Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homesteading in the Pershimeri

Out in the Pershimeri, near Little Lost River,
flows a quaint creek, just warm enough
for Black Mollies, Swordtails, Goldfish, Guppies,
swimming in and out of tangled moss
and creek stuff.How they all got there
is still a mystery.Someone said that people
who got tired of feeding them, cleaning the tank,
clandestinely sneaked up the dirt road,
dumped fish and all into the warm creek,
thinking their problems solved,and disappeared
among the sagebrush and home. For them,
their problems just hid among the greenery
of the creek, too scared to sense
they were now orphans
somewhere in the Pershimeri.

Somehow, my dad found out about the fish,
drove us there in the old white station wagon,
for miles, it seemed, on a tired dirt road.
At last, we arrived, the car too dusty to tell.
And there they were, swimming pretty
in the warm water, thinking perhaps
that we were their saviors.
We yanked out our sieves and cheese cloth
from the back of the wagon
and headed to the creek.

These fish were tricky.
They knew the intricacies
of the moss and stuff.
My mother was the best netter of the day.
We just watched as she ran pell mell
down the creek bank, yelling something
like, “I see a Black Mollie…ah, she’s beautiful!”
Laughing, we trotted downstream with our gallon pickle jars,
long since cleaned and modified for fish.
She scooped up a few of each species,
placed them gently in the jars, now full of creek water.

Tiring of the netting, we donned swimming togs,
swam in the pond, enclosed in what used to be a log cabin,
now sunken with no roof or two of the sides.
The water was warm, almost too warm, like a bath.
Soon, the dust washed off, we trudged back
to the car, climbed in, tired and then slept until home.
Once home, we stowed our new catch
into their new home, a gorgeous fish tank,
complete with filters and rocks and fish things.
As they swam, we pressed our noses to the tank,
wondered if they knew they were
no longer in the desert, now
just sitting our the wood table
in the kitchen; wondered if any of them
remembered their beginnings
before they homesteaded in the Pershimeri.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Let It HowL

Let It Howl

Summer escapes sometimes unscathed.
Perhaps, it is the wind that pronounces
its blessing or curse upon all of us, shouts at us
from the west, north, and then the northwest, sometimes

simultaneously from all three.
Early morning usually dawns quiet with just a whisper
but by nine, the wind abruptly climbs
from its lethargic bed like some giant lizard

that hasn’t eaten in days, perhaps weeks.
As summer matures and ripens into fall,
the winds clamor for winter and snows and blasts
from the direct north, hoping to catch one of us unawares

at the post box to snatch the paper and fling it south
where it will melt when the sun bores down on Wyoming.
But we are too cautious, perhaps arrogant,
that we will beat this nasty wind.

Let it howl like wolves at night,
just meters from the sheep in Uncle Milt’s pens.
We shall prevail and capture mail before
the winds know we are there to fetch it.

Let it howl as we dig and chisel dirt
around for the 20’ x 30’ garden. We will prevail
in growing daisies, raspberries, strawberries,
mums, grape hyacinths, petunias, and even peonies.

Let it howl that we may see its ferociousness,
its lagging red tongue of strength.
Perhaps, it can show how it shifts tumbleweeds
from fence to fence, from farm to farm.

Let it howl that we may howl back,
with thick voices, choked with pride,
shake our fists, stamp our thick boots
on the hard ground, frozen tundra of the high plains.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Empty Nest

Empty Nest

Others have proclaimed the wonderfulness
of empty nesting, the final leaving of the young birds,
the children who made messes in the backyard,
left clothes lying everywhere because they couldn’t decide
which skirt or which blouse or which pair of pants
they needed to wear on a particular Wednesday;
children who talked incessantly on the telephone or texted
everyone they knew, even at the dinner table,
ignoring the rest of us while we ate casseroles and fresh bread;
children who often failed to call when they weren’t coming home
when they said they were, failed to sense the feelings
of anxious parents who paced back and forth to the window,
staring out into the darkness, or standing sentinel over the phone,
hoping, just hoping the phone would ring or at least something
would jar the black night, the quietness of the living room.
Only when they did leave, we wished they were back,
laughing at the craziest things, singing songs from musicals,
or repeating dialog from movies like Napoleon Dynamite, Mean Girls.
Only when you receive that call from one of them, casually
mentioning that a car hit her while she was riding a bike.
Only when your other daughter plays the role of surrogate parent,
rushes to the scene, takes charge like you would have done, visits
with the doctors and nurses, lovingly maneuvers the injured
to dinner and then home to bed and hopefully blissful sleep.
Only when the two daughters grow closer, best friends,
forgetting the shouting matches when they were teenagers,
forgetting the hogging of the bathroom and being late together,
forgetting the cold shoulders, the no talk times,
forgetting the clandestine sharing of clothes and shoes.
Perhaps, it is just me, the soft father who tears up at the mention
of his children and their goodness and their closeness,
who aches for the little ones to return, the daddy-daughter dates,
times in Mexico teaching negotiation skills, prom nights,
mowing lawns and planting garden flowers and vegetables together,
even a few clothes—just a few—on the floor to remind me
that they are still my babies, still huddled in the nest, waiting
for Dad to return with pizza and half gallons of ice cream.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dawn Comes Early…

This poem just won first place in the recent 2010 BYU-Idaho Spirit Week poetry contest.

Dawn Comes Early…

Dawn comes early in the west.
Often, the sun gathers large at first
and then shrinks behind huge purple,
gray clouds until it succumbs while the clouds pass,
and it rises further than the clouds.
Streaming rays, oranges and reds
on the horizon, speak softness
to the new day, always moving in one steady,
upward course, somewhere around the world.

With some trepidation, I walk out
into the dark morning, notice
the oranges and the reds in the east,
trying desperately to show themselves,
maybe even heave themselves
toward the west, where later in the day,
they again succumb to the night
and slip away further into the west.

Yet, I walk on, speculating why the sun creeps
along so tenuously at first, then boldly
during the day. It is like I am—
tenuous at first, and then boldly
although not overbearingly.

Perhaps, I should walk early, try to catch
the sun, learn from its steadiness and how it works
to make the world brighter, happier, consistent.

Perhaps, I should sit on the hill
and just watch the sun, just watch
it grow big and round and bright.

Perhaps, I should just close my eyes,
think of those mornings when I walk
boldly out into the rain, the snow,
the heavy winds, head down, not thinking
of anything in particular—just the mere thought
of trudging forward, into the early morning,
thinking of home, a hot bath, and Cheerios—
all one steady upward course, now and forever.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Having Dogs Can Be a True Learning Experience for Children and Adults

I wrote this some years ago, but I read through it again today and thought I ought to post it. I liked it then, and I like it now.

What do you do when one of your children likes domestic animals more than you do? Or an eight-year old who wants a dog and you are not ready to buy her one?
My youngest daughter loves animals. When I rock her at night, she has to have her animal blanket with her. One time I covered her with her blanket, but she quickly looked at me and said, “Dad, the bears have to breathe.”

For a moment I was a bit fogged in. My hesitation caused her some anxiety. She repeated, “Dad, the bears have to breathe.” She then reached down and flipped her blanket over. I had failed to put the top side up. Of course, the bears couldn’t breathe. They were suffocating on the underneath side of the blanket.

