Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mudlake on a Snowy Day

Mudlake on a Snowy Day

Darrel Hammon

This is an old poem that I wrote many years ago about a rabbit drive we participated in.

Jackrabbits bound everywhere.

We drive them like stupid cattle

toward slatted snow fence,

“V” shaped.

It is our duty

Like stripling warriors,

we trudge through sagebrush,

pushing snow with our thick boots.

We shoulder our wood clubs,

carefully notched and carved

for a firm grip

and battle.

From a distance,

the desert begins to come alive.

The jacks streak

like tiny sugar ants,

routed from gummy7 bears.

Ten thousand jacks try to hurdle

our carved sticks

and bundled men astride John Deeres,

El Tigres, and Panthers.

We raise our sticks again and again–

Horsemen on lathered horses,

swing drivers and putters,

yelling, “Fore!”

We banish even cottontails

to fox farms in the east.


we sit on tailgates

like plastic foot soldiers,

sipping hot chocolate,

nibbling maple bars and apple fritters,

and counting coup.

(Timberline, Spring 1993, pp. 7-8)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It’s time to thinking about planting your garden

It’s time to thinking about planting your garden”
Darrel Hammon

It’s about that time of year again to be thinking about gardening—even on the high plains of Wyoming. I don’t know about you, but those gardening catalogs are a bit addictive and sometimes intoxicating. When they come in the mail, I cannot wait to get home, open them up, and then drool over the new varieties and the old standbys. Often, I have to stop myself and think how all of this can grow in my garden.

The first time through, I circle the things I wish I could grow. This sometimes takes a ton of time because of my anxious thoughts about gardening and the potential. About half way through the catalogs, however, rationale thought begins to permeate my mind, especially when I see the hydrangeas and rhododendrons. Reality sets in quickly because I know I cannot grow them where I live today. I can only look back to places I have lived where I could grow them.

So, here are some general tips about gardening:

Planning your garden—For my garden, I try to plan out what I am going to plant, how I am going to plant, where I am going to plant, when I am going to plant, and where I am going to obtain the various plants and seeds. Usually, I already know what I can and cannot grow. There are a zillion—okay maybe not that many—sites about “garden planning.” Just Google the phrase “garden planning,” and many sites will come up, from Better Homes and Gardens to organic gardening.

Preparing the garden—The first thing I know I must do is prepare the garden. I love the thoughts of rototilling the garden, turning over the dingy soil from fall and seeing the new dirt come to the surface. What I like to do is turn it over first and then add manure, compost, or whatever you might put in to enhance the dirt. Check with your local nursery about the soil composition in order to understand how to prepare the soil. Then, I till it once more. Often, I do this in the fall, too, so that the compost and manure has time to decompose during the winter.

Note: If you want to know more about how to compost, there are several sites that will direct you, but one that might be easiest is http://www.howtocompost.org. This site states it is “designed to be a hub for all composting information.” And they are correct. On this site, you will find a plethora of articles and links to other sites in helping you learn how to compost. Plus, if you Google the word “composting,” you will discover a multitude of other sites that will dispense vast composting knowledge to you.

Buying seeds and plants—This may be one of the most difficult things to do, primarily because you need to be a realist. A good way to find out is to call your local conservation district, agriculture extension office, or go to your local nursery to see what types of plants and seeds actually can grow in your area. But buying seeds and plants can be fun. When you go to your local nursery, you can be almost guaranteed—and sometimes they guarantee them—these plants will grow. Be sure to read the labels on the plants and the back of the seed packages and ask loads of questions of the nursery people before buying. Nursery people love to answer questions. Remember: their success depends on your success.

Planting seeds and plants—To me, this is the best part—getting my hand dirty. Since I have already planned out my garden and tilled it, I begin the ritual of planting the seeds. Even though I have planted gardens almost every year of my life, I always read the backs of the packages and the little information things stuck in the plants. I want to make sure I know what I am doing. Now, I don’t plant everything at once. Some things can be planted in early spring, depending on your area, and others need to be planted once the frost leaves the ground or the temperatures stay at a certain spot on the trusty thermometer.

Taking care of the garden—Once everything is planted, both seeds and plants, the real work begins. For some reason, especially at my house, one major challenge is weeds seem to thrive. With the winds come all sorts of weird seeds that get plopped everywhere, and it seems that those little weed seeds can grow anywhere. Be sure to visit with your nursery persons to determine the best way to rid your garden of these pesky weeds. But you have to be on top of it at all times because if the weeds get ahead of you, you have lost the battle, and your harvest won’t be as great as you anticipated in the beginning. Have your hoe handy.

