. We have been able to have some time to reflect on the past 25 years and how grateful we are for our relationship, our family, and all the friends who have touched our lives during the last 25 years though and that is priceless. Okay, that isn’t all we did. We took advantage of a little time off on Friday and went to a Bed and Breakfast on top of Casper Mountain. It was a class act place and I wish we could have stayed a couple more days. Our daughter, Sylvia and children fixed us a picnic dinner to take with us which was out of this world. We had salmon, rice, salad, chocolate dipped strawberries, shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers and some sparkling cider. At the bed and breakfast there was a tower room which was located at the top of the house that had windows on all sides so we could overlook the mountain area all four ways while the sun set. It was gorgeous. There was lots of snow when we arrived and then we woke up to quite a storm and about five to seven more inches which made us wonder if we would get off the mountain. We just left later in the day when it cleared a bit. We brought in the new year with our friends here at the Cove with the traditional toast using sparkling cider, singing of Auld Lang Syne and banging of pans. We all paid for it the next day and could hardly wait to get home for an afternoon nap.
Sunburst Bed and Breakfast on the top of Casper Mountain
Setting out our picnic dinner in the tower room.
Randy waiting for dinner.
A sunset made just for us!!

Busy Month of December

Upon our return to Martin’s Cove from our trip south, we got right back to work and I can’t believe how much we did in a few short weeks. It was really a nice site to drive into the Homestead late at night and see all the Christmas lights on the buildings, a large nativity set up in the yard of the visitors’ center and handcarts decorated all around. Everyone must have been so busy while we were gone because even the Christmas trees were up and the other decorations placed in their spot. We attended our first community event the first Friday of December. We went to the Alcova Chili Cook-off. Now let me explain, Alcova is a community of about 100 counting surrounding ranches. We are sure glad we participated as there were seven pots of chili and we had provided three of them. We had a great time getting to know the attendees and visiting with all. I must say there was mighty good chili and it was hard to vote for only one pot. We were invited to the next event which was the Christmas program at the Baptist Church. I believe we made some neat new friends. An indication of this is being able to go to the little post office and meet up with the residents and receive big hugs. One of our family home evenings was spent caroling to neighboring ranches. We started our evening with pizza from Sloans, which is a small convenience store in Alcova at which we caroled for our supper. Now we didn’t do it totally voice only, we were accompanied with a flute, autoharp and ukulele. We spent the evening driving around 95 miles to carol five different places. Now, that should give you an idea of how out on the prairie we really are with the nearest neighbor about 12 miles away. The fun part of the evening was caroling with several senior missionaries whom were doing it for their first time.
One of the annual winter activities for the Polar Bears is to put on a big Christmas dinner and party for the local neighbors and vendors whom have been a big part of our past year. This year was definitely no exception as the plans went on for over a month and kept each of us very occupied with details of the party from favor cups to lights on the covered wagon stored in the barn along with homemade invitations to proper music selection. The evening was absolutely fabulous with over 84 people attending. Along with music from local talent, a great meal, a couple games, and door prizes to make for a great night, I personally was brave enough to volunteer to take Christmas pictures of those who attended. I must say the pictures turned out great and it was quite a hit for those who attended. I am so grateful for all those Christmas parties we attended while in the Air Force because I was able to share some of the ideas and experiences to help with this party. Even though we were exhausted, we hated to see the evening end.
This is the wagon we decorated. I took the Christmas pictures right in front of the wagon with the trees as added props.
One of the 15 gingerbread houses that were decorated for table center pieces. The details that went into this gingerbread house spilled over into all the rest of the plans.
Sylvia and family were able to join us for the Christmas party. Nana is having fun getting sugar from Patrick, Kathryn, and Addy. Right before Christmas, a beautiful bore frost came through. We had to sneak out while getting ready for the day and morning prayer meeting to take some pictures. I wish the pictures could really show you the beauty of all our buildings, trees, and mountains covered in the sparkling crystals of frost.
Looks like the controls of the Rover are a bit frosted, uh? The steering wheel was a bit chilly to hang onto.
The entrance sign had quite an intriquing look. On December 23, five couples went to the Salvation Army and served the Christmas dinner. Along with completing our assigned task, we entertained with our caroling during various times throughout the day. I am grateful we had the opportunity to bring a good meal and some fun to those who aren’t as fortunate.
This is at the Cove on Christmas Day. The weather was fairly warm and no wind. Just a tender miracle for us.
This is Miracle. Miracle was born in Savage Pocket sometime in late May. When the cows and calves were moved down to around Missionary Village the first part of June, Miracle was missed in the round up. The ranch hand figures he was no older than a couple weeks when he was separated from his mother and other cows. He spent the entire summer and fall in Savage Pocket all by himself with no mother’s milk and no direct water source. When the ranch foreman’s brother came to hunt in November, he saw Miracle and told the foreman about him. With quite a bit of disbelief as to a calf being in Savage Pocket, the foreman and ranch hand went on horseback to check. Miracle was quite curious about the horses and came pretty close to them. They gathered him up and brought him to the corral. He is a little stunted in growth but not a significant amount. I named him Miracle (with agreement of the others) as he really shouldn’t be with us considering no nurturing, coyotes, wolves and whatever else may have gotten him. Now for the rest of the story, Miracle does have friends. If you notice, there is a doe deer right outside the fence. This doe arrived shortly after Miracle was put in the corral and she stays very close by. She has even been seen in the corral with him several times which we haven’t seen any other deer in the actual corral. She doesn’t leave with the other deer that come feed for a while and then head out on the trail or up the hill. She does spook by us but not enough to desert the area. What if she is Miracle’s surrogate mother?? Something to think about.
After decorating for the party one evening, I stepped out of the barn and this is what I saw. Isn't it just gorgeous.
Our infamous Sweetwater River is freezing over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Trip to Texas and Arkansas

