"I Walked to Zion" by Susan Arrington Madsen.
This book shares numerous true accounts of young pioneers who walked across the plains. Some are children, some are teenagers, but each experienced struggles and faced fears that were difficult to bear. Their real life stories of their miraculous journeys are humorous and heart rending.
This particular book even has an entire section devoted to handcart pioneers, some who traveled the same paths we will walk in June.
From encounters with rattle snakes and frozen rivers to unlikely friendships and dealings with Native Americans this book has a story that will affect you.
Here are a few of pieces of stories just to whet your appetite. These snippets are all from the lives of children who handcarted their way to the Salt Lake Valley.
"When one of the teamsters, seeing two buffaloes near the oxen, shot one of them, the meat was divided among the whole company. My parents also got a small piece, which my father put in the back end of the handcart. That was in the fore part of the week. Father said we would save it for our dinner next Sunday. I was so very hungry all the time, and the meat smelled so good to me while pushing the handcart, and having a little pocketknife, I could not resist but had to cut off a piece or two each half day. Although I was afraid of getting a severe whipping after cutting a little the first few times, I could not resist taking a little each day. I would chew it so long it got tasteless.
"When father went to get the meat on Sunday noon, he asked me if I had been cutting off some of it. I said, 'Yes, I was so hungry that I could not let it alone.' Then instead of giving me a severe scolding or a whipping, he did not say a word but started to wipe the tears from his eye."
-John Stettler Stucki, (9 years old at the time of his trek)
"The next day we had nothing to eat but some bark from trees. Later we had a terrible cold spell; the wind drifted so much I knew I would die. The wind blew the tent down. They all crawled out but me. The snow fell on it. I went to sleep and slept warm all night. In the morning I heard someone say, 'How many are dead in this tent?' My sister said, 'Well, my little brother must be frozen to death in that tent.' So they jerked the tent loose, sent is scurrying over the snow. My hair was frozen to the tent. I picked myself up and came out quite alive, to their surprise."
-Peter Howard McBride, (6 years old at the time of his trek)
Bringing a milk cow with them on the trail so that they could have milk throughout the journey, one family eventually decided to hitch the cow to their handcart with a homemade harness so that their mother (whose feet were severely swollen and bleeding) could ride. It worked well for a while.
"One day a group of Indians came riding up on horses. Their jingling trinkets, dragging poles, and strange appearance frightened the cow and sent her chasing off with the cart and the small children (daughter age 2 years and son only six months old). We were afraid that the children might be killed, but the cow fell in a deep gully, and the cart turned upside down. Although the children were under the trunk and bedding, they were unhurt. But after that, Father did not hitch the cow to the cart again. He let three Danish boys take her to hitch to their cart. Then the Danish boys, each in turn, would help Father pull our cart."
-Mary Ann Stucki (Hafen), (6 years old at the time of her trek)
"Just before we crossed the mountains, relief wagons reached us, and it certainly was a relief. The infirm and aged were allowed to ride, all able-bodied continuing to walk. When the wagons started out, a number of us children decided to see how long we could keep up with the wagons, in hopes of being asked to ride. At least that is what my great hope was. One by one they all fell out until I was the last one remaining, so determined was I that I should get a ride. After what seemed the longest run I ever made before or since, the driver, who was Heber (William Henry) Kimball, called to me, 'Say, sissy, would you like a ride?' I answered in my very best manner, 'Yes, sir.' At this he reached over, taking my hand, clucking to his horses to make me run, with legs that seemed to me could run no farther. On we went, to what to me seemed miles. What went through my head at the time was that he was the meanest man that ever lived or that I had ever heard of, and other things that would not be a credit nor would it look well coming from one so young. Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped. Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. Here i had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well by doing this he saved me from freezing when taken into the wagon."
-Agnes Caldwell (Southworth), (9 years old at the time of her trek)