Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parents: Please Discipline Your Children

I love children! They are wonderful little darlings that give us all peace and joy. But one of the things that I have a difficult time tolerating is children whose parents allow them to run in public places like restaurants without any supervision.

We recently spent some time in Phoenix, Arizona, where Joanne and I went to dinner with my little brother who lives there. The restaurant is a popular Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale that serves wonderful food. We have been there numerous times with my colleagues from Mountain States Association of Community Colleges. This isn’t a fast food place like McDonald’s with an enclosed play area for children. It is a restaurant where people come to enjoy a meal without interruptions from children running wild and unsupervised.

The food was still wonderful, but two families were there with their children. They had just come from a San Francisco spring training camp event. All of their children were sporting some Giant paraphernalia. The parents were eating, and their children were running wild in the larger dining area. A large screen TV was on, and a basketball game was playing. Soon, one of the children began playing with the buttons. I am not talking about a two-or three-year old. This kid was probably nine- or ten-years old, surely old enough to know that you don’t mess with someone else’s TV. The parents did nothing to stop the young man. Finally, one of the waiters went over and fixed the TV.

Then, the kids continued to run around the room, shouting, screaming, and climbing on and off a mini-stage in the middle of the room. The family next to us, comprised of an older couple and a teenage son, said to us, “This is ridiculous! Why aren’t their parents taking care of them?” They asked their waiter to move them somewhere “far away from the children and the noise.” I don’t think she didn’t like children; rather, she didn’t like the way the children ran wild without supervision. Finally, one of the waiters approached the tables and asked the parents to control their children.

Now, I don’t understand why parents cannot control their children. Are they afraid of what others might say? Or are they afraid of telling their children “no”? My parents did not allow us to misbehave in public—or in private, for that matter. It was simple. You misbehaved, and you went to the car or you sat quietly by yourself. We didn’t allow our children to get down and run around, screaming and yelling, in a public place. In fact, it was embarrassing to me if the girls misbehaved anywhere. We attempted to teach them the appropriate boundaries.

Yet, parents of today—some, not all—it seems, allow their children to run rampart in public places and misbehave. Some think it is funny when kids do what they do. In fact, some of the parents I have witnessed in public WATCH their children run unsupervised throughout buildings and areas where children should not be running around. I am not talking about parks and playgrounds. I am talking about restaurants, church buildings, and other public buildings.

Young children need to learn that there are boundaries. And parents have the responsibility to teach them. I can tell you that they will not turned into emotional-disturbed children if you tell them “you cannot run in here.” Sit them down, and let them know what the boundaries are. If they do not adhere to the rules you set forth, let them know what the consequences will be and then follow through. Follow through is the key. You cannot say, “This will happen to you if you do this,” and then watch them do what you told them not to do and do nothing about it. Kids are smart. They quickly learn that you are full of idle threats, and they will not be punished.

Yes, it is easier to let your children run and not ever discipline them. Discipline needs to be taught. It is not learned by osmosis, unfortunately. They need to be disciplined so they know what they can and what they cannot do. You cannot expect others to discipline your children although some of us would like to help you. You are the parent. You have the hard job. But you will like yourself more if you know that you have taught your children correct principles and followed through. I promise.

Parents, please take responsibility for your children and their behavior in public places. Most of us love children and enjoy their antics but not in public places when we are trying to enjoy a meal with our family and friends.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow Day

Snow day today! It started last night and continued through today. I went out and shoveled a pile of it. It was the light fluffy stuff, beautiful! The wind blew differently this afternoon. Normally, I have drifts across the front yard and in front of the garage, but today, no drifts happened in the front. But in the back along the south side, there was a large drift. Normally, the winds come from the northwest, but today I have no idea where they came from, definitely not the northwest.

We pray for snow so that our "parched lands will receive the moisture they need." Then, when it finally comes and sticks a bit, we complain about the white stuff. What is up with that? I am glad it is here because I know it snowed even harder in the mountains. I am sure the skiers love it, and I am sure the farmers downstream love it, especially when we think of the luscious flora and fauna that will come later this spring and into the summer. There is nothing more beautiful than a bed of flowers, all kinds and all colors. I am looking forward to it.

