Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Life Is a Highway

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Last week we had the opportunity as a family to take ten days and drive out to visit church historical sites like Independence, Missouri and Nauvoo Illinois. So my husband packed his pregnant wife (me) and our six children into a mini-van and away we went. (I think he is an incredibly brave man, don’t you?)

Since it is such a long drive out there, we took the opportunity to stop at other sites as well to break things up. We stopped at the Dwight D. Eisenhower presidential museum, Harry S. Truman presidential museum, Mark Twain museum, and John Wayne museum. That is in addition to the church history sites of Independence, Liberty, Far West, Gallatin, Adam-ondi-Ahman, Nauvoo, Carthage, Kanesville and Winter Quarters. So we had a very busy ten days.

I learned a lot of interesting things along the way and I’d like to share some of them with you today.

  • No matter how prepared you think you are, the children will use every activity you’ve brought in the first hour and tell you they’re bored the rest of the time that you’re driving.

  • When boys are bored, they like to bug other people, but especially their sister. They seem to really like hearing the girly squeal or the standard wail of, "Mooooooom!"

  • After spending so much time with her five brothers, my daughter informed me that she now believes boys are gross and she hopes she has mostly daughters when she grows up.

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower had a family picture on the wall of his small childhood home and one of his brothers looks like a girl. Seriously.

  • Harry S. Truman wrote over a thousand love letters to his wife. He really seemed to be a huge romantic and was apparently a very loving man to his wife when he was courting her as well as after they were married.

  • When she was a new first lady, Mrs. Truman was asked to break a bottle over a new ship to christen it. The bottle hadn’t been primed and so when she tapped it on the ship the first time, nothing happened. She hit the ship with it a few more times, but nothing happened. So then she took the bottle in her hand like it was a club and whacked it on the ship, but nothing happened. Finally, a young military officer behind her, who looked like he had some muscles, took a stab at it. Nothing happened for him, either. Someone finally went and got another bottle that was prepared and the ship was properly christened, but the video in the library of the event was really funny to watch.

  • Mark Twain used a lot of his childhood experiences in his writing. He actually did see a dead body after he had skipped school and was hiding out in his father’s office. They had put the murdered man (who had been stabbed to death) in there for safekeeping while the investigation was done. They had a re-creation of it for visitors to his museum, including a gory looking corpse for everyone to see. (Ick!)

  • I got to see the typewriter Mark Twain wrote on, as well as his desk. He also claimed to have been the first author to have submitted a manuscript that was entirely typewritten.

  • John Wayne’s real name was Marion. When his mother went into labor, they had to call a doctor and when the doctor arrived, they could see immediately what the problem was. It was such a difficult labor because the baby was thirteen pounds when he was born! John got the nickname of Duke because he used to walk his dog Duke by a fire station and the men would see them, but they never knew the boy’s name, only the dog’s name. So they started calling out to the dog Duke and Duke’s boy, and finally the nickname of Duke for John Wayne just stuck. We got to see an eye patch that John Wayne used in the movie True Grit and there was a teeny hole cut into it so he could still see!

  • Lots of people aren’t used to seeing a large family. We got asked several times if we were all one family. At the John Wayne museum, when we walked in, there was a man watching us come through the door. He stopped and said, "Are y’all from the same tour?" My son just said yes, sort of getting used to all the questions we were getting asked about the size of our family, and the man craned his neck out toward the window and said, "Where’d you park your tour bus?" (Our mini-van was right out front, so that made me chuckle.)

  • When we went to the Lands and Offices building in Nauvoo, Illinois to see where our ancestors’ property would have been, we were surprised to find out that my husband’s pioneer ancestors and my pioneer ancestors were next door neighbors. Chances are they would have known each other very well. Which made me smile.

  • In Nebraska, we stopped at a small restaurant that was adjacent to a gas station. When we walked in, we could quickly see that there was only one woman running the gas station and the restaurant. At first, that didn’t seem to be a problem, but when she started making our food, then took care of a gas station customer before returning to prepare our food without washing her hands or wearing gloves, I almost lost my appetite. I casually struck up a conversation about how busy she looked and we talked for a bit before I told her my son who works in a food handling environment was required by law to wear gloves and how strange it was that that wasn’t the law in Nebraska. She eventually did put on a glove, but when she was done with our food, she took it off. Before we left I watched her handle raw chicken, then, without washing her hands, make another customer’s sandwich. I was very glad to go and thankful that none of us seemed to suffer from anything adverse because of eating there.

  • There are still a lot of misconceptions about Mormons. While my oldest son was standing by our van with Utah plates, a group of boys in the back of a truck roared up to him and yelled, "We have five wives, too!" before quickly driving away. I guess they didn’t know that the LDS church hasn’t practiced polygamy in well over a century.

I think the best experience of all was standing with my family while we saw and stood on the grounds of places that Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, Sarah Granger Kimball, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff had stood on. We saw the jails that Joseph was imprisoned in while falsely accused and we stood in the room where Hyrum died and next to the well where Joseph had died. We walked the trail that our ancestors walked when they left Nauvoo and we stood on the edge of the Mississippi river, feeling how sad they must have felt to leave their beloved temple and the city they had built and sacrificed for behind. It was an amazing and poignant moment.

It really was a wonderful trip, one that I’ll not soon forget—partly because of the places we saw, but mostly because of the time we spent together as a family. Now that is priceless.


At 4/24/2008 11:54 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Julie, wow! What a cool trip!

I am so creeped out by the woman who didn't wash her hands . . .

It's funny how if you're going for an hour's drive, the kids can handle it without any particular entertainment. But if you climb in the car for a long trip, they want to break out the snacks and movies two seconds into the trip.

At 4/24/2008 12:03 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Well done, Julie!

At 4/24/2008 12:20 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

That really IS priceless, Julie! I love it.

My favorite part was discovering that your ancestors were neighbors. It gave me chills. Maybe tomorrow I'll blog about a distantly similar experience in my life. My family refers to as "Mom and the Haunted Picture."

I just love your blogs. Glad you're safely back after making memories that will last forever.

At 4/24/2008 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FUUUUN! wow how many people are in your family?
We wen't to California once as a family (my sisters and brothers their kids...) although some of the brothers and their families didn't come. Anyway on the way their we wen't to lunch and we filled up the whole Subway! luckely their was only us there.
My advice don't have twelve kids unless you are really really really ready for them... and patient.

At 4/24/2008 2:56 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I'm with Kerry--I love that your ancestors lived next door! There's a book in that . . .

At 4/24/2008 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was completely floored that they were neighbors. It was very cool to find that out and it gave me chills, too, Kerry! There probably is a book in it Annette, but you are the expert historical writer. :)

Thanks Jennie!

Stephanie, I was totally creeped out myself. Just ewwwwwwww.

Anon, we have six children with one on the way. I probably won't have twelve kids, but I believe you on the patience part!


At 4/24/2008 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow that's a handful!

At 4/26/2008 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you need to post pictures of the trip!!

At 5/02/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger G. Parker said...

Wow, Julie! What a neat trip! I would have been totally grossed out -- in fact, we probably would have walked out since we had all worked in food handling before. Ugh. I wait for the day that I get to see these sights...what a wonder.


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