Lately, though, she has been hounding me for a dog. She doesn’t want just any dog. She wants the kind of dog that is on the PBS show “Wishbone.” I asked her not long ago why she wants a dog. Her reply, “Because they play with you.” She even has a name already picked out for her dog, whenever she gets one. She wants to call it Dodger. Sometimes, as she looks at me with those big, beautiful blue eyes, I almost succumb to her wishes. Then, I wonder if she is really ready for the experience.

I have had several dogs in my life. Actually, they haven’t been mine alone. They belonged to our family. We had a golden lab and golden retriever stolen from us. My brothers and I were in the process of training them to be hunting dogs. Another dog, a Chihuahua, became my mother’s favorite and stayed close to her. Probably two of the most noteworthy I remember were Lady and Tippy.

Lady was truly a lady. Of cocker spaniel decent, Lady was pure black and lovable. When we moved from Idaho Falls to Menan to our new house, Lady had some room to run. Our house sat on the edge of some farm ground that led to a slough and then to Hunting’s, several acres of Russian Olives, Cottonwoods, brush, and Spring Creek.

But she didn’t last long in Menan. Our neighbors up by the railroad tracks had a huge dog. I don’t remember what kind it was, but to a six-year old, it was huge, monstrous. One evening, our neighbors were out walking with their dogs. Somehow, Lady became entangled with their monster dog. Within seconds, Lady lay in the road. We ran to her, gently picked her up, and brought her home where we carefully placed her in a box full of blankets and tried to soothe her pain.

The only thing Lady could do was look up at us with those pleading dark eyes. We shed many tears before the night was over. The next morning when we woke, Lady was gone. Dad said she had wandered off in the night and didn’t come back. My brothers and I looked everywhere for her.

We scrounged the neighborhood, even walked through Hunting’s to Spring Creek. No Lady. We figured she just wandered off, knowing the pain it would cause us to watch her die.

It wasn’t too many years ago that I realized that Lady probably died during the night, and my father took her somewhere and buried her. He has never fessed up to doing something like that, but it was natural that he would try to protect us from the pain of death. Lady had become a part of our family, and Dad didn’t want to hurt us.

Probably my most favorite dog we ever had was Tippy, a wonderful collie dog that loved to play with us. I don’t remember how Tippy came to our house or what happened to him. And I don’t want to. We thought of Tippy as our Lassie. He did not have the distinct markings of Lassie, but to us, he was the best.

Tippy went everywhere with us. One of our favorite things to do was to roam Hunting’s property, pretending we were soldiers in a grand army. Tippy followed us, wondering what in the world these boys were doing. He probably came along to protect us from ourselves. Often, he joined the frolicking and fun.

As Tippy grew older, he did not exhibit the vig and vem of old. He mostly stayed around the house and soaked in the sun. He still loved to be petted. When we came home from school, he was there to greet us. When we walked to the barn to do chores, Tippy followed us and then lay out of sight of Bossy, our cow. He knew Bossy became agitated when she saw him. So he stayed out her way.

Sometimes, when I am at my parents’ house in the summer, looking out across the garden, listening carefully to the past, I can still hear his bark. Sometimes, I turn to see if he is there beside me or following me down the beaten path to the barn. But he isn’t.

Maybe it is the death of these two dogs that keep me from buying one for my daughters. Like my father, I do not want them to feel anxiety, pain, or even death. But then again, maybe having a dog would help them understand some of the trials of life, maybe help them learn more about responsibility by taking care of an animal.

Maybe having a dog could be part of their contextual learning. Maybe having a dog would be good for them. And I need to remember: Children and dogs need to be on top. I wouldn’t want to suffocate them.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The following is the graduation speech that I gave on Saturday to the 2010 graduates from Laramie County Community College.

Creating Significance

Not long ago, I sat in a meeting and listened to a retired Air Force Colonel discuss the importance of significance. I was intrigued by his insight and his use of the word in a spiritual context. Tonight, I would like to extend the meaning to five areas: education, family, community, world, and self.

The simplest definition of significance is the “state or quality of having meaning or importance.”

In order to make the connection to the five areas, I have a few questions to ask you—

Question 1: What significance are you making in education? What you are doing today creates significance. What you have been doing for the past several semesters is significance. The other evening, Joanne and I were sitting with a young single mother who said, “I earned my GED, and now I am enrolled in the College.” I will make sure my daughters do not drop out of school. Her oldest daughter, now 16, is an honor student. Do you think she has created significance by returning to school? I do. And she has much to more to do. Investment in education will be the best investment you will ever make. I promise.

Question 2: What significance are you being as a member of your family? I believe families are important. For most of us, our families created significance in our lives by pushing us forward, motivating us to do better, and creating opportunities to succeed. With mother’s day just last Sunday, we celebrated Mother’s Day and remembered our mothers, no matter where they were. In another month, we will celebrate Father’s Day, another significant day. If you are a mother, what kind of mother are you? If you are a father, what kind of father are you? If you are a son or daughter, what kind of son or daughter are you being? If you are a brother or sister, what kind of brother or sister are you? You can create significance in your family.

Question 3: What significance are you making or will you make in your community? I believe many of you through service learning projects in our community have created significance. People are appreciative of what you have done. Now, what will you do as you graduate? Will you continue creating significance in the community you live in?

Question 4: What significance will you make in the world? Some of you will go out and do grandiose things by the world’s standards. Others will do things that will ultimately create significance that will reverberate throughout history—and often we may not know what significance we have done. And that’s the beauty and the power of significance.

Question 5: And, perhaps, most importantly, what significance will you create by being you? Your example, good or bad, will create significance in whatever you do. No matter whether your job is small or great, your significance, your importance, will create an aura that will touch people in small and great ways. Your mere smile will encourage others to smile. Your kind acts will motivate others to reciprocate. Your reaching out to help others will encourage them to do the same. Everything you do creates significance, and it is up to you what level of significance it will be.

Finally, I extend to you an invitation to create significance knowingly: Write a note to someone who has made a significant impact on/in your life. My preference would not be an e-mail, not a text message, not a tweet, not a Facebook or MySpace message—unless, of course, you do not know this person’s address. An actual letter or card written by your hand in real ink would be preferable. Let them know specifically why they are significant and how they created significance in your lives. When you do this, I sincerely believe you will experience “significance” in your life and in your being. Thanking those who have “created significance” for you and in your life need to know why they have and how they have. You may be the first person who has ever done this, and your mere act will create significance in their lives.

Often, many people just do what they do, not realizing what significance they might create or have created in the lives of those with whom they work and serve. It is when they receive a message from you and me, thanking them, that they finally realize, perhaps, what they might have done. In many cases, they will pass it off as being some trivial thing that they remember vaguely. But to us—you and me—what they did truly turned our lives around. I believe that is truly the meaning of significance: when we do something because that’s just what we do to better the world around us. That enthusiasm for doing what needs to be done seeps into the lives of others and somehow changes them, turns their views, helps them contemplate a new way or a more effective way of living their lives or doing something. They change because we provided them with “significance.”

Thus, my challenge, each and every day is create significance, be significant, and do significant things because you are significant.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Eyes Peeled

This is a poem that I recently published in the High Plain Register.

Eyes Peeled

I cannot see it, really,
from my view atop the spud truck.
Just beyond Mercer’s Corner

and the ancient cottonwoods.
The panel truck shifts slowly like some fish net,
scooping cod from the sea.

