Pioneer Day came and went again. We watched the parades, ate the Dutch oven dinner, lit the fireworks, and at the end of the day, snuggled down in our beds and slept -- comfortably.
We went back to work the next day, tended the kids, cleaned the house, and really didn't think much about it anymore.
We put the pioneer tribute away until next year, kind of like storing holiday decorations in a big plastic tub in the basement. We pull that stuff out once a year to remember something, then we put it back, and life goes on, fairly unaffected.
At least that's how it's been in the past.
But this year, even a couple of weeks later, I can't get the dugout out of my mind.
Part of my pioneer day celebration included a trip back to my roots, back to the valley I grew up in. It included a community program, at which 12 people stood, one at a time, at a microphone in the meeting room at the local library to spend a few minutes talking about their pioneer ancestors.
My youngest brother shared stories of our great-great-grandfather. That's why I was there.
One of the speakers talked about her ancestors who traveled below deck for two months on a wooden ship to get from Denmark to America. They then lived for a year in an area populated by people hostile to their choice of religion. So once they secured a handcart, they packed up and trekked on west to find a home where they could worship in peace.
Their challenge-laden story was typical of many. But the thing that caught my attention was that when they finally reached the valley where they would settle, they were lucky enough to secure a dugout for their first home. Someone had just moved out of it into a palatial two-room cabin.
I looked up "dugout." It's "a rough shelter or dwelling formed by excavating the ground in the face of a bank on the side of a hill."
I don't think the word "rough" is adequate. These folks lived in their humble, dirt-walled, dirt-floored, dirt-ceilinged, one-room abode for two years while they cleared land, plowed and planted so they could eat.
The hierarchy of needs says all humans first need food, water, shelter and warmth. These pioneers grew their own food, carried their water from a nearby stream, and got their shelter and warmth from a cave carved into a mountainside. The amazing part is, they were grateful for what they had.
I'm humbled by that. The reason I can't get it out of my mind is because every time I open a door or turn on a faucet or climb stairs or flip on a light or stand at a kitchen counter, I realize things like that are luxuries I take for granted. All the time.
So what do you do with that? It would make no sense to honor pioneers by trying to live like they did. They did what they did in pursuit of improvement. They wanted things to get better.
For them it was religious freedom. Once that was secured through sacrifice that landed them in a hand-hewn cave on the side of a hill, they then hooked up the plow and started making food. Two years later they felled trees and built their own palatial two-room cabin.
Their descendents lived in progressively improved dwellings. That's the way they would want it to be -- as long as their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren didn't lose sight of what really matters.
I wonder what they would say "really matters." I suspect they'd tell us that what mattered then should still matter now. Things like integrity, honor, courage, and faith strong enough to carry people across the world and into a cave -- and leave them thankful for the experience.
We're fools if we pack that up in a plastic tub and store it in the basement.
Even if we have a basement.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.