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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Dave Free on 7 December 2006 - 9:21am.

Steve stopped walking and looked down into O’Malley’s face with sudden terror. He thought he’d gotten away with his little St. Patrick trick. For an instant he considered running. He didn’t know where, but maybe if he ran long enough he would wake up from this crazy dream. O’Malley pulled him from his thoughts.

“Right. Keep walkin’ laddie, and don’t worry so. I would not be turning ye over to be drilled if ye were the dark one hisself! Can ye really not remember a ting?” Steve turned and looked into O’Malley’s face for a moment and considered how much he should say. The Irishman’s eyes twinkled.

Steve shrugged his shoulders. “I remember--just not what people think I should. I sure as heck don’t remember being on a mission in England.”

“No worries, lad. I visited England once meself. Wished now I could forget the place. That’s the fact. Not much to look at. What do ye remember then, lad? Yer family. Certainly ye remember yer family?”

“Sure, I remember them. I saw them just this morning--no, not this morning--a spring morning in 2006.”

“2006? Aye, laddie, do not toy with me.” O’Malley continued walking down the street mumbling to himself. “’2006’ the Elder says. ‘A spring mornin in 2006.’ I never should have given up the drink. Could use a pint or two now, I could.” Turning back to Steve who remained in the middle of the street, he yelled, “Are ye sure it was spring, Elder? I’d feel much better had it been the winter of 2006!” He chuckled at his own joke and turned and continued mumbling to himself as he walked down the dusty street.

Thoughts of running again entered Steve’s mind. He was convinced now that he wasn’t sleeping and he wasn’t dead. But it was going to take some time to figure out where he was and why. In the meantime, he was going to need a place to sleep and food to eat and right now O’Malley was his best option.

“Wait! Brother St. Patrick--I mean O’Malley--wait!” Steve ran and caught him by the arm. “Hey, wait up! I need your help! I can’t remember the past. I need you to help me remember. ” O’Malley stopped and considered Steve for a moment.

“Aye Elder, I don’t know what to make of ya. For a minute me thinks you’re a crazy bloke what I should take back and have drilled. But this little voice it whispers in me ear, ‘O’Malley’ it says, ‘O’Malley, this be a good lad, a servant of the Lord, what needs yer help.’ So, says I, if that’s what’s to be then that’s what’s to be. I’ll help ye, laddie. But no more talk about the future. Do ye understand?” The Irishman wiggled his forefinger in Steve’s face.

“Yes, yes, I understand.” Steve replied shaking O’Malley’s hand like he was jacking up a car. “Thanks O’Malley. Thanks!”

O’Malley finally managed to get his hand away from Steve. “Yah, yah, yah. Come, we’ve much work to do at the camp. The handcarts have yet to be finished.” He turned and started down the road again.

“Handcarts! You’re--I mean--we’re going to Zion in handcarts?” Steve stood frozen in the middle of the road.

O’Malley turned around again. “A very long trip it is going to be if ye insist on questionin everythin I say. Yes! We’re goin' in handcarts, Brother Brigham’s glorious plan to bring the saints to Zion and escape the tyranny of the old world.”

“But O’Malley, I’ve heard of the handcart pioneers. They die!”

“Nonsense, lad! I’m warning ye, if ye keep this up, I’ll take ye back and have ye drilled, I will!”

“But you don’t understand! I know what is going to happen!”

“I’ll not be listenin' to any more of this Elder. Not a wee bit more! Ye can either come to camp with me and keep this nonsense to yerself or ye can go back to the doctor.”

Steve tried again, “Don’t you see? Your family, they might--”

“Enough!” O’Malley spoke with such force and command Steve took a step backward. The Irishman continued, the twinkle in his eyes had now turned to a fire brighter than the red of his hair, “The Lord, through his living prophet, has called us all to come to Zion. I’ll not be dissuaded by ye nor any other mortal. If ye’ll not be traveling with us, then be off with ye!”

Steve stood for a moment staring into O’Malley’s face. The sudden power and determination of this short little man with the red hair and fiery eyes surprised him. To say anything more was useless. To turn and leave him--well, Steve had already been through that--there was no place to go. Besides, despite his stubbornness, Steve had already grown to like this Irishman, maybe if he stuck around he could help him and his family survive. With a resigned look and a quiet determination of his own Steve quietly said, “Let’s go to camp. I won’t say another word.”

