Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Pioneer Thanksgiving shared by Ginger Simpson (credit given to the author)

I'm sharing this post from two years ago because it's so special, it bears repeating.  Consider this like a TV re-run.  :)

Happy Holidays my friends!
As I was looking for something to share about Thanksgiving, I came across this very moving story that gives wonderful insight into our ancestry.  I'm pretty sure the owner won't mind since I'm giving them full credit as well as sharing the link where I found this step back into history.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.
Taken from a story written by:
Joseph Wallace Thompson

As told to his daughter, Eleh T. Shumway Lazenby

My grandmother, Lucy Simmons Groves, who was one of the pioneers in Utah’s Southland, lived in a fort called Fort Harmony. It was late in the fall [about 1854], and people had gathered in their meager harvest, and it was very meager too. The men folks had a very busy season, with clearing the brush from a few acres of land, plowing, planting, digging a canal to irrigate their crops, and guarding the colony from the unfriendly Indians, and building a fort for protection, they were unable to raise much more than would be needed for man, and beast through the long winter months before another harvest.

Each family had a few sheep on which they depended for wool to make clothing. They carded, spun, and wove the wool into cloth. The people, true to the traditions which they had inherited from their pilgrim fathers, my grandparents (Elisha Hurd Groves and Lucy Simmons) were wondering just what they had to be thankful for. True, they had been delivered from those bloodthirsty wretches which had so cruelly murdered their beloved prophet and his equally loved brother, (Joseph and Hyrum Smith) and had mercilessly driven the people from their beautiful city of Nauvoo, and the comfortable homes they had only begun to enjoy. All this in the dead of a cold cruel winter, so cold the people crossed the great Mississippi River on the ice, a thing that seldom happened. Yes, they were out of the power of the mobs, but it had cost them those dear homes, and the long, long journey of a thousand miles or more through a wilderness infested by
wild beasts, and equally wild Indians. They had left behind almost everything that gave comfort and happiness, but they had a priceless heritage handed down to them from their Pilgrim parents. A strong will, and resolute determination that no trials could weaken or discourage, above all a faith in God that could not be shaken. So, they thought, even after all they had endured, and the present dark prospects, they had much to be thankful for.

Their little daughter, my mother [Lucy Maria Groves], who was born during the cold days when they were out on the prairie before coming to Utah, was then a little barefoot girl and was lonely and wished for a little chum to play with. As the day of Thanksgiving arrived, cold and stormy, they were huddled around the fireplace. Grandfather said, “Well, we have no apples to toast on the hearth. We have some corn, and I will parch some, and we have a nice fat deer hung up so we will roast some of it, and we will still have a Thanksgiving. We’ll not regret the past. It has given us a wonderful experience, so we will not long for nor wish for those things now impossible to obtain, but be thankful for what we have.”

The day was far along and night would soon be approaching, wrapping its dark shadows over all the land. He said, “I will go out and take care of the stock, and then we will enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner.” As darkness came on, the snow began to fall. A real winter storm was on. The wind moaned and roared outside, and as if to accompany the elements from the hills nearby, and from every direction came the mournful howl of wolves. Grandfather remarked that he would surely feel sorry for any human being who happened to be out there tonight. As the night drew on, the storm increased in violence, until it seemed to shake even the adobe and stone walls of the fort. The man who had charge of the gate said, “For fear someone may be out tonight, I will not fasten the gate. I will leave it slightly ajar.”

The night grew wilder, and they all decided to go to bed. Grandfather was just starting to bank the fire, when there came a hard bang on the door like something heavy had fallen against it. He hurried over to open the door, and as he raised the latch, the door flew open and in fell an Indian. He was almost naked and so near frozen he could hardly speak. He held a bundle in his arms wrapped in a rabbit skin robe, which he had had to keep him warm in winter. As he fell on the floor, the bundle slid from his cold nerveless arms, and a faint cry came from the depths of the robe. It was the cry of a baby. Grandmother sprang up and hastily picked it up in her arms and unwrapped it, and lo, a tiny Indian baby, warm and cozy, came into view. “Father,” she said, “Thank God we are here to save these people.”