So, it is still snowing in Cheyenne. More white. More beauty. More shoveling. Isn't it grand?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ

The following is a talk I gave a few years ago about the Book of Mormon, my most favorite book of all time. It is a true book. If you have questions about this talk or about the Book of Mormon, please let me know.


For most of us who have grown up in the Church, the Book of Mormon has become a symbol for all of us–for our lives, the way we live, the things that we do in the real world. Joseph Smith was more succinct: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon. History of the Church).

For some of us, the Book of Mormon lends itself to fascinating pages of wars and rumors of wars, techniques of building fortresses and other buildings; treks across the ocean to new lands; the intrigue of family relationships and kingdoms transferring from one son to the next; the names of animals that inhabited the American continent at the time Lehi’s family stepped onto this land blessed; the many poetic devises, including Chiasmus, used by the prophets in their writings and another testament that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon...But the most important truth–yes, even testimony–that we should capture from reading, studying, and pondering the Book of Mormon is this: That Jesus is the Christ (See Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” November 1999) and that the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

President Benson said, “A second powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its comings forth in the timetable of the unfolding Restoration. The only thing that preceded it was the First Vision. In that marvelous manifestation, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned the true nature of God and that God had a work for him to do. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was the next thing to follow” (A Witness and a Warning, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988, pp. 15–22).

What other spiritual concepts can we learn from reading the Book of Mormon. Let me discuss a mere few.

The Book of Mormon converts people. It changes lives. It propels people to do things differently than they had been doing them. It instills in them the feelings of peace and happiness. And most, importantly, it allows them to “come unto Christ.” One family whose life the Book of Mormon changed was the Portales family in La Unión, Chile. Sister Portales was a single mother with six children and housekeeper/nanny to the branch president. He asked us to teach her so we did. One of Sister Portales’ biggest challenges was that she could not read, and her children could barely read because they did not go to school often because they were poor. But read they did, slowly but surely. Often, we would stop by to read with them and to help them with certain passages of the Book of Mormon. Her young boys plodded along in the Book of Mormon, word by word, sentence by sentence, verse by verse, and concept by concept. Soon, the entire Portales family knew the gospel was true and testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. They had heard the words. The words had penetrated their hearts. They wanted to “come unto Christ.” Thus, they were baptized and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And happy were they.

With the consistent daily reading and studying the Book of Mormon, we as members of the Church will increase our spirituality and ultimately understand and accept Jesus as the Christ, the savior of the world, the God through whom we must come in order to inherit eternal life. The ancient Prophet Moroni came to understand this and issued an invigorating challenge to his posterity and to all who read his final poignant verses before he ended his work: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ....then are ye sanctified in Christ....that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:31-33).

Amulek of the Book of Mormon is a perfect example of one who would not hear and “come unto Christ” until an angel of the Lord appeared unto him and requested his help. Then he took the prophet Alma in and learned about the gospel of Jesus Christ. When speaking to the people of Ammonihah, Amulek told them that he was "a man of no small reputation... among them" (Alma 10:4). Then he confesses how he chose not to hear even though he had witnessed much of the mysteries of God:

"Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.

"Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart..." (Alma 10:5-6).

Through the Book of Mormon we become intimately acquainted with the Savior. Because of the prophet Nephi’s words, we are there when He visits the Nephites. Through Mormon, we see Jesus descend from Heaven. “...behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them” (3 Nephi 11:8-11).

We hear His voice speak to the people of the Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

“And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father
in all things from the beginning. (3 Nephi 11:8-11)

“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”

And we feel of the power and majesty of the Savior and the emotional connection the Nephites had with Him and ultimately a testimony that would last two centuries:

“And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

“And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:

“Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him (3 Nephi 11:14-17).

We, too, can feel of His love for all of us, especially the little children. We, too, can feel the "prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet”—all through the Atonement of Christ.

We learn of the attributes of God—In 2 Nephi, chapter 9, Jacob, Nephi’s brother, discusses with us the attributes of God. We learn that God is wise. We also learn that he is just, merciful, and good. Additionally, we learn…”How great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.

“And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:20-21).

We learn of the atonement of Christ: Because of His love for us, He provided a way for all of us to return to Him and the Father. We know that “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” 2 Nephi 2:25). Jacob teaches “And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given” (2 Nephi 2:25-26).

