It is interesting how religion plays a role in family traditions. Over
the weekend, ol’ Myrt traveled again to Phoenix, this time to attend the baptism
of my grandson. In our church this is done when the child is 8 years of age. The
occasion was much like I remember when one of my friends took her first
communion at her church. Both events provide occasion for the joyful gathering
of extended family at home after the service.
During this trip, we traveled by
car through some long, often deserted stretches of the road which became
increasingly difficult to navigate as the late winter snowfall increased. How
thankful we were for a comfortable mode of transportation, in sharp contrast
with what our pioneer ancestors experienced in settling here and there among
these same mountain passes and alluvial plains.
Can you imagine taking an
800-1200 mile trip beyond civilization in a covered wagon at the unpredictable
mercy of Mother Nature? Grandma Warnick and I would have huddled in the back
with quilts frosted by snow that managed to leak through the flap of the wagon’s
thin canvas. With the temperature at 17 degrees (according to our car’s on-board
navigation system) we experienced gusts of wind that pushed our car to the edge
of the road. Mere covered wagons surely would have toppled over, pushing us to
the breaking point, like the fated Donner party. Driving the horses and oxen,
Grandpa would not have been able to tolerate the cold as his whiskers would
become more frozen with every halting breath.
We passed two ancestral homes,
one a humble single-story adobe brick with a small window on each side of the
door just like five or six others huddled in the shadows of the mountains. The
second home, a fancy two-story with a wide front porch was found in the next
town, situated like others, one to each to block in the township. In our minds
we removed all traces of modern civilization, and realized that 150 years ago,
individuals in these tiny settlements must have been very interdependent during
such difficult winter storms. One couldn’t just bop on down to the local Safeway
or Home Depot to restock necessities to see you through ‘till after the spring
It was a little challenging for
the driver of our car to pass from one place to the next in near white-out
conditions. Yet our travel was a thousand times easier than negotiating the path
on foot to the next farm in the hopes of retrieving an ember from the neighbor’s
fire to rekindle the home fire that should have been maintained overnight.
Our ancestors got along with a
dirt floor and the fire that sustained life and warmed the evening’s cornmeal
We got along in a Toyota Camry
with heated leather seats, a cell phone and plastic to pay for the provisions to
carry us forward.
Religion may have motivated my
ancestors to leave England and Germany in favor of Leiden, the American colonies
or the uncharted west. But the desire to live life and maintain family
traditions according to the dictates of one’s own conscience is a truth valued
Ol’ Myrt is thankful she could
take this journey to support her young grandson in 2006 not 1906, 1806 or 1706.
Happy family tree climbing!