Deseret bound

by Martin Calderwood

Installment 5

About twenty minutes after the final amen, as the last stragglers returned to camp, lightening exploded in the sky like a July fourth celebration. The heavens opened and water came down in sheets as the clouds seemed to be ringing themselves dry. The animals in the enclosure were spooked and began to mill around. One unfortunate wagon was hit just perfectly by a pair of oxen and knocked aside then over as the animals pressed their advantage. Soldiers and pioneers raced to the stricken occupants, while a few raced on foot or rode in an effort to head off the animals. To everyone's relief most of the injuries were light. Only one woman was seriously hurt, with a cracked or sprained arm and some lacerations. With a final clap, the rain reduced to a trickle then stopped. A light breeze began to blow and soon the cloud cover began to break up. No one said anything about the change and the jokes fell silent. Only Johan sat, smiling smugly as he hugged the troll and whispered things, watching the events around him. The animals were rounded up and the wagon righted to keep them in. Watches were set short so everyone could get extra sleep. By morning, the sky was clear and the air was slightly warmer. A count of the animals revealed that two oxen and one horse were still missing, not counting the animals the prospectors lost. After a search of the immediate area, the company pressed on, leaving half a dozen soldiers, three Mormons, and a prospector to search a wider area. These men were well armed and had orders to shoot any Indians they saw. By late afternoon the search rejoined the company, empty handed. They had seen signs of an Indian presence but had encountered none. The company passed Chimney Rock, a major landmark. The soldiers turned back, explaining that they had now entered territory patrolled by the troops at Fort Laramie. An escort group should meet them and continue on with the company until they reached the fort.

