Monday, May 23, 2011

Interviews and Assignments

Not a day went by this week without an exceptional spiritual experience. Monday started off with a bus tour of the trail from Casper to Split Rock. Yep, we got to ride on the big tour buses but Randy and I got the back of the bus. Might have had something to do with my wanting to sing songs and play bus games. We started at Renshaw’s Bridge in Casper, went to the Interpretative Museum which we spent several hours at last year with our grandchildren, Kathryn and Patrick. We then drove past Ft Casper and then took the buses out on the back dirt roads which follow the trail all the way to Independence Rock. We were allowed to walk about a half mile right on the historical trail at Prospect Hill and imagine the number of wagons and handcarts that walked those very places. Several accounts from the pioneers were shared while riding the bus or at the different sites. These stories just make me cry. After Independence Rock, we continued on to Split Rock where the story of Ephraim Hanks was shared as we looked over the area where it occurred. In my mind’s eye, I was able to see the thin black line of handcart pioneers in the snow along the base of the mountains. History is coming to life as I learn and feel more and more.

A landmark for the pioneers. It is called Avenue of Rocks or Devil's Backbone. Can you find the devil?

Walking the historical trail on Prospect Hill.

The next couple of days our assignments consisted of helping with the school groups. Every year about this time most of the fourth grade classes from Rawlins and Casper come to Martin’s Cove for a field trip. This year we had a school group from Loveland, CO so we are getting groups from even further away. There are several of us ladies which are asked to take eight or nine of the children and tour them around. I love this duty because I can be a kid myself again. Randy played Mr. Blacksmith one day for the school groups. He did a great job and kept the groups on their toes by asking them questions.

Ms School Marm with some fun loving girls.

Mr Blacksmith making a prairie ring for his gal.

Last week we had interviews with the director and were asked several questions as to what our interests were and what experience we have. I wanted to be selective as to my information but my husband helped make sure Elder Fenn knew what I excel in. So, the results of the interviews were additional assignments while we are serving. Elder Smith will be conducting orientation to the trek groups that start coming the first of June and Sister Smith is asked to be the personal assistant to the director and his wife. Oh my, of all things, nothing like pressure. So, I will be spending at least two days a week in the office.

It has been discovered that Elder Smith knows about electrical work. He started out by being asked to move a light switch in one of the bathrooms from one wall to another. Not too bad of task but now he is in charge of running the wiring in a new part of the mechanics shop and not just 110 wiring but 220 wiring and through conduit. He has to dig deep in the memory banks of skills to get this project done. He loves every minute of keeping his hands busy on projects though. I am so proud of my jack of all trades!!

We had the opportunity for two great firesides this week. The first was the church education instructors sharing more facts in regard to the history of the Martin Company and Willie Company. They used a missionary with a sign as either different landmarks along the trail, the different companies, and the individual rescue groups. It was like a live timeline while telling the story. So fun and cool!! Our second fireside was with Jolene Allphin, whom wrote “Tell My Story, Too” shared a fireside with us regarding the hope which sustained the pioneers as they crossed and some of the things they had hope in, like; friends, temple covenants, resurrection, family connection and the second coming. It was a very inspiring fireside.

Everything is not always work around here either which makes for a fun and busy week. We have family home evening every Monday night which we were supposed to do last Monday but returned from our field trip too late. Drats…not!! Then we had a big birthday party on Saturday night. What a blast having a party with a bunch of seniors playing birthday games. Our kids would be so embarrassed.

Split Rock, another landmark for the pioneers. This is taken from our camper door.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Training is Over

Another great week has passed. This was our first week of actually doing some of the duties we will be doing for the next six months. It was great to get down to business as most would say.

Monday started with Randy on work crew and I serving in the Humanitarian Center. Randy was able to go up into the actual cove and start painting the railings and benches that are placed there for people to sit and listen to the stories of those who endured those five long days of hard winter… or to just ponder the numerous blessings in their lives today. As for me, I learned to use the embroidery machine and sewed logos onto several work shirts for the missionaries. I only had to pick out (remove the mistakes) two (which was no fun) but my stats on mistakes were pretty good. No, I don’t want an embroidery machine as most of the ladies thought I would after using one.

Tieing Quilts in the Humanitarian Center

Then Tuesday, Randy and I were on work crew together and were able to go back up to the cove to paint some more along with set posts for a hand rail. Now we didn’t do this alone, there were two other couples with us and it was a great day visiting and getting to know each other, oh and, painting.

