All posts by dhalverson

Bingo Prompt

The Game is different from bingo, only in that, instead of matching letters you write for ten minutes about a specific prompt. Here are 4 of my responses.

Bingo Prompt: “Write About Sinking”

Janeen and I and our son Andy and his family were enjoying a weekend on Lake Powell. Our boat is not large, a 22 foot Hydroswift with a cuddy cabin. The boat runs well for a 25-year old boat. The 350 cubic inch V8 puts out 311 horsepower.
We had just left Forgotten Canyon where we had beached the boat on shore while we walked to see some ancient American Indian ruins. We waded through some muddy areas, and when we got back into the boat, we wanted to get clean; so after we got back into the main channel of Lake Powell, we decided to take a swim to clean off. Most of us jumped into the water, but Andy was still in the boat when Andy’s son Connor, age 6, asked why there was water coming out of the side of the boat. “That is the bilge pump,” Andy replied as he wondered why the bilge pump needed to run. There was no reason why there should have been that much water in the boat. Then he noticed that the rear end of the boat was lower in the water that it should be and that it was taking on water. He called to me that the boat was taking on water, and I said I would check the drain plug. I dove under the water at the back of the boat, and even though I did not have any goggles on, I could see that there was no plug in the boat. The boat was sinking.
I immediately put my thumb in where the plug should have been to stop the flow of water into the boat, but I could not stay in that position and get my head out of the water to breathe. I came back up for air and yelled, “There is no plug!” I took a deep breath and went back down to put my thumb back in the whole while Andy looked frantically for a plug. I always kept a couple of spare plugs in the boat, one under the foot rest below the steering wheel and one in the tool box under the front passenger seat. Andy went for the toolbox and found the plug in there and gave it to me as I came back up for air. I put the plug in the hole and stopped the intake of water, but we had a dangerous amount of water in the boat to deal with. Once everyone was back in the boat, we crossed our fingers to see if the engine would start, and it did, but the bilge pump had a lot of work to do. We used a large Big Gulp cup as well as a bailing pail to get as much water out of the boat as possible while we drove the boat at a high speed. Andy thought driving the boat fast would keep the engine from taking in water, and who was I to argue.
We all thanked Connor for alerting us and saving the boat and possibly our lives.

Bingo Prompt: “Write about a shade tree.”
From 1947 to 1952, I lived in a small frame house about 50 feet behind my father’s parents’ home about 2800 South on Highland Drive. My mother’s mother, a widow, lived in a nice walk-out basement apartment in my father’s parents’ home. I had three loving grandparents on that site to spoil me, cook my breakfast, and comfort me when I was disciplined for doing the things that little boys do. The space between the two houses was a fun place to play — there was grass, flowers, an arbor, and a large shade tree in the middle. My sister and I played games around that tree, climbed the tree, and enjoyed the cool summer shade the tree provided.
My family moved away from that home when I was six years old, but my father’s parents stayed in their home; and sometimes when visiting my grandparents, I would wander back to that tree and remember the fun times there.
As the years went by, my father’s parents died, my father died, my mother remarried and her second husband died, and the two homes, my home and my grandparent’s home, were torn down to be replaced by Greystone Condominiums.
It was about 45 years after we moved from that home that my mother, by then twice widowed, could no longer care for her home. She rented a nice apartment near town, but when those apartments were to be turned into condos, she either had to move out or buy. She did not want to buy her apartment, so I offered to help her find another apartment. The apartments we looked at in her price range were not the kind of apartments I wanted for her. My business was doing pretty well, so I decided to purchase a condominium for her.
I gave her a figure for rent that was below what the condo cost me, but was in her price range. I purchased one of the Greystone Condominiums thinking she would enjoy moving back into the old neighborhood.
One day my sister and I were walking around the grounds outside my mother’s condo and I saw this large shade tree. I pointed it out to my sister and she told me that is was the same tree we had played around as kids. The tree had survived all the demolition, the new construction, and the passage of time. Again, the memories were there, embedded somewhere within me, and I recalled the games we played around that wonderful tree.
Do trees remember the children that loved them? Did the tree recognize my sister and I as my sister recognized the tree? If trees do remember, what stories could they tell? It makes you wonder.