Instead of fish, this net scoops up los hermanos
from the spud cellars, trucks, bunkhouses, unfit even for chinchillas.
Dust rises inevitably from the truck’s slow loathing

of those sin papeles—yet those important to the harvest.
Sometimes it is hard to get the gringos, those young dudes,
to heft the 33’ sprinkler pipe, often full

of silt water and carry it forty feet
through knee-high alfalfa, wet potato lines,
mosquitoes and horse flies licking blood,

and sweat oozing over day-old bites.
At night, Instead of returning home to Nintendo,
HBO, and a hot shower, the pulsating kind,

they saunter to the plywood shacks, tortillas de harina,
and another night of yearning for their casas, sus familias,
instead of sitting idly on their own veranda,

their queridas in the crook of their arms.
Now their eyes stay peeled for the panel truck,
picking up speed through the alfalfa field.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Contemplations about Orbs

I drafted this some time ago and haven't returned to it. But I thought I would post it to contemplate its sense of being. Take a look and let me know what you think.

The Orbs

The lights in the distance
somehow stifle the darkness,
treat it indifferently,

try to lighten up its grueling mess
that overshadows even
the most miniscule light.

Our lives are like that, sometimes.
We take on more than we can do.
Sometimes, we burden ourselves

with other’s burdens.
Sometimes, we even cross ourselves,
hoping for some redemption

when none is available, even for them,
our so-called friends, the ones
we hide from others.

Why we do such thing remains
a mystery to me.
Why we extend ourselves, often,

more viscerally than we truly should,
more viciously at times than truly needed.
But the fact of the matter is this:

the lights in our horizon are dimming,
slowly fading into the orbs of nothingness,
only because we have failed to pay the bill.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hailey Hammon Keller: BYU Graduate 2010

Friday was Hailey’s graduation from Brigham Young University-Provo (BYU). What a thrill it was to watch her walk across the age with her husband Joseph! Although she finished her coursework in December, she decided to wait and walk with Joseph in April.

For parents, having one graduate from college is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the child’s life as we see and remember it. Hailey has truly been a wonderful daughter. She did extremely well in high school, participating in tennis (state all three years), speech and drama (state all three years), and several plays, including a play at Miles Community College. Her switch from speech to “mime” was unforeseen and unpredictable, but she excelled in it, winning second place in the state tournament her senior year with her now famous “bouncing ball” routine.

Like Anna Rose, Hailey graduated from high school with having completed one year’s worth of college credits. While she wanted to trundle off to the university early, Hailey came with us to Cheyenne and enrolled in the Mass Media program at Laramie County Community College. She did well at the College and in her chosen field. Her phenomenal writing skills propelled her toward writing for the national-award winning College newspaper Wingspan. As a result, she ultimately received the “Journalist of the Year” Award, which was a fitting bestowal, particularly to those of us who know Hailey and her delightful style of writing.

Having graduated from Laramie County Community College, she was accepted at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo as a transfer student and was ultimately accepted in the Communications Department where she focused on the Public Relations program. During an interview for a job on BYU’s campus, the interviewer said that Hailey’s portfolio from the Mass Media program was “one of the best” he had ever seen.

Hailey’s engaging personality has always been one of her best assets. She makes friends easily, and her smile and “delicious” laugh is intoxicating. One of her other assets is that she makes people feel comfortable when they are around her. Plus, she is a leader—always has been and always will be.

While we were here in Provo, Hailey and I went on a “daddy-daughter” date to the movie Sherlock Holmes. It was fun to be with her. When she was younger, we always went on daddy-daughter dates. She and Anna Rose would alternate weeks. We either went to the museum or to a movie or to ice cream. It was always their pick as to where we would go. When I went to visit my parents in Quartzsite, Arizona, when they play snowbirds, I would either take one of the girls or the whole family. We enjoyed being together, taking walks out in the desert, negotiating for some trinket in Mexico, sauntering through acres and acres of flea markets in Quartzsite, or eating date shakes on one of the date farms around Yuma.

I could write piles and piles of stuff about Hailey and why I am proud of her. But the number one reason is that I love her, and I enjoy being her father and watching her grow and develop. It seems that her teenage years zipped by so rapidly. But when I think about all of things that she did during those times, I have to wonder when she found time to complete them all.

Hailey, congratulations! At 21, you are a college and university graduate are married to a great young man. Together you will continue to grow and develop even more talents. I know you expect to do that, I know that your Mother and I expect that, and I know that Heavenly Father expects you to rise to your birthright and become the Queen you are destined to become.

I love you tons and tons.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crayons Used to Come in Plain Brown and Green or Bus Barns Are Off Limits to First Graders

Before my first year of school, we moved from Idaho Falls to Menan, about 18 miles north of Idaho Falls. Since I arrived just after school had finished, I missed the opportunity to go to summer kindergarten. My mother told me it was all right because I was from the big city and I had an older brother and sister who taught me everything they knew when they came home from school. So we spent the summer roaming the woods in back of Hunting’s, riding bikes to and from Spring Creek, finding pop bottles, and trading them at the Menan Store for winner suckers, penny candy, and Big Hunks.

Summer fled by, like all summers do, and school lurked closer and closer until the day arrived. We purchased our new school duds at JC Penny, either the one where my great-aunt Enid worked or the old JC Penny in downtown Idaho Falls.

I remember getting my shots, and tearing off the scab on the corner of the kitchen cabinet when I didn’t turn quickly enough to get away from my brother. It hurt so badly I thought I was going to die. Nonetheless, the ripped scab did not deter my mother from taking me to school that first day. With me in school, it meant three of her six children gone between 8:00 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., surely a great relief to her.

Because of where we lived and because of our school district’s propensity to bus everyone everywhere for every grade, it touched me to start my educational career at Lewisville Elementary, an elementary school about three or four miles from Menan. I did not mind the opportunity to ride the bus. I had never ridden the bus, and the ride sounded like an adventure. The adventure lasted about four days.

The first day of school at Lewisville Elementary was full of discoveries, my first being my sister Telecia being assigned to another elementary, just a couple of blocks from my house. The thoughts of staying there alone without someone I knew caused me enough anxiety. I did what most first graders did—I started crying and moaning about Telecia having to go to another school. I just couldn’t take being left alone. Mrs. Williamson, the principal, stepped up and let my mother know that she could change Telecia to Lewisville Elementary. That assuaged my crying for a bit.

Of course, Telecia was not particularly happy that she had to stay at Lewisville with her little brother. Somehow my crying created a sense of sisterly love to exude from her, and she reluctantly stayed. I think I forgot about her after a couple of days after I became entrenched in the educational process. Unfortunately for Telecia, she had to stay for the entire school year.

Mrs. Williams, my first grade teacher led me to my desk, the old wood bench kind, ornate steel legs and a flip top desk. We had about five or six in a row. One of our first assignments was to color a picture. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any Crayons. The schools didn’t offer lists then so we usually waited until after the first day to see what we all needed and then headed to the store to buy the goods.

Since I wanted to participate in the lesson, I turned around to the kid behind me and asked to borrow a Crayon. He let me have a green or brown one, one of the six he had. He introduced himself as Jon Poulter, also from Menan. Because of that crayon we became good friends throughout our entire school career.

In first grade, I learned to read about Dick and Jane, play army with my friends, slapping our thighs as we rode our pseudo ponies hard around the playground; venture in “the Grove,” a huge stand of trees between the church and the school; play T-ball with our class; watch one of the girls tromp through the barrow pit in snow up to her waist because she didn’t want to ride the bus; participate in a Christmas play; stay in my seat on the bus; and call mom on the school phone because I had stay after for not obeying (I received a “ticket” for straying beyond the boundaries of first graders and lining my “men” on the bus barn wall. Hey, I could still see the rock school house, and there were no buses in the bus barn. So, Mr. Third Grader Ticket Giver, what was the problem?).

