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Submitted by Dave Free on 18 January 2007 - 7:07pm.

Chapter 24

As Steve was pounding the last stake of the sister’s tent into the ground, Samuel came up running at full speed.

“Elder, quick! I just heard they are killing a cow--a pound for each of us! Tent captains have to go get. Quick, Elder quick! I’m dying for meat!”

Steve didn’t have to be told twice. He tossed the mallet at Samuel and sprinted for the center of camp where Captain Martin usually setup his tent. Though he was out of breath when he got there, Steve was one of the first in line. The captain and two or three other brothers were bent over a carcass with blood up to their elbows.

The captain stood up and stretched his back with a groan as Steve ran up.

“Hello Elder! You smelled our beef did you?”

“Yes sir!” Steve replied.

“How many do you have in your party, Elder? I’ll get you taken care of.”

Steve started naming names and counting out loud, “Let’s see I’ve got Elizabeth and her four children. That’s five. Plus John’s family of five that makes nine. Do babies get some?” He asked the captain.

“If they can eat it, they can have it.” The captain replied.

“Ok, better make that eight then. Plus Aaron’s family of five, makes.” He thought for a minute as he counted in his mind. “Makes thirteen, plus me is fourteen in the family tent. Then there are ten sisters in the single sister’s tent so that makes twenty-four. I need twenty-four portions.” Steve said with finality.

“Coming right up!” The captain bent over the carcass and began cutting pieces off and handing them to Steve. The first eight were no problem for Steve to balance on his two hands. After that it started getting a little tricky.

“Could really use some grocery sacks.” Steve thought. Other tent captains were now arriving and lining up behind Steve. Most of them had thought to bring old flour sacks to carry their portion in. He briefly considered giving the meat back to the captain and running to get a bag of his own. But after looking at the line forming he thought better of it. His shirt would wash. He leaned the stacks of beef over against his stomach and had the captain continue to pile it on till he got to twenty-four.

“That’s it Elder! Enjoy your supper!”

“Thanks!” Steve replied, his chin nearly touching the beef that he cradled in his arms. Carefully he made his way back to his tents.

“Fire up the barby!” Steve shouted as he walked back into camp. A central fire had been started and the families and single sisters rushed to Steve to take the meat off his hands.

“You’ve made quite a mess of yourself Elder!” It was Margaret, little Stevie’s mom. Steve looked down at his brownish shirt that was now brownish/black with blood that had seeped out of the meat. He smiled back at Margaret.

“It’ll wash! Save me some fire. This chunk of meat is calling my name.” He held up the last remaining piece of beef in his hand and started for the cart where he had left his bag of belongings.

“Leave your meat here, Elder. I’ll cook it with ours and it will be ready when you return.” Margaret offered. Steve smiled again.

“That is very nice of you to offer, Margaret, but tonight I’m going to cook it myself.” He found his bag and headed for the creek to wash. He’d had experience with the way these folks cooked their beef. Tonight he was looking forward to something medium rare and a little juicy--not cooked until it didn’t have anything left to drip.

He quickly made his way to the stream, carefully laid a hanky out flat on a rock near t he edge of the stream and placed his beef on the hanky. Then he stripped off his bloody shirt and submerged it in the water. Keeping his eye on his beef, he reached back with one hand and fished the brick of sand-like soap out of his bag and began rubbing it back and forth over the dark blotches on the shirt. With considerable work the dark splotches lightened, but try as he might he couldn’t get them to disappear. Finally, just before it got so dark he couldn’t see, he rinsed the last of the soap out of the shirt and flung it over the limb of a nearby tree to dry.

Never straying more than a few yards from his precious meat, Steve worked his way along the creek to a stand of nice green willows and cut a few off at the base with his pocket knife. He quickly trimmed the leaves off the willows and then laid them along side his bag while he pulled on the Sunday shirt--the only other shirt he had. Once he got the sleeves rolled up and the long ends tucked in his trousers, he grabbed his beef, rinsed it off quickly in the stream, picked up his bag and willows with the other hand and headed back to camp.

As Steve neared the camp, he was surprised to hear an unfamiliar voice. It was loud and deep. Though he couldn’t yet make out the words, Steve guessed whoever was talking was either very excited, in a big rush, or just had a lot to say. Curious, he picked up his pace and jogged the last few hundred feet to the fire.

As he came around the tent and into the circle surrounding the fire, Steve was greeted by several of the saints. Then the loud unfamiliar voice boomed out,

“Well, hello there young man! Goin fishin?”