Chimney Rock

Artist view of Chimney Rock, Nebraska found at

Though reluctant to leave the soldiers and the security they offered, the pioneers had learned a lot about trail life and travel while under their protection. The officer in charge reminded the prospectors to stay with the Mormons, but private conversations held little hope this would happen. As predicted, as soon as the men had the chance, the Prospectors pushed on while the saints rested. Progress slowed gradually over the next week as they rolled steadily toward Fort Laramie. The Trail Captains had learned to watch the teams. If one ox began to falter both were switched out or another team added to the wagon. By week’s end all the heavy wagons had two teams pulling them. To prepare the pioneers for the upcoming steeper trails they were all asked to walk whenever they could. Only Trine and Sigrid had ridden much while all the others, including Johan, had walked most of the way, Johan clutching his toy most of the time. On the eighth of September, the little boy slowed and tugged on his dad’s shirt tail. “Zorf says there will be a heavy storm tomorrow. We will need to camp early to keep the animals safe.” Bernt snickered and Karen, who was a few feet away, turned and looked at her brothers. She was about to speak when her father surprised by saying, “I have been feeling the same thing, and so have some of the others.” Julius paused for a moment then looked at his young son. “Tell Zorf. Thank you. We will do as he suggests. Johan beamed. It was the first full smile he had given since they had left Norway. Julius smiled back. He had not fully realized, until now, just how traumatic this adventure was for the young boy. Concerned but grateful for the inspiration, he vowed, privately, to try to ease the burden. With no one to play with his age, the troll was his only link to what he had left behind. That night, Julius and Trine slept very little as they discussed just what they had done and what needed to be done. Finally they prayed, again, for guidance, and went to bed hoping for the best. By late afternoon the next day, several of the pioneers wanted to push on to Fort Laramie, which the leaders said was just another day or so away. When the wind began to blow just before midday some of them changed their minds, particularly as the first clouds began to pop up. The leaders decided that they would heed the promptings and stop for the day. They knew that the storm would turn the road into a sloppy mess. They would wait it out and save stress on the oxen and themselves. When the half-dozen soldiers arrived from the fort in the early afternoon, the company was already circling the wagons and preparing the camp. Above them, the clouds were beginning to roll in. Meals were rushed, as were the other chores, so by the time the first drops began to fall most of the camp was secure ready. Within the next hour the storm grew in intensity. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled around them. That night no one danced, though several hymns were sung along with some popular songs, most of them from Norway. Sunday morning dawned cool and clear. The storm had come down with a surprising ferocity from the start. As quickly as it started the storm tapered off, a few hours before dawn. By afternoon the canvas was drying, as were the animals and some of the people. Those who had stood watch warmed themselves by a large trench fire. The Sabbath feast was prepared,2 enough for the soldiers and, to everyone's surprise, for many more. The food was ready and the platters filled when the pickets called out that there was a band of Indians, approaching from the South out of a shallow draw that ran a few score yards away. There were twelve mounted braves, followed by at least as many women leading five litter-drawing horses. Behind the litters followed a handful of children and a few older people. Two of the litters appeared to be laden with the remains of a large bison, while the rest carried tents and other needs for the small band. Instantly the soldiers raced to the forefront. Mormon men took up arms while the women and children took cover. The officer in charge of the troops, a young Lieutenant surnamed Greeley, explained that there were standing to shoot all Indians who approached from the North, while those who approached from the South were to be watched but not shot. The Indians seemed undaunted by the hubbub of the camp and continued their approach, stopping thirty or so yards from the camp. The soldiers identified them as Cheyenne, though a couple wondered if they might be Arapaho instead. Everyone waited and watched as two of the Indians dismounted and walked slowly toward the pioneers. The younger of the two wore a knife strapped to his hip and a bow with a quiver of arrows across his back. He walked a step behind the older man, giving rise to the feeling that he was perhaps a chief or at least a very well respected elder. The young man was wary and alert and his hands were loose and ready. From time to time he would glance back at the others and make a gesture of some kind. The pioneers stood nervously, watching intently for any sign of trickery or danger. Some of the braves had rifles laid at the ready across the shoulder of their horse. Even to the casual observer, the warriors were tense. They watched intently as the older man, dressed more like a white farmer than a warrior, motioned for his guard to hold. The guard did, reluctantly. Behind them women, children, and a few more slightly older men watched in silent anticipation. When he was just ten feet away from the circle of wagons the old one spoke. “Hello. I am called Short Bear. I would trade with you. We have meat and woven blankets. We need sugar and salt and winter goods. We want seed to grow and white man tools to grow them. Who speaks for you?” 