Massacre at Mountain Meadows

A depiction of the massacre

I recently finished reading a book on a very disturbing episode in U.S. History. Massacre at Mountain Meadows was written by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, Jr. and Glen M. Leonard and published in 2008. The book centers on the circumstances leading up to and including a Mormon and Indian attack on a wagon train in Utah Territory. The authors were given access to LDS archives and also combed through primary sources to assemble this well researched and engrossing work. After giving a through look at the history of the Mormons up to that point in history the events chronicled mainly involve Mormon settlers living in the Utah Territory, some Paiute Indians, and emigrants passing through on their way to California. A wagon train of around 120 men, women and children, mostly from Arkansas, is traveling through the Territory in 1857. They stop to rest and refresh at Mountain Meadows, a well known area on the trail. For a variety of reasons including the Mormon history of persecution by others, suspicion of outsiders, and a fear at the time of an invasion and war with the U.S. Army, the wagon train is attacked on September 7 by a Mormon militia and some Paiute Indians. The emigrants circle the wagons, dig in and fight back for five days. On the 11th the militia approach the wagon train under a flag of truce and deceive the emigrants into surrendering. Given the title of the book one knows what the ultimate fate of the emigrants will be, but the description is still heartbreaking to read. Only one man was tried and convicted, 20 years later, of mass murder. He was hauled back to the site of the massacre and executed by firing squad.

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The Roundup

Flowering weeds in our front ditch

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Traveling Past and Future

Our kids at Mount Rushmore

When our two kids were able to walk and talk and were out of diapers we began taking them camping. They loved to gather sticks for the campfire, roast hot dogs and make s’mores. If there was a beach they would play in the water until they were wrinkled like raisins. When they learned to ride a bike we would bring those, too. Around the time they reached their teen years we stretched out these vacations in both time and distance. Over the next few years we traveled to The Dells, The Badlands and Mount Rushmore, Grand Tetons, the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone. We usually stayed in cabins, sometimes next to a river or stream or on a mountain. We had to quickly climb a slope to avoid a bison, break for bears and share a river with moose. We toured caves and zoos and museums, took hikes, enjoyed campfires. And then it was over; the kids graduated high school and were off to college. Recently one of our granddaughters stayed with us for a few days. Peanut, her nickname, is seven years old. I was looking at a thin paperback book by Lincoln Borglum about the construction of Mount Rushmore. Peanut wandered up to me and was looking at the photos. I asked if she knew what that was. She shook her head no. I briefly explained what it was and then added that her mommy and uncle had traveled there with us to see it when they were younger. “You mean you saw that, in person,” she asked, her eyes lighting up. I told her yes. “Did you climb up it,” she wondered. I told her no. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. I want to go see it, too,” she said, doing a little dance. “Can we go see it?” I replied, “Well, you just never know, Peanut.” We looked at each other and smiled, content with that answer for now.

The Old Neighborhood

Me in the front yard of the house I grew up in

The house I grew up in sits in a neighborhood that didn’t have much traffic because it is not a through street, so most of the cars one encountered belonged to people who lived in the area. That meant us local kids were free to ride our bikes and run races in the street without fear of getting hit. When a car approached one of us would yell “car” and everyone moved to the curb until it passed, and then playing resumed. On our street there was a core group of seven or eight kids that lived within a few houses of each other. Some of the standard games we played included Hide and Seek, Redlight/Greenlight, Ghost at Midnight (also known as Ghost in the Graveyard), Red Rover and Simon Says. The games that involved hiding were usually played at night, lit by streetlights and fireflies. Behind our house ran a wide gully, full of trees and bushes with a stream running through it all the way down to the river. A tree house hung in an oak tree about 30 feet high over the edge of the gully behind our garage, built by my dad and brother 10 years earlier. My brother was off on his own by then so the tree house was all mine. Earlier residents of the neighborhood had dumped occasional garbage into the gully, but only the metal parts remained, so we gathered pots and pans and other cool rusty stuff to use during our Swiss Family Robinson and Planet of the Apes reenactments, usually including the treehouse as part of our play. I think my favorite times up there were when I was all alone during the summer. Lying on my back and looking at the green canopy above, feeling the tree house sway back and forth on a windy day, not a care at all.

Life

End Of Day By David Jacobi

You, who are so afraid to loose

Us, the ones who loved you first

Will someday say, as did we

I remember when, do you see

There was a time, to travel far

To the places we yearned, yet unexplored

Until finally, coming home

Twas a wander, or a wonder, or both?

2009 By David Jacobi

Little Big Man

Dustin Hoffman as Little Big Man

One of my favorite movies is Little Big Man, a revisionist Western directed by Arthur Penn, based on the novel by Thomas Berger. It stars Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb, born in 1849. He is being interviewed in 1970 as a 121 year old man recollecting his life among both whites and Indians on the Great Plains. Hoffman’s voiceover as the ancient Crabb during the movie adds a dimension of both humor and tragedy as he describes what he is thinking and feeling on top of the regular dialog between the other characters. Jack and his sister are the only survivors of an Indian attack and are taken in by another tribe. His sister manages to escape while Jack is raised by the tribe for several years until he is captured by the U.S. Calvary and finds himself living in white civilization again. Several years go by and Jack tries and fails at several careers until he is again attacked by Indians who steal his wife. While searching for her he ends up back with the tribe that raised him. And so the story continues with Jack living back and forth between Indians and whites, encountering happiness and hardships but never really finding his place in the world. He encounters both Wild Bill Hickok and General Custer during his adventures and ends up as the only white survivor of The Battle of the Little Bighorn. The movie closes with the ancient Jack alone in his room pondering his long life. In 2014 Little Big Man was selected to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, joining the ranks of Citizen Cane, Star Wars and It’s A Wonderful Life, among many other great films. If you have not seen the movie, watch it. The book is pretty good, too.