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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

Late evening reverie…

The New Pioneers: A reverie of sorts...
Wall Street Diner (North Spokane)

Tonight I was to meet with my beloved and my two lovely granddaughters for dinner, and while awaiting their arrival, I reminisced about a book I read many years ago written about the women pioneers who came west with the wagon trains. These were not your ordinary pioneers, but rather were a group of young women coming west to teach in various frontier schoolhouses. Some were single, others married and some even about to bear their first children on the trail west, but onward they came.

The hardships of being on the trail in a wagon train were the things legends were made of. Nearly a fourth of the women who began the trip in Kansas City never made it to their destinations which ranged from California north to what is now Oregon. Infant mortality rates that summer were nearly 30%, including the babies that were borne while on the trail. There were, as I recall, a number of serious skirmishes with indigenous bands of Indians along the trail; men and women were severely wounded and/or killed. Halfway through the worst of the trail, the rumor took hold that everyone on the wagon train were going to perish before they reached their goal. Many pioneers were in favor of turning back to Kansas City, yet somehow they persevered onward into the scorching sun of late summer afternoons.

Then still in my reverie-state, I remembered the comments about the End of Times made earlier today, that the world may end in four years, if the beliefs surrounding the Mayan Calendar are to be given any credence. I had already begun falling deep into my most-somber thoughts about the End of Times when my spirit wandering through the darkened plain found a new light.

Four young women, two of whom were pregnant, one of whom had an infant whom she breast-fed beneath a blanket while reading the menu, were seated across from me, and their conversations were enlightening enough that I swam back across the Stygian depths of the End of Times and began to listen most closely to what they had to say. These were indeed hard economic times they all agreed, and furthermore each of them were expressing how difficult it is to bring a new life into a world already fraught with challenges. One cried briefly upon explaining that her husband had just received a severe cutback in his hours at work, and she was worried about paying their bills. The expectant mother explained how, due to the costs of having her baby, she and her husband were turning off their cable television to save money.

In modern-day standards, each young woman had had to make frugal decisions in order to keep their families economically stable for the future, and yet all voiced their optimism that prayer and hard work would see them all through. Two of the group related how they had gotten back in contact with their parents and grandparents seeking advice on how best to deal with the hardships they were facing.

I was not surprised in the last when their meals arrived, without pretext or outward sign, they all bowed their heads and gave a silent blessing for the meal, every bit as much as the early American pioneer women had done around the campfires across the plains, and then they all said Amen softly. No one in the restaurant noticed; I was the only person in the restaurant who bowed my head during the prayer.

What did surprise me is that in a brief interview as I was about to leave, is that each of them women attend a different church, but had banded together as a Christian study group of four independent persons to help one another with the challenges they each perceive. Their commonality is their Faith, and from that they derive courage to march ever onward, much like the pioneer women of old.


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.