'Captain' James handed his gun to the young army officer and stepped outside of the protective circle of wagons. “I am called Jared James.” The Indian nodded and looked around. After a moment he moved toward a small strand of trees with a couple of rocks on the edge. “I am old. We will sit and talk. Do you have water? I and my people thirst.” “Julius Berntsen, you and your boys break out a water barrel and roll it to our guest. Provide something to drink with too,” James paused, noting Lt. Greeley's concern. “May the soldier join us?” The elder followed James' line of site and assessed the young soldier with seasoned eyes. “He is young. He needs to learn. Yes, he come watch.” Capt. James nodded and turned back to the Lieutenant. “Leave your weapon. They would not endanger their families in any way, so I feel strongly that we are safe.” He turned to Jeremiah Rutgers and said, “Prepare food and get the stores he mentioned ready. I think we will do business with our Lamanite brothers.3 Find a copy of the The Book of Mormon for them too.” Rutgers nodded and moved into the wagon circle. James and Greeley turned and, with a polite gesture, followed the Indian to the place of negotiation. Behind them the younger brave walked his horse back to his tribe. “You speak English very well,” observed Capt. James as they took a seat on the rocks. “A need I do not want. Your words are cold and without life. We trade as I said. We have one need. White Man medicine for White Man disease.” Both men were taken aback but before the soldier could speak, Capt. James agreed. The old Indian nodded and stood. “Then we will start.” The trio talked for several minutes outlining things that would be traded and more. A dinner invitation was extended and accepted and, when they were done Short Bear walked back to his people and talked with them for several more minutes. Several braves, most of the ones with rifles, rode off in a westerly direction while others began to prepare a fire. During the negotiations and subsequent activities most of the people stood or sat silently, watching the process until their leader gave them directions. When the warriors rode away, one boy looked after them with longing and jealous eyes. As they slipped into the hills he fidgeted and paced, ignoring the activity around him. Eventually, when no one seemed to be paying attention, he began walking away. No one called him back as he was expecting, so he started moving clockwise around the circled wagons, studying the setup and the people moving within. He did his best to stay low and out of sight and, above all, silent. Halfway around the circle he froze as he felt penetrating eyes watching his every move. Alarmed, he turned and his eyes met those of a young boy about his age looking out at him from behind the tongue of one of the wagons. The boy was clutching something that looked like a doll or wood carved figure. “You were right,” the boy said, looking at the figure before turning his attention to the scouting boy. He nodded and simply said, pointing to himself, “Hello. I am Johan. This is Zorf.” The Indian boy stared and began to slowly turn away. “Stay.” Johan's voice was firm but soft. The boy turned back and then motioned for Johan to come or to follow him. Johan smiled and climbed over the tongue and, still clutching Zorf, began to move toward a strand of trees some forty yards from camp. The other boy curiously followed until they were just out of ear shot of the adults and others. “I am White Owl,” said the boy in his native tongue. “White Owl,” repeated Johan, then pointing to himself, repeated his own name, which White Owl repeated. Johan smiled at the way his name was said but then pointed to the nearby trees naming them then listening to White Owl's reply. They repeated the process several times trying to understand each other. Gradually the boys began to communicate as boys do. White Owl was the first. He picked up a rock and threw it as hard as he could. It flew over twenty yards into the woods, landing with a rattle in the brush. Johan responded, after placing Zorf on a flat rock, with a throw of his own that landed almost in the exact same area. White Owl grinned and picked up another rock. “Tree,” he said, pointing, and threw his stone, striking it a glancing blow to the left. Johan's stone glanced to the right. Johan picked up another stone and pointed up. “Branch.” The stone struck the branch with a solid thunk. White Owl's missile struck a glancing blow but before Johan could react he picked up another stone and aimed. “Zorf!” he yelped with a grin. “No!” yelled Johan as, somewhere from deep inside, his Viking ancestry awoke with a vengeance. He leaped forward, pulling down White Owl's arm as he knocked the boy to the ground. White Owl let out a loud whoop and flung his body into the pioneer boy. Both boys crumpled to the ground hollering and wrestling, each one intent on victory. When the noise reached the two camps, men of both groups raced toward the trees, lead by the crash and rustle of the brush. When they were all about a dozen yards away the noise ceased for several seconds then the air erupted with the clear ring of boyish laughter. The men burst into the grove to find the two boys sitting on the ground, both dirty and both bleeding from cuts on their faces and hands. Before anyone could speak White Owl grasped Johan hand and found a bleeding point and thrust it, without resistance, onto a place on his hand where he was also bleeding. “Brothers,” said Johan in Norwegian as he slowly pulled his hand back and looked almost reverently at their mingled blood. “Brothers,” repeated White Owl solemnly as he looked up into the eyes of his fellow Cheyenne. He was not surprised to see them. Johan turned to his fellow pioneers and before he looked up and simply said, “Hello Kris. This is my friend, White Owl.” He used the proper English words as he looked up at his brother who had been among the first to hear the noisy scuffle. He then grinned and gave his friend a shove. White Owl responded good naturedly with a punch to the arm. Kris tried to