We learn why we need to come unto Christ. At the very beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi is extremely succinct in telling us why he is writing on the plates: “For the fullness 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” (1 Nephi 6:4 (bold mine). Then at the end, in verse 32 of Chapter 10, the third to the last verse, Moroni reiterates the plea: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” (Moroni 10:32).

I have always found intriguing to look at the last of what any of the prophets write. To me, they know of the limited space, and perhaps, the limited time they have to help us understand. Moroni uses his last words to plead with us, to help us understand that we must come unto Christ. His last words are as significant: “And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen” (Moroni 10:34). He wants to meet you and me at the “pleasing bar of the great Jehovah.” What an invitation he gives to us! I can see his genuine smile when he does see us.

We learn of the Plan of Happiness—This plan of happiness or the plan of salvation allows us—if we are obedient to the laws and commandments of God—to return to our Father in Heaven as families. But we also know that the path toward the Plan of Happiness is strewn with obstacles. Lehi’s dream shows us of the mists of darkness and the great and spacious building wherein people mock us at every turn. Yet, Nephi says, “And we heeded them not…” We also know that the path is narrow. Consider Jacob’s words: “Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name” (2 Nephi 9:41). The fact that the “Holy One of Israel” is the one at the gate is consoling. I know He loves me enough to be there to help me understand the true Plan of Happiness, but I must be obedient to His teachings.

We learn what kind of people we ought to be—It has been obvious from the beginning. When asked what manner of men ought you to be, the answer was very simple, yet profound: “Yea, even as I.” Throughout His ministry, He taught about being kind to the poor, helping those who need help, lifting the burdens of others, and willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; “Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—(Mosiah 18:8-9).

Part of the Plan of Happiness is our ability to know good from evil. In fact, Lehi in speaking to his son Jacob says “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11).

Once again, trough divine inspiration, Mormon helps us understand the succinct differences between good and evil:

“Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God”

“Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil” (Moroni 7:12-14).

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moroni 7:16).

We learn of His love for us and of the blessings that come to us because of our obedience to the commandments of God. I know all of you have felt the love of our Heavenly Father and His Son, yes even their “tender mercies.” When we are obedient, happiness tends to extend to our very soul. It is when we do things not conducive to the spirit is when we feel overwhelmed or not worthy. This is the time when we need to repent and “come unto Christ” and bask in the spiritual awareness that will come. Moroni tells us that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be our foundation: “I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). Thus, we must be faithful and obedient. Then the blessings will come forth in great abundance.

All of the modern-day prophets, from the Prophet Joseph to our latter-day prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley have urged and challenged us to read the Book of Mormon. Just in the last couple of months, President Hinckley has given the entire Church a challenge: to read entire Book of Mormon by year’s end. I know you can do this task. Mormon and Moroni knew you could, too.

To me, Mormon is the great editor of this world. His compilation of 1000 years of history and prophecies ultimately became 531 pages. One of the Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, has 652 pages, and many of you read it in less than 48 hours. The last volume of the Work and the Glory has 521 pages; and the Fire and the Covenant, 730 pages. So…if we take a 1000 years of information and compress it into 531 pages, then each page, each chapter, each verse, each word will have enormous significance. Thus, that is why prophets have urged—yes, even commanded us—to read the sacred pages—for that is what they are—sacred writings, sacred words, written by prophets of old to you and to me. Thus, I reiterate President Hinckley and the First Presidency’s challenge to all of us to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.

Like many prophets of old, and recently President Boyd K. Packer, I, too, bear witness that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book upon the face of the earth. Like you, I have read the Book of Mormon promise:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3- 6)….of this I testify….

Friday, February 18, 2011

Breakfast Cereal

As I sat down this a.m. and had breakfast with my mother-in-law who is 86 and loves to combine Oatmeal Squares and Special K, I thought back to my days growing up and the various cereals that we used to eat.

The first cereal I truly remember eating was Honey Combs when we first moved to our new house in Menan. In fact, Honey Combs was the source of our inaugural breakfast. I still remember pouring them into my bowl, a plastic one, and then pouring milk on top of them. We ate heartedly that morning. Even soaked in milk, Honey Combs still float. Seriously. They float. Actually, I like Honey Combs plain, right out of the box. They probably should just be a snack cereal.