The baby was all right except for being hungry, but the man had nearly frozen to death. The sun had risen on another day before he recovered enough to tell his experience. He then told the story. His tribe [Shebitt],1 not a large one, had been out on their annual hunt to get a supply of venison for winter, and had killed plenty of deer, but a large band of bad Indians from another tribe had surprised them and killed them all including his wife. They took all their meat and ponies. They had struck him down and left him for dead. He had no idea how long he lay unconscious, but when he came to, all his friends and his wife were lying there cold and stiff. When he turned her over, the little one was lying there beneath the mother in a little depression in the ground, cold but still alive, and unhurt. The robbers had stripped all the good robes but had left this one, he thought because it wasn’t much good. He wrapped his baby in it, and came many days to the white man’s lodges to save his baby, and if the white man had not opened the door, he could not have done so. He was too sick, too cold, too hungry to go one step farther. He said, “If white squaw take baby, and raise up like white baby, she may have it for her own.”

He said, “Me now happy. Me want to die. You take care of baby. You good white mans. Me say goodbye.” And although he lingered a few days, he had fully decided not to live. Grandfather gave him good care, but he died and was laid to rest as if he were a white man.

Grandfather and Grandmother raised the baby, who grew to be a beautiful woman, bright, intelligent and a lovely girl. They loved the dusky little girl as if she were their own. They named her Evelyn. She was a real playmate to little barefooted Lucy, their own daughter. She grew to womanhood and married a good, honorable white man. My grandparents often said that of all the Thanksgiving days, the day on which little Evelyn came to them was the best of all.
----- Murland Packer

Monday, November 23, 2015


Tradition tells us the first tree was brought indoors in Strasburg, Germany, in 1605. Martin Luther decorated it with candles to entertain the children. During this time Christmas trees were embellished with wafers, candies, fruits, paper flowers, hard cookies baked in various shapes and tinsels made from tin and silver. Humans being humans, families were soon competing to outdo each other with their decorations. Eventually, the tradition of a decorated tree indoors spread beyond Germany.

During the 1800s the hand cast glass ornaments became widely popular. Lauscha in Germany was the hub of glass ornaments production in Germany. Later on silk, wool thread, chenille and stiff spun glass were used in Christmas tree ornaments.

Legend plays an important role in the History of Christmas Ornaments. The popular pickle ornament of the Germans carries with it a wonderful tale. Pickle ornaments are glass ornaments formed in the shape of a pickle. The German parents used it to judge the most intelligent child in the family. The first one to trace the pickle got an additional gift from St. Nicholas.

Christmas trees along with the fanciful ornaments entered England in 1840 through the hands of Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert. Glass ornaments, decorative beads, paper baskets with sugared almonds and hot air balloons were used for decoration.

The first Christmas tree ornaments began as items easily found in nature, such as nuts, fruit or pine cones. German families began to bake gingerbread or other hard cookies in different shapes. Americans strung popcorn or cranberries into strands to string around the trees. Families in the United Kingdom crafted lace or paper into unique shapes to place upon the tree.

Christmas Tree Ornaments reached America around 1880. F.W Woolworth, an American retailer first sold imported glass ornaments in his shop. Decorations also included cut outs of old magazines, cotton wools and tinsel. The First World War disrupted natural commerce and necessitated the production of cheaper ornaments with new technologies. The introduction of injection plastic molding facilitated to figure tiny miniatures.

Mistletoe was believed to have magical powers of healing. The tree was sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. The cutting of the mistletoe from the oak (mistletoes are parasites, though they can grow on their own) signified the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Having the mistletoe decorated in the Christmas season, originated from the pagan customs. The famous axiom "kissing under the mistletoe" has its origin in the Norse mythology and Celtic rituals.

The Holly, which is strongly linked with Christmas or rather Christmas festival, has a history of its own. Though Christmas Holly history has its roots in Northern Europe, the sanctity of the Holly plant has a pagan origin. The Holly plant is characterized by green leaves that are prickly in nature. It needs a mention here that the Druids adorned their heads with twigs of the Holly plant whenever they went to the forest.

The Germans began making ornaments for mass production in the mid-1800s. Around Lauscha, Germany, glass blowers began molding glass into fruit or nut replicas. After those became a big hit, they began making different shapes, such as hearts and stars, as well as saints, children or animals.