After dealing with mixed emotions about leaving Martin’s Cove for our two week get-business-done trip, we headed out early Friday morning, November 11 for Texas. The day was spent driving, more driving, and yet, even more driving. While Elder Smith drove, Sister Smith worked on labeling all the summer photos on the computer. Something about this “keep things organized” obsession overpowering her. We made it to Amarillo the first night and stayed at a dump of a hotel because a pro rodeo was in town. Oh well, just needed a place to rest for a few hours and then back on the road for another long day of traveling.

We arrived in Fredericksburg about 3 pm and found our camper all set up and ready for us…well, the outside was set up. The inside was a different story as it was our storage spot for over a year. We spent most of our time in Texas on a doctor marathon run; total of 10 appointments in three days along with lab work. Poor Elder Smith had to have his blood drawn two days in a row. We both received clearance to continue doing what we are doing which was such exciting news; especially for me!!! We were blessed to be able to spend time visiting with my parents, grandmother, and friends from the park and church. It was so great to see everyone and hear about their summer excursions. I was even able to squeeze in playing the dulcimer three times with Donna and Mo, my buddies. It was so much fun. We attended church at Fredericksburg which was fun surprising them by showing up. They were so excited to hear all about our adventures of the mission and believe me, we were excited to share. I was invited to do sharing time with the primary and tell them pioneer accounts and then we sang songs with Patrick the Parrot. After all, I am known as the Parrot Lady in primary.
My parents, Les and Phyllis Murdoch
The craft Angela and I entertained ourselves with one afternoon.
Paisley, the grand dog, with Colin and Ryanne, the flat travelers.

The next Saturday, we headed towards Arkansas--another long day in the truck driving, more driving, and still more driving. Sure glad I have plenty of photos to label and what a great time to reminisce about our eventful summer. Since we are taking our pull camper back to Wyoming with us and knew we could not park it at Karl and Angela’s apartment complex, Karl found us a place across town to drop it for the week. So, they met us there and then led us back to their apartment. They are now living really close to the university at some new apartments. We were warmly greeted by Paisley, our grand dog. I never thought I would ever say that or claim a grand dog but she sure is special. Karl had school on Monday and Tuesday morning but somehow was able to go with us wherever we went. We spent our time visiting base, going by the old neighborhood, and shopping. Angela and I spent a girl’s day out with shopping and getting our hair done. It was a great time. The guys went shopping and to a basketball game. You know, the guy’s day out things. Elder Smith, Karl and Angela kept the family tradition of Black Friday shopping. They spent 2 hours waiting for a store to open, 30 minutes to get what they wanted, and then 3½ hours waiting to pay for it. Personally, I am not so sure the return on time investment was profitable…Karl would not support that decision though as he got a computer to finish up his school years. It was just great to see everyone having such a good time together. Angela and I also had an afternoon for crafting after visiting Hobby Lobby which is always fun for me.