Randy painting the railings...look out for rattlesnakes!!

Look how much work we did...benches, railings, and ourselves!

I was on parole long enough to paint.

On Wednesday, Randy was in the woodshop and I was involved with the school groups and escorted a group of 10 around the grounds. What a wonderful bunch of 4th graders. It was snowing pretty steady while the school children were here so they didn’t stay long to prevent them from getting too wet and cold. Next week I get two days of escorting school kids around and I am really excited!! I love the children. One young man wanted to know if I had a prairie diamond. He was really concerned that I didn’t. The story of the prairie diamond will be shared in a later email so stayed tuned.

Thursday we were in the visitor’s center with three other couples. I was so looking forward to a gentle day of possibly just sitting and doing some reading. Guess that is what I get for doing the planning, uh?? When assigned to the visitor’s center the day begins with cleaning it up…lots of dusting, cleaning displays, and one additional larger task. Ours was to remove all the dead bodies of multiple bugs from the ceiling lights and clean them. It was okay until I found a big live spider. That’s okay though as I got him with the vacuum cleaner and helped him/her cross the veil into another sphere of life!! Randy and I were able to talk to a couple about the Martin Cove story and show them the visitor center and museum. This couple winters at Lake Havasu and summers in Kalispell (RV). They also have a daughter whom lives in Casper and works at the same bank as my cousin. Such tender mercies to meet up with people and find an instant bond between us.
Part of the light crew hard at work! I was doing the hard part...picture taking!

Friday was another great day of learning. All the first-year missionaries were taken over to the Willie Site (about 45 miles away) to learn more about the events of the James Willie Company. We were able to visit the sixth crossing site and the willows where they hunkered down from the winter storm and see more of the historical trail. It is such a wonderful thing to actually stand in the old trail and imagine what it must have been like. Again, we had the opportunity to do another woman’s pull up a long hill this time but not as steep as the one we did last week. It is amazing how these simple reenactments help each of us really reflect on our blessings and give us strength to continue on for one reason or another. One of the ladies on our cart is serving this mission for her grandson that is fighting cancer. She could hardly pull the cart as she was crying so hard. I am honored to serve beside such charitable women.

The school marm pumping water.

The story of Levi Savage shared by his great great granddaughter. She read from his actual very cool.

That's me in the middle pulling up yet another hill. Randy says several sisters love being on my cart because I can just tackle those hills. Wish I could do so well with problems life throws me.

Getting ready for Sunday potluck.

Look at that spread for Sunday potluck and that was just one of the two tables.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

And they walked, and walked, and walked

I forgot this last post. Pinning on our missionary badges.

Another great week has passed and we are really enjoying all that we are learning and doing. Of course, one of the sisters here said it is like we have been in the Missionary Training School (and she is right just a short version of it) and now beginning this week we get down in the trenches to work. To tell you the truth, I am excited to start on with my responsibilities.

The week started with learning the duties around the grounds. Our first lesson was driving the rovers (mules, ATVs, whatever you want to call them). Throughout our training, several have gained appropriate nicknames. Yep, we now have a Sister Andretti in our midst and it ain’t me.

This isn't actually training. This is our practice day but I wanted you to see what our rovers look like.

On the grounds is a woodshop, metal shop, and lots of landscaping to take care of. The Elders (men) will primarily being busy in the wood shop and metal shop but they have granted the Sisters (women) permission to invade their territory once in awhile if we desire. Thank goodness as I want to learn how to repair a handcart, build benches and the such. And I promise I won’t paint flowers on them either!! We will have two-way radios with some of our duties and we learned how to communicate with base station. The emphasis was placed on being professional on the radios…drats, they must have known I was coming and had to set the ground rules right away. No calling my honey on the radio and sweet talking him, uh???

Tuesday was filled with so much information; I think my brain is having to kick into overdrive. We were blessed to have guest speakers from the Church History Department and learn so much about their research program and how they validate the accounts of the pioneers and determine the location of the actual events. What a very intriguing area of church work.

She is holding a sacrament pitcher. Isn't it cool!! This was before the individual cups.

So many times in my recent life, I wish I would have been aware of all the opportunities out there for a career, pastime, or just know what is happening. Okay, maybe not as I would have wanted to do it all. After the briefings, we then went to the different posts (assignment areas) and practiced sharing our scripts regarding the history and stories. We have such talented people here with us that did a great job sharing the information for the first time.

Me sharing my pioneer account of Jane Bailey.

