Saturday, February 6, 2016

Pioneer Trek - Then and Now


            BYU had sponsored a bunch of youth activities over the years.  I remember staying at the dorms one time when our stake had gone for an activity for four or five days.  We’d have workshops and activities to do each day.  I remember having had enjoyed myself. 

            I don’t recall the year that I was introduced to pioneer trek.  I was looking for some history online, but thus far all I’ve come across is this article that barely mentions BYU’s involvement in the 1970s.

            Our stake and at least one other would be making the trek together.  We were divided into groups.  There were three in my group that I knew from my stake.  Everybody else was from the other stake located in another county and thus I had never met them before.

            The two that led the group were referred to as “Ma” and “Pa” – in actuality both students at BYU who themselves may not have had any contact with one another except through trek.  I don’t know if there experience in being there was part of their grade or part of their major or what. 

            Each group was supposed to pick a name.  Our group was known as “the Kettles” although I think it was changed to “F-Troop” after the first or second day.  Someone in the group had mentioned that most of the “families” or groups had “cool names” and Kettles sounded so lame.  I don’t think I cared one way or the other.

            We weren’t supposed to bring anything modern with us – except for maybe our sleeping bags and footwear.  We were told we could take two pairs – one to walk/hike in and a pair to change into for when we made camp. I don’t even know if sunglasses were allowed.

 We were told that we could bring cameras so that we could record our memories.  Our outdoor experience was to be as authenticated as possible – which meant using leaves and not toilet paper when Mother Nature called.

            Now mind you, this was in the day before digital and disposable cameras.  Film had to be loaded into the camera.  My brother and I knew of youth who’s taken cameras loaded with toilet paper – although I can’t imagine it would have been enough.  Pioneers did not have that option. 

            Our group had killed a snake on the trail.  One of my “sisters” held the snake and squeezed out a mouse that hadn’t been in their long enough to be digested.  That night each group was told to make a simple stew.  We were the only group to add meat (the snake) to our stew. 

            I don’t recall how many handcarts we had in our company.  I know we started out as the second wagon.  We had started that way but ended up second to last as our one of our wheels kept falling off.  (I think it may have been an authentic handcart) The last handcart in the company had the sturdiest cart and were assigned to be the last cart in the company in order to make certain all participants were ahead and no one got left behind – otherwise we would have been left behind – or cartless – which would have slowed us down even more.  Often by the time we arrived to the designated campsite, everyone else had eaten or set up or played games or whatever, and we – along with the family with the assigned last cart – felt forgotten.  At least I did.

            When I write about it now, it sounds like I had a horrible experience – which I really didn’t.  My skin cleared up.  I learned to love my family members.  I probably gained a better appreciation for the pioneers.  There were positive things although I remember thinking I would probably not go again if given the opportunity.  I was actually never given another opportunity.



            My three boys were given an opportunity about ten years ago.  All three enjoyed the experience.  There was some rave.  Our middle son Tony asked if he could go with Jenna when it came her time to go.  I smile at the thought of his desire, but I had no clue where he’d be when/if her time would come.  Like I would have the authority to send him with her.  I never dreamed her opportunity would come after we moved to another state.

            From my understanding, the Roseburg stake offers this activity every four years.  She’s not happy that we are sending her.  Hopefully in four years she will WANT to go rather than be forced.

            Jenna is in primary but will be turning twelve in less than two months.  She will be continuing with her primary class but will go in with young women’s instead of singing time and primary closing exercises.

            This morning we took Jenna the big city of Roseburg for the first “Pioneer Trek” meeting.  She couldn’t understand why she was there.  Her photos showed confusion and less than thrilled to be there.  



            I think her biggest hang-up about going is having to wear a long dress – or just a dress for that matter.  Jenna HATES wearing dresses!  She does enjoy the stick pull however.  Glad something could make her smile.

            I’m happy to hear that the youth will be offered porta-pottys – though not conducive to authentic pioneering, does seem more hygienic than the “leaves-in-the-bush-thing” that I had the joy of dealing with

            There do seem to be more conveniences offered to youth now.  First aid stand-by (which was also available to us) and modern conveniences for times of emergency that weren’t offered to the youth when I went (such as the cell phone given to specific leaders who would use them in an emergency situation)

            Situations have changed.  “Ma” and “Pa” are now married couples from the stake – who still have to go through at least one year of training (or so it seems) and the invention of the women’s pull (which they may or may not do – but have done before) which was not a part of the pioneer trek I had gone on – or even church history for that matter.

            As I mentioned in this post the Mormon Battalion was recruited in 1846 when the company first came out in wagons.  Handcarts weren’t used until ten years later.  There was no women’s pull.  But all of the feedback I have read or heard has been positive.  I guess that’s why they keep it.  I just think the youth and leaders really ought to know that not all the reenactments really are not  “reenactments” but “what ifs”

            I’ll hopefully have a better post sometime in July.  And hopefully I’ll have more and better pictures.

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