June 15th will be a special day. 40 years ago on June 15, I said "I Do" to my very best friend. The best decision I ever made was to marry the girl who stole my heart when she walked into Mr Brost's History class the beginning of my senior year of high school. I know that high school romances are not supposed to be forever and that when kids get married when they are in their teens the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong. It is still awesome to go through each day with my best friend.
This is the girl that took my breath away when she walked into class that morning. I was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before she had any idea that I was interested. I think that the good Lord knew that I needed all of the help I could get so he made it so that our paths crossed in a number of ways that year. Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for History class. Gina and I were both in the group. We both worked at the Harris Pine furniture factory. I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers. I would spend my breaks back with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.
It came time for our High School graduation and I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Finally I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated. She told me that she would like to but she had already told Russell she would march with him. If I would talk to Russell she would march with me. Once again summoning up every bit of courage I had I talked to Russell. He was very gracious and bowed out. I was on cloud nine.
The rest is history. After a year of a long distance relationship, five hundred miles, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. On June 15, 1975 we were married in the Denver First Seventh-day Adventist Church. The last 40 years have been an interesting and very fulfilling time. I'm looking forward to the next 40 years together.
To celebrate our anniversary we are taking a trip to Nauvoo, Illinois. While we are there we have planned to take a handcart trek. We are interested in doing so because of the life story of my wife's great great grandmother, Sophie Peterson. She was born August 17, 1824 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Sophie married Peter Peterson. When her children were small her husband died of cholera at the age of 39.
In 1855 Sophie was baptized into the Mormon Church. She sold her homestead and left Denmark on May 4, 1856 with the promise of reaching Salt Lake City. The voyage by ship took forty-one days and she arrived at New York City on June 14, 1856. She traveled by rail from there to Florence, Iowa. There Sophie and her children became part of one of the most famous journeys across the United States, the journey of the Willie Hand Cart Company.
Sophie joined the Willie Handcart Company and with her children pulled the handcart across the plains. She had plenty of money to get her to Salt Lake, but she trusted two Elders with her money and they betrayed her trust. Sophie had plenty of clothes for herself and her children, but because each person was only allowed 17 pounds of possessions, she had to leave most of the clothes behind when she joined the handcart company. Even with all of the hardships she faced, she was determined to go to Zion.
The Willie Company was one of ten groups of pioneers from England and Scandinavia that made the journey from Iowa to Utah by pulling handcarts. The trek was disastrous for two of the companies, the Willie Company and the Martin Company. These two companies started their journey dangerously late and were caught by heavy snow and severe temperatures in central Wyoming. Despite a dramatic rescue effort, more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in these two companies died along the way. Fortunately for me, Sophie, my wife's great great grandmother, and her son Otto, my wife's great grandfather, survived the journey.
I can't imagine what it would have been like for a single woman with 4 children aged 1 through 10 to pull a handcart west across nearly impassable terrain and with only a few ounces of flour for food each day. There are journals of the trip that can be read online at The Travels of the Willie Handcart Company.
In 2011, the story of the Willie Handcart Company was made into a movie, titled 17 Miracles. The movie is based on the actual experiences of members of the Willie Handcart Company of Mormon Pioneers following their late-season start and subsequent winter journey to Salt Lake City in 1856. It is a very interesting movie and can be rented from Netflix or purchased from Amazon.
We are looking forward to understanding more about Great Great Grandma Sophie's experience.
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I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled An Arkie's Faith, using articles from the column.