Now, Corn Flakes, another cereal that my mother preferred to buy, don’t necessarily float. My father used to take those huge flakes and crush them prior to eating. I could never figure out why he did that. If you wanted crushed Corn Flakes, you could always wait until the box was done. Nobody I know wants to finish off the box of any type of cereal. Usually, all is left are crumbs.

One of the things my mother used to make for us, especially in cold weather, which was from about October 30 to April 1st in eastern Idaho, was Cream of Wheat. Now, I am not knocking Cream of Wheat per se, but my mother would begin the batch just as we went out to do the chores. Most of you know that Cream of Wheat can be cooked in about 2.5 minutes. So, this Cream of Wheat would sit for the next twenty minutes. Once we came in, we were introduced to thick and lumpy Cream of Wheat. That’s why I cannot stand the stuff today—too many lumps, way too thick, and often not a bit warm.

One of the tradition my wife and I started early in our marriage was buying our favorite cereal at Christmas and placing it along side our stockings. When the girls got old enough, we bought their favorite cereal, and it became part of their stockings. They loved it. They couldn’t wait for morning to come to see what kind of cereal was next to their stockings.

Basic Four has become my Christmas cereal. I usually buy it only at Christmas and when it is on sale, which is almost never. I love the flavor of “delicious blend of sweet and tangy fruits, crunchy nuts and a wholesome variety of grains.” There is something to congregating all that stuff into one yummy cereal.

Now, with our maturing years sliding over us like early morning fog on the Snake River, some of the good cereal—you know, the kind with loads of sugar in it—has gone by the wayside. When I cruise the cereal aisle, which in most stores is the most frequented aisle in the store aside from the candy aisle, I am amazed at the number of different kinds and brands. There are names of cereals I can’t even pronounce or even want to eat. I have to bypass those sugary ones although I often glance quickly at them. Don’t tell Joanne, but I sometimes take a lingering glance, trying to remember what they tasted like. But I succumb to the findings of my last cholesterol test and move on--reluctantly.

Of course, Joanne has us eating more oatmeal than ever before. Lately, we have been spicing it up with Craisins (dried Cranberries) and Planters Mix Nuts (“less than 50% peanuts and made with pure Sea Salt”). My mother-in-law doesn’t put any sugar on hers. On the other hand, I still have to have a teaspoon—usually a heaping one—of brown sugar to make it palatable. Once the brown sugar has been stirred in thoroughly, though, I find oatmeal to be rather tasty.

Whoever said that breakfast cereal was the bane of our existence probably never had a bowl of Honey Combs, Lucky Charms, Basic Four, or Oatmeal Squares.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yellow School Buses

Yellow school buses

This a.m. was gorgeous—bright sun, incredible blue sky, little or no wind—I know that’s hard to believe in Wyoming, but it was true—and the temperature above 35. The only thing to have made it more perfect would have been walking with Joanne rather than by myself. Nonetheless, I walked my loop twice, which means a whopping three miles, up small hills and down again.

During the first round, a group of kids was standing on the corner of the loop and Westedt, waiting for the school bus. About that same moment, the big yellow bus stopped on the road, put out its stop sign, and the little darlings rushed across the road and climbed onto the bus. Then, the bus turned the corner and began moving toward me. As it passed, the bus driver and I waved at each other. Just watching the yellow bus drive by made me think of my own days of having to ride the school bus.

For the majority of my grade school, junior high, and high school life, I rode a school bus, the big Blue Bird. I lived three miles from my first elementary school, seven miles from junior high, three miles from my 9th grade building (we were alone in the Midway Junior High School), and seven miles in the other direction from my high school. While most days were dull and boring, filled with chattering kids, completing homework assignments due the moment we arrived, and a watchful bus driver who constantly looked in his mirror, there were some days more poignantly precious than others.

The first real episode that I vividly remember was the day that our bus passed a truck on the Snake River Bridge that separated Menan and Roberts. Our 7th-8th grade junior high building was located in Roberts. Each day we had to cross the mighty Snake River over a rickety bridge with huge girders. Back in those days, it wasn’t the most accommodating bridge in the world. In fact, only one vehicle was allowed on the bridge at one time. Our bus was pretty big or at least it was pretty big to an 8th grader like me.

