Days of ’47 Celebration, aka Pioneer Day

This past weekend Utah celebrated its pioneer heritage on July 24.  Many states that were settled by pioneers have celebrations, but here in Utah this day, as it is also intimately identified with Mormonism, is enthusiastically marked by almost more hoopla than July 4th (which was celebrated on either July 3rd or July 5th this year as the 4th fell on a Sunday and church takes precidence!).  Parades, family bar-b-ques, reunions, and fireworks add to the celebration which already includes evenings of rodeos, cowboy skills exhibitions, and town and rodeo queens (every large town and rodeo names a royal court) with their courts being chosen (any “purty” candidates for this honor better look good in a ten-gallon hat and be able to ride a horse with some ability!).

Here, in the Beehive State, the parades include nods to just about anything to do with pioneers and or being Mormon and a few unrelated themes thrown in for good measure.  Salt Lake City’s parade is televised and parade-goersinvade downtown the night before to camp over on the sidewalk to get the best, or their family’s traditional spot–some going back decades (planning ahead for shade during the parade is critical, too).  The parade line-up has the usual dignitaries (governor, mayor, the president and current prophet of the LDS Church, police chief), bands, bagpipe units, motorcycle police brigade, covered wagon teams, families pulling individual handcarts, clowns, and lots of floats.  Apparently, Salt Lake Valley Stakes (clusters of local LDS ward churches) are assigned float design and creation responsibilities and they’d better produce.  Some are rather complex and take several well-hidden riders to hand-crank the animated parts.  Since there are no restrictions as to float materials, anything goes: foam, papier-maché, plastic, aluminum foil, cloth, glitter, whatever.  Award-winning floats this year portrayed Mormon temples; pioneer life; service to others; and, my favorite, a whimisical nod to the late 1840s’ miracle of the sea gulls swooping in to save the Mormon settlers’ crops from a plague of grasshoppers.  The gulls on the float had cowboy hats and were rounding up the insects or were dressed as female pioneers who had turned the offending critters into dough and were baking cookies (Don’t panic, I don’t think that’s part of the actual story!).  There were 140+ large, colorful crickets on the float and the animated parts were effective.

Meanwhile, up in Ogden, since July 9th, the run-up to Pioneer Day was happening daily with all sorts of rodeo events:

  • Roping contests
  • Cow punching events
  • Mutton Bustin’ competition for the small fry
  • Races around barrels and bales of hay
  • Bronco riding
  • Bull Riding

The rodeo was not without controversy; a new student group from Weber State University in Ogden, organized and got the necessary permits to protest the rodeo as cruelty to animals.  According tho the newspaper, 10 students were exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech about 100 yards from the side entrance they had been assigned.  It can be pointed out that most injuries occur to the cowboys, so maybe they’re the ones who should be protected.  Anyway, the two weeks of events make too much money for Ogden for the yearly rodeo to be disbanded, plus there is a rodeo circuit these cowboys participate in and make their living.  I doubt they’ll be too happy to be put out of work.

So, other that Cowtown Rodeo in Woodstown, New Jersey this is new to me and next year I think I’ll hike up the road apiece and get me a ticket to take in some wild west-type events (all the tickets wuz gone this year and it was just too plum hot to sit in the stands and eat that dust).

Below is a taste of what I missed in person.

Miss Ogden Rodeo, 2010, Cheryl Shiner

Bull riding excitement

Mutton bustin for the kiddies

Pioneer handcart in parade

Conestoga wagon

A Days of '47 float in the staging area

Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 4:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Trip Notes–Part 1 (heading east)

Last summer when I drove across country to move to Utah my route included heading south to near Chattanooga, Tennessee to visit with my brother and his family, from there I headed up towards St. Louis, MO and past the famed Gateway to the West Arch.  My route took me through Kansas, then the high plains of Colorado, into the Rocky Mountains.  Crossing the Continental Divide I Then my trip took me on to Omaha and overnight with my cousidescended into eastern Utah and finally to my daughter’s home northwest of Salt Lake City.   It was a 4-day journey once I left Chattanooga and I saw breath-taking views of many different states: the wheatfields and grain elevators of Kansas plains, cattle ranches of eastern Colorado, the majestic sweep of the Rockies as they suddenly rise from the high plains of Colorado.  Mercifully, I encountered no wild weather–rain, hail storms, or tornados.