Enjoying the fruits of the garden –This part is one of my favorites, too. I love to watch my seeds and my plants grow up and begin to flourish. There is nothing better than fresh Swish chard and early peas right out of the garden. Early-bearing strawberries are mouthwatering. Half the time, strawberries don’t make it inside because of how tempting they are. Soon, the corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, and other delicious vegetables show their worth and add to your meals and your palates.

Enjoying the flowers—Plus, the flowers, both perennials and annuals, are magnificent, especially if you purchase both early flowering and later flowering plants. That way you will have gorgeous flowers throughout the entire summer and into the fall. Take some time and pick a bouquet of flowers to adorn your table. Because I love seeds, I let the flowers go to seed so I can harvest the seeds for future plantings.

Gardens, both flower and vegetable gardens, create a sense of worth and enjoyment. For me, working in the garden is simultaneous stimulating and peaceful. It gives me a sense of accomplishment as I look over the garden and see the fruits of my labors.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"The Lulling"

"The Lulling"
Darrel Hammon

They made writing look easy–
Steinbeck, Guthrie, Fisher, Conrad,
Stafford, Hemingway, Twain, and the rest

all huddled around their rivers, drinking
their lines from the weeping willows,
tall cottonwoods, and the howl of coyotes

somewhere in the distant mountains.
At full moon, they stared deep into the orange
until the words rose like tides,

fell crashing onto their tablets.
At times, they drank deep from river bottoms,
sucking in verbs and adjectives,

spewing them upon the crowed page.
Sometimes, sitting among the big roots,
they gleaned periods and commas

so they fit just right like a fade pair of 501's
on a weathered saddle bronc rider.
Then, as morning dawned, their writings

climbed from the darkness of dusk,
settled in the last paragraph where
they lulled us into thinking we were there.

I still search for my river, my weeping willow
where I can sense the motion of the wind,
feel of their moaning and groaning, and then have them

brush up against me like my Siamese
lending me the words, the phrases
they had been hoarding for themselves.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

“Napoleon Dynamite Knows College…”

“Napoleon Dynamite Knows College…”
Darrel L. Hammon

Like many of you, my two daughters loved the movie Napoleon Dynamite, starring Napoleon, Pedro, and a cast of other intriguing characters. After they saw the movie, there was seldom a day that passed that we didn’t hear some snippet from the movie. After listening to some of Napoleon’s and Pedro’s phrases, I realized they have some significance in describing the reasoning behind going to college.

Napoleon’s “Heck yes” to scholarships—To quote Napoleon, “Heck, yes” to answer whether you should apply for scholarships. Ironically, I have discovered that many communities offer local scholarships. For example, one community in Montana has an educational foundation that promotes “Dollars for Scholars” each year. Each year, the Foundation gives out numerous $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors from the local high school. These scholarships are transferable to any institution. Amazingly, many students do not apply for them because “it takes too much time.” Now, in my thinking, working on a scholarship application of this nature for two to four hours is worth it. To earn $1,000 at $8.00 an hour, you would have to work almost 125 hours.

Also, many community colleges offer scholarships to students who live within the college district or area. With some of these scholarships, coupled with federal financial aid, state scholarships, and other scholarships, students can go free to college. Now, if you are a parent, “free education” is worthwhile.

So, should you apply for scholarships? “Heck yes!” Go visit your high school counselor or your local college. For you high school seniors, Sign up for FastWeb.com, which matches students to scholarships. Apply often and apply early.

“Flippin’ sweet”—Napoleon says this about a zillion times; but when you think about how “flippin’ sweet” it is to invest in your future, then you will begin investing now. Yes, I understand that high school can be a drain on the brain cells, and many of you want to spend some time to wind down. If you think you want to do this, then set a specific time, and try not to go into debt. The challenge becomes when you decide to work and then fail to save anything for college. The only thing you have after a year or two working is debt, and that is a difficult thing to crawl out of.

Attending college is truly a “sweet investment.” Statistics show that over a lifetime, high school graduates make more than high school dropouts; college graduates make more than high school graduates; and people with graduate degrees ultimately make more money than baccalaureate-prepared people. Thus, an investment in your education definitely is an investment in the future, and sometimes a large one. So, don’t procrastinate; just enroll now.

