by Ruth Hammond Barrus
At first, only the high clouds in the western sky glowed at its coming; but the distant, rugged Wasatch Peaks could hold it back no longer, and it burst gloriously over the summit. Greedily, magically, its rays streamed through eery opening in ravine, brush, or tree. Steaming earth attempted resistance to such a rude awakening, and temporarily diffused and softened the bright rays; but the clouds of moisture rolled back and disappeared into the blue horizons, and the exposed glistening grass mirrored its approval of the mighty sun which now fully and brazenly glowed in the east. The sun had much to do that late March morning, and it set energetically to its task. It must warm and dry the idle earth that plows could be set in motion; it must melt the mountain snows that reservoirs might be maintained; it must warm budding trees and brush that they might fearlessly burst their foliage; it must warm the hearts of men and women, filling them with new hopes and new energy; and - - oh! - - it almost forgot! It must awaken two little girls this morning. Puck-like, it flashed up the wall of the Hale home in Grantsville and shot through the upstairs bedroom window, resting its rays teasingly on the cheeks and closed eyes of two little girls, one six and the other nine, who occupied the big, heavy, home-made bed. The girls wriggled restlessly; finally, their eyes opened, and they raised up. The bright glow in the room found an echo in their hearts, for this was the day they had prepared for and anticipated for so long.
The smell of fried potatoes, eggs, and hot cereal came tantalizingly from below. Voices, excited voices, filled the house. There were mother Hale's, and Graces' and Katie's. Outside, father Hale was talking to his horses as he watered them and harnessed them to the wagons. The girls ran to the window in time to see their father harness the big sorrel team, Maud and Maim, to the white-top wagon.
"Pa says you and I can ride with him and Ma in the white top," Retta told her younger sister, Viola. "Katie and Grace were going to take turns driving the wagon with the furniture on."
The girls looked at the big canvas-covered wagon, and viewed with interest the outline of the Mason and Hamlin organ, their most precious piece of furniture. They could also tell where the big, round table had been stored. Only the very nicest furniture were to be taken with the family to Smithfield; the heavy, home-made pieces were sold with their home.
Bare feet on the cold, unprotected floor did not tempt the girls to linger longer at the window. They quickly exchanged their long, full nightgowns for long, black, knitted stockings, buckled shoes, starched petticoats, warm, home-spun Lindsey dresses, and starched pinafores. They felt to see if their braids were still in order. Their hair had been tightly braided the night before, so as to save time this morning. As directed, they rolled their nightgowns and pillows in their quilts to take downstairs to the wagon.
Retta gave the straw mattress a parting punch, and said, "We won't have to sleep on these things anymore. Grace says Pa has bought us some pretty iron beds with real springs and mattresses on them."
Katie says some will be white and some will be gold," replied Viola. "I hope ours is gold!"
Together the girls lifted the cumbersome bedroll and proceeded, unsteadily downstairs. Immediately they were pressed into the activity of last minute preparation. As they helped pack the large boxes with food, they excitedly anticipated the coming journey.
"It is going to take us five days to get to Smithfield, and we can be real pioneers. We can cook over a campfire and sleep on the ground. Of course, we have roads to travel on, and the pioneers didn't have roads; and we have a white-top wagon to ride in, and the pioneers didn't have those," said Retta. "But we can pretend we are pioneers."
"Maybe we can find some Sego roots," offered Viola. "Pa says all he had to eat lots of times was Sego roots."
Finally, all boxes were packed and loaded, and father Hale came stomping into the kitchen to free his heavy boots of the moist spring earth. The family knelt once more, for the last time around this particular table, to have family prayers. Father Hale had much to say to the Lord this morning, for his heart was full at parting from his old home and friends. Of his twenty-one children, only four were there around the table. He prayed for the protection of his family, but especially for twelve-year-old Johnnie and half-brother, Frank, who had left two days earlier for Smithfield with the livestock, a wagon load of belongings, and a saddle horse. Retta closed her eyes tightly so that she might better pray for Johnnie and Frank too.
Breakfast was soon over, dishes washed and packed, coats and scarfs put on; and then, father Hale was shaking the reins and calling, "Giddup Maud, giddup Maim!" They were on their way to the temple and Smithfield.
Roads, made soft from melting snows and spring rains, were deeply rutted by narrow wagon wheels, and travel over the twisting, rutted roads was slow and noisy. Creaking wheels, rattling harnesses, and other sounds made conversation difficult; so each was left to his own thought. As they neared the shores of the Great Salt Lake, Retta wished she could just once more bathe in the hot springs which bordered the lake. Many times she had been allowed to go with her older brothers and sisters in the white-top to swim in these springs. She rubbed the top of her head at the thought of one experience which had not been so pleasant. Canvas awnings on each side of the square buggy could be let down as a protection against weather, and tied to the floor boards - thus making an ideal room for the bathers to change their clothes in. On that fateful day someone had forgotten to anchor the canvas. She had finished dressing, and leaned back against the canvas wall. The wall gave way and freely dumped its burden, head first, on the hard surface below. She had been temporarily knocked unconscious, and had caused the other bathers much anxiety - - and her head much pain!
