Ellen G. White Writings

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Good Health

November 1, 1880

Incidents by the Way

By Mrs. E. G. White.

While on our way from Michigan to California a few months since, we had occasion to stop over one night in Council Bluffs. Thinking to improve this opportunity to visit a friend residing in the place, we took the street-car for her house, only to find that she was out of town and probably would not return for several days. Retracing our steps, we took lodging in the nearest hotel, and in the morning, after breakfasting from our well-filled lunch-basket provided by our friends at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, we took the transfer car across the Mississippi to Omaha. Here we were obliged to wait several hours in the depot, where we had a favorable opportunity to study human nature.

Among the many who were continually thronging this way and that, there was one lady who particularly attracted our attention. She was apparently about forty years of age, and was surrounded by a flock of children all the way from four to twenty-four years old. One of the boys, of about ten summers, caused her a great amount of trouble. Curiosity and willfulness seemed to be more fully developed in him than in the rest of the little ones, who sat demurely perched upon the seats, with their arms folded and their feet dangling, while he, keeping close watch of his mother's eyes, would, when they were turned, improve every opportunity to dodge out of the door and watch the engines as they were moving back and forth. His mother, fearing he might get hurt, and becoming vexed at his repeated disobedience, at last went out after him, and soon returned dragging him in with her. She scolded, and he resisted at every step. They finally reached the seat, into which she pushed him with such violence as to bring his head with considerable force against the seat, really hurting the lad.

Then came screech after screech, equaled only by the loud blasts of the engines without. The mother threatened, but to no purpose. He was desperate. When he became too tired to scream longer, he lowered his voice to a monotonous, long-drawn-out wail, which continued for something like half an hour. The mother looked troubled; but who was most at fault? The boy was stubborn; she was passionate.

We afterward had some conversation with the mother. She stated that the boy refused to come in when called, and threw himself at full length upon the platform to provoke her. Then she brought him in by main force, and, said she, “Oh, if I only had him alone in some place, I would pay him well for this behavior!” “But,” said I, “that would not change his inward feelings. Violence would only raise his combativeness, and make him still worse. The more calm a mother can keep at such times, however provoking the conduct of her children, the better will she maintain her influence and dignity as a mother, and the easier will they be controlled.” She admitted that it might be so.

I then inquired how many children she had. She replied, “Eleven,” and, pointing to two bright-looking little girls, said, “These are my youngest; one is four, the other six. My eldest are grown-up boys. We are now on our way from Iowa City to Nebraska, where there is plenty of land, and work for the children.” Not a bad idea, certainly, to give those sharp, active boys employment. There is nothing so good to keep boys from being ruined by the temptations and allurements of evil as plenty of work.

In this little incident we have a good illustration of the kind of management quite commonly adopted by mothers, although so public a demonstration of it is seldom seen. Had this mother oiled the machinery with patience and self-command, as every mother should, she would not have aroused the combative spirit of her children. But all she seemed to know of government was to threaten and intimidate, to reprove and scold. Her younger children seemed afraid to stir, others looked hard and defiant, while the older ones appeared ashamed and distressed at the exhibition they were making.

The mother had not learned the all-important lesson of self-control. “He that is slow to anger,” says the Wise Man, “is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.” The man or woman who preserves the balance of the mind when tempted to indulge passion, stands higher in the sight of God and heavenly angels than the most renowned general that ever led an army to battle and to victory. Said a celebrated emperor when on his dying bed, “Among all my conquests, there is but one which affords me any consolation now, and that is the conquest I have gained over my own turbulent temper.” Alexander and Caesar found it easier to subdue a world than to subdue themselves. After conquering nation after nation they fell,—one of them “the victim of intemperance, the other of mad ambition.”

Had this mother realized her responsibility, she never would have pursued the course she did. Her burdens were necessarily heavy, but how much heavier was she making them by her lack of self-control. Every harsh word, every passionate blow, would sometime be reflected upon herself. If she had been ever kind, patient, and calm in her discipline, it would have been seen in the deportment of her children. How much she needed the Christian graces and the help of Jesus to mold their minds and fashion their characters. Such mothers will gain no souls to the fold of Christ. They train, they rule, they ruin, but do not bless and save.

Having purchased our sleeping-car tickets for Ogden, we soon found ourselves and numerous baskets and satchels well disposed of in an elegant palace sleeping-car. There were only seventeen passengers in our car,—no babies, no invalids, no one to cry, “Please close the ventilators;” “Will you be so kind as to shut down that window?” We were at perfect liberty to open and close windows as best suited our convenience.