look stern but could not. “Mama's going to kill you,” he finally exclaimed, softly giving in to a gentle laugh. He reached out and tousled his brother's hair then turned to White Owl. “Nice to meet you, White Owl.” At that moment one of the Indians barked something at the boy who blanched slightly, losing his smile. Johan took a step forward and stood between the adult and his friend. “Leave him be! We are brothers.” He held up the now coagulated wound. “Brother's and friends!” It was not certain if the man understood Johan but for a moment all was silent as they gazed at the defiant blond boy Finally he chuckled himself and said something about boys, and after a moment he motioned for the boy to follow then turned and began to walk back to the camp. Johan and his friend watched before Johan turned to White Owl and said softly. “Wait. Let's get Zorf and I will go with you.” He then glanced at Kris, then without wordlessly picked up his toy and then moved to White Owl's side. “Let's go.” Kris watched his brother silently, unsure what to do. He held his tongue just as his father and Bernt arrived. “I must do this,” said the youngest but perhaps most stubborn of their clan. Julius held up his hand and was quickly apprised of the situation. He asked Johan if what he had been told was true and the boy nodded almost imperceptibly. Julius drew a deep breath and looked heavenward. It was at this point that the Cheyenne turned and noticed they were not being followed. They began to move back toward the group. Julius could see the pleading in his son's eyes and so he smiled and gave a 'shooing' motion with his hands. Johan smiled, turned, and started toward the adult Indians. White Owl joined him, immediately at his side. As the boys strode purposefully up the hill, Julius and his elder sons could only watch as their youngest member put his arm around a dirty and disheveled Indian boy and together they fell in step with their escort. By all accounts, the rest of the day was beyond memorable. An atmosphere of fellowship permeated the activities. The trades were fair and beneficial to all. Voices were calm and positive and, amidst it all, two youngsters walked and talked even played. Short Bear also accepted the gift of a book of white man's religion that the pioneers claimed revealed many secrets of the Cheyenne and other Indian Nations heritage. It was called the Book of Mormon. As the trading ended the contests began and, to everyone's surprise, they were almost evenly matched. The number of throwing, shooting, wrestling, running, and riding won by each side was almost the same. Supper was an event unto itself, with both groups contributing to the feast. The only surprise was that there was no liquor offered or consumed. Even the soldiers refrained from imbibing in deference to their hosts’ wishes. When night fell, they danced. The Cheyenne watched square and reel dances with curiosity and amusement. The sounds of the harmonica and violin were new and the Indians showed both appreciation and admiration by bringing their drums into play which the pioneers applauded. The Cheyenne, in turn, performed some of their less sacred dances, to the great pleasure of the Mormons who, in their innocence, imagined that they might be watching re-enactments of scenes from before the white man came to the New World. Just after midnight Captain James advised the pioneers that they should retire. Reluctantly, they agreed and after an exchange of gratitude and a closing prayer -which the Cheyenne did not fully understand but sat through in silent respect when they learned the Mormons were talking to their God- neglected chores and clean up were organized and completed in a rapid manner. The Indians silently picked up their belongings and faded away. One minute they were mingling among the Mormons and the next they were fifty yards away, nearing their own camp. Only White Owl lingered with his friend while the adults worked. Both boys knew they should be helping their families, but neither wanted to break the magic of the day. They both knew it would never come again. They were subdued and sad as the parted when Julius called his son to the wagon. Johan walked back to the wagon, climbed in and, without a word, fell asleep. When the morning bugle sounded, waking both saints and soldiers, they found the Indians already moving out. The last of the group could be seen fading over the nearby hill. Their silence amazed everyone. Upon his hearing they were gone Johan raced out of camp up to where the fires were growing cold and the few crushed plants were beginning to lift up. Disheartened, the boy returned to camp and joined his family in preparing for departure. Routine took over and within two hours the camp was ready to depart. The outriders departed on schedule and the first wagons began to roll. Johan decided to make one last trip to the Cheyenne camp site, so with Bernt at his side he hiked up to it and looked in the direction the Indians had gone. As he did, two figures appeared, walking toward them. One was the tall brave who had chastised White Owl, he lead the boys to the where the Indians were setting up camp. The other was White Owl and he was carrying Zorf. When the boy saw Johan he turned and said something to his father and then continued on his own as Johan left his brother and walked toward his friend. Behind him whistles and shouts brought the departing train to a halt. In a moment, a hundred sets of eyes were focused on the boys as they met. The two talked for several minutes, sometimes appearing solemn and serious. The sounds of their laughter drifted into the ears of the anxious observers. After just over ten minutes the boys shook hands, turned, and walked away. Neither looked back. Johan was carrying his toy. He walked silently, passed his brother, found his wagon, and for the first time placed the toy inside. After a giving a gentle, satisfied nod he walked up to his father and said simply: “Let's go.”4

