Sunday, March 1, 2009

My handcart friend

Recently, I had the sad occasion to attend the funeral of my friend Earl Gillmore. Earl was married to my former roommate Karen, and died at a young age of liver cancer. He leaves behind Karen, a very strong and capable person, and a sweet seven-year-old daughter, Mary, who I predict will become a very strong and capable person herself. Little Mary even wanted to speak at the funeral, but when she stood up to do so, "the words just wouldn't come out". Her mother walked up to the podium to help, and Mary whispered the words to Karen, who spoke them. It made me cry.

One of the unique things about Karen and Earl is that they met while they were both dressed up as pioneers, volunteering as living re-enactors at "This is the Place" pioneer park. Earl had recently moved to Utah. It was 1997. He arrived here by loading all of his possessions on a handcart and walking from Iowa City as part of the sesquicentennial reenactment of the Mormon wagon train migration. Once he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, he stayed and soon thereafter found the love of his life. Earl and Karen had a pioneer style wedding in 1999, and then 10 years later, Earl had a pioneer-style funeral. Here is a photo of the men who presented Earl a black powder salute that day:

I was feeling a little uncomfortable at the viewing...what do you say to someone going through a tragedy like that? They were sealed in the temple, and so have the hope of being together as a family in the next life. But that doesn't take away the challenge of getting through tomorrow, and the day after that, and so on. After bumbling and stumbling in my attempt to say something of comfort to Karen, I stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to do. When I saw two men seated nearby, looking through books that contained photos of Earl on the wagon train, I thought joining them to look at photos might be a way to work through my discomfort. So I did.

They kindly welcomed me, and after we looked through all the photos, the one seated next to me said:

"Can I call you some time?"
I was quite surprised at that. He appeared to be in his sixties (and I'm in my thirties), and I just didn't expect a question like that at a funeral.
"Oh" I replied, "Are you single?"
"Yes I am."
"Well, I'm single too" I said, "but I LIKE it that way. I'm not interested in a romantic relationship."
"That's okay", he retorted. "Every year I pull a handcart in the 24th of July Pioneer parade, and maybe you could do that with me."
"Hmmm...." I thought to myself. That might be something fun to do once in my life.
So, I replied "I guess I could have Karen make me a pioneer dress so I could do that". (Karen is an excellent seamstress, and makes her living by sewing pioneer clothing for people going on pioneer treks. You can see her work here: )
"Yes, do that", he said.
"Ok", I said.
And that's how I became friends with John Lodefink. And that's why Karen and I will be visiting the fabric store this week in preparation of her making me a pioneer dress I can wear this 24th of July. I'm excited to have the opportunity to participate in the adventure of pulling the handcart in this year's parade.

John is a very unique person. He's been on several handcart treks: across Iowa (twice), from Omaha, Nebraska to the Salt Lake Valley, and on treks across the state of Utah. I like hearing about people's adventures, and so I've enjoyed borrowing his trek journals and reading about his experiences. Here's a photo of John with his handcart.

He also knows many of the hikes around the Salt Lake Valley, and has offered to show me some of them. Yesterday we took our first one, to the Avenues Twin Peaks, which he selected because he thought it would have less snow than the other trails would have. We did trudge through a little snow and a little mud, but it was actually quite pleasant. Here's a photo showing the state of the snow on the foothills.

I enjoyed the view of the majestic Wasatch Mountains towering over the Salt Lake Valley.

On our way down, we saw this hiker overlooking the beautiful sunset. She agreed to let us take a photo of her checking out the beautiful sky. It was a beautiful ending to a nice day.

1 comment:

Janey said...

You always amaze me, Cindy! I might have to come watch the pioneer parade just to see you!