You could have called them a bunch of dirt farmers and you wouldn’t have been far from wrong. At the end of the 19th century, dirt was about all you would have found in that part of the Big Horn Basin. That, and maybe enough sagebrush to support a couple of scrawny cattle. Maybe that, but not much more. However, if you were a child, newly arrived from Morgan, Utah, peeking out of a tent at that patch of nearly-nothing, perhaps what you would have seen was an endless horizon, full of promise, stretching west to a tomorrow so brimming with life that only a child could have believed it possible.
My grandfather, Lloyd Taggart, was that kid. Only nine at the time, he was sent with his parents and siblings and maybe 200 others to establish a so-called “Mormon colony” in northern Wyoming. In that mix was an eight-year-old charmer named Louise Welch. Over time, love grew where perhaps crops could not, and by 1916 the two were married, united in their commitment to build a life together in the Big Horn. Raised by family-first pioneers, Lloyd and Louise before long had a brood of their own, with nine kids crammed (somehow) into a two-bedroom home in Cowley, a town built on such prime real estate that to this day its population has never topped 1,000—even if you include those scrawny cows.
I don’t mean to pick on Cowley. My mother was born in that two-bedroom sardine can, and her eyes would twinkle when she remembered the place. The point is that Lloyd and Louise didn’t exactly get a running start in this three-legged race of theirs. But when they settled, at last, in nearby Cody, the two of them established a presence there that from my distant perspective seems incomprehensibly larger than life. Lloyd built a hugely successful construction company that laid down roads throughout the state, including, most notably, in and around Yellowstone Park. Louise, meanwhile, was an originating member of Cody Play Readers and of the Cody Music Club which, I’m stupefied to report, is still around today. And somehow in the midst of all that they acquired and ran the Two Dot, a 170,000-acre cattle ranch north of Cody on Pat O’Hara Creek (you know the place). All that—and so much more that you wouldn’t even believe a fraction of it—while raising those nine precocious kids.
How does that happen? How do two pioneer kids go from next-to-nothing to something-almost-unimaginable? You can bet that grit and industry were big contributors, but I have a hunch that more than a little of their ultimate prosperity and happiness sprang from their loving partnership, built upon a sure foundation of faith in God. You see what needs to be done and get busy doing it, day after day until your legs ache and your back buckles and all you have left at sundown is the strength to fall to your knees and thank your Maker for being part of it all. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” said Jesus, “and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). That’s not a surefire guarantee of success, but I believe it is a promise that when you put first things first, you somehow find a way. Paul said as much: “All things work together for the good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
Thus when your church asks you to start over on a dusty, waterless plain, you do it. And when that same church asks you to preside over a fledgling flock of believers—for over 29 uninterrupted years—even though you’re trying to build a construction company and run a cattle ranch and help build a hospital and a bank and serve on the boards of a variety of local businesses . . . (hang on . . . gotta catch my breath) . . . well, you do it is what you do. And all the while, you follow that ancient credo: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). And thus—somehow—it works out.
I suppose that what I’m saying is that, if you should ever feel like your life has been dumped and scattered, leaving you to more or less start over without much more than a canvas tent to your good name, perhaps you should invite God to look over your shoulder as you to peek out of the tent-flap at the horizon ahead. There’s no telling what you might see. Nor what you might accomplish together.
P.S. My grandmother, Louise Welch. is the taller girl on the right, standing between her father and the horse. I told you she was a charmer.