Now when you go to the store, you have your choice of 64 or 94 Crayons, and I suspect you would really have to dig to find a plain green or brown in them. I think Jon is in Las Vegas without his pack of Crayons. Jon, if you read this: Thanks for loaning me one of your Crayons. It helped me acclimate to first grade.

Finally, I have only two caveats for first graders: don’t ever play by the bus barn and take plenty of Crayons the first day. Just think of all the friends you’ll make.

Happy Birthday, Joanne

It's Joanne's birthday today! She is absolutely incredible and the best thing about my life. Here are some memories/comments--mostly truncated:
The YSA dance in Rexburg, our first meeting—Thanks to Ruth Hathaway for introducing us.
Our first date in Church—Menan 1st Ward.
Our move to Boise and Boise State.
The wonderful Boise 6th Ward—Ice cream raids, floating the Boise River, picking fruit in Emmett, serving the Ward members and them serving us during Joanne’s awful pregnancies.
The long wait for the girls to come and how wonderful they were.
Mountain Home Jr. High School—9th graders, girls basketball (8th B) and a perfect season and pizza in Boise. (What’s a key, Mr. Hammon?) What phenomenal young women.
The move back to Idaho Falls and family.
Templeview Ward and the gorgeous Idaho Falls Temple
The High Council.
The move to Lewiston, Idaho…growing anything.
Lewis-Clark State College
Spokane Temple trips
Move to Miles City, Montana.
Miles Community College
Custer County High School—basketball, volleyball, tennis, speech and drama, graduation
Glendive Stake and lots of travel—Young Men, Young Women, High Council
Martin’s Cove—incredibly spiritual experience
AR’s graduation from high school and Miles Community College
Move to Cheyenne, Wyoming
AR’s wedding
Laramie County Community College
Buffalo Ridge Ward
YSA Branch—lots of activities
AR’s graduation from BYU
Hailey’s graduation from Laramie County Community College
Hailey’s wedding
Missionary couple and YSA.
The many temples we have visited.
H’s wedding
H’s graduation from BYU
And many, many, many more things.
All the happiness, all of the positiveness, all of love—Joanne, my beautiful bride.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Holding Your Mouth Just Right

This is the "poem" version of catching my first fish. Enjoy!

Holding Your Mouth Just Right

At six, I still hadn’t caught a fish,
not even one. But I was determined
my drought would turn to rainbows,
sometime in July on Birch Creek.

As spring slipped into summer,
we headed out late one night,
stuffed ourselves in sleeping bags,
cramped in tents,
and waited for sunrise.
Next morning, while others sat
on army-green camp stools,
poking the fire with green willows,
waiting breakfast, I stuffed
my band-aid box full
of night crawlers, headed downstream,
but not too far from camp.

Dad had said once that to catch fish
you had to hold your mouth just right.
I couldn’t figure out what that meant;
so just out of sight of camp,
I kneeled behind a big sage
brush, let the words tumble out,
and prayed to God
that he might let me
catch a fish. I didn’t want to be
the only first grader
without a fish story
when I enrolled in the fall.

Words cast to Heaven, I sneaked
from behind the sage,
pretending I had lost something,
threaded ½ of the worm on a #6 hook,
and tossed it upstream in the swirling water,
let it carry to the big hole.
For a moment it caught–
probably some snag at the bottom.
But then the jerking started,
and I yanked, hard, the line flying
behind me, hook and all,
and a trout, landing smack dab
just beyond the sage
where I had prayed.

Dropping the pole like a weight,
I rushed back, grabbed the fish
with both hands, headed for camp,
yelling that I finally caught a fish.
They all greeted me, gathered around,
like I’d been a way a decade or two,
a prodigal son returned,
but now with fish in hands,
my mouth held just right.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dependable Things Like Spring and Robins

Some things you can depend on, like spring and robins. I saw one this morning while I was eating breakfast. He was perched on top of the fence that runs east and west on the south side of the yard. He seemed to look around, probably trying to find out whether any of the three cats were in the vicinity. Once the coast was clear, he flew into the yard, passed the clumps of leafless quakies and out of sight. No matter what weather might emerge over the next few weeks, I took comfort that my pals, the robins, had returned to my yard and to Wyoming.

Later on, just before I trundled off to work, I rolled the trash can down our long driveway to the loop road. As I was walking back up, I commented to myself what a beautiful day it appeared. Instead of entering the garage, I sauntered across my front lawn, still moist from the remains of an early morning frost, and stood in front of the kidney, filled with greenery peeking through the dead flower and sedum stalks that I hadn’t cleared before last year’s sudden snow that had covered them up.

There in the midst of the stalks, tiny tuffins of green sedum peered up at me. They seemed a bit giddy, knowing they were alive. Next to them, a few tulips were making their way out of the ground. For a brief moment, I stared at these brave, courageous green plants, breaking through the tyranny of winter.

Soon I was off to work and day of meetings. In the afternoon, one of the deans at the College stopped by to visit with my assistant. They were discussing the snow that had suddenly appeared from almost nowhere. What, I thought! Was this an April Fool’s Day joke? I had just looked outside not long ago, and nothing appeared wintery in any way, except maybe for a few low gray clouds. But meetings and others tasks overtook my thoughts and stopped any glances outside. And now this!

I stood, stretched, parted my blinds, and stood, stunned at the amount of snow that had apparently fallen over the past 45 minutes to an hour. A good three inches of thick, wet snow had fallen during this time. My car, which I could see from my window, was covered with a white blanket of snow. I hadn’t brought in my coat or my boots. If it kept snowing for the next three hours, I knew I would be trudging through snow to the car, without boots, without a coat, without gloves, and without my hat, something I wasn’t looking forward to.

Now, later in the evening, I sit at the computer, safe now at home, snug in my old tan button up sweater and slippers. I look north out the window, thankful that it isn’t quite dark yet, and see the snow still falling, falling, falling. I still can see the old sedum stalks, poking out of five inches of the white stuff that has covered up any greenery that I reveled in this a.m. The entire lawn, in fact, looks like one giant field, now covered in snow. Gone is any semblance that spring might be oozing its way through winter. Even the north window is plastered halfway up with that thick, sticky snow.

But I remember back to this morning as I sat complacently at the breakfast table, eating a blueberry bagel, smothered with strawberry cream cheese, and spooning Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats with vanilla bunches, methodically into my mouth, while watching Mr. Robin, sitting atop the fence.

Ah, the snows may blanket the earth many times before true spring finally throws off the shackles of winter. But I know that spring is here for the robins have returned, and the green things are just biding their time while singing soft lullabies beneath the snow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kneeling first behind sage brush is the best way to catch fish

Springtime in the west goes without saying. One day it is beautiful--the trees sway in the wind while the sun gently beats down on the tender shoots of wheat in the fields. But the next minute, the huge gray purplish clouds gather in the east and soon send pounding rain and hail to the ground. Water gushes down the gutters to the tiny drains at the end of each road. In reality, spring means only one thing: Fishing season is just around the corner.

When I was younger, one of my most favorite places to go was Birch Creek, mainly because the Fish and Game stocked it with fish just like one of the Mart stores stocks its shelves--full. We used to ramble up there in one of our station wagons packed to the gills with stuff. Initially, we set up tents, but it wasn’t too long before my mother talked my dad into buying a small camp trailer. It made life more pleasant, especially during those late snows that often came around July 4th in the mountains.

