My last wagon ride: Memories give a lift
When our big family of 15 moved from near Lyle, Wash., to the Ladd Canyon area in 1936, it wasn’t long till my parents realized they should have sold more of their belongings before they made the move.
Soon some of the older ones started moving out, some to get married, others to take new jobs in other towns or to learn a new trade. But one thing I was glad about, they hadn’t sold the old covered wagon. We four younger girls used it for our playhouse. Although sometimes my Dad or older brothers would hook up the horses and take it to a mountain area that Pop had rented for pasture to get some wood.
One day a fellow saw the wagon parked out by the barn and made an offer to my dad to buy it. He wasn’t quite ready to let it go. The very next Saturday he asked Mama and us four younger girls if we’d like to go with him up the canyon in the wagon for our last ride.“Yes!” we exclaimed.
Mama fixed us a snack bag, plus a picnic lunch and we girls put on our work clothes and got ready for the ride.
After Pop got the horses hooked up to the wagon, he, Mom and Esther, my 5-year-old sister, climbed up to the big seat on the front of the wagon. The other three of us, Nancy, May and I, sat on an old car seat, which Pop had fixed up and fastened securely to the floor inside the wagon. We girls loved traveling in that wagon, pretending we were pioneers headed for Oregon.
When we got up to where an older brother had already cut wood, we stopped. Pop asked us girls to carry the wood to the wagon and to neatly pile it on the floor in the back of it. Then after Pop had secured the horses to the hitching rail, he left to hike up the mountain and check the salt licks for the cattle pasturing there.
Mom and we girls decided to go wildflower picking. When we got enough for a couple bouquets to take home, Mom said, “Let’s go sit in the shade and see what’s in the snack sack I fixed for us.”
Say, those cookies, popcorn and apples really hit the spot! But Mom hadn’t started eating yet.
“Did we forget something?” she asked.
Then we girls remembered: we hadn’t thanked God for our food, and we hadn’t even thanked Mom for fixing it. I felt ashamed when she had to remind us. But we enjoyed our food more after we’d prayed.
After we’d been eating awhile, someone said, “Quick! Look up the mountain across the canyon! There is an animal out there!”
Yes, there was something big moving around. Mom said, “l think they are elk. But I don’t see antlers on any of them. They must be cow elk.”
Without antlers, the biggest one looked like a monster horse. Mom said, “Shush! Be quiet! Let’s just watch them.”
But May and Esther, my youngest sisters, whispered, “If they come down here, will they hurt us?”
Mom just smiled and said, “Well, they aren’t coming down, and they wouldn’t hurt us if they did. But let me show you something’”
Then she reached into her big apron pocket and pulled out a pistol, which really surprised me. I’d never seen Mom hold a gun before. She told us how she and Pop often traveled alone and camped out at night before they had children. Pop got the pistol for her and taught her how to use it.
Then I said, “But Mama, do you really know how to shoot it?”
She said, “Come over here and let me show you. See that tree with the cluster of cones up high on it? Well, you just watch those pine cones, not me, and tell me if you see them move.”
Bang! Bang! By the time she had pulled the trigger a few times, those cones came crashing down!
“Mama!” we all exclaimed, “You are real good! You hit those cones on your first try!”
We girls were amazed and I said, “I guess we don’t need to be afraid anymore as long as you are with us, Mama!”
My older sister, Nancy, added, “I knew she could do it. I saw her do some shooting when some of the family were out on the mountains another time.”
Well, Pop got back from his hike up to the salt licks very hungry. And although Mom and we girls had enjoyed our flower-picking time and snacks, it was past noon. Our stomachs were crying for more food.
It didn’t take Mama long to spread out the canvas and then to cover it with our picnic cloth. She had gotten up early that morning to prepare fried chicken, beans, potato salad and lemon loaf cake for our lunch. Now she set the food out on the cloth with forks, enamel plates, tin cups and a canteen of water. We had so much to be thankful for, that as soon as Pop had said our thanksgiving prayer we all added, “Amen!” and started filling our plates.
Sometimes memories of that day or other happy times come drifting down through the years to give me a lift. But then my thoughts move into the future where some day I’ll be rejoicing with my Lord and loved ones up in Heaven.
I’m sure that will be so wonderful, I will have to be like King David in the Bible and resort to poetry to have words to describe it, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; and His mercy endures forever!”