Dreamcatcher1Dreamcatcher 2Dreamcatcher 3

Typical Dreamcatcher Images Images found at: 373 200

From that day not a single Indian or Indian sign was seen by any member of the company. When they mentioned this to the soldiers stationed at Fort Laramie several days later, they were met with skepticism. The Indians were so hostile that one of the correspondences one of the officers said that this was and would continue to be a 'bloody year'. Even with the testimony of the soldiers corroborating the events, their doubt remained. When the pioneers left, they would not accept an escort. The Mormons felt that they would continue to benefit from Short Bear's good will and the soldiers were thinly spread. This would give them on less place to be. The soldiers gave the Saints three new rifles and several boxes of ammunition and made certain their wagons were ready for the difficult and steep miles to come. The Saints spent three days, including a Sabbath, at the fort. They rested, socialized, and did their best to forget the rigor of the past few weeks. Trail food was prepared and the animals received critical care that would prepare them for the days to come. The last leg of the journey would involve travel across Colorado to the South Pass, which was the most well traveled path, since the incline through the Rocky Mountains (referred to as the White Mountains by the Indians) was less steep. South Pass was bounded by the Wind River Range on the north and the Antelope Hills on the South. It was a broad and, for the most part, level passage that lead over the great Continental Divide. They would travel from there to Fort Bridger, the 'Gateway' to Zion. Their first goal, however, was to reach the Robinson Ferry to cross the Sweetwater River. They would then continue to follow the river for much of the distance across Colorado. The trail was landmarked next by Independence Rock then by Martin's Cove, the sight of a tragic Handcart Company event in October, 1856 involving the Edward Martin Handcart Company. It would be almost October by the time they reached Fort Bridger. Two or three weeks later they would enter the Salt Lake Valley.

Oregon-Mormon trail

Approximate between 1845 and 1865. You can see the trail from South Pass to Fort Bridger then on to Salt Lake.

The Pioneers had traded a few of their more worn out oxen for fresh ones. Captain James had made this trek three times before. He said he really did not need the outriders, nor the soldiers, but allowed soldiers from the fort to accompany them for the first day, in which they made almost twenty-one miles. Over the next two weeks the routine of the trail was as smooth as any company could hope. Independence rock looked like a gray bump protruding from the land. It was easy to see why it had become a landmark. Several of the pioneers rode to it climbed to the top. Names had been etched in the stone by those who had gone before. Johan carried his toy up

Independence Rock

to the top where he placed him on a point where the troll could look out in all directions. He then slowly rotated so Zorf could do just that. When done, Johan stepped back and seemed bepaying attention or listening to the troll. On the way down he told his family that Zorf said that the hill was a place of great power on the world. He was sure that the troll would come back there someday if he could. The delay cost about four hours; they only traveled thirteen miles that day. That evening, Johan announced that Zorf would be gone all night and that no one was to worry. When his mother checked on him before going to sleep herself, the troll was not in its usual place next to her son. When they woke the next day, the troll was there.