Randy and I standing in the depression of the trail made by the pioneers over 150 yrs ago.

On Friday, we did one of the actual treks; a 6-mile walk pulling a handcart with our belongings in it. What a truly wonderful experience!! Memories of the trek we did in Arkansas with the 14 to 18 year olds came flooding back and now I have memories of doing it with people ranging from 52 (me) to 87 years of age.

Our handcart family.

There was only one more cart behind us.

Each of us was blessed with gaining more knowledge and individual strength which we really didn’t think we possessed. Two of the most touching moments on this trek were the crossing of the Sweetwater River and the women’s pull up a sandy hill about 3/4 of a mile. As many as wanted to were invited to cross the Sweetwater which is very cold right now with the snow run off, approximately 2 ½ feet deep, and somewhere around 30 feet across. I proudly took off my boots and crossed.

Me in the turquoise sweater; crossing the Sweetwater River.

Struggling to get out of the boggy mud at the bottom of the river after walking over rocks barefooted.

I feel so totally blessed to be able to do this after all the struggles I have had health wise the past three years. I know there is an extra pair of hands holding me up at this time and I am so grateful I can serve Him in such a small way. After crossing the river, we then proceeded to a hill where the men were taken to the top of it and they talked about the strength and value of their wives while the ladies stayed at the bottom and talked about how virtuous it is to be a woman. We then, as women, got with our carts and pushed and pulled it up the sand trap hill.

Me and my sisters pulling the cart up the hill.

Now remember, these ladies are not the 14 to 18 years old. Of course, they weren’t only 14 to 18 when they crossed the plains either. Oh, the men were pulled out to signify either dying or being called to a mission to help others somewhere else while the women continued the journey to Salt Lake City. Those pioneers were some sturdy stock. The pull up the hill was grueling but well worth it. After our long walk, we gathered for dinner and then square danced. It was amazing that once the music started up, all of us gleaned energy of the excitement and got on our feet and danced for an hour. We will be able to enjoy this activity with the youth when they come. What a fulfilling day even if I had to use a tube of Bengay the next day to be able to stand.

Towards the end of our long pull. My shoulder was hurting so I could only use one hand.

Now for the rest of the story: On the trek we saw a hognose snake and were able to get pretty close to him or her. They are still moving pretty slow as it is not warm enough for them but none the less they are out already. Then, when Randy showered after our trek, guess what he found on him...a big black tick!!! Definitely not what I wanted or needed. How fortunate for us that we were the first to report a tick. We have been told that when we get ready to leave for the day, watch our doors as we may bump an antelope when opening them, then check the ground as there may be a snake and then when we come home, check for ticks. What a day of activity.

Yep, we found a bit of a bog to 4-wheel in with the truck. Traveling around the ranch is so much fun.

We went driving around the ranch and just thought this was beautiful.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

And we begin our mission....

We have been at the Mormon Handcart Historic Site for almost a week and experienced so many great and wonderful things. Like….three snowstorms (not too drastic), lots of strong wind (rocks us to sleep in the RV), and new friends. To serve this mission, you must have access to an RV (or box as it is commonly referred to here). While setting up, we decided there won’t be much placed outside as we would have to go retrieve it in Nebraska next fall.

Here we sit. Yep, that is snow. Just a skiff though!

The view towards the back of the Bighorn.

The view out the window by the table during a storm rolling in.

Looking out the back at our four-legged neighbor.

Our week has been full of activities to get oriented with our responsibilities around here. And from what I hear so will the next couple of weeks. There are 45 couples serving in this area and they come from as far as North Carolina to Washington, oops, mustn’t forget Canada. It is so fun to make new friends with so much to offer in advice and spiritually to our whole experience.

Thursday started with our first work crew assignment: To get to know the beauty of Wyoming up close. We picked up trash along the highway for five hours. Three miles later, we all had stories to share of what we found, who we met, and how hard the wind blows in Wyoming. Randy’s and my biggest treasure was an antelope skull with antlers. Cool, uh???

Randy picking up trash while I take pictures. Who has the better job???

Our treasure during trash pick up.

Standing underneath the entrance to our office for the next six months.

Saturday, we attended trek leaders training; which we will be part of our duties next fall. The training was so spiritual. Several great stories were shared about the pioneers that passed thru this area. Our key words for 2011 are Faith, Obedience, Sacrifice and Charity. Each story is an example of these great attributes. We also heard stories of past treks and it sure brought back the memories of the trek we did in Arkansas. Trek is a life altering experience for all who participate!!