That day was unforgettable. We were trundling our way to school, and our bus driver approached the Snake River Bridge and started across, thinking we were the first ones there; thus, we had the right-a-way. Just then, at the other end, a truck entered the bridge just after we did. Apparently, he wasn’t paying attention or didn’t care that a bus load of kids was already crossing the bridge. Most of us weren’t paying attention until our bus driver slowed way down to almost a crawl. The truck didn’t back off and kept coming.

So, in the middle of the bridge we passed, almost like in slow motion. All of us clamored out of our seats and glued our faces to the windows on the left side of the bus. I think had we weighed more than we did, we probably would have toppled the bus into the truck. Each vehicle inched its way by the other. Had we been brave—maybe the operative word is stupid—we could have reached and literally touched the truck. That’s how close we were. Some of the kids opened the windows and yelled out crazy stuff. I am sure they were just as scared as I was.

It seemed forever as we passed the truck. Our bus driver had previously reached out and pulled her mirrors in as closely to the bus as possible. Even with that, our mirrors almost touched. For a moment, I surely thought we would be scraping metal on metal, truck on bus, railing on bus and truck. Some of us even thought we would be pushing each other over the bridge and into the Snake, not a good thought considering the Snake has so many undercurrents, and the windows weren’t that big, perhaps big enough for 7th graders to crawl through. I didn’t know about 8th graders.

Well, we passed each other finally. Once across the bridge, we all breathed a sigh of relief and began a ruckus only a group of 7th and 8th graders could muster. Our bus driver was a hero. And we let her know that. Inside, though, I surely didn’t want that to ever happen again. On subsequent days, we may have yelled just before approached the bridge, “Hey, is there a truck coming?”

Another time that is vivid is when I was probably a sophomore and traveling from Menan to Rigby. We always said that we were forced buses to Rigby because we didn’t have a high school in Menan. It was always one of those boring trips until I saw my first bag of marijuana on that bus. Some kid from Lewisville or Grant, I think maybe a junior or senior, pulled the bag out of the front of his pants. We gathered around like sheep. To me, it looked like a bag full of manure that we used to spread on our garden. He was pretty proud of himself. I was too shocked to think that someone would actually pull something like that out and show the rest of the crowd. Geez, we were on a public school bus. Surely, the bus driver could tell something was going on with everyone quiet for a moment or so. But I didn’t say a word. He put it back down his pants. Who knows what happened to him or the marijuana. And I really didn’t care.

One of the most fun things we did on the bus was play field goals. What we would do is fold up paper like a football. I guess you could say that the “football” looked more like a love note we used to write in fifth and sixth grade, only smaller. Then, someone would hold their palms out in front, with the thumbs touching—all of which resembled the uprights of a goal post. By flicking the paper football with our finger, like teachers sometimes flicked our heads if we weren’t paying attention, you could propel the ball toward the uprights. Just like in a real game, if the football went through, you scored a point.

Ah, many other stories clamored forward about riding a bus this a.m., but these three rushed to my memory banks when I saw the yellow school bus pass me on my walk. Amazingly, I could still feel the rush of air and the clamor of 7th and 8th graders as we passed the truck. I wonder if the rest of my compadres remember that morning. Whew!

Monday, February 14, 2011

To Joanne


To Joanne

Thinking of you today (and every day…)
charms me, warms me through to the core,
knowing full well you are the reason

why we are and continue moving forward.
You are the reason for all our happiness,
the girls, our nice home, our spirituality,

yes, even delicious food on the table.
You are the reason why I am what I am.
I wanted you to be proud of me.

I wanted your eyes, your gorgeous smile, your consistency,
your warmth, your comfort, and more, always more.
And you gave it, time and time again, without thought,

no matter what I did or what I didn’t do.
You still gave willingly, lovingly, often. It is no wonder
Father made me wait, wander around in my thoughts.

He knew I needed you more than you needed me
to buoy me up during difficult times,
share my odd humor, push me out the door

when I needed it, coo soft words of encouragement,
clap thunderously when I succeeded, even the little ones.
I know I married up, way beyond

my dreams and aspirations. I can only say,
“Thank you, Father. Thank you for sending me
Joanne when I needed her the most.”

Eternity is a long time; but to be with you,
time seems to float like mist on the Snake
in the early morning—yet, at midday, it rises,

surreptitiously disappears into the trees,
and the vista opens to new horizons,
to you and me, far beyond anything we imagined.