Fort Bridger

Fort Bridger:

The gradual incline made it harder for the people to realize they were crossing the Great Continental Divide. Still, the climb was steady. The company took care for the sake of the animals and their feet. The walking had prepared them andt it was easier then they had expected. They were warned that there was still Emigration Canyon, and the mountains surrounding the Valleys of Zion, through which they had to pass. It was between 130 and 142 miles, depending on the path taken, from South Pass to Fort Bridger. The pioneers arrived after Sabbath stops, some minor problems, and a brief but heavy storm that brought the first snows to the upper peaks of the Rockies, on Wednesday, September 27, 1865. Spirits soared as the fort came into view. From here it was less than one hundred miles to Salt Lake City. At Bridger, the Saints met their new trail Captain, a man named Jaspers. With him were a half dozen new riders, who had volunteered to see the pioneers the rest of the way to Salt Lake, allowing those who had been on the trail since Wyoming to return to their families and homes and get ready for the upcoming winter. A well ridden horse could get to Salt Lake in three or perhaps four days. The men hoped to be home by Saturday, and it pleased the pioneers to see them so excited after such a long journey. All through the rest of the day, as camp was set up, Julius and the rest of the pioneers took time to thank the men for their efforts. The next morning Captain James and his men mounted up and rode on leaving, the party to rest and recover for another day. Captain Jaspers decided, along with the other Train leaders, that they would leave on Friday and get a couple days’ travel in before the Sabbath. Feelings at the fort between the Saints, soldiers, and other occupants were still strained after the Mormons had burned the fort in 1857, and the establishment of Fort Douglas in the Salt Lake Valley in '62, and it was best for the Saints to maintain a respectful separation, especially when the practice of the religion was involved. The Saints camped outside the fort and watered and cared for the oxen and other animals while making final preparations for their journey. Some of the trekkers did a little trading, and a few took advantage of the warm baths available among the settlement that was growing up around the fort. Julius and his family contented themselves with a rinse in the stream and a hot meal before the men, including Johan, went out to meet with everyone to plan the last leg of the journey. The evening was spent socializing and catching up on the news and gossip that filtered up and down the trail with each party. The pioneers traveled slowly but news traveled fast. Several times during their journey small groups of riders had passed the train. Most kept their distance, but a few did a check to see which party it was and to gather enough information to inform those up ahead who and what to expect and when to expect them. If too much time passed beyond the estimated time of arrival patrols could be sent out to track and perhaps assist the travelers. The Mormons knew how blessed they had been as they traveled. They had heard of the tragedies involving some of the handcart companies and how many of the trains had lost people since the Mormons had left Nauvoo in 1847. There had been several families that had lost some or all of their children. The trail was marked with the pain of many of these previous groups, a small cluster of graves or a single lonely grave several dozen yards off the track under a tree or other simple landmark bore witness to their loss. So it was decided that the next Sabbath would be spent giving thanks for all those who blazed the trails, both Saint and Gentiles, making it so that the James Company had traveled with the most minimum of problems. Their sacrifices and dedication would be remembered before the Lord and all mankind. That night, Julius and his family also wrote a letter to Nils, whom they desperately missed. They detailed their journey the best they could in a few lines. They bore witness of the Lord's blessings on the party and the truthfulness of the gospel path they had chosen to follow. They addressed the letter to the office of the Shipping line and hoped it would find its way to the ship upon which Nils served. They did not know how long it would take but they had faith it would find him well. The next morning, Friday, the twenty-ninth of September, the Saints rolled away from Fort Bridger in high and grateful spirits. They were near Zion. They could almost feel the tangible aura of the land as the miles rolled on. Camps were made late both days and departures early as the company pushed on, knowing they would catch up on their rest on Sunday. The route was well marked and the trail captains experienced so the first two days went without incident. Sunday night they were joined by a small group of Mormon trappers who were working the forest streams and rivers for beaver and other furs. The three men were grateful when they spotted the caravan and they truly enjoyed the hospitality and hot meal they received. By now most of the settlers spoke English well enough to get by. The young people were especially ready for the challenge and only Trine continued to struggle with the new tongue in spite of blessings promising the gift of tongues and more. The trail into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake and the headquarters of Deseret in Salt Lake City consisted of traveling through Echo Canyon, over Big Mountain5 and Little Mountain and down either Emigration or Parley’s Canyons. Parley’s was becoming the official way but Emigration was well worn, and the company opted to use that route. The way was steep and treacherous, and required careful handling to keep the wagons from running away. Men and women on horseback and on foot used a variety of methods to slow the wagons. It was exhausting work that took most of the day to get all the wagons and teams down, even with the extra help that arrived.6 The party arrived in Salt Lake City on October sixth. The reception was simple and efficient. The train set up as it would for any night, though the circle was larger and more open as the animals were now provided with fenced-in shelters and grazing areas outside the city. The people were allowed to clean up and prepare for the next day's activities, which happened to be a General Conference of the Church. They would, for the first time, hear the voice of their Prophet, Brigham Young, and many of the Apostles who were not on assignment elsewhere in the world as missionaries or on other church business. Spiritual and practical matters would be addressed and talked about. Some of the Saints would be called on missions while others would be given assignments to settle other area. The names of the new Saints were gathered immediately and presented to the brethren for consideration of where the Lord wanted them to go.7 It would not be until the next conference that most of this group would be given their new duties in Zion. For now, they would be expected to help prepare for the winter and to get fields and buildings ready to support the saints in the future. Over the next few days residences were arranged and work skills evaluated. The members of the party gradually scattered to their individual lives. Knowing that, from then on, the would probably only see each other at conferences and other special occasions.