Another “sweet” thing you should be aware of is the dual-enrollment/dual-credit options you might have with your high school and the local college. What this means is that you enroll in an articulated course, either at the high school or at the college and receive both college and high school credit. The “sweetness” of it all hinges on the fact that dual-credit course are normally less expensive and transfer to any college or university. I know of one student recently who had already earned 35 credits by the time she graduated from high school. She needed just one year at her local community college to earn her Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S.) before she transferred to a large, private university. And her credits transferred. Sweet!

“If you vote for me, your wildest dreams will come true.”—Wasn’t Pedro wonderful when he said this as he campaigned to be student body president? Mottos or slogans at colleges and universities usually are motivational and attempt to encourage people to attend. Often students begin college without a clue what they want to do. College and universities try to help you either find your dream or help you fulfill your dream.

Also, for those of you who think you might be too old to attend college, the average age at many community colleges around the countryside hovers around 27-30 years old. Age shouldn’t matter. What is most important is this: Those of us in higher education want you to succeed so you can make a difference in today’s workplace, which continues to constantly change, and we’ll do what it takes to maneuver you from Point A to Point B and then on to Points C through whatever. Thus, if you attend college, your wildest dreams will come true (Thanks, Pedro).

Napoleon and Pedro learned some valuable lessons in high school, and you will, too. The important thing is to start now in addressing your future as it relates to attending college. No matter what the college, attend as soon as possible. And if you have been out of school for a while, set a goal to goal. Colleges and universities will help you make the transition. Obtaining an education is truly an investment in your future.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Converting Cutthroats

Converting Cutthroats
Darrel L. Hammon

Like prophets, country creeks call
little boys on missions. They come
with fish poles, Zebco reels,
school milk cartons stuffed
with night crawlers caught between
pudgy fingers and black flashlights
the night before. Railroad culverts, old ones
whose tracks do not feel
the grinding wheels anymore,
make the best fishing holes.
The boys have come to baptize
night crawlers, hoping to convert
a Cutthroat or two.

One boy tosses in his line, lets the water suck it
into the culvert like chocolate milk through a straw.
The others find their places on the other side
where fast water has hollowed out a hole
big enough for trout and suckers.
Like missionaries at a revival,
the boys wait for Cutthroats
to take a liking to their gospel:
crawlers smooshed on #6 hooks.

While water gurgles through the culvert,
the boys squat on the bank, watch
water cress grow, while water skippers scoot
along the edge, disappearing in the dangling weeds;
cotton from the cottonwoods drift cautiously down
until the swift water captures them,
swirling them downstream and beyond.

Before too long, the boys begin to ripen
in the hot sun, forget their missions
and poles and worms; they strip
to their cut offs, hidden beneath their jeans
and fill the hole with bigger fish
who do not need bait to entice them
to rise to the surface. The cool water stops
the ripening, and laughter scares the Cutthroats
downstream where they watch the baptisms
over and over and wait to return to study
their own religion in deep shadows of the culvert.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Remembering childhood is not childish

"Remembering childhood is not childish"
Darrel Hammon

I love this quote from Ken Macrorie. I have had it for years. It goes along with the essay "Using Snippets of Life to Coax Out the Lasting Memories," which I wrote a week or two ago on this blog. If this quote resonates with you, then write some of those childhood memories.

“Remembering childhood is not childish, but wise and sweet and necessary. We go back because we loved those years of play. We go back because remembering moves us closer to the children around us today. We go back because in writing through these years we gain a second life. The best writers take this journey....These [writers] wrote of childhood at the height of their mature powers. If you are under twenty, you need even more than they to write of childhood. A writer requires some distance between him and the events he recalls—not always, but usually. Then he is unfamiliar enough with them to feel the need to relate them fully for his readers and not for himself. If he writes of yesterday’s or last year’s events, he usually remembers them so well he leaves them shrouded in his nearby intimate memory, which the reader does not share.”

Macrorie, K. (1976). Telling Writing, rev. 2nd Ed. Rochelle Park: Hayden Book Company,Inc., pp.106-107.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Dear Grandpa and Grandma: I hope they call you on a Mission"

"Dear Grandpa and Grandma: I hope they call you on a Mission"
Darrel Hammon

Questionnaire: I am writing an article for Deseret Direct. Deseret Direct began in June 2010 and provides “unparalleled values-driven content for distribution through Deseret Media Companies – most notably Deseret News, KSL, Mormon Times and LDS Church News. Deseret Direct’s mission is ‘To be trusted voices of light and knowledge reaching hundreds of millions of people worldwide.’”

