In the last two weeks we have shared some of the experiences we have had here in the Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission. There is no other mission like this on planet earth. We had told you about the miles of trekking we have done with the youth and the spiritual experiences we have had hosting the Martin’s Cove Visitor’s Center. In this final post let us tell you about another aspect of this mission that makes it so fun and challenging.
This is a working mission— as in the missionaries do ALL the work. There is rarely a need for paid contractors when there is so much skill already here. Retired plumbers, electricians, wood workers, ranchers, heavy equipment operators, carpenters, cowboys, machinists, general contractors, internet gurus, yard maintenance experts– you name it, there is a missionary who knows how to do it.
Clay and I didn’t come with most of these skills, but we sure had fun learning some along the way!
Clay helping rebuild the stone steps for the baptismal area in the Sweetwater River.
Road Crew— replacing gravel, cleaning pot holes, laying asphalt.
Yard Work— mowing, watering/weeding flower beds, tree trimming, miles of weed-eating.
Ranch Hand— painting buildings and log benches, water pump repair, handcart sanding/staining/wrangling– I bet you’ve never wrangled a handcart before!
But, any assignment that starts with the phrase, “You need to drive a Rover and….” is a great job!
Fence building–yep. If ever this doctor job doesn’t work out…
Olive Garden— I wish we were talking about the yummy food (the closest restaurants are 60 miles away), but it actually refers to a request by the State of Wyoming that we remove all of the wicked, thorn-covered Russian Olive trees infesting the property. A tough, prickly, pokey, nasty job.
The Church raises cattle on this ranch, and sometimes a calf is abandoned or its mother dies. So, we serve as cow mamas and daddies– making the warm cow milk formula and feeding the babies 1/2 gallon morning and night until they are weaned.
Luckily, the feeding pen is also at our RV camping site, so we don’t have to go hunt them down on the 100,000 acre property.
Rah-Rah— not a chant at a homecoming game– it stands for RRA: Rest Room Assistant. Cleaning all the toilets (about 56 of them) and taking out the trash on the entire campus. It’s actually not a bad job. We enjoyed starting early when assigned to Rah-Rah. We were on the trail at 5 am one morning, greeted by the yipping of coyotes as the sun came up. Now that’s a nice day at the office.
Medallions— Yes, I learned to crochet. These are souvenirs we give visiting youngsters.
Snake Wrangling— most of the snakes are bull snakes- big but harmless constrictors that just need to be relocated when they wander too close to to the Visitor’s Center.
We tell the visitors not to bother the snakes, but one trek group’s leader wanted to pick up a bull snake and put it over his shoulders for a photo op. The snake started puking- and threw up a prairie dog. Then he puked up another one, and another one, until there were 6 dead prairie dogs on the ground.
The leader put the snake down and it still had another critter inside him. I saw the picture of the coiled snake, with dead prey all around it. When the trekkers got back from their days hike, the snake (and its snacks) were gone.
Occasionally, there are pesky rattlesnakes that make a nuisance of themselves, so some of the guys are experts at making them disappear before they harm us, a tent camping guest or a toddler wandering around on the inviting green grass. Rattlesnake hatbands are a popular accessory among our missionaries.
Life gets interesting on the open plains of Wyoming. There have been some close calls, but no one has been bitten yet.
Clay and I did have to do some real bull wrangling to get them out of one of the remote campgrounds at Rock Creek Hollow before the trekkers arrived. That was exciting and bit nerve-wracking. Especially when they kept coming back.
Lumberjacks– We do our own fencing using lodge pole pine. We get the poles by traveling up into the Green Mountains with our logging permit and cutting down the trees. It’s a great adventure– two mission 4×4 heavy duty trucks, a flat bed trailer, 10 loggers and a picnic lunch.
We ventured into the Green Mountains in Mid-October and found freezing temperatures with bitter cold winds, the frost covered the trees and sage brush like a silver white frosting. Snow clung to the shady spots and the crisp smell of pine filled the air.
The one lane rocky, eroded, bumpy road down the side of the mountain to the designated cutting area had great views out over the distant mountains across the valley below.
Two chain saw lumberjacks got to work harvesting the 90 trees and lots of jack rabbits carried the cut 16-foot poles up the steep hill, tromping through icy snow patches and muddy spots.
We ate our lunches on a fallen log while being warmed by the lovely fire.
Then the poles were loaded in the back of the pick up truck and schlepped up to the flat bed trailer on the top of the mountain. After several trips, the job was done.
It was hard work and a lot of fun!
Our very favorite trekkers were from Wisconsin: our son, Jesse, his wife Terri and the kiddos Eric (6) and Hazel (4). I made pioneer outfits for them and we had a wonderful week sharing the beauties of Wyoming and pioneer stories from our family history.
So, if you happen to be in central Wyoming (between Casper and Muddy Gap on state highway 220), stop by and see the Martin’s Cove Mormon Handcart Historic Site. Or come serve a mission here. They always need more adventurers!