While crossing the plains there was nothing in the scenery to especially engage our attention but the prairie fires. These looked grand and awful in the distance. As the train moved slowly onward, we could see the lurid flames stretching like walls of fire for miles across the prairies; and, as the wind would rise, the flames would leap higher and higher, brightening the darkness of night with their awful light. Farther on we could see where deep furrows had been broken with the plow around haystacks and settlers homes to protect them; and we could see also dark objects in the distance, which were persons guarding their homes.

Thursday noon we reach Cheyenne, having been three days on our journey. After leaving this place, we had an interesting view of the Rocky Mountains. But suddenly dark clouds obstruct our view, and as we near Laramie, a hail-storm dashes down upon us. Occasionally the sunshine would break through the clouds, striking full upon the snow-clad mountain-tops, and causing them to sparkle like diamond beds. An additional engine is hitched on to help draw the train up to Sherman, the highest point on the route. The distance between Cheyenne and Sherman is about thirty-three miles, and the difference in altitude is more than two thousand feet. The train moves slowly and smoothly along, giving the passengers a good opportunity to view the scenery.

At length the summit is reached, and the descent begins. Two miles west of Sherman we pass Dale Creek Bridge, one of the most interesting places on the route. It looks frail, and incapable of sustaining the weight of so ponderous a train; but it is built of iron, and is really very substantial. It is six hundred and fifty feet long, and one hundred and thirty feet high. A beautiful, silvery stream winds its way in the depths below, and as we look down upon the dwellings they seem in the distance like mere pigeon houses.

At Ogden we receive additional passengers. A tall, dignified gentleman enters, accompanied by his wife and little daughter. We learned that he was an active temperance worker, and had for some time been delivering lectures on that subject in the great Mormon Temple at Salt Lake City. Noticing that our party were all busily engaged in writing most of the time, and having some curiosity to know who we were and what we were doing, he made himself known to us toward evening. He stated that he had traveled extensively in the East, and had established several institutions in which to treat inebriates, and that he was now visiting California to establish a similar institution, having already obtained pledges for that purpose to the amount of several thousand dollars.

This celebrated temperance lecturer, we are sorry to say, was an inveterate tobacco-user. Oh, what ideas of temperance! Would that he might see the utter inconsistency of his position in trying to reform inebriates while himself indulging in a habit which every year leads hundreds to a drunkard's grave! Could he but reform in this respect, we are sure that his influence for good in the world would be increased a hundred-fold.

Near us sits the far-famed Stokes, a pleasant-appearing, middle-aged man, but whose hair is as white as a person's usually is at a much more advanced age. Having retreated to the mountains, he is now actively engaged in mining operations, and was on his way to Sacramento on business.

Moving slowly over the great American Desert, with not an object in view but the sage-brush and distant mountain-tops, we seem much like a ship at sea. Finally our faithful iron horse, steaming along so grandly, and seeming like a thing of life, begins to ascend the Sierra Nevadas. The scenery is beautiful. Passing Truckee in our descent on the opposite side, we enter snow-sheds. From light to darkness and from darkness to light is the only change for miles. Most of our last night on the train was spent in viewing the scenery. A winter view of the Sierra Nevadas is indeed grand. Pen cannot describe it, as the soft light of the moon sifted down through the grand, frosted evergreens, revealing the deep canyons below and the lofty mountain peaks above. We chose to enjoy this rather than to spend the time in sleeping.

We arrived at Oakland several hours before we had expected, and rejoiced that we had completed our journey without accident, and with hardly a feeling of weariness. People making this trip across the plains usually patronize the eating-houses along the line, and partake of three hearty meals per day, besides an almost endless variety of nuts and candies, cigars and liquors, between times. But we preferred to limit ourself to only one meal per day, that we might have a better opportunity to rest, and thus be prepared to enter upon arduous labor as soon as we reached our destination. For seventeen years we have eaten only two meals a day while engaged in almost incessant labor.

At that time the light of health reform dawned upon us, and since that time the questions have come home every day, “Am I practicing true temperance in all things?” “Is my diet such as will bring me in a position where I can accomplish the greatest amount of good?” If we cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, we stand condemned before God, for he will hold us all responsible for the light which has shone upon our path. The time of ignorance God winked at, but as fast as light shines upon us he requires us to change our health-destroying habits, and place ourselves in a right relation to physical law.

We have crossed the plains fifteen times, and we would recommend to those contemplating such a journey strict temperance in all things. Take your lunch-baskets with you, well filled with fruits and plainly cooked bread. Eat at regular hours, and nothing between meals; and whenever the train stops for any length of time improve the opportunity by taking a brisk walk in the open air. By so doing, the journey will not only be more enjoyable, but far more beneficial healthwise.

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