The topic I am writing about is senior couples going on missions for the Church. I have tentatively titled it: “Dear Grandpa and Grandma: I hope they call you on a mission.” Consequently, I have devised a few questions that will help me write the article. If you are willing to help with the article, please send me your e-mail address @ darrel.hammon@gmail.com. The following are questions from the questionnaire:

Home Town:
Home State:
Home Ward:
Home Stake:

Currently serving: □ Yes □ No
Preparing to serve: □ Yes □ No
Home from our mission: □ Yes □ No

What helped you make a decision to serve a senior couple mission?

Describe the process of making the decision to go a mission.

Before you decided to go on a mission, what were some of the things you thought about that might prohibit you from going on a mission?

Was your family supportive of you going on a mission?

What are some specific things your family did or is doing to demonstrate their support of your mission?

Is there one thing that you worried about that you really didn’t need to worry about once you were on your mission?

What do you wish you knew before entering the MTC?

What do you wish you knew before entering the actual mission field?

Now that you are home, what are your thoughts about your missionary experience? Would you go again?

What is one thing/event that stood out on your mission?

What would you tell other senior couples who are contemplating going a mission?

Anything else that you think might be relevant to help senior couples decide to go on a mission and how to prepare?

May I quote you? □ Yes □ No

Do you have a picture from your mission you would be willing to share?
□ Yes □ No

Thank you for your time and your detailed answers. I appreciate it.

Darrel L. Hammon

Sunday, April 3, 2011

LDS General Conference

General Conference Summary
Darrel Hammon

What a wonderful General Conference over the past couple of days. While the messages were many, the counsel deep, I have attempted to summarize each talk.

Thank you, President Monson, for the announcement of the three new temples:
o Fort Collins, Colorado
o Meridian, Idaho
o Winnipeg, Canada

Thank you, Elder Perry, for your counsel about the Sabbath day and counseling us to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, to go to the House of Prayer, to offer up our sacraments, and to rest from our labors. Plus, thank you for reminding us that the greatest joy is following the Savior.

Many thanks to Sister Jean Stevens for her incredible insight about children and how we need to be just like they are so that we can ultimately become more Christ-like.

Gracias, Elder Gonzalez, por sus consejos: followers of Christ are loving people and followers of Christ make and keep covenants, noting we are happier when we live the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Elder Richards, thank you for your insight that all pain can be soothed and in Him—the Lord Jesus Christ—we can find rest to our souls.

A huge reminder from Elder Quentin L. Cook helped us understand that much we accomplish in the church is the result of the dedication of the women in the church and reminding us the women are incredible because of the way they face the challenges of life. Plus, no woman should even need to apologize for nurturing children first, and we should all be careful not to be judgmental when sisters choose to work outside the home.

Thank you, President Eyring, for reminder to us to honor and celebrate what the Lord has done to serve the poor and the needy of His children on earth and sharing with us Elder Melvin J. Ballard’s comment that “you can give a crust to the Lord, and He will give a loaf in return.”

President Packer, your testimony about how we are followers of Christ is always spot on. Plus, your counsel: If you are looking for a church that requires very little, this isn’t the one, helps us understand how much we need to do. We know you always testify of truth.

The consummate doctor, Elder Russell M. Nelson, gave us prescriptions for spiritual success: One needs to keep all of the commandments and will strengthen that faith. Obedience allows the blessings to flow and will provide spiritual and physical protection. Plus your counsel to parents: You bear the primary responsibility to help your children learn faith. Let your faith focus on the Christ. Teach that faith with deep conviction.

Thank you, Elder Maynes, for the poem “Twas a sheep not a lamb…” It is one of my favorites, one I use all of the time. Also, thanks for reminding us that being the offspring of a loving Heavenly Father is a simple doctrine, that the family is fundamental to the order of Heaven, and that our eternal happiness in not Satan’s objective. He wants to deprive us of eternal happiness with our families. He does everything in his power to destroy the family.

Thank you, Elder Samuelson, for answering the question: Who is entitled to testimony? And your answer: Anyone who is willing to pay the price.

Elder Oaks, thank you for discussing the importance of desire and saying that desires dictate our priorities. When we capture the vision of what we can become, then our desires will change.