The Berntsens settled about eight miles outside of Salt Lake City, where they built a small farm on the east side of the valley, near one of the streams that flowed down the Rocky Mountains at the time. From here the family went several different ways and life progressed as it should.

The story continues in part 6


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1Chimney Rock was one of the most well know landmarks on the Oregon Trail.  When it came into view it marked the end of the prairies.  From there on the trail would become steeper and more rugged as it headed west towards the Rocky Mountains.

2Mormons believe in keeping the sabbath day holy.  Their “Doctrine and Covenants”   (referred  to, in 1865)  as “The Book Of Commandments”) contains a passage stating “And on this day (Sunday) thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words,  that thy joy may be full.). ( D & C 59:13) Sometimes, however, exceptions were and are made for special occasions.

3Many members of the LDS church believe that the American Indians are descendents of the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon.  Church Founder, Joseph Smith preached to the Indians of New York and surrounding areas. Even today, though there is some controversy about the topic, many Mormons still hold this as a somewhat apocryphal tradition or belief.

4Johan did not talk about the exchange or how and why the toy had been given or returned for many years.  He finally broke his silence years later while talking to his children and their cousins after one of them asked about the wooden troll sitting on the mantle. 
“We greeted each other with the title brother.  I had given Zorf to him because we had talked and after apologizing, again, for wanting to throw a rock at him, White Owl had commented how we both seemed to be able to understand each other better   when we were near the troll.  He said that Zorf reminded him of the Cheyenne and Sioux demigod called Coyote, or 'The Trickster,' (also known as Wihio or Ve'ho which   means spider) .  I told him how Zorf always seemed to talk to me and tell me things that I should not really know.  I explained that it was probably Zorf that helped us talk.  After dinner I got the distinct feeling that Zorf wanted to go with White Owl so I made him a present of my toy.  He took it only after I made him look into Zorf's eyes.
“The next morning I had a feeling that I should go up to the Indian camp and, as you know, my friend returned just as I expected. 
“White Owl told me that Zorf had come to him in a dream that night.  The two talked about many things and Zorf told White Owl that he needed to be in camp with him to enter his dream.  Now, I must tell you that many Native American people both now and when I was a boy have strong beliefs regarding dreams and this one was very vivid.  In this dream Zorf reminded White Owl of the many traditions and beliefs his people had.  Zorf told him that the boy was to help keep his people strong by remembering these things and teaching them to his children and his children's children. He made White Owl swear to do this too. Zorf then explained to my friend some of our Norwegian customs and traditions, which White Owl reminded me of, which surprised me because I do not  recall, to this day, ever mentioning any of our customs.  My brother added that Zorf believed that our people would forget or turn away from our past if we did not have trolls around to remind them.  Zorf was also afraid, in the dream, that I would forget. 
“It is our past and our traditions that make us strong.  They make us who we are and to forget them is to tell our ancestors that their lives did not matter.”  said Zorf.  
He added that would stay with White Owl if that is what he truly wanted.  He said he  knew the boy's heart was strong and good.  He added, however, that this might not be the best choice. 
White Owl chose to return my friend.  Zorf then drew my friend's attention to a something in their tent called a 'dream catcher' and said 'this dream would be in his memory and help shape his destiny.  When he awoke it was morning and , though his father was displeased, he did as his son wished. 
We parted with a handshake and just as he was about to leave he asked if I thought it was acceptable for him to make a brother for Zorf.  I said I thought that Zorf  would be honored.  White Owl then handed me back my friend and for a moment both of  us gazed at that funny, Coyote like figure. I am not saying this is true but at that moment Zorf's eyes seemed to twinkle and his left eye winked.  My father said it was a trick of the morning light, but as for me.....”  Johan then winked and walked out of the room to a chorus of questions from almost a dozen children.  For the rest of the day, it was remembered, all Johan did was smile and wink whenever the topic came up.