One particular family reunion/camping trip to Birch Creek, I was determined to catch my own fish. I was probably five or six at the time and had caught fish with my dad. Up until that time, catching fish meant I reeled in the fish after dad hooked them. I don’t know when I finally figured it out, but I knew that wasn’t real fishing. I’m sure for the first five or six years of my life that was all right, but I wanted to become a real fisherman which meant I had to catch a fish all by myself with my own pole and me baiting my own hook.

I trotted downstream to a huge hole in the bend of the creek, not too far from camp. Becoming a fisherman didn’t necessarily mean I had to cut all ties. I still wanted to hear the laughing and the faint voices of my parents. I just felt more comfortable with knowing they were within sight.

When I arrived at the hole, I climbed down the bank and stood just away from the water. My dad had taught me to sneak up, real quiet like, so as not to spook the fish. I stood behind a small sage brush and baited my hook.

According to my dad, baiting a hook was the key to catching fish, and it had to be done just right. If you didn’t thread the worm just so on the hook, then the fish would look at it and say to the rest, “Look at this shoddy job. This kid can’t even bait a hook.” Then they would all laugh, steal the worm, and swim away, leaving the fisherman with an empty hook and shattered hopes.

I was determined to have one of them pay the price for laughing at a young boy’s feeble attempt at baiting a hook; so I was extremely careful about threading the worm. When I finished, it looked good to me. Only a few bits of flesh hung off the hook.

Just like my dad had shown me, I tossed in the line at the top of the hole and let it float in. It sat for awhile then swirled downstream. Nothing. I tried the drill again. This time, it sat for a longer period of time. Then the tugging started. My heart pounded, I hesitated once, and then I yanked too hard because the line came flying out of the water and onto the bank behind me. I scrambled to see what had happened.

My worm was gone. I figured I hadn’t threaded the worm just right because the fish that struck my line pulled it off like some worm bandit. It dawned on me this was one smart fish. It knew the drill better than I did. But I was determined to catch this fish.

I reached into my bait can, really nothing more than an old Band Aid box, and pulled out a juicy worm. I carefully threaded it on, making sure every bit of it fit on my number six hook. Then I cast it upstream and let it float into the hole.

Sure enough. That worm bandit was waiting for me. But I wasn’t quite fast enough for it. When I reeled in the line, the worm was gone again. I pulled another worm, a bigger one this time, from my box, and threaded it better than the other two.

This time I did something different. I knelt behind a sage brush and said a little prayer. I figured if God could help Peter catch a huge net full of fish, He could surely make one little fish jump on my hook.

After I finished, I sneaked back to the bank and confidently tossed in my hook. When the line got to the place where my last bite had been, I was ready. I didn’t have the same tug as before. It was bigger and stronger. It must have been the bandit’s bigger brother or sister. When he tugged, I pulled, in fact pulled so hard I yanked the fish clear out of the water, and it went sailing off into the sage brush somewhere behind me.

I was so excited. I dropped my pole and started looking for my fish. I could hear it flopping around. I knew I had to find it because fish have this uncanny sense of flopping about until they can find water. And I surely didn’t want that to happen.

Within seconds, I found it. I grabbed it between both hands, scrambled up the bank, and headed for camp, yelling all the way, holding my fish high above my head. The whole camp must have thought something was definitely wrong because when I arrived, everyone had gathered to see what the commotion was.

By the time I had run that short distance, the fish was dead. I had squeezed the life out of him. Everyone congratulated me, and my dad lined it up with the rest of the fish caught so we could measure the size. Mine was the biggest one of the bunch.
I guess this catch made me a true fisherman.

Since then, I have caught a lot of fish on my own, many of them much bigger than that first fish. Somehow, though, one’s first catch is always the biggest and the best.

Some say fishing is an art, and it is all in the way you hold your mouth. I always thought it was how long you need to kneel behind a sagebrush.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekend Trip, Family, Peace, and Comfort

Just returned from a wonderful weekend with our family. Our niece was married in the Manti Temple on Saturday morning. The drive up was beautiful—early morning, snow on mountains, gray, billowy clouds that hung low on the mountains and the valley, perhaps a foreboding of what was to come in the afternoon, farmers spreading manure on partially snow-covered fields, and the then stunning Manti Temple, just as we neared Manti, sitting stoically on the hill overlooking the valley, the sleepy village of Manti, and eternity.

I personally appreciated the quietness of the temple, where the cares of the world are null and void, unless you bring them with you. The serenity was palpably peaceful, truly diametrically opposed from the frothy din, the negative, the ugliness, and viciousness of the world.

I took this picture of a leaning shack, which is situated on the side of the road just out of Nephi on the way to Manti. Not that it is such a great picture; rather, the lopsidedness of it that was revealing…

This morning as we drove home, we were awed by the drive up Provo Canyon. The night before brought snows that covered parts of Utah during a blizzard-like snow. But the stunning freshness of the Canyon was incredible. Think of the quietness of a Sunday morning drive up the Canyon, with the Provo River on your right, and sides of the mountains covered with scrub brush, leafless quakies, pines, other types of trees whose names I know not, dusted with frost and snow, creating a sense of eeriness yet softness and beauty. We just drove and felt the peace and comfort we have needed over the past few weeks.

Finally, I stopped for a moment and took these two pictures. Pictures just do not do the canyon justice, at least not this morning and the dusting whiteness that encompassed most of the canyon.

We are home now, reveling in a delightful time with our daughters, our sweet, little Emiline (see pictures below), and our family.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Enjoying the Mountains Through Music

If you love the mountains, you would have loved the Laramie County Community College’s Wind Symphony’s “Mountains” concert on Tuesday night at the Civic Auditorium.

Clamoring onto the stage, the craftily formed “Trash Can Ferrets” carried out all sizes of trash cans and buckets, complete with lids, and performed a wonderful musical number that even had my eight-month granddaughter mesmerized. Like most very small children, she doesn’t necessarily have a very long attention span, but the consistent, rhythmic banging of sticks on cans, lids on lids, and lids on ground kept her attention.

Soon, we were traveling to Colorado and Red Rocks, where the Ensemble began the mountain tour, playing "Red Rock Fanfare."

Then, we traveled way south to listen to the music of the Quechua people of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. "Volver a la Montaña" (Return to the Mountain), gently reminded me of la musica Andina (music from the Andes) that I fell in love with when I lived in Chile.

After listening to the last remnants of the flute and piccolo, we trundled across the big ocean to listen to the eruption of "Vesuvius" once again, only this eruption was wonderfully delightful music called Vesuvius.

The dancing of the citizens of Pompeii grew quieter and quieter until we had floated back across the great deep to attend an Appalachian wedding while we vigorously tapped our feet to the "Haste to the Wedding," a beautiful wedding jig from “Appalachian Dances.”

Our bobbing of the heads carried us to Lake Tahoe and the “Golden Sierra Reflections,” moving us from the quiet serenity of the banks of the picturesque lake front to the higher, majestic elevations where perhaps Joe, Hoss, Adam, and Ben Cartwright once rode stoic in their saddles across that gorgeous scenic Nevada front.

From stunning lake to Mount Rushmore loomed even larger in the horizon with the Wind Ensemble playing "Rushmore," with the brass and baritones blaring first, long and loud, calling all to come forward and bask in the glorious majesty of the presidential heads. Soon, “America the Beautiful” sneaked into the fray and buoyed us up and filled us with unwavering patriotism.

