“Betsy! Eliza! Wake up and get ready! We’re finally going to go.” Tommy called.
Betsy sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Go where?” she asked sleepily.
“Out west,” replied Tommy. “Brother Morley was just here, and he said our company would leave Winter Quarters this afternoon. We’ll have to hurry to get ready.”
“We have moved so many times,” Betsy grumbled. “Why can’t we stay here in our house with our garden and our friends?”
Betsy’s mother did not say anything at first. She walked over to the bed, sat down on the edge, and put her arm around Betsy’s shoulders.
“It’s been a long time, Betsy, since we left Nauvoo. You were six years old then; now you are almost eight. During that time you have been brave and I have been proud of you.
“In Nauvoo you left your home, your kitty, your clock, and your chair with the big round back. In Sugar Creek you gave your feather bed to Sister Johnson so that she could keep her newborn baby warm and comfortable. In Garden Grove you said goodbye to the log cabin your father built and the rope spring bed you helped to make. At Council Bluffs you waved goodbye to your father as he marched with the Mormon Battalion.
“Each time we moved, you left behind something that was precious to you. But each time we moved, we came closer to the place our Heavenly Father has prepared for us out west! Today we are leaving again. We’ll soon build homes and plant gardens in the valley, where we’ll have friends and go to school and serve the Lord the way he would like us to serve him.”
Betsy was thoughtful for a moment; then she looked up at her mother and asked, “What can I do, Mother, to help get ready?”
Betsy’s mother smiled softly as she answered, “We are almost out of match papers, Betsy. You may fold some. Where we will be traveling there are no stores, so our box of matches will have to last a long, long time.”
Eliza and Betsy folded small pieces of paper over and over again until the papers were thin and firm enough to light one fire from another. When they had folded a hundred of these, Betsy’s mother asked the girls to make twenty-five rag candles by tightly twisting pieces of cloth and wrapping them with string. These candles, soaked in grease and lighted, made a good light.
Tommy and Elija checked the wagons. Tommy took one wheel to the blacksmith for repair while Elija and Mother stretched new canvas over the wagons. When Tommy returned, they loaded the wagons and hitched up the oxen. Then Tommy and Elija climbed up in the drivers’ seats, and drove the two wagons to the square.
As soon as all those in the company reached the square ready to start, their leader quieted them and then gave some last-minute instructions. “As you know, Brigham Young and his company left several weeks ago. They are blazing the trial we will follow.
“Each night our wagons must form a corral by locking the front wheels of one wagon with the rear wheels of the next wagon until a tight circle is formed. We’ll keep the animals inside the circle.
“A bugle will sound at five each morning, at which time each family should gather for prayer. Then you will have two hours to eat and do your chores. At seven another bugle will sound to signal the wagon train to move forward.
“Tonight we will camp four miles from here, and tomorrow morning we’ll be on our way out west!”
Just then someone rode up beside Tommy’s wagon. The man handed Tommy a letter and said, “This letter for your mother was delivered to Brigham Young’s camp up ahead with mail from the Mormon Battalion.”
Mother hurriedly opened the envelope, scanned the letter, and then read it aloud:
“I know that you will probably be on your way by the time you receive this letter. It will not always be easy, but take comfort knowing you are not alone. The brethren will help you, and our Heavenly Father will be as close as you will let him be. I will meet you all in the valley.
“Tell Eliza and Elija that their father is well and sends his love.”
“It will be wonderful!” shouted Tommy. “We’ll all be together again.”
Tommy’s mother gave him a warm smile. “We really will be together, Tommy. This is truly good news.”
Just then they heard the bugle that signaled for the long wagon train to start moving. Betsy and Eliza waved to their friends who had come to the square to say goodbye. “We’ll be waiting to see you,” they called.
And the wagon train began its long journey out west.