Food for the Winter


When Tommy, Betsy, and their parents left Nauvoo, they had enough food to last for one year. They hoped this would be enough food to sustain them until they reached the valley out west and could plant and harvest their own crops. But now they were still at Winter Quarters, and they would be there until next spring.

Tommy’s mother had invited Elija and his sister Eliza, whose mother had recently died, to live with her and with Tommy and Betsy while the men were away with the battalion. Their food supply was nearly gone.

Tommy talked to Elija about this several times. “If we only had the money, we could go to St. Joseph and get what we need,” Tommy told Elija. “St. Joseph is only fifty miles away. We could take our wagons and be back in less than two weeks. I wish we knew where we could get some money!”

One day Tommy was surprised to see Parley P. Pratt ride into camp. Three weeks before, Brother Pratt, John Taylor, and Orson Hyde had left Winter Quarters for missions to England. Why is he riding back into camp alone, Tommy wondered.

Brother Pratt rode straight to the cabin where William Clayton, the clerk of the camp, had his office. Tommy watched him go inside and then waited by the door.

In a few minutes Brother Clayton called to Tommy. “Here is a letter for your mother and one for Elija. Tell your mother that Brother Pratt has returned to our camp with money from the men of the Mormon Battalion. He met the men in Fort Leavenworth and volunteered to return to Winter Quarters with the money before going on to England.”

When Tommy reached the cabin, he called for everyone to come outside. “Here is a letter for you from your father, Elija,” Tommy said. “And here is one for you, Mother.”

Tommy and Betsy listened quietly as their mother read the letter to them. “Hooray!” shouted Tommy when she came to the part that said there would be money in the clerk’s office for them to use for food.

“My father says there is money there from him for you to use too,” said Elija. “And if there is enough money left over after buying food, maybe Eliza and I can have new shoes.”

Tommy’s mother thought of the cold winter days ahead. “There will be enough left over,” she said decisively. And Tommy knew that whatever else they bought, they would buy shoes for Eliza and Elija. His mother put her arms around their shoulders and said, “It’s good to know that your father is still taking care of you even though he is far away.”

Tommy had been wondering how to get to St. Joseph. “Do you think we could leave for St. Joseph in the morning?” he asked his mother.

“We could if we had someone to go with us,” she replied. “Your father insisted that we should not travel far alone.”

“I heard last week that Brother Morley was going to St. Joseph,” said Tommy. “Do you think we might travel with him?”

“We might,” replied his mother. “We’ll go over to his cabin after supper and ask him.”

Brother Morley was happy to have their company. Two days later, with Tommy driving one wagon and Elija the other, the family left Winter Quarters with Brother Morley and his son.

The first thing they did in St. Joseph was to buy shoes for Elija and Eliza. Then they filled the wagons with corn, wheat, and potatoes.

Betsy looked longingly at some honey that a man had brought to the store from his farm. But there was no money left over to buy honey.

“Never mind,” said Elija. “In Nauvoo we used to harvest wild honey. Maybe on our way home we can find a hollow tree that bees have deserted.”

The second night out from St. Joseph, when Tommy and Elija were scouting around close to their camp, they found a hollow log. It was filled to the brim with honey. The boys had not taken a container with them, so they scraped a little honey onto a piece of tree bark and took it back for their supper. Afterward they returned with two big kettles in which to harvest the honey.

As they began to scoop the honey into the kettles, the boys heard a low growl behind them, and they turned to face a large bear that had also found the honey tree. Dropping their kettles, they raced toward camp, calling for help. In their rush, Tommy stumbled over a log. Elija saw him fall, and he also saw that the bear was not far behind. “Slide under the log, Tommy!” he shouted.

Brother Morley heard the boys’ cries for help. He came running with his rifle, took careful aim, and fired his gun. The bear dropped dead at the side of the log.

“Thank you, Brother Morley,” the boys said gratefully. And Tommy thought how glad he was that his father had insisted they never travel far alone.

The words of his mother echoed in Tommy’s ears: “It is good to know that your father is still taking care of us even though he is far away.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Virginia Sargent