We said our goodbyes early Monday morning as Angela headed back to work, Karl back to school, and us back on the road for two more very long days of driving, more driving and still more driving. A highlight of the trip home was getting to meet Melissa, Micah, and Maddie Harris at Flying J near Joplin, Missouri. Mike is deployed, so missed seeing him. This family is very special to us. They shared some primary songs and their Christmas wish list with us while we ate lunch. I have to research Micah’s request as he wants a racetrack that stays on the wall. Sure hope we get to spend a couple days with them this coming spring when they come visit us at the Cove.
Madie and Micah

We arrived home about 11:00 pm Tuesday night. Was a very long drive on Tuesday but well worth it considering how much work we had facing us when we arrived. We spent Wednesday unloading the pull trailer and organizing a bit in the apartment. We definitely did the right thing because we woke up to four to five inches of snow on Thursday morning. What a beautiful site it was to behold!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

River Crossing

November 4 is the date the Martin Handcart Company left Fort Seminoe to go into the cove for protection and crossed the Sweetwater River when it was so very cold. The winter missionaries held a commemorative river crossing on Friday, the 4th. There were a few visitors whom joined us in our event. A couple from Utah, the Hathaways, have done this crossing every year for 13 years and have experienced all types of weather and conditions for the crossing. They were very interesting to visit with. They had invited another couple to join them which were descendants of Rebecca Winters which is a pioneer lady buried near Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Elder Smith and I were touched to hear the story of the moving of Rebecca Winters grave from this couple because when we did our Arkansas Youth Trek, we were the Winters family. Back to the river crossing, all together there were seventeen who crossed the river. The program began with a gathering to recite some pioneer accounts of the crossing and then I read a couple scriptures and gave a small spiritual thought. We then loaded up in the rovers and drove the actual trail from Fort Seminoe down about two and half miles where they would have left the trail. We then walked down the hill with handcarts to the river and crossed. The first step into the river was quite a shock to the system; it was extremely cold. By about half way across, I could no longer feel my legs or feet. Then we got out on the other side and the wind hit the legs and it hurt. I felt like ice picks were poking me over and over. It was one of the worst physical feelings I have had for quite awhile. The other sisters and I looked at each other and did not want to cross back but knew we had to. The weather was clear, very windy with temperature about 45. Knowing I had to get to the other side, I harnessed up in the handcart and started pulling. It was worse the second time across with getting numb and then climbing out of the river. I now have a much better understanding of the significance of the river crossing which occurred 155 years ago and the invaluable service the four valley boys rendered to the frail saints.
Traveling the trail in our rovers. We are in the last rover that is camo painted. Fits us, uh?
Walking down to the river across the prairie. I am in the red coat.
Randy and Elder Vinton pulling through the river.
The women pulling through the river. Notice our faces and it is only a glimpse of how cold it was.
Pulling up the bank of the river on the other side. To me this was the tough part because I couldn't feel my legs.

One morning as we were getting phone messages off the machine, we heard the voice of a young man whom wanted to know more about the church and wondered if we could talk to him. I returned the phone call with the thoughts I would get his information and do a missionary referral. When I reached him, he explained to me that he was using a friend’s phone so his parents wouldn’t get upset that he had called as they were Baptist. He explained that he had been reading a lot on the internet and wanted to talk to someone about what we believe. I mentioned having the young missionaries come speak with him but he was a bit nervous about that right now. I didn’t know where to start as he didn’t have a particular subject to discuss. He just wanted to know more. I was also a bit skeptical as I was sure this would end up as a prank phone call. After a short silent prayer, I started through the Articles of Faith and explained what we believe. He was very interested and had some questions while we were talking. I suggested he go to to read some more as some of the information he had wasn’t quite on track. Then I suggested he go to one of our chapels on a Wednesday (he is 18 and still in high school) and I was sure he would find someone to talk to and would answer more questions if he didn’t feel comfortable with the missionaries because of his parents. He explained to me he was African American and was concerned about being entitled to everything because of his readings he wasn’t sure. I shared with him that my cousin was an active member, priesthood holder, goes to the temple and is African American and that I have a granddaughter that is African American which put his concern at ease. Being a recent convert I do not understand the total history behind withholding the priesthood from the African Americans and I was quite uneasy going any deeper. When the conversation ended I felt at peace with everything that was said. I am so grateful the Lord entrusted me with the opportunity to share my testimony with someone searching for the truth.

