It was in the early eighteen sixties. Transportation from the Missouri River to Salt Lake City was only by ox-team, mules or horses and usually required six months to make the trip. Emigrants or converts from the old world often waited several months for the arrival of teamsters to take them the rest of the journey to the church center.
It was late in December when Charles Bird and his companions returned home to the settlement at Mendon. Winter was later than usual and the weather was mild for that time of year, affording a good opportunity to get the threshing done which was late as usual due to the fact of the crude methods employed to perform this task. Horsepower was the latest development to drive the primitive separator. Steam power was yet an experiment and considered unsafe for the farm and people almost shuddered at the thought of transporting a boiler under high pressure over country roads, so the idea was abandoned or laid aside for a while for further development.
The unmounted sweep power with horses driven in a circle was considered the ideal method of transmitting power to the grain separator and a vast improvement over the treadmill. An outfit of this kind had but recently been purchased by the Bird brothers having been hauled across the plains by ox-team after being shipped by water way from the factory at Racine, Wisconsin, to St. Louis. Well might the pioneers be proud of such equipment after using the old chaff piler and following up with a fanning mill of hand power several weeks later.
It was a beautiful day for December. The sun shone brightly and the sound of the gears and the hum of the cylinder rang out clearly through the keen morning air and was welcome music to the pioneers who felt that harvest would soon be over and they would be prepared for another long and severe winter. They were threshing at Walker’s that day which was almost the end of the string and would complete the long run since early August.
The two young men who has recently returned from their trip for emigrants and had successfully and honorably filled the calling from the church’s head authority as well as a credit to themselves and their families were full of vigor and ambition to assist in the work at home which truly was a pleasure after driving a team for a distance of more that two thousand miles across a bleak prairie, trusting for wild game for food after their scant allowance of food became low and often accosted by Indians, trappers, troopers and scouts, narrowly escaping injury, yet it was considered a duty and privilege to be called to take such a trip and it was in most cases responded to when the call came from President young and was considered as sacred as when one is now called on a mission to preach the gospel.
Trusting in a higher power, most teamsters returned with a spirit of gratitude for such an achievement and accomplishment. So eager was Charles Bird to have some change from riding on a prairie schooner he could not resist the temptation and jumped on the horse power to relieve the driver. But suddenly his foot was caught under a traveler and pressed between the cogs of the master gear, crushing the member quite badly before the horses could be stopped. He fainted and fell as dead across the seat of the power. When he regained consciousness he was propped up in the seat of the best vehicle the pioneer village afforded and started on this way to Logan. The leg had to be amputated and a cork leg balanced Charles Bird’s anatomy the rest of his days.
Christmas followed a few days later. The sad accident cast gloom over the settlement and many were heard to remark, “What a pity after making the long, tiresome trip all summer and then to come home and meet with such a fate.” But Ma Bird was a practical woman and had endured worse hardships that that in rearing a family of nine boys and insisted that the Christmas celebration go on, so plans were carried out according to arrangements.
The log schoolhouse was decorated with popcorn strung on a string and evergreens in profusion. A stick of molasses candy had been prepared for each child while adults furnished the amusement. A real Santa Claus was a part of the program to hand out the candy to each little tot while the accordion and violin furnished the music for a square dance. Everyone had turned out in the settlement except the victim of the accident and on of the older townsmen who had preferred to stay with him to render whatever assistance might be necessary. The agony of the recent accident and operation caused considerable pain because of the method employed at that time for the amputation of the crushed leg, but the good brother propped him up by a window where he might see the celebration going on across the street where a fire blazed from the fire place and the home made candles sparkled amid the Christmas decorations.
Snowflakes frequently obliterated the scene as the silence in the sick room was suddenly broken by Charles’s remark. “Yes mother is right, it could have been worse. We might have been snowed in, in the midst of the Rockies and left to perish or be devoured by the savage wolves. While as it happens we just got home in time and the poor emigrants who accompanied me are having the time of their lives. And me, Ha! well, after all the real spirit of Christmas comes from seeing other happy.”