As they walked silently down the street, Steve suddenly realized he was sweating like he’d just played three games of racquetball. He peeled off his jacket, unbuttoned his vest, and took off his tie. The white shirt he wore reminded him of his mother’s white blouses. The sleeves were full and puffy and it took several rolls before he could get them to stay up above his elbows. The shirt collar rubbing up against his jaw and chin annoyed him, so he undid the top two or three buttons and folded the collar down on his shoulders. Even without the jacket, vest, and tie, Steve felt little relief from the heat. There were no breezes and the humidity was thick.

The street they walked on was a combination of dirt and cobblestone. It was wide enough for two wagons to pass and not much more. Both sides of the street were lined with wooden and brick buildings. Some of the wooden buildings had false fronts that made them look bigger than they really were. Steve’s eyes had a hard time keeping up with all the amazing sights and sounds. The signs on the buildings were ornately painted in an old-fashioned script. There was the Iowa City Mercantile, two or three banks, and more lawyers than Steve could count. The street was alive with folks in old fashioned clothing bustling from one store to the next. Steve even saw a man with a tin badge and a six-shooter tied down on his leg.

As they made their way out of the center of town--and it only took a few minutes--the false front buildings and businesses gave way to homes and churches. The churches, and they passed several, were all fine brick structures. A few of the homes were also built of brick. Others appeared to be made of mud bricks or adobe, while still others looked just like the log cabin on the syrup bottle Steve had used at breakfast so often. Split rail fencing surrounded most of the homes. A few of the nicer homes had neat little picket fences. Several homes were still under construction.

At the outskirts of the little town, just passed a plow factory, the road climbed slightly to the top of a small bluff. O’Malley puffed and panted as they climbed. Steve wondered how a man that puffed and panted so at such an easy walk was planning to pull a handcart across the entire country, but decided now wasn’t the time to bring it up. Instead he turned and looked back at the city. The big building with the massive pillars from which he had so narrowly escaped, was clearly visible in the center of the city with the many other structures surrounding it.

“What is that big building we were in O’Malley? It seems so out of place out here.”

O’Malley was glad for the excuse to rest and turned and looked back at the city as well. “They say it was built to be the capital of the state of Iowa. The capital moved west a year or so ago and now they’re trying to make a university of it.” O’Malley had to pause to catch his breath before continuing, “Now don’t get me wrong laddie. I’m as lucky as a leprechaun to be in this new world and glad of it I am, but Trinity it’s not.”

“Trinity? Never heard of it.” Steve replied.

“The College of Trinity in Dublin!”

“Oh.” Steve nodded and thought for a few moments “Well, give this Iowa school a chance. I’ll bet someday they have a pretty good football team.”

“Football? Aye Elder, I fear for your head I do.” The Irishman turned and continued up the road.

As they reached the top of the bluff, they found themselves looking down on the flood plain of what was to Steve a massive river.
“Is that the Mississippi?” he asked.

“No lad, we crossed the Mississippi a day or so ago. This is the Iowa, and that,” O’Malley pointed to a city of tents nestled between the bluff and the river almost directly below them, “that is our home for the next few weeks while we build our carts.”

Steve’s gaze followed O’Malley’s hand to the city of tents below them. The tents were round and very light in color making a sharp contrast to the deep green foliage which surrounded them. Steve didn’t take time to count, but there appeared to be forty or fifty tents and each of them looked two to three times bigger than the eight-man tent that Steve’s family used for family camp outs.

“How many people are there?” Steve asked without taking his eyes off the camp.

“Aye, a wee bit more than a thousand. The passengers of the good ship Thornton arrived a few weeks ago and combined with our company from the Horizon we’re more than a thousand.”

“And they’re--er, we’re all going by handcart?” Steve asked, still amazed at the size of the encampment.

“Fer the most part. There be three hundred or so plannin' to go by wagon train. A wee bit more money is what it takes.” O’Malley replied with a bit of a sigh. “C’mon lad, let’s be on our way.”

The two started down the road toward the camp, but Steve continued to talk. “There’s one thing I don’t understand--well actually there’s lot’s of things I don’t understand--but anyway, we were on a train earlier right?”

“Good laddie good! See there yer memory is returning. A train it was indeed.”

“Well I never knew the pioneers rode on trains. And you--we were on boats too? I thought the pioneers got chased out of Nauvoo or someplace in the middle of the winter and had to cross a river on the ice.”

