24 July 2016

O Pioneers! (No, not the book)

Crossing the Sweetwater River
For the good residents ensconced behind the Zion Curtain, tomorrow is a day off. It's the official observance of the 24th of July state holiday. The state shuts down to celebrate that fateful day when Brother Brigham lifted himself from his sick bed in the back of wagon, looked over the uber-inviting barren desert wasteland splayed out before him that would one day become the Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the place!"

All along the Wasatch Front tomorrow there will be parades and massive consumption of fried foods. No doubt someone who is simply not right has figured out how to make "Deep Fried Funeral Potatoes" and served up they shall be. Because what better way to celebrate the sacrifice of thousands of people than gorging on foods that will hasten your death.

The legacy of the Mormon Pioneers looms large even today, nearly 170 years after their arrival into the Salt Lake Valley. Many of us can trace our heritage back to people who were in some of those original companies. The stories of those who died along that arduous trail are part of the fabric and ethos of many families today. They are stories that cannot, nor should not, be forgotten.

As I hear those stories, I know that there is no way I could have survived a trek across the continental United States, dragging a handcart or riding atop a wagon or simply walking, as many did. None. Consider my life: I have carried on active Twitter wars with our national rail provider over less than expected service. I have actively booked bizarre flight routings between two city pairs just to insure my First Class upgrade would clear. I was once more upset that I couldn't finish my chicken jeerza on a flight out of London because the flight attendants were preparing the cabin for an emergency landing than I was about the fact that our airplane was, wait for it, in mortal danger. When I was 18 years old and preparing to serve a mission, I was invited by some full-time missionaries to go out with them to get a feel for the work and I said no because I was afraid my new shoes would wind up looking like theirs (I was 18, remember, and it was the mid80s, so be kind).

So I am more than confident what I say that this whole pioneer thing would not have worked out for me. Also, had I survived and made it to the Great Salt Lake Valley, I'm afraid I would have taken one look at it and said, "Nope. I did not come all this way for this. I'm out. Seriously. I'm out. I've heard good things about that California place. Who's with me? Let's go." Of course, I would have promptly died somewhere in the desert but that's neither here nor there. I am able to honor my pioneer heritage today from the comfort of my home. I am humbled by what they did and what their sacrifice means.

But I'm just grateful it wasn't me.

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