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??

Saturday, October 8, 2011

TIme To Catch Up

Whew, I have a few minutes to breathe and my top priority is to get the blog updated. After all, it has been six weeks since the last post. We are putting in some long days once again with only a couple weeks to catch our breath from all the trekkers. Additionally, with Elder Smith’s new assignment as assistant director, he has been active orienting himself with the duties. It is exciting to see him excel at being a loved leader. I am constantly getting positive comments about how the missionaries love working with and for him. Makes me proud!!

As assistant director our P-days cannot be set in stone. Luckily, before knowing our future, we were able to go to the Guernsey Ruts, Register Cliff and Fort Laramie with our good friends the Petersons. These three historic sites are part of the Oregon and Mormon Trail. Fort Laramie is where many of the young pioneers would drop off the handcart companies and join the army to try and earn money for their family. Register Cliff is where several names are carved in rock…pioneer graffiti. The most interesting to us was the wagon ruts. I remember visiting there as a young girl but only saw one set of the ruts where this time we walked all over the hill and there are several areas of ruts which was just so exciting to explore. I wanted to take our friends to a great little Mexican restaurant in Lingle for lunch but they were closed for vacation. I guess they didn’t get the memo that I was coming through. It was a great get-away day.

Oregon Trail Ruts

Register Cliff Name--there are hundreds carved on the cliff.

The last day for missionaries to be on post was Labor Day. We were blessed to have Martin’s Cove as our last post during the Labor Day weekend. It was a beautiful weekend as you can see by the pictures. We are planning on taking a ride up there soon as we hear the colors are just beautiful. Along with the changes in the countryside, we are noticing the changes in the wildlife. The deer are beautiful with their velvet antlers, the antelope have nice healthy hides and coloring, and sage hens and such are appearing. Our evening entertainment is to watch the buck antelope keep tabs on their lady friends and to protect their territory. We were fortunate enough to see a couple of them tangle their antlers while showing off for the ladies. Of course, I didn’t have the camera close by.

Last day at Martin's Cove.
Trying to catch up on some computer work.

With the imminent departure of most of the missionaries, we have had some cool evening activities. One of them was the annual variety show where the missionaries displayed their various talents. There were several missionaries who read poetry, skits by various groups, and then singing or playing the drums. The true talent was displayed with the woodwork and paintings done by several. It was an interesting night. Then one evening after shift a bunch of us missionaries climbed thru Devil’s Gate. And when I say climbed, I mean climbed over rocks; big ones. Then there was an area where we had to walk and crawl the plank on a handcrafted slough. Not the typical activity you would see folks over 60 doing; and definitely not what I thought I would be capable of doing just nine months ago. On Tuesday, September 13, we had Girl’s Day Out. All the sisters went to town shopping for the day. We met at Christopher Banks at 9:00 a.m. and had quite a time with modeling different outfits, swapping each others items they picked off the racks, and selecting outfits for each other. After a couple hours there, everyone bunched off to go to other stores in the mall and later met up for lunch at Olive Garden. After lunch, there were carloads going thrifting, fabric stores, Hobby Lobby, each somewhere of their own interest. It was so fun to just break loose and then share each other’s treasures once we returned back to Missionary Village. Of course, there were several comments from store clerks about how did we get set free without the Elders. Benefits of a senior mission I suspect. Our last big activity before the majority return to their homes is a huge dinner on Monday. We will be celebrating the Canadian Thanksgiving with a typical American Thanksgiving meal. Fun, fun, fun!!

Elders singing some western tunes.
Sister dressed up to sing their Rover song. No we don't dress like this every day.
Colleen trying to revive the Bug Man after he "gave up the ghost"
Girl's Day Out at Christopher Banks
Lunch at Olive Garden. There were 48 of us.
Devil's Gate
Closer to the opening of Devil's Gate
Up we go.
Up we go some more.
Now down we go and the camera had to go after this as I was trying to climb in a skirt. I forgot to take jeans to change into after work.

As I mentioned earlier, we only had a couple weeks to catch our breath, because the focus in September was training the trek leaders whom with bring their groups of youth, families, or wards to do a trek next summer. We had three weekends dedicated to the Trek Leader Training Seminars with over 350 attending. Each weekend has different attendees. The first day is spent with an overview of a trek and then we actually divide them into two groups and then take them on a short six mile trek. Randy and I were trek leaders for one of the groups for the first week. This is quite an eye opener for most of the leaders on how much physical stamina it takes to do the trek. Quite a few of them have to drop out and catch a rover ride back to the training. Randy and I were rover drivers the second week of training and kept quite busy. The second day of training has several vignettes about the pioneers and how the stories can be shared with the youth and then the nuts and bolts of planning a trek. I was in one of the reader’s theaters and then did a reading to music which really made me nervous. After the training, I had to hurry to the office as the leaders would come over to work on their individual scheduled trek, purchase reference materials, or just have questions. The office became quite an active for about four hours. The exciting part of participating in the trek leader training is getting to know these leaders and then we will see them next summer with their groups. We each had some very special moments visiting with the leaders and sharing stories. One particular lady had called me at the beginning of the week she was coming and was really obstinate about having to come to the training and kinda threatened me at to it better be worth it. I just promised her a hug when she got her and asked her to have an open mind and then let me know if it was worth it before she left. I did find her and give her the hug and then kept an eye on her throughout the training. At the end of the two days, I asked her if it was worth it. She got tears in her eyes and was very emphatic on how worth it and how spiritually uplifting the whole weekend was. She has also taken the time to write to our schedulers to share with the director as to how much she truly appreciated the training and us missionaries. This is why I love serving the Lord.

The Elders waiting for their wives to finish up in the office.

One of Elder Smith’s new responsibilities is to give daily work crew assignments to 15 to 20 men and sometimes women a day for the various projects necessary for the upkeep of the site. With this also comes making sure enough materials are available to complete the projects. Both tasks that are right up his alley!! But with the limit of only one purchase card, we make several trips to Casper. We made three trips last week and so far it has been two this week. I am going to take advantage of these trips and take the computer along to type up the blog.
Our friendly neighborhood watch guy!
These guys watch the cove for us when the trekkers leave.
Thanksgiving dinner any one?
This is our neighbors lawn. They are just much to comfortable around here.