Charles Christensen was born on 18 August 1887 in Kanosh, Utah. He was a cowboy’s cowboy, a war hero and my grandfather. When Charles was 18 years old he and a friend rode on saddle horses to Ely, Nevada to work on ranches by day and restaurants by night. After a few years he returned to Kanosh. He and 3 other partners then purchased 5,000 head of cattle and shipped them by rail to Green River Utah. At that time, open range unregulated by permits was available on government land. Being the only single one in the group, Charles rode his horse to Green River and stayed with the cattle while the others came to help when round-ups or branding were to be done.
One day his life changed forever. Charles rode to Castle Dale, Utah to get his mail. He opened a letter notifying him he had been drafted into the Army. He enlisted in the Army on 25 June 1918 in Castle Dale, was sent to Camp Lewis in Tacoma, Washington for boot training then sent to New York City where he was put in the 77th Division, 308th Battalion with the New York boys and shipped to France. His outfit marched through France until they joined the US Division Headquarters. On 2 Oct 1918 they were ordered into the Argonne Forest to fight the Germans.
His unit became surrounded by German troops and was short on food, water and ammunition. Deadly gas filled the air, bullets flew, bombs exploded and the dead and wounded were lying everywhere. But, they ignored messages from the enemy to surrender. They spent five days and nights of desperate action and held their ground until US troops were able to relieve them. Over 500 men went into the Argonne Forest, less than 200 men came out alive. Charles was one of them. They are referred to still as The Lost Battalion. On 23 Oct 1918, Charles wrote a postcard to Freda George in Kanosh saying he had just come out of the front lines. The Great War ended 5 weeks later on 11 Nov 1918. He spent some time in the hospital and touring France. On 26 April 1919 Charles sent a postcard to Freda telling her he was on a ship sailing home.
After he returned home, Charles rode his horse again to Green River with the 3 cattle owners to see what they could salvage from their cattle project. They returned to Kanosh with just their horses and saddles. The cattle project was a complete loss. Charles married Freda on 17 Oct 1921. They raised five children, one of which was my mother.
Charles had been exposed to chlorine gas while in France and had also picked up a dysentery condition that he never quite got over. It settled in his liver and he passed away on 23 Jan 1944. He was 56 years old. He was a small man, 5 feet 6 inches tall and he weighed about 130 pounds. He was a hard worker, had a great sense of humor and was loved by everyone.
This short history came from my mother’s memories and written documents. It is a man’s life; condensed down to a few written lines. It is sobering to think what will be written about you or me from peoples’ memories and our journals. Someone will someday write a summary of your life. Maybe you will write it yourself. It will become your legacy and in the absence of facts and your own declarations it can be a shallow travel log based on perceptions and cloudy memories.
There are good, better and best ways to keep a journal. We learn some valuable insights about this from Nephi. He was writing a journal that became scripture, but his method and purpose of writing explains the best way to write what will ultimately become your recorded legacy and history.
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God… (2Nephi 25:23)
15 … I write the things of my soul…and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord… (2 Nephi 4:15-16)
From this, we understand that Nephi wrote his history with notations and experiences for the express purpose of persuading his children and brethren to believe in Christ. His wanted his children to learn and profit from his words, so he wrote things of his soul and of the Lord. This is a guide to you of what to write in your journal. The day-to-day activities are not as important as your testimony that brings your children to Christ. This method of journal writing is bluntly summed up by Nephi with:
3 And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.
4 For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.
5 Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.
6 Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.
The travel log feature of the story of Charles Christensen are good. It is interesting and the reader comes to know the man from his history. The story would have been better if he had included description of his: attitude, spiritual experiences, insights, love for others, commitments, etc. that would inspire and lift the lives of his descendents. The story would have been best if his journal had also included short declarations of testimony that persuades men to believe in Christ and be saved. Your most important converts during your life might just be your own children and family. Your influence can last for centuries after you are gone if you follow Nephi’s philosophy of journal writing.