Six Things My Great Grandparents Taught Me About Survival - Part 3

Six Things My Great Grandparents Taught Me About Survival - Part 3

                                                                                              By Jeanette Vale

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“The Starving forms and haggard look of those poor dejected creatures can never be blotted from my mind”.   Ephraim K. Hanks

It was now November. Winter was in full force and the company had been walking for weeks. 

Richard, Emma and their five children were dark images against the freezing white landscape.  Their shoes and clothing were too thin. Hunger had ripped at their insides as the scant flour ration was not enough to power pulling the handcart.  They were camped at a place called Devil’s Gate in Wyoming.  

The Sweet Water River had carved through this rock and walking through this ice-cold water (they had to more than once) was like knives stabbing their flesh. It made grown men scream out in anguish.

 The Company rested here and took refuge in a cove that was protected by a hill-like dune.  This protection simply meant the winds were slightly abated.  It was still freezing and miserable.

Wolves would devour their dead because the ground was too frozen to dig deep enough graves.  It was soul wrenching to know this as they laid their loved ones to rest. 

They themselves looked like the walking dead.  Their eyes were sunken and black.  Some in the company wrapped rags around their frozen black feet and just kept pulling.

Through many miracles, aid came to help them on their final arrival into the Salt Lake Valley.  Ephraim K. Hanks, who killed a buffalo and brought its meat said this, “The Starving forms and haggard look of those poor dejected creatures can never be blotted from my mind”.

The rescue of these handcart companies was so amazing.  They still had to walk.  They still had to pull (350 more miles), the fact that  some help had come with provisions was a strength.

You may be surprised to know that both Richard, Emma and all five of their children survived the trip.  Once in Salt Lake City, total strangers took them in and nourished them back to health. 

 Can you imagine sitting down on a flat warm hearth near a crackling fire and eating your first bowl of hot beef and potato stew?  As soon as they were healthy enough, they moved to Springville, Utah and then to Monroe, Utah.  Here the other settlers built underground temporary dwellings called “dugouts”. 

Emma was adamant.  She would not be doing any such thing.  She said, “I am not going underground until I am dead!”

Richard and his sons built a temporary three walled bowery (of small sapling trees) and there they lived, above ground,  until their cabin was built. 

Isn’t it interesting?  If my husband built me a structure of tree branches with the fourth wall missing, open to the air, I’d say “are you kidding me?”  What she went through, crossing the plains, coming from an English upbringing in London, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, to now being grateful and happy to live in a three walled bowery in sagebrush-desert Utah, blows my mind. 

Walking through hell makes people grateful for the simplest things and It is a very good feeling to know you’re made of steel and can handle anything life throws at you.

When the cabin was finally done, it was the first shingled Cabin in Monroe.  They did not live in the safety of Fort Alma like the others.  Every morning the fort dwellers would look to see if smoke rose from the chimney of Richard and Emma.  A sigh of relief was had if they did see it.  It meant a safe night passed. 

Richard, Emma and their children  did many things that were new to them.   They raised chickens, pigs, sheep, and cattle.  They spun wool into thread and made their own clothes.  They kneaded and baked batches of bread and churned butter.  In short, they adapted to change.

In my research for this segment, I found out that the ox team and wagon Richard paid for was indeed there in Iowa City when he arrived.   Instead of it being used for just his family, it would be used to haul large items for the whole company.  Richard had to let go of his bitterness over this. 

Best laid plans can go awry.  We can stomp our feet and demand fairness.  Or we can look at the situation and say, “it is what it is.  My wagon is helpful to more families than just mine”.

Forgive and move on.  Holding onto anger for too long messes with our emotional and mental health.   In times of ease, hardship, or emergency we need both types of health keeping us upright and operational.  

We also need the people around us.  We can’t burn through them and move on to new people thinking there is a better bunch.  Most of the current ones are excellent—or will be, given time.

Of Richard in his old age, it was said of him “Richard Collings was a quiet unassuming man who wanted to live at peace with his fellowmen.  One of his outstanding traits of character was honesty”. 

Emotional, mental, physical, and financial fitness, it is important to take care of these.  At Emergency Zone we consider fitness one of our four pillars.  You can get a free copy of our booklet Prepare for Life.  It is an excellent resource in thinking and planning through vital preparations.

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go! 

Next week come along as we tour the cabin of Richard and Emma!  It is still standing, and it is beautiful!  Step on, prep on and enjoy the smell of Grandma Emma cooking pancakes!

Come visit us at . We’ve got pancakes too!  And entree’s and great things that come in buckets–you just add water. This is simple food prep for times of distress or “I just don’t want to cook tonight”.






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