For years I wrote songs for other people to sing. I was awestruck by the excellent vocalists I recorded in my studio and didn't feel I could measure up.

But when I developed the passion of writing songs about my ancestors and their contemporaries, I also developed an overwhelming desire to tell their stories and sing their songs MYSELF!

WHAT I SEE my first ever attempt to be a vocal recording artist.

Grandpa Had a Grandpa - In late fall of 1849 Isaac Morley, at the invitation of Ute Chief Wakara, led the first group of pioneer settlers into Sanpete County. That first winter came early and was exceptionally severe, and the settlers had to dig dugouts into the hillsides to obtain shelter. Most of their cattle died that winter, food was scarce, and hardships were common for many years thereafter.

Then relationships with the Native Americans turned bloody as the gigantic culture clash intensified.

But through it all they endured, and learned, and grew close as families and as a community. They had to.

What did your grandparents live through? Ask them! Their stories will give you roots and hope. And you'll never regret not having asked them.

Hang On, Little Joseph - Dedicated to the Margaret Kirkwood family, of the Willie handcart company. Her 11-year-old son James gave his life in the successful effort to carry his 4-year-old brother Joseph up Rocky Ridge and into Rocky Creek Campground in a blizzard.

Margaret, a widow, had a crippled 22-year-old son who had to ride in the handcart. Her 19-year-old son helped her pull the cart. James' job was to get 4-year-old Joseph into camp each night.

They were all weak from living on severely reduced rations for several weeks. They knew they had to get up Rocky Ridge that day, or they wouldn't make it at all.

That morning, when little Joseph said he couldn't make it, James picked him up, put him on his back, and began walking, not daring to stop until they got into Rocky Creek Campground. It took them perhaps as long as twenty hours. By then James' body was so spent that he simply sat down and passed away from exhaustion and cold.

I tried to imagine what James was thinking during that grueling ordeal.

Like a Man - When Orson Adair's daddy Jedediah began freighting his farm products from Orderville to the larger southern Utah towns, Orson, as the oldest son, had to begin tending the livestock. Orson was 5 years old.

By the time Orson was 7 he had developed such a gift at working with animals that he could handle a team of horses and drive a wagon around the ranch to do the chores. He couldn't harness the borses, because he was too short to reach up past their ears. But his mother would harness the team in the morning, and Orson would do the rest.

Just before Orson's eighth birthday his daddy asked him if, in company with other teamsters, he would drive a freight wagon for him. Orson agreed, even though he'd never been away from home before.

The other freighters hatched a plan to use this little "miniature freighter" to their advantage. Each night when they camped for the night, they sent Orson to the nearest farmhouse with a bucket, a twenty-dollar goldpiece, and instructions to buy milk for their dinner.

Inevitably the lady of the house had no way to make change, but couldn't resist a little boy's plea for milk. So the teamsters got their milk for free because of Orson's irresistable charm.

But one night they got into camp late and Orson had to make his milk run in the dark. On the way back to camp in the dark he stumbled into a dry irrigation ditch, spilled the milk, and banged up his knee so hard he started crying - which he thought a boy of his advanced age certainly shouldn't do.

Bob White's Artful Eyes - Bob White, the woodcarver of Hurricane, Utah, is a modern master practitioner of a pioneer art. He sees things in a block of wood that amaze me - birds, fowl, fish, horses, buffalo....

Bob's artful eyes guide his skillful hands until his vision is revealed and things look just as they should: God's living creatures captured in still life!

Thanks, Bob, for the beauty you bring to this world!

Big Blue Angel - On the morning of October 28, 1856, Albert Jones, a 16-year-old English boy, had just finished digging graves for the twelve people from his handcart company who had died the night before. He wondered who would die next, and how long before he, too, succumbed. They had eaten the last of their food that morning. Despair seemed to shower down upon the camp with the falling snow.

Brigham Young's son Joseph Angell Young had passed up that handcart company a few weeks earlier as he returned from his three-year mission in England, and realized they were going to be in trouble, due to the lateness of the season.

As soon as Joseph got to Salt Leke City, he and his companions reported to President Young, and then they resupplied, turned around and started back to help rescue the handcart companies. Joseph wore a blue military-style overcoat with a cape. As he galloped, that cape would flap up and down giving the appearance of wings.