Soon, though, the mountainous music seeped into the darkness, quietly at first and then just a think wisp of a memory remained, leaving all of us in attendance with the feeling that night was exquisite.

We especially appreciate the importance of community members participating with the students in bringing to our community such rapacious music from the mountains.

Thank you, Laramie County Community College Wind Symphony and Gary Hall, and the delight you give to Cheyenne.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Life can be such a jab

Life can be such jab—
in my gut,
to my head,
to my heart;
but yet when I think
of what I can learn,
should learn,
think of the positives,
those little nuggets,
I quickly—yet sometimes
reluctantly—begin to change
my view of things,
change what I want
to be or where I am
going; or what I need
to do.
Within time, sometimes,
more time than I wish
to give up,
I sense a change
in what I feel,
what I think,
what I actually do.
Yes, I still have doubts,
still wonder if I am treading
on soft ground,
or hard ground,
or ground that will swallow
me up within seconds.
But I tread on, knowing
that rocks and downed trees,
mucky slime
will try to block my continuance,
but I tread on,
like a good trooper,
finally realizing that I control
change, I control my life,
and sometimes it doesn’t go
the way I thought it would,
but it goes
and I go with it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chile with love

Thank goodness for Facebook! That has been the only way I have been able to communicate with all of my friends in Chile after the great and terrible earthquake that hit southern Chile and caused so much damage.

When I first heard about the earthquake, I knew there wouldn't be any telephone service for some time. I jumped on Facebook and sent a message to every single person I knew in Chile, letting them know that our family was concern about their family.

My first contact was with Nico who is the son of Luisa, Mom's daughter. Their family lives in Llanquihue, a community just south of Puerto Montt. He told me all was well in Puerto Montt. Then, I was able to contact Blanca who lives outside of Santiago. She asked me for the phone numbers, which I gave her. She tried to call them but to no avail. She was very apologetic, but there was nothing to be done with the country in such chaos. She tried again the next day. Thank you, Blanca. Muchas gracias, Blanca, por ser mi amiga chilena. Sera bendecida!

Finally, I heard from Gloria from Santiago and then Carmen from Talca. Apparently, Carmen and others were sharing a computer so they could send messages to all of their loved ones around the country. Thankfully, Carmen made sure to tell me her family was fine. I asked her about a couple of other families. They were fine.

Then, I heard from Walky, also from Talca. She told me all of the woes in Talca, which were tremendous--lots of damage, especially to the old part of town. Her parents at been at their home in Pullehue, a city which was almost completely destroyed by the tsunami. Fortunately, their house was high on a hill overlooking Pullehue. They have since returned to their house.

I also heard from my good friend and former missionary companion Boris in La Union. Fortunately, the quake didn't hit that far south. But they were fine nonetheless.

Finally, I heard from Priscila from Talca. Her family was fine. Once the earthquake had subsided, her brother Manuel ran to his mother's place and found her alive and well. Oh, the love the Chileans have for their families! All of us would take heed.

So now, I have heard from all of the families that I hold near and dear to me in Chile. Yes, they have been through much, and aftershocks are common although Carmen wrote today that everything last night was quiet. As you all know, aftershocks are just as scary as the real deal, especially knowing that reshifting and shifting and reshifting may cause even more damage and create even more chaos.

My Chilean friends, have faith and courage. You have been through more than you should. But I also know that Heavenly Father has blessed you and will continue to bless you because He loves His Chilean children.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New news from Chile

Last evening, I had a few Facebook posts from my friends in Chile. Santiago looks good. Puerto Montt looks good. La Union looks good. But Talca is not good. I heard from two families. One still has a home and utilities. The other one didn't come out as well. They lost their home and have had to sleep out in the street. They have been sharing the use of one computer to let everyone know how they are doing. But they are safe with no injuries. I still haven't heard from two of the families. I continue to pray for them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Earthquake in Chile

As you all have heard, a huge 8.8 earthquake ravaged central Chile, around Concepcion and Talca, including Santiago. I haven't been able to contact anyone in Talca--the Diaz families, the Avendano families, Carmen G., and many others. Hermana Alvarez from Santiago attempted to call the families in Talca but to no avail. The lines must be down.

I did Facebook chat with some of my friends in the Puerto Montt area. They felt it, but there was no destruction there. I remember being in Chile on my mission and feeling tremors all of the time. It was a normal thing. The first time I remember feeling a tremor was in Talca. I had just finished praying, and the glasses in the cupboard behind us began to shake. Wow! I thought....must have been a powerful prayer. the people we were teaching just laughed, saying "this is a normal thing for us." It wasn't normal for us.

This all concerns me because Joanne and I were just there in November and visited many of these areas. Plus, many of my good friends are there. I have seen many pictures of the destruction in Talca. It doesn't look good. The news from Talca is sparse. If anyone knows anything, please let me know.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Boy Scouts. Here is My Tale

Winter campouts are for scouts. Some years ago, I went on one at Headquarters, an old fire service outpost, northeast of Orofino, Idaho. I had always thought winter camp out meant snow and below zero weather. Little did I know that sometimes winter campouts in north-central Idaho meant rain and slush and a slow, sure drizzle. Perhaps the next one will have trappings of campouts I used to go on—if there is one.

I remember my first winter campout as a scout. We loaded up with what we thought were the necessities of winter camping and followed the Snake River down into what everyone in Menan, Idaho, called the “Deer Parks,” appropriately named, I supposed, for all the deer who parked there periodically, looking out from behind the trees, trying to stay hidden from hunters and young boys like our Boy Scout troop.

It was one of those typical eastern Idaho winter days— freezing cold, with a touch of wind. We set up camp and then played games in the deep snow. Keeping the blood flowing kept us alive. Had we just stood around, we would have frozen to death. I suspect they would have renamed the Deer Parks, “Scout Park” and engraven the following words on our frozen statutes: “Here stands a group of scouts who through their stupidity stood in the cold and frozen snow, chatting about life and basketball, although a fire was stoked some thirty feet away.”

But we kept moving, returning often to the campfire to warm up. Finally, we began one of the natural and habitual scout cooking procedures: We cooked our tin foil dinners. Before we arrived, we—with some help from our mothers—cut up carrots, potatoes, and onions, pounded out a hamburger patty, and carefully wrapped all of it in tin foil, thus the celebrated tin foil dinner.

After the fire had some good hot coals, we each strategically placed ours in the coals, timed them carefully, and then turned them over at the appropriate time. Then, keeping careful watch, we played some more, hearing periodically the sage words of our scoutmaster: “Hey, guys, I think your dinners might be burning.” Within a reasonable time, we scuttled back to camp where we dined on tin foil cuisine. Now that I think back on the whole affair, I cannot remember eating one tin foil dinner where the carrots and the potatoes were actually cooked through or weren’t burned around the edges. Since we didn’t die, I guess we were nourished sufficiently. Of course, having red licorice around didn’t allow for starvation.

After our delicious dinner, we headed out into the dark to play “steal the flag.” Around 11:00 or so, maybe even later, we gathered around the campfire to perform another scout ritual: staring into the fire while absently stirring the fire with a long stick. Actually, the entertainment was always stirring until sparks flew up into the dark, cold night and disappeared somewhere out there, hopefully not on our tents.