“Ah that’s been a few years Elder. The saints have na lived in Nauvoo for goin' on ten years now. Taken over by the mob they say. And as far as the boats, t’would be mighty difficult to get here from England without one, me thinks.”

Steve thought for a few minutes. “What year did you say it was again?”


“That’s right, the first pioneers were in 1847--Days of ‘47 parade.” Steve started putting the pieces together. O’Malley gave him a funny look but said nothing. “And you--I mean we--all came straight from England?” Steve continued to question.

“Aye, the ship sailed from Liverpool, but we’re not all Englishmen. I’m as Irish as the grass is green and I know of Welsh, German and others.”

Steve and O’Malley were now making their way through the tent city. Children were running and playing among the tents. The women tending the cooking fires chatted happily. Despite the number of people and the sheer size of the camp, Steve was amazed at the general cleanliness and organization. Most of the people seemed to be busily working at something. Several called out greetings to Steve and O’Malley as they passed.

Somewhere near the center of the camp, O’Malley guided Steve to the flap door of one of the tents. “Let’s see what the missus has got for us to eat Elder, then we’ll be gettin' down to the buildin' o’ the carts.” Before O’Malley could pull back the flap a young girl shot out of the tent and wrapped her arms around his wide waste.

“Papa! Papa!”

“Maeve, me darlin!” O’Malley scooped up the little girl in his arms and spun her around laughing as he turned. Steve stood and watched, a huge smile across his face. The little girl reminded him of his sister Jessica. O’Malley put his daughter down and sent her back into the tent to find her mom. She ran off calling, “Mum! Mum!” O’Malley settled down on a log under the shade of a nearby tree and Steve joined him.

“How many children do ye have Elder?” O’Malley asked Steve casually.

“Me?” Steve almost fell off the log, “I don’t have any children, I’m not even married. Heck, I’m only eighteen!”

“Too bad Elder, too bad! The light of me life that little girl is. Me little Queen Maeve.”

“I have a little sister about Maeve’s age.” Steve offered, “Jessica. Maeve reminds me of her.”

“Well does she now? That’s a good thing Elder! You’re getting your memory back. That’s a good thing.”

Steve thought about telling O’Malley he’d never lost his memory, but forgot the idea as his mind reflected on the auger-bit doctor. He asked a question instead, “How many other children do you have?”

“Two lads. Desmond with fourteen years and Noel with twelve. Good lads they are, but as stubborn as their Pappi I fear.” He seemed about to continue when the tent flap opened again and a short little woman with auburn hair appeared. She was wearing a long gingham dress with a white apron and had her hair pulled back tightly in a pony tail. A few wisps of hair had escaped the pony tail and now hung down on her perspiring forehead. She carried a white towel or rag (which Steve was later to learn rarely left her hand). O’Malley and Steve both jumped to their feet as she appeared. She was the first to speak.

“Elder! Ye’re well! I knew the good Lord’d care for his servants. Yer memory has returned then?” She flipped the towel over her shoulder and reached out to shake Steve’s hand. Steve took her hand but hesitated not knowing quite what to say. O’Malley rescued him.

“It will take some time mum. He’s had quite a bump, but he remembers Zion and wants to go with us, and that’s all that is important right now.” She looked up at Steve with concern in her eyes for a few moments and patted the back of his hand.

“Ye’ll be fine Elder. The Lord cares for his own. And in the mean time, we’ll care for ye as one of our own, won’t we papa?” Steve was just about to express his gratitude, when she spoke again, this time with a mock anger in her voice. “Now be off with the both of ya and get yerselfs washed and out of those travel clothes! The whole day’s been wasted! No time for resting in the shade Patrick O’Malley! Captain Martin has called a meeting of the entire company, and those brethren what worked today will be in for their meals shortly!” She emphasized the word work.

“You’re a hard woman, Mary me girl.” O’Malley replied with a glint in his eye. “Come along Elder, we’ll get no rest till we’ve done as she says.” He gave his wife a quick peck on the cheek and then a whack on the behind. Quick as a striking snake she pulled the towel off her shoulder and whacked his arm with it.

“Aye, you’re an evil one Patrick O’Malley,” she mocked anger, “just as me dear father said, evil as the day is long! Now be off with you!” O’Malley laughed and Steve was sure he saw Sister O’Malley smiling as she went back into the tent.

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