Retta's eyes followed the broad expanse of the glistening lake, and she wished it could tell her what it had done with her new sailor hat which had been whisked into the water last summer. Father Hale, on his return from a trip to Salt Lake City last summer, had brought each of his girls a new sailor hat. The second time she had a chance to wear it, the family was traveling along this same road. The wind suddenly lifted that beautiful sailor hat off her head, and had set it gently on its rim, spinning it swiftly on the surrounding salt flats toward the lake. Brother Johnnie had jumped quickly off the wagon and had tried desperately to catch it; but the hat spun much faster than Johnnie's legs could run, and it was last seen spinning towards the lake. Her sisters offered to let her take turns with them, wearing their sailors; but, somehow, their hats never quite felt the same nor seemed to look as well as her sailor. By noon, the wagon had passed the more familiar territory, and memories gave way to imagination about the exciting new scenes ahead.
At night fall, the wagons halted on a gravel hill still distant from Salt Lake City. The ground, though rough to sleep on, was dry. The next day they passed through Salt Lake City, where they saw many wagons carrying the heavy granite blocks which were being used to build the temple there.
The next night found them near the settlement of Layton, Utah. Retta and Viola decided that this would be a good place to hunt Sego roots. They searched carefully the short distance they dared travel away from the wagons, but could find nothing that resembled a Sego Lilly. Instead, they found a small bunch of acorns under a tree. They gathered as many as they could carry in their pockets and hands, and ran back to the wagon and mother. Mother Hale showed them how to hollow out their centers to make little doll cups; and the tiny leaves on the trees made beautiful little saucers. The little girls contented themselves playing house with their tiny cups and saucers until they were called to supper. They slept the third night in Brigham City near the feared Sardine Canyon.
The trip through Sardine was beautiful, even though treacherous. Patches of snow still clung to the shady sides, and jagged rocks, tall pines, steep ravines, and rushing streams, topped by a clear blue sky made Retta tingle with the beauty of it all. This new land bore no resemblance to the dry, cedar-studded hills that surrounded Grantsville. On the more treacherous inclines or declines, the children got out of the wagon and walked, picking small bouquets of early wild flowers among the rocks.
As the tired teams finished the last steep decline, the canyon began to fill with evening dusk, and father Hale became watchful for a place to camp that night. On a not-too-distant rolling hill stood a haystack and farmstead. The drivers directed their wagons along the narrow road in that direction. A thin, cross-looking man owned this property, and seemed rather reluctant to sell enough hay to father Hale for his horses that night and the next morning. Finally, the severe man agreed on a price for the feed and pitched the hay into the adjoining field. Father Hale looked at the skimpy amount he had received for his money, but said nothing.
"I know my father did not give you enough hay for your horses; he never does." This statement was made by the son of the cross-looking man. "I'll pitch you enough more." After finishing this task he added: "Don't sleep on the damp ground. Put your beds in the barn on the loose hay. You'll be more comfortable there." With a smile and a "good-night" he was gone, but never to be forgotten.
As the sun crested the rugged mountains that encircled Cache Valley, the Hales were already in their wagons rolling toward their new home. The little girls kept their eyes glued ahead, each hoping she would be the first to glimpse the Logan Temple. The great significance of the Temple of God had been taught them from infancy, and today they were to see one for the first time.
A triumphant cry went up from all the Hales as the two tall spires came into view about noon that day. The inspiring picture before them softened their voices and dimmed their eyes. At last their dreams could be realized.
During lunch time the children were allowed to walk around the temple and view at close range the huge structure. They were reluctant to leave when their father called them; but he told them they had a new home awaiting them in Smithfield, and they could see the temple again soon.
A new home - -!! The little pioneers were tired and dirty, and the thoughts of a real bed and a warm stove seemed very inviting. The ten miles from Logan to their home seemed endless. The spring-rutted roads invited slow, jolting travel; and it was dusk before the weary travelers reached their new home.
Then the father pointed out the white frame house as their home, Retta exclaimed, "It looks just like our old home, except its white! See! It has two stories in front and a kitchen in back! And, oh! Someone has built a fire; see the smoke coming out of the chimney!"
The examination of the house went in many directions. The girls were anxious to see if the new iron beds were there; so they hastened to the bedrooms. Mother and father Hale went to the kitchen and pantry. In the pantry on the cool shelves were a big pan of creamy milk, a kettle of cooked beans, and a large rice pudding. Father Hale gathered his family together that they might view someone's kindness to them.
"We don't know what kind neighbor has given us these things," he said, "but we must kneel now and thank the Lord for the unselfishness of others. We must ask Him, also, that we might, in turn, give kindness to others."