Steve looked toward the voice that came from the opposite side of the fire and said, “Huh?”

“Well, you’ve got your fishing sticks and a hunk of bait there. I thought maybe you was going fishing. Though you are dressed up mighty fine for a late night trip to the fishing hole.”

Steve looked down at the willows and the beef in his hands. He forced a smile though he still couldn’t see who he was talking to and said, “Oh, these?” Steve held up the willows a little, “No these aren’t fishing poles. These are wienie roasters--or, in this case, steak roasters.”

He set his bag down near the fire then walked around to meet whoever he had been talking to. A man stood up as he came around and Steve stuck out his hand. The man took it and said. “Good evening. I’m Almon Babbitt.” The man hesitated for a minute and acted as if Steve should recognize his name. Steve looked around quickly to see if Annie were nearby and could rescue him. Instead the captain’s voice came to his rescue.

“Brother Babbitt was just telling us about his duties as the Secretary of the Territory of Utah. He’s on his way back to the territory now after taking care of governmental duties in Washington DC. Your fire was the closest so I invited him to come and set a spell.”

“Sure no problem.” Steve replied to the captain and then turned back to Secretary Babbit and said, “It is an honor to meet you.” He pumped secretary’s hand more than necessary. “A real honor.” Not knowing what else to say, he threw in, “How did you find Washington DC?”

“It was easy. I just pointed my team east and kept going till I ran out of country!” Babbit laughed loudly, slapped Steve on the back and returned to his seat.

“Thanks for sharing your fire. Not planning to spend the night, just resting my team a little. I’ll see the valley of the Great Salt Lake in less than fifteen days or my name is not Almon Babbit!”

Steve was about to respond, but Babbit just kept right on going.

“Since you asked Elder, the capitol city is all a stir with the elections. James Buchanan and the Democrats are likely to win, but I reckon it won’t be too many elections before the new Republican party will be able to put a man in the white house.”

“The Republicans are new?” Steve blurted out while Babbit took a breath.

“Sure are. Trying to replace the Whig party that fell apart because they couldn’t decide what to do about slavery. The Know-nothings are also trying to replace them.”

“The ‘Know-nothings?’” Steve was now trimming down his willow sticks and trying to figure out a way to secure his hunk of beef to the end.

“That’s what they call themselves. The ‘ostrich’ party might have been a better name since they’ve got their heads in the sand about slavery.

“At least they are honest.” Steve interjected. He had decided to bend both willows at about the middle of their length, put the beef right at the bend, and then use some green willow bark to tie the willows back onto themselves to hold the beef securely in place.

“What’s that?” Babbit asked about his honesty comment.

“I was just thinking that at least they are honest. I’ve never heard of a politician that was willing to admit they ‘know nothing.’”

Babbit chuckled a little. “Point well taken Elder. Point well taken. Well, we’ll see how they do. They are running Millard Fillmore on their ticket and the Republicans are running John Fremont.”

“Millard Fillmore?” Steve again blurted out without thinking, “Isn’t he the one that the city of Fillmore was named after?” After saying it, he wished he hadn’t. Maybe the city of Fillmore didn’t even exist yet.

“That’s right Elder. Old Millard got us twenty thousand dollars to build the territorial statehouse in Fillmore, but we haven’t been able to get a dime more. Even if he gets elected this time, which is not likely, he’s too late. We’ve abandoned the statehouse in Fillmore for Salt Lake City. Maybe someday Fillmore will be the hub of territorial business, but right now Salt Lake is indeed ‘the place.’ “

“Don’t worry about that.” Steve jumped in again. “Fillmore’s got a couple of gas stations and that’s about it.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh nothing. I was just saying I don’t think you have to worry about Fillmore becoming the ‘hub’ of the territory.”

Without warning, Babbit jumped to his feet. “Well, I’ve jawed enough for one night. I’ve got a carriage full of mail and money bound for the territory. I’ll be sleeping on the wind tonight. Best of luck to all of you. I’ll save you a place in the territory.”

Steve dropped what was he was doing and jumped up to offer his hand to Babbit. The other pioneers jumped up as well and Babbit made his way around the circle shaking hands. When he was done, he donned his felt, stovetop hat and walked into the dark. A few minutes later they heard him yell to his horses and then gallop off into the night.

“Boy I’d love to ‘google’ that guy.” Steve said to no one in particular, as he went back to work on his beef roaster. Most of the pioneers said their good nights and headed off to their tents. The captain settled back down on his log. Annie, Lydia and Samuel also took their seats again.

