To Be a Pioneer

pioneerWhat does it mean to be a pioneer?

According to a children’s song on the subject, “You don’t have to push a handcart, leave your family dear or walk a thousand miles or more to be a pioneer,” though all those things qualify.

The song continues with, “You do need to have great courage, faith to conquer fear and work with might for a cause that’s right to be a pioneer,” which professes how being a pioneer is as much about character and cause as it is about covered wagons.

My blood runs thick with local pioneer ancestry from appointed apostles to mountain moonshiners and I love learning more about all of them because it further explains the DNA casserole that cooked into Kari.

I recently learned about a pioneer ancestor of mine, Four-Greats-Grandpa William “Burt” Simmons.

He endured the exodus from Nauvoo and spent a frigid winter on the plains where he huddled under the scant shelter of a covered wagon with his family while his cattle froze to death. Upon reaching the desolate wilds of Utah he managed to forge a decent life for his family, but dearly missed the lush beauty of the Mississippi River region. He was present when the prophet Joseph Smith declared that one day the saints would return to inhabit Missouri as well as walk the streets of Nauvoo in peace. Burt greatly hoped it would happen in his lifetime and was determined to be among those chosen to go if it did.

For this reason, Grandpa Burt stashed some cash, bought a new carriage and the best stock and provisions available and stored it in a shed he built especially for his “Back to Missouri Equipment,” as he called it. He checked on it often, pampered it and rotated it when necessary, always stowing away the newest items because he believed “Always the best for Missouri.”

Apparently Burt’s fetish, which went on for years, raised eyebrows by some who thought Burt was a bale short of a stack. He was the subject of gossip and the victim of ridicule, but Burt persevered unruffled.

Then in the fall of 1856, Brigham Young learned of the stranded handcart companies on the plains and called for immediate deliverance assistance.

Guess who was one of the first ready and on the rescue trail?

Yep, Batty Burt with his prime and prepped reserves.

Knowing too well the suffering of winter exposure on the plains, he couldn’t help but commit his cache to the rescue effort. He’d been saving it for a noble cause and ended up using it for one, though it wasn’t the one he thought.

Burt was both blessed and burdened by his sacrifice. He married a woman he helped rescue and had five children with her, but Burt died young of respiratory complications caused by the exposure from the rescue years before.

Thank you Grandpa Burt for your pioneer example.

Your willingness to “work with might for a cause that’s right” inspires me. It also offers genetic vindication that while what I do sometimes may seem crazy to some, it will result in something amazing, pioneering, possibly even noble and probably unexpected even by me, eventually—hopefully. (But hopefully not contribute to a premature death.)


Leave a Reply