Elder Smith and I have had some great experiences in the visitors’ center lately. We served in the visitors’ center both Saturday and Sunday this past week. On Saturday, a couple came from Utah. They were the first family to go out on the trail after the dignitaries when the cove opened in 1997. They had cart #1. Then, she had been part of a support group for a trek group this past summer. Right from the beginning of meeting this couple, I could tell he was struggling with something and needed the time at the cove to work it out. They weren’t too interested in going through the center but graciously obliged me sharing thoughts and stories as we went through. He asked if he could take a handcart out and cross the river. Elder Smith hooked up a handcart on the rover and took them out to the river. Only he crossed the river and as he did so he would stop and ponder (which I am sure included some prayers). He crossed twice and the second time he crossed he placed rocks in the cart to symbolize his family and on the other side touched the rocks carefully as talking to them and then brought them back and put them back on the ground. It was heartbreaking to see him struggle but comforting to know he knew the right way to work out his struggle. On Sunday, we had a man and woman stop by on their way to Rawlins from Casper. He is the business manager for the Carbon County School District (recently moved to Rawlins) and she was asked to come and talk to their food service department as a consultant. Neither one of them members but she knew she was a descendent of a member of the Martin Company. They didn’t understand the story of the Martin Company before coming and didn’t realize their struggle. She was especially touched when she saw the name of her ancestor on the board in the center. She was so grateful they stopped by on their way to Rawlins and vowed to come back with her daughter. We have also had several sets of father/son visitors. I love it when the son is a teenager and spending time with his dad. It is so rewarding to visit with these young men and share with them the foundation of our church and challenge them with thought provoking questions while going through the center. I just love our visitors.
Our talents are truly being stretched. As I mentioned in the last blog, I am tagged with helping with the music for prayer meeting and some Sundays. It is coming along and is actually somewhat very enjoyable. Because we are a small group and all learning together, the acceptance of the missed notes or off beat leading is so comforting. I can also testify that practice really pays off and in itself practice is a good stress reliever. Just this past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to stretch a bit more. Prior to the departure of the other missionaries and couple sisters made arrangements to machine embroidery our handcart emblem on white ties for our husbands. Cool idea but our machine broke during the beginning of the process and had to be repaired. It was not returned until after everyone had left. So Sister Fenn and I went to the store and received some lessons on the machine. We were both very nervous about completing the project and even talked to another business about doing it for us. But we attempted one and it went pretty well so we did a couple more. Well, when I left on Thursday, there were 40 ties done. Elder Smith has also learned quite a bit. The first was winterizing all the water lines and such all over the homestead. Just this week, he, along with the other Elders, had the puzzle of how to fix the flagpole which is about 35 feet high. The wind blew so hard that it broke the rope with the flags on it and carried them over towards the corral area. The pole had to be extracted and laid down, the pulleys repaired, rope restrung, and then placed back in place. The pictures will tell the story and each one of the Elders were in heaven playing with the toys to do the job. A tender mercy for the whole process was the wind did not blow (which is a monumental moment on the plains of Wyoming), not even a whisper of a breeze, during the process making it a safer event.
This is my nervous look for working on the ties.
Using the "right" equipment to remove the flag pole.
Moving the pole to a place where it could be laid down. This was a slow and gentle process.
One man's toy was not enough to do the job, so had to pull out something a little bigger.
That is my Elder in the bucket along with the director.
Now the tractors backed up slowly to lay the flag pole down.
Whew, made it to the ground safely. The Elders done good!!
All repaired with new pulleys, rope and flags. Time to raise the flag and even with respests of removing their hats.
I got the best man for the job to help with ties!! Not really, he was just watching the machine.

We are headed to Texas and Arkansas for the next couple of weeks. When our mission was extended, we were told we could take some time to go home for doctor appointments and take care of other business. Since we had prescheduled our appointments for this timeframe we are the last couple to leave the homestead for our leave. It is a bitter sweet time for us to leave the place we have grown to really love to head south. We are looking forward to seeing some of our family and friends and spending quality time with them.
How do you like our winter visitors?

Sunday, October 23, 2011


We have begun our winter season at the Mormon Handcart Historic Sites. It sure is different from the activity of the summer. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not sitting around trying to find something to do as we still have assignments and chores. We are busy doing maintenance around the area and prepare for next summer. There is still scheduling and fine-tuning the treks that will be coming next summer, putting training manuals, script books, and the other necessities for the new set of missionaries arriving next spring together, and then the big thing that has kept Elder Smith busy is winterizing everything. First was the equipment and RVs and now are the water lines for the campgrounds, Ranch 66, and the homestead. I should find out how many feet of water lines they have to drain and blow out.

There are seven couples who will be staying for the winter. We are called polar bears but that had a real negative effect on us new missionaries from last year’s polar bears so we just call ourselves the winter missionaries. Since all of us prepared to only be away from home for six months and now have to stay for 18, we are allowed to return to our home for two weeks to take care of medical appointments, finances and anything else we may have to. We will be heading back to Texas around the middle of November and have to be back the weekend of Thanksgiving. Until we return there are two couples absent from the homestead each week so that leaves five to do all the work. That wouldn’t be too bad but our number of visitors isn’t decreasing very much; today we had 89 visitors and only three couples were working. All six of us were guiding visitors through the homestead and taking them up to the cove. We stay on assignment until all the visitors have departed; sometimes until 5:30 or 6 pm.

