Stuck in Molasses

This is a cute story of a pioneer boy. Being the mother of 4 boys myself, I know just what mischief boys can get into. B.H. Roberts, who would become president of the First Council of Seventy, was nine years old when he came to Salt Lake with only his sixteen-year-old sister, Polly, in 1866. Their father was in England, and their mother had come to the Salt Lake Valley four years earlier, counting the days until she could see them again. For him the trail was high adventure, an unsupervised lark, dimmed only because the shoes and heavy bedding his mother had sent with a teamster from Bountiful never made it to him, and he shivered through the nights with only his sister’s petticoat for a covering. Still, what a boy can make of the trail, its wildness matching an untamed wildness inside him. He lingered behind to pick yellow currants along stream banks while the wagons rolled on without him; he watched Indians from a secret place, awed and trembling with “magnificent terror” at their “immobile and solemn” faces and with other boys he searched among the willows for swimming holes.

He later wrote, “On one occasion a night drive was necessary, and a young man was entrusted with the freight wagon team. The young teamster was unusually devoted to helping the young ladies, especially on this night, so I ran in behind the ox on the near side and climbed up on the seat that had been arranged in the front of the wagon by the regular teamsters. The seat consisted of a broad plank placed across the open head of a large barrel. The day had been hot and the hours of the journey long, and I was decidedly tired, nearly unto exhaustion. Fearing that my riding, which was ‘agin’ the law’ would be discovered, I slipped the broad board from the barrel head and conceived the idea of dropping down in the barrel, secure from the eyes of those who might oust me from my seat in the wagon if I were found. To my surprise, if not amazement, I discovered when I let myself down in the barrel that my feet were into about three or four inches of a sticky liquid substance which turned out to be molasses. The smarting of my chapped feet almost made me scream with pain, but I stifled it. Too tired to attempt to climb out, I remained and gradually slipped down and went to sleep doubled up in the bottom of the barrel with such results as can well be imagined. It was daylight when I woke up and there began to be the usual camp noises and teamsters shouting to each other to be prepared to receive the incoming team driven from the prairie by night herdsmen. As I crawled out of the uncomfortable position, and with molasses dripping from my trousers, I was greeted with yells and laughter by some of the teamsters and emigrants who caught sight of me. I crept away as fast as I could to scrape off the syrup, which added to the weight and thickness of shirt and trousers, for there was no change of clothing for me, and so bedaubed I had to pass on until dusk and drying somewhat obliterated the discomfort.”

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