5 Big Mountain has special historic significance.  It is where the early pioneers saw their first glimpse of the Salt Lake valley. On July 23, 1847 Brigham Young first viewed the Salt Lake valley from this viewpoint. His account reads, "I ascended and crossed over the Big Mountain, when on its summit I directed Elder Woodruff, who kindly tendered me the use of his carriage, to turn the same half way round, so that I could have a view of a portion of Salt Lake valley, and I felt that there the saints would find protection and safety. ." According to Wilford Woodruff’s memory, an ill Brigham Young said, “It is enough. This is the right place.”

6  This is an assumption on my part.  The Mormons were so well organized that they very likely had set up help along the most difficult parts of this last leg.  The Trains were usually well announced and so the Saints of the valley had plenty of time to move who and what was needed into position.  The methods included ropes and extra teams of oxen or horses as well as other braking methods to slow the wagons.  Still, the way was steep and that is, in part,  why Parleys Canyon became the way of choice even though it was two or so miles further South of the main settlement.  Emigration Canyon, however, was a closer and slightly more direct, albeit, more difficult route.

7 One of the topics of the conference was grazing.  Apostle Orson Hyde delivered the following. I include this to show just how many aspects the Mormons covered and directed in the lives of  the church member:

            Oct. 7, 1865 when Apostle Orson Hyde, one of the 13 leaders of the Mormon Church, speaking at General Conference in Salt Lake City to the assembled members of the church, had this to say about how the church wanted Mormons to live their lives:
“There is a good deal of ambition among our people to cultivate a great quantity of ground, the result of which is, that we cultivate our lands poorly in comparison to what we would if we were contented with a smaller area, and would confine our labors to it. We have found some difficulty with regard to water, and complaints have been made about a scarcity of water in many places, when, indeed, I suppose the Lord has apportioned the water to the amount of land He intended should be cultivated. I do not think that these things are passed over unnoticed by Him … He understands perfectly well what the elements are capable of producing, and how many of His people may be established here or there with profit and with advantage.
“… I find the longer we live in these valleys that the range is becoming more and more destitute of grass; the grass is not only eaten up by the great amount of stock that feed upon it, but they tramp it out by the very roots; and where the grass once grew luxuriantly, there is now nothing but the desert weed, and hardly a spear of grass is to be seen.
“Between here and the mouth of Emigration Canyon, when our brethren, the Pioneers, first landed here in ‘47, there was an abundance of grass over all those benches; they were covered with it like a meadow. There is now nothing but the desert weed, the sage, the rabbit-bush, and such like plants, that make very poor feed for stock. Being cut short of our range in the way we have been, and accumulating stock as we are, we have nothing to feed them with in the winter and they perish. There is no profit in this, neither is it pleasing in the sight of God our Heavenly Father that we should continue a course of life like unto this.”

Taken from

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