There is a scary part of just a few of us hanging around all winter. There aren’t many who play the piano or know anything about music so any of us who even can plunk at the keyboard are honing our skills. I have to play the piano for prayer meeting at least once a week and lead the music twice a week. I was so nervous the first day I played for prayer meeting. I practiced the same hymn for several hours out of the big hymn book. Then as one of the other ladies was practicing she found a simplified hymn book and it sure is making it a bit easier until I get more comfortable. I am so out of my comfort zone with this piano playing in front of people and the leading is even more nerve wracking. I think I will be bald by the time I am released from this mission. If you feel enticed, please pray for me that I don’t get too worked up over this.

Okay that isn’t the only new adventure for me. With the few numbers, we will be speaking in the branch, teaching Sunday School, or teaching Relief Society and Priesthood quite often. Last week, our guest Sunday speakers didn’t show up; so Elder Smith was chosen to speak on the spur of the moment for sacrament. That is alright as he is a counselor in the Branch Presidency but I am sure my turn will come. One more thing to make me nervous, so I am going to prepare a talk and have it ready for the next time someone doesn’t show up. Well, if I get a couple minutes to do so.

With staying for the winter, we do not stay in our RV. There are one bedroom apartments on the homestead for the winter missionaries. We started moving into our apartment on Oct 1 and are close to being totally settled. I just need to set up our office area and hang pictures. It is quite a cozy little place that sits on top of a hill overlooking the homestead and out across the prairie. I am going to get really spoiled having so much room to spread out in compared to the Bighorn.

On the Saturday we started moving, Elder Smith and I were occupied out at the campground packing up the fifth wheel getting it ready to pull into the homestead and Elder Smith was winterizing the fifth wheel. We were close to being done when one of the missionaries let us know there was a baptism and the directors were in Casper on an errand. So, Elder Smith as the counselor needed to preside over the baptism. We quickly cleaned up, changed clothes and headed for the homestead for the baptism. It was an eight year old boy whose family recently moved from Colorado to Casper and really wanted to be baptized in the Sweetwater River. It was a cold, cold day. In fact, it had been spitting snow and then rained most of the afternoon. So, we had the opening ceremonies for the baptism with about 15 people in attendance in what we call our Gathering Room and proceeded over to the edge of the river. It was so cold and wet, I had the boy’s little sister wrapped in my coat with me and Elder Smith had another child he was monitoring. We get to the river and I can see it is going to be cold. The dad picked up the young man and walked down into the river. The grimace on the dad’s face told all of us it was not real pleasant but the boy wasn’t quite clued in yet. The dad talked to the young man for a second or two and then set him down into the water which came up to about his waist. Within three seconds, that young man climbed straight up his dad’s body clear to his shoulder and he was letting the world know just how cold and unpleasant that water felt. He was screaming and yelling that he wasn’t going to do it and don’t make him. The dad tried to reason with him, the mother tried to reason with him, Elder Smith tried to reason with him and there was no way it was going to happen. The Bishop was in attendance and suggested to the family that he call his counselor in Casper and they can start filling the font and it would be ready by the time they got back to town. Sounds good to me but the grandmother said no because the boy wanted to be baptized at Martin’s Cove and she asked if anyone had a tub of some sort. I casually mentioned that we had a bathtub in our apartment we were moving into. Well, one thing led to another and we ended up filling our bathtub to the top and the father baptized his son in our bathtub. After the baptism, they confirmed him in our living room. It was quite a neat experience and event for us to partake in at our own home.

Another assignment that rolls around quite often is doing Family Home Evening. The Smiths had it last Monday so we decided we needed to carve pumpkins. So we purchased enough pumpkins for one per couple and had a blast as you can see by the pictures. We forgot to get candles though and no one has gone to town yet to pick up candles so the jack-o-lanterns look pretty sad in the dark. Every time we do some crazy activity all of us state that our children would never belief what we were up to and of course, that was the case with the carving jack-o-lanterns. It was quite a serious task for some of the guys as they had to use power tools.

Our antelope friends are real friendly. This is right outside the door of our camper before leaving Missionary Village.
We are pulling out of Missionary Village to go move into our apartment. I am getting spoiled with all this room in our one bedroom apartment which may make moving back into the Bighorn a bit difficult.
Looking out our bedroom window in the apartment the night we moved in. I guess it makes it all worth it.
Our Family Home Evening of carving pumpkins. This is also our Branch here at the cove -- small in numbers but mighty in spirit!!
Getting serious about doing a good job. The ranchhand's daughter, Kathryn, and I carved a pumpkin together. We had a great time while Elder Smith snapped pictures.
Well, how did we do??