In the 1920s, more countries vied with Germany for the Christmas ornament market. Japan came out with more colorful designs than Germany, while the Czech Republic produced very fancy ornaments. After World War I, glass ornaments began to be produced by a machine in Corning, New York. They were the first glass ornaments to be made by machine.

Tinsel first came into use around 1610 in Germany. The first tinsel was made out of silver, pulled very thin. It tended to tarnished quickly by the heat of the candles placed on the tree. Experiments were made to make tinsel better, and it was next made out of tin and lead. This tinsel was very heavy, however, and would break from its own weight. Tinsel is currently made out of lightweight synthetic material and is used by many people around the world.

The ornaments shown on this post were made by the author.


#1 is made by using bits of fabric, ribbon and decorative trimming glued to a Styrofoam ball. The fabric is cut into elongated leaf shapes to fit around the ball.  A loop made of heavy thread is glued to one end for hanging. These can be made to fit all sizes of balls.

#2 is crocheted using crochet thread into two circular motifs sewn together around a Styrofoam ball.



#3 is made by cutting old Christmas cards into nickel sized circles. The circles are then bent to form triangles. The folds are glued together in 4 rows of five, and the edged decorated with sparkle.


#4 is made with photographs according to the pattern in the photo. You can use pictures of your children, family, favorite places, pets or squares of Christmas cards. After being folded and glued, the edges are then decorated with sparkle. See the box in the top photo.

#5 The snowflakes are crocheted using various patterns which can be found by googling “crocheted snowflake ornaments.”

#6 The stocking is crocheted with crochet thread in 12 six-sided motifs sewn together. My motifs are about 2-3/4” in diameter, making a stocking about 12” long.  Naturally, if you make the motifs larger, adding another row to each one, or using thicker thread, you can create larger stockings.


 #7 are needlepoint backed with felt and trimming added to the edges for a finished look.

Anyone wanting more detailed instructions or patterns are welcome to email me at and I will send them to you.

Start now and decorate your tree this year with your own handmade ornaments.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chaps! Leather leggings for cowboys.

The word chaps is a shortened version of chaparejos or chaparreras, Mexican or Spanish words for this garment, ultimately derived from Spanish chaparro. They are prounounced “Shaps” by western riders and “Chaps” by Eastern riders.

The earliest form of protective leather garment used by mounted riders who herded cattle in Spain and Mexico were called armas which meant shields.

Style variations adapted as vaqueros and later, cowboys, moved up from Mexico into the Pacific coast and northern Rockies of what today is the United States and Canada. Mountain men also copied them from leggings worn by Native Americans.

There are several variations:

Shotgun: As the name implies, straight legged.

Batwing: cut wide with a flare at the bottom.

Zamorros resemble batwing chaps, in that the leggings are closely fitted at the thigh and flare out below the knee, but unlike batwings, the leggings extend far below the boot with a distinctive triangular flare.

Chinks: half-length chaps that stop two to four inches (5 to 10 cm) below the knee, with very long fringe at the bottom and along the sides.

Armitas: short legging with completely closed legs that have to be put on in a manner similar to pants.

Woolies are a variation on shotgun chaps, made with fleece, angora or with hair-on cowhide, often lined with canvas on the inside.

Modern day cowboys still wear chaps to protect their legs from, livestock, weather and brush. The flashiest chaps will be seen in horse show rings and rodeo arenas. Farriers use them to protect their legs when shoeing a horse. Non-equestrian users include motorcycle riders, loggers and some are popular in BDSM culture.

Figure 1 My pop (L) wearing batwing style and his friend Jim (R) wearing chinks on a rainy day.

Figure 2 A friend wears chinks


 Falling in love with romance novels the summer before sixth grade, D’Ann Lindun never thought about writing one until many years later when she took a how-to class at her local college. She was hooked! She began writing and never looked back. Thirty-two manuscripts and numerous awards later, she is an Amazon bestseller! Romance appeals to D’Ann because there's just something so satisfying about writing a book guaranteed to have a happy ending. Her particular favorites usually feature cowboys and the women who love them.

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