Many thanks to Elder Ballard for his wonderful counsel about serving, stating the most important attribute of Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son is the gift of charity, and from charity springs our capacity to love and serve.

At the Priesthood session, we learned from Elder Andersen a missionary’s mission is a great opportunity and responsibility linked to his or her eternal destiny. The Lord is generous to those who love Him. Plus, a missionary’s actions prior to the mission will determine the power his/she brings to the mission.

Elder Snow, thank you for discussing hope and helping us understand that hope alone does not mean we’ll be successful and reminding us the spiritual journeys we face today require no less effort today than they did in times past.

Thanks to Elder Gibson discussing the sacred keys of the priesthood and counseling us to go to the scriptures to find out what our duties are.

President Uchtdorf, your words of wisdom are from God. We know some of us are “living below our privilege.” We know now that we need to leave the “Do It” button on and turn off the “later” button. We also learned we shouldn’t allow a day to go by without listening and doing what the spirit suggests. Finally, you counseled us to become experts in the doctrine of the gospel and the priesthood.

President Eyring, thank you for your counseling regarding our “priesthood school” and how we need to sit in counsel with our fellow brethren in our quorums and groups and “lift” each other and to learn about God’s will and His mysteries and the keys to the kingdom.

Oh, dearly beloved President Monson, your prophetic counsel to not subject ourselves to the filth of the world comes at no better time. We know our strong testimonies are the surest way to protect us from evil and that we need to keep them vital. Your great wisdom regarding marriage and keeping our marriages alive will help all of us. Plus, the single brethren who have not married need to begin thinking seriously about being serious.

On Sunday morning, President Uchtdorf said it would be wise to turn down the volume control of noise of the world so we can hear the quiet promptings of the spirit. Plus, he mentioned the Lord expects His members to open up their mouths. The best way to preach the gospel is through example.

Elder Johnson, thank you for helping us under affliction is part of the mortal existence—to provide a trial of our faith and that personal growth should be an outcome of our afflictions.

Bishop Burton, thank you for your counsel regarding service: We honor those in our day those who reach out to the poor, feed the hungry, minister to the sick, visit the captive—this is the sacred work the Savior expects from his disciples.

Thanks to Sister Allred for her counsel that we must love and serve one another—the essence of discipleship.

Elder Bednar, your insight continually amazes me. Juxtaposing experiences with light, light from entering a room and turning on the light and the gradual light from the rising of the morning sun, was incredible and will require more pondering on all our parts. As we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, we can walk with confidence that God will bless our steps and inspire our utterances.

Again, President Monson, thank you for discussing temples and the importance of them. We know that no sacrifice is too great to make it to the temple and that temples are more than just stone and mortar. They are filled with trials and testimony; sanctified by the spirit. Thank you for reminding the young people—and all of us—to always have the temple in your sights. Never do anything that will compromise this goal

Elder Scott, we appreciated the tenderness with which you spoke this afternoon, for your love of your wife, reminding us to have faith in the promise of the Lord, especially regarding marriage and children and the eternal nature of these things.

Elder Christofferson, your message today was extremely poignant to me about the plan Heavenly Father has for each of us and that often we need to be willing to accept a correction, yes even a divine chastening. We need to truly become self-correcting, noting we all need to pray for His inspired corrections.

Elder Pratt, thank you for inspiring us to continue to pay our tithing and understanding the Lord’s richest blessings are our families and are spiritual.

Elder Robbins, we get the “to do” list vs. the “to be” list. Bottom line is this: we need to do the things we know we need to do while simultaneously “being” who we need to be.

Elder de Hoyos, will call the Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for it is the name the Lord provided for us through revelation.

Thank you, Elder Grow, for your poignancy today about your brother and the miracle of the Atonement and how the Lord allows us to put behind us our past mistakes.

Elder Holland, thank you for your insight about us being the ensigns of the world and to reflect in the days ahead on the unique phenomenon General Conference is. We will also testify to everyone that God not only lives but HE speaks for our time in and the counsel we have heard is under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Your strong testimony of the President Monson is contagious! We love President Monson.

President Monson, your concluding remarks about our Heavenly Father being cognizant of each of us. We will strive to good citizens of the countries and communities where we live. We humbly thank the Savior for not turning back. Indeed, He taught us how to live; He taught how to die.

Thank you for a wonderfully joyous and spiritual conference.