“What do you mean by ‘google’ Elder?” the captain asked. Steve now had his beef strapped into place. He took a stick from the fire and moved some logs over to reveal a white-hot bed of coals. He positioned a rock near the fire and leaned the willow sticks on the rock so that the beef dangled three or four inches above the coals. Then he settled back to keep an eye on its progress.

“I’d just love to know more about him. I mean here we are pushing and pulling our handcarts across the plains and all of sudden a guy is warming himself by our fire wearing corduroy’s and an Abe Lincoln hat and talking politics? Maybe it is different out here, but where I come from it is not very smart to be telling people how much money you have in your car—I mean, carriage.”

The captain nodded. “I’ll agree with you there Elder. Not very wise--not wise at all. But not too surprising coming from Almon.”

Steve turned his beef and Annie asked, “Why do you say that Captain?”

The captain thought for a minute and then responded slowly, “Brother Babbit has a long and interesting history. In fact if I remember right, he visited the prophet Joseph in Carthage jail the day he was killed.”

“Really?” Steve perked up a little thinking he had just met someone who knew the prophet personally.

The captain nodded again. “He was a member of Zion’s Camp and was the Stake President in Kirtland for a time. But, he hasn’t always put the kingdom before the world.”

“How do you mean?” Steve asked.

“Samuel, do you have a copy of the Doctrine Covenants?” The captain asked Samuel.

“My mom does.” Samuel replied.

“Can you get it?” The captain asked.

“Yes sir.” Samuel jumped up and ran to their tent.

Steve decided his beef had reached medium rare. He pulled it off the fire, set it on his tin plate, and began to cut the willow bark that held it in place. He sliced off a corner, stabbed it with his knife, blew on it a few times and popped it in his mouth. It certainly wasn’t grain fed. In fact, it tasted a little “gamey” and even at medium rare, it wasn’t very juicy but it tasted much better than corn stir-about. He was three bites into it when Samuel returned. He handed the book to the captain. The captain put a few more logs on the fire and moved closer so he could read. He flipped through the pages for a few moments then said, “Ah, here it is. Section 124 verse 84.” He then began to read it.

“And with my servant Almon Babbitt, there are many things with which I am not pleased; behold, he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church; and he setteth up a golden calf for the worship of my people.”

“Ouch!” Steve said, and then popped the last chunk of beef in his mouth.

“Do you know what he had done captain?” Annie asked.

“I know a little about it.” The captain replied, “Almon was the President of the stake in Kirtland. The Lord had designated Nauvoo the gathering place for the saints and had commanded that His Temple be built there. Kirtland was to be only a temporary dwelling for the saints as they moved to Nauvoo. Babbit had a business in Kirtland and saw things a little differently. He encouraged the saints to gather and remain in Kirtland rather than moving on to Nauvoo in direct contradiction to the prophet.”

“I see,” Annie responded. “Why the reference to the golden calf?”

“Are you familiar with the story of King Jeroboam?”

Nobody answered so he continued to tell the story. “Jeroboam was the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel. His kingdom didn’t include Jerusalem and rather than encourage the ten tribes to travel to Jerusalem he erected golden calves in a couple of his own cities and corrupted the priesthood. He put his own interests--strengthening the power of his kingdom--above the Lord’s commandments.”

“So Brother Babbitt must have repented?” Annie continued to ask the questions though the others were listening intently.

“That he did sister. I left Nauvoo with the main body of saints, but I understand the apostles turned the management of the city over to committee of three--Almon was one of them. He has stayed with the saints and provided valuable service.” The captain paused for a minute then said. “Who are we to judge? We all have golden calves of one kind or another.”

There was general head nodding around the fire. Steve was busy stirring the fire with the remainder of his willow sticks, struggling with the thoughts going through his mind. These pioneers knew nothing about golden calves. How could they? They had no material possessions.

“Pardon, Elder?”

Steve looked up quickly, had he said what he was thinking out loud? “Huh?” Was all he could muster.

“You said we know nothing about golden calves.” Samuel stated. All eyes were on Steve. He stopped stirring the fire and considered the best way to get out of this one. He started slowly.

“Oh, I was just thinking about a kid I knew once. He had everything--the gospel, a family that loved him, all the food he could eat. It was a perfect existence. Instead of being grateful to his parents or to God all he could think of was himself and what he wanted. He was like a rancher running a whole herd of golden calves and he couldn’t even see it. I look around here, and I don’t see too many golden calves running around.” He paused for a moment, then added, “ Which is great cause I don’t think gold would taste nearly as good as that steak I just ate.”

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