Saturday, May 25, 2013

Unemployed and Homeless

It's official. We are now living with our parents (kinda bouncing back and forth between them actually) and Ethan is job hunting full time. So far it's been really nice to get to be around our family and not have to worry about any responsibilities like church callings, school, jobs, etc... Don't worry, while it is nice to do this for a few weeks, we don't plan on being bums for the rest of our lives. Ethan's working hard to figure out where our next step in life is going and then we'll be back on our own two (or I guess I should say four?) feet again.
Moving is not much fun. Moving with a toddler is REALLY not much fun. But we made it! We lucked out because my dad was able to borrow a nice enclosed trailer from a friend that was the perfect size (quite literally) for all our crap, so he and my younger brother drove out to Starkville to help us with the move and we saved a ton of money on the trailer rental we would otherwise have gotten. They got there the evening of the 14th, and we spent most of the evening just hanging out and enjoying one another's company. After Dad and Brig went to bed (they'd just finished a 22 hour drive and were facing turning right around and doing it again, so they were pretty worn out!) Ethan and I went into overdrive and packed and cleaned late into the night. Erik woke us all up bright and early Wednesday morning, so we got up and packed and cleaned some more and loaded the trailer and we were ready to go by 10:00 that morning. Dad and Brig rode in Dad's truck pulling the trailer, and we took our Durango. I knew it was going to be a long two days, so I made sure to pack a bunch of stuff to keep Erik busy, and it made all the difference in the world!
We decided to take a slightly different route than the previous times we've made the trek from MS to NM. Instead of going through Jackson and Vicksburg we decided to mix things up a bit and go through the Mississippi river delta area. Dad and Brigham had never seen the area before and I've only been through it at night, so it was a fun change.
Day one of our trip.
We did get to see something new this time too. In the half a dozen times we've crossed the Mississippi and in all the times we've crossed over the Tenn-Tom we've never seen a barge go by. That day as we crossed the river there were three huge barges all headed downstream. It was pretty impressive to see just how big they were and how much they could haul. 

We didn't take many pictures while on the road this time, so I don't have much to share in that department. The delta area is really neat and so different than the rest of Mississippi. Everything is completely flat, and because of all the farms you can see for miles without all the trees. The part of Arkansas that we drove through was pretty, but like everywhere in the south there isn't much too see besides trees. Sometime in the early afternoon it started raining. It was just a little bit of a drizzle, but not too bad. As we headed farther and farther west, the rain picked up more and more, so that by the time we reached Dallas, TX it was a pretty good storm. I didn't think much about it though, it'd been raining all day and I guess we'd all just gotten used to it as it got worse and worse. Did you watch the news last Wednesday? Do you know where I'm going with this?
As we were driving through downtown Dallas on the freeway I was looking out the window at the skyline when I suddenly noticed a huge LED billboard with nothing on it but the words TORNADO WARNING. I pointed it out to Ethan, but we really weren't sure if it was actually a warning. It was so bright and colorful it looked like it could've been advertising some new theme park ride or something. A minute or two later we saw another sign, and another, and then we realized this was REAL! While a tornado watch means there isn't a tornado but conditions are favorable to form one, a warning means there is one confirmed in the nearby area. I called Dad (who was a few minutes behind us) to tell him about the warning and and discuss travel options, and as soon as I hung up the phone I looked out the window just in time to see a funnel cloud silhouetted in a bolt of lightning off to our north. Needless to say that was a pretty tense visit to Dallas! We turned off I-30 and headed south (not because we were trying to get away from the storm or anything, just because I apparently shouldn't be trying to read a map and give directions at the same time that I am freaking out about tornadoes just outside my window) and by a stroke of pure luck the protecting hand of a loving Father in Heaven we ended up taking a route that went right between the mile wide tornado to the south of us and the dozen or more tornadoes that were sighted in the Dallas area that night. If we'd taken the time before turning off our original course to listen to the warnings on the radio (which made it sound like the more southerly route was the more dangerous one) we probably would've stayed on the route we were on and headed right into some of the worst of the storm. We were pretty nervous though as we pressed onward, listening to the warnings and storm reports that sounded like we were headed right into the thick of it. 
I do have to clarify though, that when I said "we" turned off the freeway and ended up in the safer area, I only meant Ethan, Erik, and I. Dad and Brig missed the exit and actually ended up heading north through downtown (remember where I said I saw the funnel cloud?). They quickly realized their mistake and started trying to find their way back on course but the rain was coming down so hard they couldn't read the road signs or even see any lane markings. They finally stumbled back onto the freeway, but the weather was so bad they had to pull right back off again. They were blessed to have pulled of on an exit ramp that turned and went into an underpass (meaning underground) where they found a couple other cars that had stopped for shelter there. They decided to follow the lead of the locals and they waited under the underpass as well. Just moments after they stopped they heard a roaring noise that sounded like a train (according to Dad) or a jet engine (according to Brig), and then everyone else around them started to drive away. They just thought a really big truck had gone overhead or something like that and when the others started leaving the underpass they followed suit and got back on the freeway again, only to have to pull off again a few minutes later and take shelter in a restaurant. As they ordered their dinner and watched the news, they realized that had been one of the tornadoes passing directly overhead when they were sheltering in the underpass. They also found out that there was another tornado just across the freeway from them, and had to just wait and pray that they would be safe.
We were on the phone with them a lot during this entire experience sharing what we knew about conditions and locations of storms, and it was SO TERRIFYING to know that they were back there in all of that! We all eventually made it out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area unscathed. We were pretty pumped up on adrenaline and felt like we could just keep driving all night. Then, about the time we got out of the storms, the adrenaline wore off and we found a cheap hotel and called it quits for the night. That was WAY too much adventure for us all and we were glad it was over!
Day two of our trip dawned bright and sunny. We found somewhere to grab a bite of breakfast and hit the road. It was a pretty uneventful day, especially since we were driving through the uninteresting vast boring unending mind-numbing immense tedious stretches of West Texas. Trust me, you'll have way more fun coming up with words to describe the endless interminable monotony that is Texas than actually driving through it. Don't go there! Just say NO.
FINALLY we crossed the Rio Grande into the "Land of Enchantment" and we were almost home! Except there was no "rio" to cross. I guess things are dryer here than I realized. 