On that same October morning Joseph and some companions were in the advance party searching for the stranded handcart company. Joseph, in the lead, spotted them below him, and began riding his white mule down the hill toward the company. The snow-covered hill, the falling snow, and the white mule combined to make it appear that Joseph was a "big blue angel" flying down the hill to save the handcart pioneers. Their spirits soared!

The Handcart Song - John Daniel Thompson McAllister was serving a mission in England when the handcart plan was announced. It isn't clear whether he wrote the song while in England or on the way back to Utah, but his intent was clear: to encourage the European LDS converts to come to Zion even if they couldn't afford a wagon and team.

The lyrics reflect the conditions in Europe at the time, and the naïve trust that J.D.T. McAllister and many others had that the plan would work with no missteps. Though for most that was true, the Martin and Willey companies were the notable exception.

McAllister, a musician, actor and builder, later became president of the St. George Stake, the St. George Temple, and the Manti Temple. But he will likely be remembered most for this catchy, optimistic tune and lyric.

The Left and Right Hands of Love - I didn't know my grandparents well when they were alive - more my fault than theirs, I fear. But they always seemed to me to be polar opposites. Grandpa was tall, broad, and seemed to me authoritarian, distant, and inflexible. Grandma was small, slim and delicate, gentle and soft-spoken.

But when I developed a need to know them better, and studied their lives through letters, newspaper articles, and interviews with those who knew them, I began to discover that they were infinitely deeper and more complex than I had imagined, and infinitely more Christ-like, generous, kind and loving.

My loving them deeply and without reservation was the beginning of my heart turning to my ancestors.

Junius and Gertrude Stowell Romney married in 1900 while living in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. That was their "Genesis". Junius was stake president at the time of the 1912 exodus of the saints from the Mexican colonies in the midst of the Mexican revolution.That was their "Exodus".

And the Romneys have their own very short book of “scripture” called “Due-to-Romeny”. (Please forgive the awful pun) Chapter 1, verse 1 reads, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.”

All That I Will Need - John Memmott, a gifted musician and composer, a cutler by trade and a letter carrier when that trade went through a depression in his native England, left everything behind to come to "Zion in the mountains" and struggle as a poor subsistence farmer in Scipio, Utah.

But he never complained, choosing instead to believe that he had been given all that he would need.

The Ballad of Young Ed Dalton - Parowan, the mother city of all southern Utah settlements, sits right at the transition between the mountains of the Colorado Plateau, to the east, and the desert lands of the Great Basin, to the west.

To its back are the Canyons of the Sky, which lie between mountains that rise up four and five thousand feet above the valley floor.

To the south and southeast lie the Canyons of the Earth, where the Colorado and San Juan Rivers carve deep gorges into vast red rock plateaus.

In the late 1860s Parowan’s favorite son, Young Ed Dalton, so called because his father was also named Ed, rode bareback, his long black hair trailing behind him, with his Indian friends through the Canyons of the Sky till he knew every twist and turn, and every hiding place.

At age twenty, Young Ed married Emily Stevens, and they started a family.

Then Ed was called on a mission to the southern United States, an event that changed his life. On his return he was called to be Young Men’s Superintendant, and thereafter he made it his mission to encourage young men to become disciples of Christ at an early age.

Then, at the request of his church leaders, Young Ed Dalton married a second wife, Delilah Clark. Because of that, nine years later when the Edmunds-Tucker Act became law, Young Ed Dalton became a hunted man.

But Ed, ever the expert horseman and superior athlete, and with an intimate knowledge of the canyons, and with the help of his Indian brothers, eluded the federal marshals time after time in desperate chases until one marshal, William Thompson, swore he’d get Young Ed, alive or dead.

What I See - After moving from St. George, Utah to St. Johns, Arizona, and then to Colonia Juarez, Mexico, being defrauded of their land and home there and having to move again, struggling daily just to sustain life, nursing fifteen of her children through malaria, and having her own long-term health issues, Catharine Jane Cottam Romney still refused to be anything but happy. She just saw things differently than most people.

Don't Let Them Be Forgotten - in the movie "The Other Side of Heaven", we find this quote: “There is a connection between heaven and earth. Finding that connection gives meaning to everything, including death. Missing it makes everything meaningless, including life."

Our ancestors, who preceded us, who prepared the way for us, and nurtured us either directly or indirectly, are an essential part of that connection. "Without them, so much of me is missing, I am less than half a man. I have lost my long-term memory, and I don't know who I am."