While we stirred the fire, a couple of rifle shots rang out, not far away. Our first thoughts hinged on “Who would be out this time at night, shooting?” Our answer was swift: “Somebody’s out poaching deer. Let’s go catch them.”

We grabbed our flashlights and headed through the woods. We hadn’t gone far when we broke on to an open field. We could see the spotlight ahead of us, and I’m sure the poachers saw us. Who could have missed a dozen or so 12-13-year olds with bouncing flashlights running pell mell across an open field. It must have looked like hoards of large fire flies at ground zero.

The poachers quickly threw something into the back of their truck and spun out of there. We didn’t even get a close look at the license plate. What we did find was a pile of intestines, still steaming in the snow, and boot prints of the poachers. To this day, I don’t know what would have happened had we caught them red handed. We were a bunch of kids, all bundled up in snow gear, and Eveready flashlights in our hands, surely a formidable force against a couple of 30-06's.

Even today, though, I think about how “unsmart” we were by pounding across that open field, a bunch of crazy kids yelling and screaming at the top of our lungs, flashlights bouncing up and down, with a couple of poachers with their rifles, probably safety off. We were open targets—literally. They could have picked us off like bobbing ducks on an opened pond. Yet we did it anyway. We were very lucky.

After some inspection, we trudged back to camp. As we warmed by the fire, we chatted about the night’s event until it became late enough to actually turn in. I always figured if you were tired enough, you could ultimately fall asleep. But that was before my first winter campout. The biting cold on the banks of the Snake tended to seep through the thickest sleeping bag and wooliest blanket, at least mine, anyway. I froze the entire night. I think we finally learned to pray during that campout—we prayed hard for morning to come and a hot fire to warm us up.

Our prayers were answered; morning came; and we had survived. I guess could have scored it: Scouts 1, frigid winter. Once the bacon and eggs and hot chocolate slipped down our throats and landed in our stomachs, we felt much better. Food always has been a Scout’s best friend.

So after we packed up this last time while the rain drizzled steadily and then changed into dry clothes in the warm restrooms, we climbed in the van and headed out of there and home to Lewiston. As I sipped my hot chocolate with one hand and steered with the other, I chalked another one up for the scouts.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mrs. McIntire: Typing 101

For the past several weeks, I have been able to chat a bit about typing and the importance thereof. But when I sit down in front of my computer terminal, I know for a surety that the keyboard won’t change on me. Granted, I now have a 10-key pad to the right and bunch of other buttons along the top that I never use, but the keys are in the same place every time (although sometimes my fingers don’t believe it).

I have two people to thank for the consistency in life: My mom and Mrs. McIntire, my high school typing teacher. Frequently, I ask myself, “Where would I be without these two people who nagged me into doing something that, at the time, I really didn’t want to do?”

I just remember when I signed up for classes at Rigby High School, home of the mighty Trojans, my mother made sure I signed up for typing. She previously had made my brother and my sister sign up for the course. They had to endure typing and Mrs. McIntire’s constant harping about fingers on the keyboard, eyes on the paper, no swearing in class, and no banging on the typewriter because of your own frustrations.

So why not me? It was a tradition to take typing. All my cousins had Mrs. McIntire. Why was I any different? Plus, all five of my younger siblings ultimately would have Mrs. McIntire, too. It was just one of things everyone did. Besides, I think my mother knew what the future was going to be or figured I ought to take at least one class in which I would learn something.

I remember those cool orange books we had, how we could actually bend them back at the seams, the only book in the 12 years I could do that with, without getting into serious trouble. We must have been the last class in the world to type on manual typewriters: old Royal 44s (I realize many of the readers have no idea what a Royal 44 was. Just think "ancient machine," precursor to your keyboard) with a true carriage return we had to hit with our right hands in order to go back to another row.

Each morning our fingers had to line up, like first graders going to lunch, on the home row. Haltingly, our fingers chattered through the middle row: “ffjjffjjjffjj ddkkddkkddkk ssllssllssllssll aa;;aa;;aa;;. Then we started different rows: top, then bottom, then those crazy, hard to reach, hard to remember, numbers and the things we did when you shifted like @$&*# which we knew secretly meant swear word in the typing world. It was great fun to type @#$%^**(+)*&^%$#@ because we could actually swear and nobody, I mean nobody, thought anything about it--except , maybe, for Beetle Bailey. And I figured since I didn’t say it, I was not a guilty party. It was almost too fun.

I had to sit the entire year right in front of Mrs. McIntire’s desk. I didn’t mind that at all until we did one of the timed typing tests. Most of the time, Mrs. McIntire did the test with us. Even at the end of the year when I thought I was becoming Mr. Speedy Gonzalez, Mrs. McIntire’s carriage return would ding about four times to my one time. And I knew she didn’t have very many errors.

Now, Mrs. McIntire would be proud of me if she could see my fingers dance across the keyboard. Of course, I still would have to divert her attention when I hit the numbers. For some reason, I still cannot remember where they are supposed to go, and I have to look. Sometimes, I take just a little look, but I can hear her behind me on her Royal 44, typing about one zillion words per minute.

I have always wondered what happened when she got her dainty hands on a smooth, responsive keyboard. Probably, no one could have seen her fingers. What, six zillion words per minutes? I can hear her clicking away. But then again, she might have decided she didn’t “need no stinkin’ computer keyboard to type any faster.”

Actually, because of Mrs. McIntire’s training, I don’t dare look at my fingers. If I do, I cannot type anymore. But, Mrs. McIntire, wherever you are, turn your head while I type my numbers--2 4 6 8, who(m) do we appreciate...typing teachers, typing teachers. May your fingers dance across the keyboard because, I believe, keyboarding has become a national sport.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Digital Grandpa

I have become a digital grandpa!

Since our only granddaughter lives 7.5 hours from where live, we do not get to visit much. We were there the day she came home from the hospital and spent some time with her. While she was just a little thing, I think we bonded.

Then, when we returned from a conference in Santa Fe this past summer. we saw her again, changed her diaper, bathed her, clothed her in some real cute baby clothes, rocked her, listened to sleep in her new crib, held her until her mother said it was time for her to go to bed.

Then, we saw her again when she was blessed. Oh, she was so beautiful in her blessing dress--really her mother's wedding dress from which her grandma made her the most beautiful blessing dress ever. Plus, with that cute headband that she really didn't want on, she probably was the most beautifully dressed baby ever.

The biggest event was at Christmas when we were able to spend a good week with her. We played. We rocked. I taught her how to drink out of a sippy cup although she drooled more than she sipped. But she like to chug it anyway. We stared at each other. We rubbed noses. We had our pictures taken together. We giggled together. Sometimes, she cried. I took pictures of her, probably more than I should have, but she is soooooooooo....cute, just like her mother and her grandmothers. Yes, we had a ton of fun together over Christmas. But, alas, that was almost over a month ago. Now, we just chat via the video webcam...

Now, we can play peek-a-boo via the webcam, but I think she wonders who is that guy staring out at me on the camera. We talk, and sometimes she talks back or at least says something incoherent that I take as, "Hi, Grandpa! How are you doing? When are you going to come visit me again? I miss seeing you! I want to come to your house." For some reason, my daughter doesn't hear the same things that I do. She says it is mostly child gibberish.

I don't think they are coming until Easter unless we decide to trundle there, which is a very long trundle and getting longer every time we drive I-80, especially when it is snowing and blowing and the big semis run thick like salmon on their way to spawn. So, it's the webcam or nothing.