Yes, eternity is a long time, and I am willing
to spend it with you, now and forever.
Thank you, Joanne. I love you!

Darrel L. Hammon
February 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Greatness: The Common Lot of Man and Woman

Greatness: The Common Lot of Man and Woman

Some are afraid of knowing
too much, perhaps too little.
Some shrink away, afraid
of what others might think
about them.
Others do nothing, hoping
that life will not touch them.
Many shine in school,
on the playing field, in the bright lights
of the world, think
that greatness has enveloped,
allowed them to become someone.

What we don’t know
Because, perhaps,
We do not want to know
is others shine, too—
In the confines of their own rooms,
laden with microscopes,
computers, shelves of used books,
and brothers or sisters.
They help the poor, the needy,
read to neighbors,
take food to shut ins, write letters
to those who need words of comfort.
We read in the scriptures
about lights under a bushel basket,
talents hidden low in the dirt,
withdrawing within ourselves.

We can fill ourselves with knowledge
of what we really can become,
of who we need to be
in this life to prepare for another life,
of whose we really are,
for we are truly His….

Once we know who we really are,
no longer will our talents be hidden.
We will reach out to others.
Our lights will shine forth.
Then we shall see afar off,
knowing what He knows,
seeing what He sees,
feeling what He feels,
being what He is.
Truly then, and only then,
We will be great.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why Winter Was Created!

Whatever happened to shouts of glee and over anxiousness that accompanied the coming of winter and the snow? It snowed again last night, and the snow continues its descent onto our parched high mountain plains of Wyoming. Yes, the weather people predicted this stuff. Some said 7-8 inches; others, perfunctorily, said a few inches. Whatever they said or meant to say, we knew the snows would still come.

Whatever happened to the feeling of being able to go outside and play in the snow, build snow forts in the backyard along the west fence by the Hewards, create human chains and tube the massive sand dunes by St. Anthony, or go snowmobiling with Carey and Laura in Charlie Hunting’s fields down by the slough? All that fades, now that the cold and the snows continue harassing us.

Although Punxsatawney Phil did not see his shadow, meaning, ostensibly, an early spring, winter still blusters around us, spewing snow and unseasonably cold weather everywhere in America. And I am not happy about it. I guess age somehow deadens the naïve senses of youth and the good old days and causes blinders to shut out the looking forward to the white stuff.

When I was younger, I loved peeking out the curtains when my mother wasn’t looking—she hated them parted once they were closed—and watching the huge flakes float daintily to the ground, covering the blotching brown with soft whiteness. Before street lights in Menan, the outside porch light created a funnel that welcomed the white flakes, kissing each one with sprays of 60 watts of light.

Often at night, my brothers and I anticipated what the morning would bring, hoping our alarms would wake us to so much snow that we wouldn’t have to go to school. Finally, we dropped off to sleep, knowing, praying, the snows would pile high enough for us to make paths in the new snow in the soft glow of the morning.

Come morning around 6:15 a.m., we donned blue or gray hooded sweatshirts, our new snowmobile suits, yellow fuzzy gloves, knit stocking cap with face masks, and our green snow Pacs. All bundled up, we were finally ready for the deep drifts, leading to the barn. Like sled dogs breaking trail, we sloshed through the snow toward the barn and corrals where the pigs, cows, chickens, and horses waited for us, anxious for their morning breakfast. As soon as the milking and other chores were done, we had time to play in the snow before we had to get ready for school and a dismal day inside.

Usually our first order of business in the newly converted yard was making snow angels. We fell backwards and began making snow angels, arms and legs outstretched and moving them side to side, ever so carefully out and away from our bodies, touching our gloved hands to our thighs, creating perfect angel wings.

Trying to rise from our angelic pose and not ruining the perfectness of the snow angels proved to be the most difficult task. Carefully, we inched our bodies now thick with clothes and clotted snow to our elbows, then to our hands; then using our hands, we pushed our bodies up and onto our feet and leaped clear of our angels. We stood, congratulating ourselves that we had not plopped back into the crevices of our angels, thus preserving the angelic sculptures in the snow.

Once the angels were completed, we grabbed the shovels and tossed snow until we could see the driveway and the sidewalks. Finished shoveling out our side of the world, we shuffled over to Basil and Freda Heward’s place and began shoveling them out. We tried to be quiet so we wouldn’t wake them. With two or three of us, it did not take very long to uncover their walks and single car driveway.