There really isn't any water there. Not a drop. Unlike MS, the rivers here are not the same color as mud so you would know if there was water here. 
 Finally after 22 hours of driving time, we made it to Cotton City just in time to see the sunset over the dry lake beds. Oh how I've missed these wide open spaces!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mormon Springs and Family History

Well, this will be my last post from Mississippi. On Wednesday we leave for New Mexico and home!
For our last adventure here in the Magnolia state we drove north of here to the Aberdeen area to do a little exploring. We had as our main objective a little place called Mormon Springs.Why Mormon Springs? Well, let me tell you!
When we first decided to move to Mississippi, my mom got really excited because she had just discovered the her great great great grandmother (who she is named after) was born in Aberdeen, MS which is just an hour from where we are. We didn't know much about that branch of the family and she was hopeful that at some point during our time here we would have a chance to get up to Aberdeen and do some research. Well, life got busy and it just never worked out that I made the trip up there. Finally, now that I am no longer babysitting full time and Ethan is out of class to help with Erik I decided it was time to start looking into my family history.
In addition to checking with a member of our church who is an expert on family history research and doing a lot of google searches we managed to uncover some good information about my fifth great grandfather, James Harmon, and also some information about the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Mississippi. I won't try to summarize it all here, but here are some links to information about it all.

Information on James Harmon and family:
Summary of the life of James Harmon
A little note about one of JH's experiences on the trek west
Information about the LDS church in Mississippi:
A Deseret News article
An Ensign Article
The Mormon Battalion meets up with the MS saints
A map showing how to get to Mormon Springs

While Mormon Springs is only just a little over an hour from our house, we decided to make a day out of it. It just so happened that the Krispy Kreme shop was along our route so we made a quick pit stop for a mid-morning treat. Erik had no objections to making an unscheduled stop.
 We weren't sure if we had the correct directions to get to the spring. Everyone we asked from around here said they would have to take us there themselves (but couldn't go on the days when we were available), they didn't know how to give directions. I searched and searched online and finally found enough info to piece together a map on google and we decided to take the risk and go for it. We didn't know if our map would get us where we wanted to go, but it eventually did, in fact it was perfect! We really weren't sure exactly what we were looking for, so we really had to keep our eyes peeled. It turns out there is a little dirt track that goes off into the woods for logging purposes, and right next to it is a little clearing with a large stone monument in it. And that's about it. If you are driving too fast and blink you will miss it!
We pulled off on the little logging road and got out to walk around and explore. Down a small flight of steps behind the monument there is a cute little picnic table with benches, and beyond that is the creek. It's very pretty and quite picturesque. 
To hear me read the monument go to this link
 The monument is about 8 feet long and four feet high. The large stone tells the history of the LDS pioneers in MS and the red bricks laid in the ground in front of it list the names of those who made the monument possible.
Erik had a great time wandering around and throwing rocks in the stream. He loves to be outside, playing with rocks, and playing in water, so this place was paradise for him.

Erik thought he wanted to splash in the water, but when I tried to help him, he'd change his mind. It was really funny!
There was a small spring emptying into the creek here that was very interesting. The water coming out of it was full of rust, and turned everything it touched bright orange. The whole creek had a redish/orange hue to it. It was really interesting. I would not have wanted to be in charge of doing the laundry after the baptisms that were held in the creek here, everything would've been stained pretty badly I would imagine.
 There were also these unusual flowers littering the ground everywhere. They were a pale green with bright orange chevrons on them. It took us a long time to figure out which trees they were falling from because the flowers were scattered pretty far. We still don't know what kind they are, but they were neat looking.
 Here are a few shots of the area around Mormon Springs. You really can't see the forest for the trees in most places, though there were a few open areas, mostly farms. It was mind blowing to imagine the amount of work that James Harmon and his contemporaries must have done to clear the land for farming. It seems like it would take a year or more just to get rid of the trees before you could even start to think about farming. It gives you a whole new respect for these people.

 After we had splashed around for a while we ate a picnic lunch and then piled back into the car for some more exploring. We went up to Aberdeen and checked out the lock and dam.
 Then we did a little clothes shopping. Can you guess which outfit I bought? NOT!!
 We spent a while wandering up and down main street in Aberdeen. It was a little strange though. We were the only people in sight, walking down this quaint little street surrounded by old buildings on all sides. The city has speakers all along the sidewalks with old-timey music playing. Between the complete lack of people, the old fashioned setting, and the music wafting along on the breeze we felt like we were walking through a movie set. It felt like the next scene in the movie was going to start any second an we both felt like we were waiting for something to happen. It was a bit eerie.
It started raining while we were walking down the (covered) side walk. It didn't take too long for Erik to discover that the posts that supported the roof also doubled as rain-spouts and one of them had a hole in it. It took us ages to finally get him to keep moving, and in the end we pretty much had to drag him away.
see the video here
We finally loaded our exhausted boy back into the car and headed for home. It was a really beautiful day and we enjoyed every minute of it.