This summer, when I drove back east for my month-long June visit I decided to plan a different route to see yet more of the country.  This time I drove out of Utah and across Wyoming.  The western Wyoming landscape offers interesting rock formations, but soon flattens out to 300 miles of not much but open grassland and brackish water.  At one rest stop, a marker had been erected to the first Mormon pioneers who had passed that spot on their westward trek on July 7, 1847.

Mormon Trail Marker

As I looked at the monument and my surroundings, I pondered how rough and miserable the 3-4 month journey by wagon train and later–too poor to afford oxen and horses and covered wagons–pulling what they could load on handcarts must have been.  Leaving civilization in Independence, MO or winter quarters in Omaha, the early pioneers, Mormon or otherwise, didn’t have it easy.  Bad weather, Indian raids, illness, poor food for man and beast, equipment breakage and repair, losing horses and oxen added to the rigors of the geography and traveling a distance of 10-20 miles per day (that I drove through in an air-conditioned car, making over 600 miles per day) must have lost its appeal about 3 days out  from the starting point.  Too often, Hollywood sugar-coats the story….  Below is a shot of the sagebrush (sagebrush looks prickly, but it’s really soft and feathery) landscape crossed by many in Wyoming; imagine 300 miles, or 30 days, of this monotony!

Sagebrush Landscape

Of course, I was heading in the opposite direction, so the geography improved as I headed east; for the pioneers, it got worse prior to reaching their destinations.  After leaving Wyoming, Nebraska came next, but it was many miles before the landscape softened and became greener with more gentle rolling hills.  A planned detour in western Nebraska took me to Chimney Rock (it’s pictured on the state quarter of Nebraska): a well-known natural formation that acted as a guidepost for all people heading past.  It’s about 300+ feet tall and is made of gypsum and limestone.  The early fur traders and pioneers named it Chimney Rock as that’s what it reminded them of: a chimney left standing after a cabin burned.  Of course, the Native Americans–who had no reference point of a cabin or a chimney–thought it resembled something else: an elk’s penis and so they called it by that name.  Obviously, the white settlers’ name stuck.  It was off the Interstate a ways and was worth the trip to see it, now in the middle of nowhere.  I, again, tried to imaging wagon trains passing by, pioneers knowing it signaled the hard, desolate stretch of Wyoming lay ahead of them.

Chimney Rock

Then my trip took me on to Omaha and overnight with my cousin and her family.  Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio passed without incident (again, no bad weather!) and finally into the familiar turf of Pennsylvania and my family’s camp, “Halcyon,”  in the mountains, where my brother was waiting.

We have a stunning country and unless one drives across it, you just can’t realize the diversity of landscapes and features.  Even barn architecture changes state to state.  I never realized how many different ways there were to design a barn!

(Trip Notes–Part 2 to follow)

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Green Thumb Gang

Despite living in a desert-like area with cold winters and late springs, the gardens grow well out here, if carefully tended and produce a lot of good stuff!  When I arrived last summer, Lara already had a vegetable garden going well and in July and August, through early October, until first frost, we harvested wonderful edibles and froze a lot.  We still have Italian tomato sauce in the freezer as well as a bags of chopped green and banana peppers.  The garden also sported herbs like parsley, rosemary, oregano, and dill.  We sure did get our share of fresh tomatoes for salads and hot pasta dishes.  She also has a nice, verdant lawn to her credit, but a generous underground sprinkler system (just about everyone has one) sure helps both the lawn and gardens, vegetable and flower.

This year, we started several varieties of peas around St. Patrick’s Day, along with rows of Mesclun lettuce and radishes.  The peas were thriving before I left for my trip in late May and Lara was hoping for a June harvest.  We already enjoyed a salad from the mixed greens and have pulled the radishes.

Fresh crisp radishes from the garden.