Just before we slipped back into our house to warm up, drink a cup of hot chocolate, chuck full of miniature Marshmallows, and have breakfast, we trundled to the backyard where we oogled the snow drifts, now fence high, that beckoned us to come partake. Tempting as it was, we knew they would still be there, maybe even be bigger, when we returned home that afternoon from school. For just a brief moment, we planned how we were going to build the snow fort, carefully this time, together, not like last time when the snow was just right for snow balls and all else was forgotten in an onslaught of fist-packed snow. Somehow boys possess a sense of quitting everything when being bombarded by snowballs. Snowballing fights were war, and we couldn’t lose.

Only quiet memories still linger in the minds of adults, now too old or too lethargic to climb from their soft, leather chairs to shuffle outside to taste winter the way it was supposed to be: to sling snowballs; make perfect forts in deep drifts; and create snow angels in the soft, perfect snow, made especially for little boys with imaginations, warm blood surging through their young veins, and no sense of cold or wetness seeping through their clothes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Scratch

A Scratch

I thought about Mercutio the other day,
out of the blue.
Perhaps, it was the paper cut,
ever so slight, when
Mercutio’s fatal words dipped
from nowhere, “A scratch…but tis enough.”

I wasn’t hurting that bad. Truly it was
a mere scratch, nothing
that would set off a revolution
among my family and the family next door.
Perhaps, I was thinking
about how dismal life can be,
all bottled up inside
like my mother’s peaches she canned
in August of every year—
tight and placed one by one
until they ached for space and light,
room to breath.
Then the gooey juice dribbled over them,
creating air pockets
that mother squished out
with a regular table knife, moving
from side to side, pressing ever so gently,
until all the bubbles pushed their way
to surface and out.

I was amazed
how a mere table knife
could coax air pockets to dissipate.
Perhaps, for others, this mere table knife
could be used for more
than just squeezing out life’s bubbles.
Perhaps, we could use it
to spread the jams of the world,
across the wheat and rye breads
of confrontation, those quiet ones
or maybe even the loud ones
we hear about through CNN.com
and the rest of world that thrives on news bits,
scrolling surreptitiously
at the bottom of newscasts on television
and headers on the Internet.
Perhaps, my mother knew
the simplicity of peach making
and that’s why she did it only in August,
knowing full well
that if she did in other months,
her life, too, would surreptitiously scroll
along the bottom of somebody’s journal,
and she didn’t want that to happen,
just because it was her life and no one else’s.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Intellectual Aristocracy

Want to be part of the new aristocracy? The new aristocracy is called the intellectual aristocracy, filled with people who have invested in acquiring knowledge.

Some years ago, Jaime Escalante, whose life was depicted in the movie Stand and Deliver, spoke about a poster hanging on a wall in his classroom. It read: “Free, free, free—knowledge. Bring your own containers.” How apropos for high school students on the brink of entering college and transitioning to the new world economy. Knowledge is abundant in the new economy, but we have to be willing to obtain it.

Since the knowledge-based economy has engulfed us, we must prepare ourselves to not only to survive but to thrive. Unfortunately, mom and dad are not always going to support your habits. Soon—for some, sooner than you think—the responsibility will fall to you. Are you ready? At eighteen, I knew I wasn’t ready. After two years in southern Chile and a year of work, I was ready to enter college to gain knowledge. Had I heard about Escalante’s admonition, I would have brought along more containers.

Consider these suggestions:

One, understand that going to college should not be an option.
It is a must, a prerequisite to being a part of the new intellectual aristocracy. Our family has always focused on the phrase: “Not if you are going to college but where.”

Two, while in high school, take a rigorous set of courses. If you can, take those that count for dual-credit, credit for high school and college. You will be further ahead when you enroll in college. In fact, some students in other states earn their high school diploma one day, and the next day they receive their associate degree in other states. Invest now in obtaining the best grades and being involved, thus enhancing your chances to earn scholarships.

Three, when you go to college, take advantage of the most affordable one you can attend, even if it is close to home. Because most college programs require two years of general education, it is more affordable to attend a two-year college. Community colleges offer a wonderful array of core courses taught by extremely gifted professors.

