With Pioneer Day only two days away, we’re reminded that Utah would not be what it is today without the sacrifices of our ancestors. Sometimes it only takes one family’s story to bring those sacrifices to life.
Author Sage Steadman explains why the new book “Upon Destiny’s Song” is not just another handcart story.
What makes this pioneer story unique is that it interweaves Mike Ericksen’s search for his ancestors and the things he learned as he connected with them about faith, sacrifice and what being a true hero looks like, and how small actions can create a ripple effect for generations.
Writing this book helped me think about how my life has been affected by my ancestor’s choices and how the choices I’m making today, even the small ones, will affect my lineage.
Writing the story helped me put things into perspective for my own life. The things I struggle with today, I consider what it was like for them over 150 years ago and realize I’ve got it easy, and I have it easy because of them and the sacrifices they made and how far medicine and technology has come.
One of the challenges that Ane Marie had to face was the loss of some of her children to a disease called diphtheria because back then they didn’t know about germs, and have proper medical care to treat illnesses.
Mike Ericksen decided to write his story because when he traveled around the country sharing this story at different speaking engagements, he saw that the story not only touched his life, but others as well. He had people come up to him and tell them how much the story affected them and so he wanted to allow this amazing story to be available to a larger audience.
The book is different from other handcart stories because it follows one little girls journey with her family and also talks about life after she settled including scenes up until her death in 1829. And it interweaves the spiritual experiences and realizations Mike and his family had about legacy and heritage, paralleling his journey beside his ancestors to show the result of their legacy.
This is more than just a handcart story; it really is a story about family.
The book is also historically accurate. We did a lot of research while writing it and have had historian’s check and double check it for us. There are some places where we didn’t have the information where we had to fill in the gaps of the research. But because this was such a pivotal time in American history there are a lot of things written on it.
One thing I loved about the book, and what inspired me to write it, was how they had a dream and followed their ideals, and when unexpected challenges came up they faced them head on as a family.
One of my favorite moments in the book is when Ole is about to get rid of all his children’s belongings by sinking them in the river while in Iowa City when he realizes he can’t take them with him. It’s a very powerful moment of sacrificing and letting go of his old life in order to embrace a new one. (Interesting to note that other people were sewing their items inside their skirt hems to hide them from their leaders so they wouldn’t have to get rid of them.)
The hardest part of the book to write was their climb up Rocky Ridge during a horrific snowstorm, they climbed on less food, many were very sick, and others did the climb barefoot. Their were so many beautiful stories I came across in my research and included in this chapter of women pulling the cart when their husbands were unable to; and young children carrying their even younger siblings up the mountain, some without shoes. It was very inspiring, but also hard to write.
Some unexpected things I came across in the research were:
-How dark and horrific the events were that some pioneers had to endure
-That some pioneers did in fact complain and question their faith. You hear the stories of the ones who had perfect faith, but that wasn’t everybody.
-Most of the pioneers had never slept outside our cooked food over a fire before.
One thing I wish was different about the book is I wish we could show you more of the story, which is why we’ve included some deleted scenes and essays that were included in the book on the web page. You can read these by purchasing a copy of the book and entering the keyword from the book.
Mike is a classical guitarist and included songs written by him and inspired by his ancestor’s journey in the book. Four songs have been selected to accompany the softcover and hardcover of the book.
The book is available with other media, including the award winning documentary Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen, which is available with the book, free, for a limited time.
Our iBook is interactive with images, additional information, music etc.
Sage Steadman became a licensed mental health therapist while pursuing her passion for writing. She is the author of the inspirational teen novel, Snowflake Obsidian: Memoir of a Cutter, written under her pen name, The Hippie. She has been heralded as a talented new writer who tackles her novels with a witty, raw and honest approach. She currently lives near Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mike Ericksen has been a devout student of the handcart pioneers ever since he learned of his family’s trek. An accomplished classical guitarist, Mike has produced films and music related to their stories including the documentary Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen Story, which was heralded a “historical masterpiece.” He is currently playing with the band Cedar Breaks.