Even if I only get to see her via the webcam, I am okay with it because I am, at least, able to see her and talk to her. I don't want her to not know her grandfather. Via the webcam, she can see me, hear me talk to her, and understand that I am a real person although I appear only as a "digital" one.

Sometimes, she reaches out and tries to touch our faces on the screen. Deep down, I think she remembers us and wants to touch our faces and know that we are real. I am sure she remembers that one picture that I have now in my office of just the two of us--she sitting on my lap, her hand reaching out to touch my face or the other picture where we are both just staring at each other, wondering who will blink or look away first.

Yes, she loves her grandpa, even if I am a "digital grandpa."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Daily newspaper

Today, I couldn’t wait to get home from Church because we finally had a paper to read, yes even a Sunday newspaper. For the past several weeks, we haven’t had a newspaper because Joanne cancelled the paper on December 18, just before we went to Provo to spend Christmas. We spent a week there, and Anna Rose and Christiaan don’t get the paper. I did get to read one paper that Lonnie had brought with him. Then, when we went to Hinckley, I read their local paper. So, I have been going through withdrawals.

Yes, I have been reading the newspaper online, but it isn’t the same as yanking the paper, usually wrapped in an orange plastic wrapper, out of your box that is filled with snow. Then, when you get it home, you take it out of the plastic bag, smooth it out on the table, and then begin reading, being very careful when you turn the pages as not to tear it where the snow leaked in the bag and got some of the pages wet. From the national and local news on the front page to the weather section to the “news of record” section where I recognize some names periodically to the community page to the sports page and even the want ads, there is something about the touch and feel and read of a daily newspaper.

Joanne said, “Yes, we love to read the paper, but now I have to recycle it.”

Even that is newsworthy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fishing Rainey Creek for Memories of Long Gone Time

The Snake River meanders and rambles down through Swan Valley like a giant kid, taking its time in places and gushing in others, paying no heed to onlookers and the other creeks and streams that flow into it.

One of the creeks, Rainey Creek, ends its mountainous journey by dumping itself into the river about two miles from the Swan Valley store. Just past the store, toward Palisades Dam, stands the Palisades LDS Church, marking the road into the canyon from which Rainey Creek tumbles.

My brother-in-law John and I went to Rainey Creek on the opening day of fishing season many years ago. After leaving the paved road, we dodged mud puddles, swerved around rocks that had fallen onto the road and straddled ruts that caused my Volkswagen Rabbit to shimmy and shake.

We finally pulled off the main dirt road and onto another one, actually a two-rut path that runs along the creek and through various cedar patches. We rolled to a stop in the Cottonwoods, a campground so named because of the few trees that produce some semblance of shade and bits cotton-like fluff during the early summer.

We pulled on our waders, baited #6 hooks, placed green canvas creels around our necks, and headed upstream. We fished the new holes made by downed pine trees and the old holes that have run deep for years. We watched our lines drift quickly through each hole, periodically catching the bottom, tugging just a bit to give us the sensation of nibbling fish. Soon, we parted company and took turns fish the holes.

I stopped just above the big hole near the main campground. There was a white canvas tent and a beat up old truck parked nearby, but tent or no tent I was going to fish that hole, the best on the creek. I waded the creek and sneaked up on the back side. I dropped my in the swift current, and let it drift into the hole while I skirted the edge of the camp so I could stand on the bank.

As I watched my line drift, I was mesmerized by the swirling ripples under a branch that dipped low and touched the water like a baby playing patty cake.

All of a sudden, a real fish grabbed my hook and headed downstream. I tried to steer him to the bank, but he fought to stay in the current. Finally, when I had guided him almost in, he spit out the hook and started to roll back into the water. I rushed the fish and tried kicking him up on the bank, realizing why I was never very good at soccer. I missed him completely, and he disappeared downstream.
Disappointed, I reeled in my line and headed upstream to find John. He hadn’t caught any fish either, and we trundled to the car to eat.

In my old blue cooler I’d packed the “fisherman’s delight” (or at least one fisherman’s delight)–white bread, no butter, wrapped around cold hot dogs, with granny apples for dessert.

We ate silently in the car while two wild canaries played tag in the trees along the creek. A truck rumbled down the upper road and interrupted the silence for a few moments. Bits of dust lingered in the air and settled on the cedars along the roadside. About a quarter-mile downstream, a lone dog barked at the muffled tone of an old motorcycle. Two small kids, both wearing helmets, saw us and began to turn around, bouncing through the sagebrush until they had straightened their course back to their campgrounds.

We didn’t catch any fish that day, but as I sat there, munching on lunch and contemplating Rainey Creek, I caught instead random visions of my youth: wading in the creek in faded Levis and black Converse tennis shoes; my cousins and I racing our trail bikes down the dirt paths; climbing the hill just above camp, hoping to find a deer antler or some cool find; making rock dams across the creek next to the main campground; and watching my Uncle J.D.’s chest waders fill with water while leaning down to get a big rock for us; eating plateful after plateful of Dutch oven stew.

As I munched on my apple, I thought of Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill”:

“Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means....
In the pebbles of the holy streams.”

Surely I found a holy stream at Rainey Creek.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Past Decade and a New Decade

Amazingly, we just finished another decade! Congratulations to everyone! This decade has been one of the most interesting one I believe I have personally experienced. Take a look:

We moved from Lewiston, Idaho, to Miles City, Montana, and took a college presidency at Miles Community College.

President Bush served two terms.

Terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Another plane flown by terrorists crashed into the woods in Pennsylvania because brave people on the flight did not want it to crash into other buildings.

Two daughters graduated from high school. Both were all-state in music, speech and drama, and tennis.

The same two daughters graduated from a community college--Miles Community College and Laramie County Community College.

The same two daughters transferred to Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo.

We moved from Miles City to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to be the president at Laramie County Community College.

Mother Boltz came to live with us.

Joanne and I traveled to China, Korea, and Viet Nam.

We traveled to Sharon, Vermont, the birthplace of the prophet Joseph. We also visited Palmyra, New York; the Sacred Grove; Kirtland, Ohio, with a stop over at Niagra Falls.

Anna Rose, Hailey, and I traveled with students and faculty from Laramie County Community College to Costa Rica.

I traveled to Moscow and Saratov, Russia, with a group of Rotarians from Wyoming and Colorado.

We visited Nauvoo, Illinois, and Carthage Jail and walked down Parley Street to the Mississippi River and attended the Nauvoo Temple. Oh, what an experience that was.

Our daughters graduated from BYU. We are very proud of their accomplishments.

Both daughters married fine young men, both returned missionaries, in the temple--Idaho Falls Temple and Mt. Timpanogas Temple.

My wife and I vacationed in Cancun, Mexico.

The eldest daughter and her husband had our first grandchild, a beautiful baby girl.

We traveled to New York City, had the opportunity to capture a wonderful picture of the Statute of Liberty just as the sun went down, were lucky to capture great seats for Wicked. We also attended the Manhattan, New York Temple.

Barack Obama was elected President of the U.S., the first African-American president.

My wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary and are more in love now than when we were first married.

My wife and I took a trip of a life time--We returned to southern Chile, where I served as a missionary many years ago. What a wonderful trip we had! We had the privilege to attend the Santiago Temple. You can read more about the trip in my previous blogs.

And many, many more things that would take even more space.

Ah, the last ten years have been good ones although not without our own challenges. But the Lord has blessed us greatly, and we will continue doing the right things for the right reasons.

May we all have another wonderful decade, hopefully with more peace spread throughout the world.