Four, take a variety of courses, particularly those that require hard work and critical thinking skills. In the global market, most employers seek talented people who can think, adapt to change, and maneuver within the organization. Possessing good skill sets will enable you to succeed.

And five, think of your education as an investment that should be replenished often. If you don’t reinvest in yourself and upgrade your skills along the way, you will succumb to the plight of dinosaurs who couldn’t adapt to change.

Graduating from high school is truly a huge step. But begin strategizing now how you are going to maneuver successfully through our knowledge-based economy. The best part of being part of your lifelong educational investment is that you become part of the new intellectual aristocracy.

Remember to bring lots of containers.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Prying Eyes

Prying Eyes

Her little brothers were intrusive in a quiet subtle way.
Out of fear of their father or mother, mostly their father,
or just plain not wanting to get caught,
they did things under the wire,

quietly, surreptitiously, almost phantom-like
until their sister began dating me.
Instead of chasing rabbits out among acres of sagebrush
in pickups, zigzagging along bumpy terrain,

their spotlight emerged from their basement bedroom,
long after their parents had gone to bed, tucked snugly
beneath homemade quilts, impervious to their sons’ shenanigans.
Only after we had driven up in my 1970 Chevy Impala

(or was it the 1972 Monte Carlo?), parked for mere minutes,
it began, like a burst of hail pounding hard on dry ground.
The spotlight zoomed from the basement, zigzagging along the car,
into the windows, focusing intensely on the passenger side.

Often, we would pretend they weren’t there, just ducked
down so they thought we had gone into the house.
They weren’t fooled; they were young boys who knew
the difference between someone upstairs and outside in a Chevy.

You could almost hear them, snickering like old maids
watching David Cassidy. We ignored them at first,
thinking they would go away, the spotlight would lose its power,
or their father would suddenly appear in doorway of the room.

Perhaps, though, it was for the best, kept us out of trouble,
drove us into the house into the warm confines of the living room
or the kitchen where we made cookies or just eyes at each other.
But that’s all gone, long gone; she fled off to college, then a mission,

then to Arizona, I think, married with kids and a husband.
Sometimes in the dark, I contemplate what it would had been like
if we had truly ignored the spotlights, the pressures
of others who thought it best to spotlight us, clamor about

our destiny to be together, before and after mission.
But the spotlight—hers and mine—is now focused
on other things, other lives, far away from basement windows
and prying eyes of brothers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nothing is sacred at our house

Nothing is sacred at our house

My mother hides chocolate chip cookies
in the freezer, her hidden cache
for snowy weekends

and long trips to the city.
She thinks no knows they are there.
She locks the freezer

and hides the long, thin key.
Little does she know
that we know

the key’s secret hiding place
beneath the charcoal lighter fluid can.
Our small hands borrow cookies,

some frozen and some still warm,
from the carefully stashed plastic bags
and Tupperware containers.

The cookies disappear
much like the potato chips
and marshmallows did last month.

Sometimes she asks us why
we do not eat much
breakfast or lunch or dinner.

We look at each other,
knowing our cookies thaw
beneath our beds.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trapping

When I was younger, Tom R. and I trapped muskrats one winter on Spring Creek just behind my Uncle Milt's house. It was a very interesting winter. This poem emerged from those memories:

Trapping

When snows first whiten
the fall straw stubble
and barren potato fields,
I pull my muskrat traps
from the 16 penny nails, half buried
in the side of the old barn.
I place the traps side by side
on a 4" x 6" pine plank.
I turn them over and over,
fingering each one with leather-gloved hand,
like pictures in an album
until I remember where
I placed them last season:
under the tall cottonwood
in front of the half-hidden worn trail,
leading into the brush-covered mud bank.
I press each lever with my right heel,
holding tightly, and gently
locking the spring in place.
The jaws gape open at my feet
while I step back to test
their strength and quickness.
I reach into my goose-down jacket,
pull out a creek pebble,
the size of a cat-eyed marble.
From three feet above the trap,
I drop the pebble.
The jaws snap shut before I can
draw another breath.
I test the jaws twice more
until they are ready
for the murky waters
that run beneath the weeping willows,
through the giant cottonwoods
while the muskrats roam up and down
the creek like Titania dancing
under a full Moon,
not heeding where they step.