The last two weekends of May we took advantage of the cool, overcast, and rainy weather to plant the rest of the vegetable and flower gardens.  We’re on a corner, so the front gardens around the house have lupines, foxglove and cockscomb brightening the yard.  There’s a small red maple tree that will grow bigger and under that are pansies and impatience. 

Foxglove and poppies in the front garden

Lupines along the front of the house

In the vegetable gardens now are several varieties of tomatoes: cherry, beefsteak, slicing, and yellow.   The lettuce hadn’t bolted into seed heads when I left and it was still growing in late June (although by that time it was bitter) and I added 2 rows of carrots on each side of the lettuce.  We’re trying peppers again this year since they were quite successful last year; we have green, yellow and red, and jalapeño.  We’ve replaced the herbs that didn’t come up again or reseeded and as a treat, I’ve even planted an olive tree!  I doubt we’ll ever press our own olive oil; it’s mostly for fun and mild bragging rights!

Tucked in other part-sun spots are lemon cucumbers, yellow squash and, to Bob’s dismay, zucchinni.  We’re also trying 4 spinach plants which seem to be doing well and, of course, lots of mint and basil.  I’ve also planted green beans along the upper garden edge and we’ll enjoy them soon.

I returned in late June to hit the last of the peas (a lot of which we froze) and vegetable plants that had really gotten huge.  We’ve enjoyed the first tomatos and half the spinach appeared in a salad two nights ago.  The days are really heating up (high 90s), but cool at night; however, I still water the gardens each evening before sundown.

So when asked how does our garden grow? I would have to say splendidly.  Given enough fertilizer and water, the desert will bring forth lovely flowers and good things to eat.

Published in: on July 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Back Home and on Track Again

Well, after a month’s visit on the east coast and a week to unpack, power down, and decompress I find myself back at the computer keyboard picking up my blog after my 5-week hiatus.  I hope to share some of the events and impressions from my trip interspersed with the usual local Utah blog topics.  In the upcoming weeks, I’ll share another round of obits, as well as another installment of the “Chicken Chronicles,” and whatever else presents itself.

However, I thought I’d start some comments about the trip east–the entire month of June–with some statistics:

Number of states driven through or visited (not counting my home state of Utah): 21–Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania (of course!), Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho.

Foreign Country visited: Canada (21st year attending the Stratford Shakespeare Festival).

Number of miles driven (round trip total): 7084, with 3718 on the return leg of the journey alone.

Interesting landmarks visited: 4 (3 by design, 1 quite by accident)–Chimney Rock in western Nebraska, Theodore Roosevelt Grasslands National Monument (which looked more like the Badlands than grassy plains) in western North Dakota, and The Little Bighorn Battlefield (aka Custer’s Last Stand) in southeastern Montana; the happy accident being Beaverhead Rock in western Montana.  This turned out to be a very well-known natural landmark for the plains Indians and was used as a route mark by Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery team.  I’ll write more on these side trips in the near future and provide images to go with them.

All in all, without meaning to bore any reader, it was a wonderful sojourn home and well worth the long days in the car.  I got to reconnect with family, friends, and familiar places.  It sure was good to see buildings, street names, and landmarks I have known for the last half century.  I also have half-jokingly replied when asked what I missed most was: trees–the overhead canopy of mature forest trees.  I can now state without a doubt, that that is 100% accurate!  We have trees in Utah, but not the dense, majestic complete town coverage of cool shade provided by leaves.  I don’t miss the sweltering heat and humidity, but boy, I do miss the trees offering relief from the sun!

So, I hope you all had a great July 4th; we had to officially celebrate on either the 3rd or the 5th out here as this year the holiday fell on a Sunday and when that happens in the Mormon state of Utah (same as Halloween), it can’t be marked on the Lord’s Day, even if it is our nation’s birthday!  So all parades and fireworks happened either the day before or the day after.  We did have a nice barbeque and since small-grade fireworks are legal in Utah, we defied convention and set off our own modest display at the end of our driveway.  So there!!!

Next big event out here is Pioneer Days, around the third week in July: rodeos, parades, and more fireworks celebrating the Morman entry into Utah back in 1847.  It’s almost a bigger deal than Independence Day….

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 6:24 pm  Comments (1)