Bingo Prompt: “Someone’s Playing the Piano”
I married the woman who plays the organ in church. She is a very good organist and pianist, and has been playing the organ in our ward for 15 years. She describes herself as a pianist who plays the organ. She began accompanying on the piano at 12 when she accompanied the school orchestra in the sixth grade. She played the organ or piano in every ward she was in ever since. At times she has had so many requests to accompany vocalists, musicians, and choirs that scheduling them was a problem. With all that, she still needs to practice, and practice is where I benefit. I love the live music in our home while she plays Christmas carols, popular music, classical music, or hymns. Since she plays for church, she mostly practices hymns, which are enjoyable, but not as enjoyable to listen to as some of her other favorite pieces such as Clair de Lune. Hymns are religious poems put to music. They are less melodic, more rigid, and sometimes follow a tedious common format, which makes the occasional romantic pieces much more enjoyable.
My wife also plays for the church choir, and usually those pieces go beyond the typical hymn and are more melodic. I go with her to choir practice and sing in the choir. I enjoy singing, but I would enjoy playing the piano even more. I have had private voice lessons on two occasions, but after a little criticism, I would quit. My father, Ray Halverson, was a world-class baritone. The New York Metropolitan Opera tried to recruit him, but he did not want to move to New York. He sang in local operas, for funerals as a member of the Larkin Mortuary staff, and regularly on a live Sunday evening radio program before technology made recorded music sound well enough for radio. After a few months of voice lessons, I sang a piece for my sister and her husband. When I finished, my brother-in-law said, “He is no Ray Halverson, but it wasn’t bad.” Well, I took that as criticism and that was all the criticism I needed to quit taking lessons.
I always had a piano in my home, but until the last 11 years when I married Janeen, the pianos were not played on a regular basis. I took piano lessons for one year — the obligatory year when I was a boy, but I dropped it and later took up easier instruments, the trumpet and the guitar. I played the trumpet in junior high school, and the guitar in high school. It would have been nice to play the piano instead of the trumpet in junior high and not have to carry the trumpet to and from school every day.
I was in high school during the era when folk music was popular and hootenannies were in style. I enjoyed such groups as The Kingston Trio, The Brother’s Four, The Lettermen, and The New Christie Minstrels. I had a couple of friends who would walk around the neighborhood at night playing our guitars and singing folk songs.
I wish I had continued with the piano since there is always one around and the piano serves as the basis of most music. My trumpet and guitar have long since gone to Deseret Industries, but the piano is always there. I think my early aversion to the piano was a matter of intimidation. My parents were all very musical. My mother played the piano and she, my father and stepfather were all members of the Tabernacle Choir. They were often critical of other musicians so I did not want to play or sing around them for fear of their criticism. I could play the trumpet and guitar mostly away from home. I always have it in the back of my mind to take up the piano again, especially since I may be more capable of handling criticism now.
Bingo Prompt: “We Go Out After Dark”
Sitting outside with friends and family after a hot summer day enjoying the cool breeze coming down from the Canyon and watching the children playing Hide and Go Seek and other after-dark games are beautiful memories. Those summer evening games as a child are some of my most memorable recollections.
My parents had a lot of friends, and they would often have my sister and I ride with them to the homes of those friends while they visited. Usually those friends had children that we could play with, and if not, we went there often enough that we got to know the kids our age in their neighborhoods. They were usually playing outside, and we could join them in games of Steel the Flag, Pomp Pomp Pull Away and, of course, Hide and Go Seek. If friends of our parents came to visit our house and brought their children, the first thing we would do is go outside to play.
In those days there was little concern about child molesters, kidnappers, or any other type of bad people. I remember leaving our front door open all night long to allow the canyon breeze to come in through the screen over the front door, which had no lock on it. We never had a problem doing that. Now days, however, things are different. We have a registered sex offender living a few blocks up the street, so we don’t want to let our grandchildren play outside, especially after dark without adult supervision. Were there sex offenders in the old days? Yes, probably, but they were fewer in numbers and they were not registered, so we did not know about them.
Those summer-night activities being reduced to only a memory is also due to Daylight Savings Time. It does not get dark now during the summer until after it is time for children to go to bed. I am sure there are dozens of reasons in favor of Daylight Savings Time: It saves energy by not having to turn on the lights as soon in the evening, and fewer pedestrians are hit by cars during daylight savings time.
I still want to enjoy a summer evening after dark, so I go to bed later and suffer from too little sleep during the summer. I also miss watching the children play their after-dark games on summer evenings. I would like to join Arizona where there is no Daylight Savings Time, even if I am too old for Pomp, Pomp, Pull Away – or am I?

Camping (?)

CAMPING (?)

I was never an avid camper, but I did consider it to be an enjoyable adventure. I camped as a boy scout, both in summer and in winter. My stepdad took me camping and gave me his WWII army surplus mummy bag. This old bag made the winter scout camping trips particularly enjoyable when the other scouts were freezing and I was warm. The other scouts were highly motivated to get up in the morning to build a fire while I stayed on bed. My parents took me and my sisters on several camping trips, including one summer when we camped for a weekend in a tent on Doheny Beach in southern California.
As an adult, I took my family tent camping on several occasions. Once I packed all the gear for two adults and two children including tent, ground cloth, air mattresses, sleeping bags, stove, chairs, table, food for a long weekend, and clothing into our Volkswagen Beetle. Later we camped in Moab for the Easter jeep safari, and on the shores of Lake Powell, but we had a larger vehicle than the Beetle.
Years later, when my marriage was falling apart, the family stopped taking camping vacations. I spent many weekends going to BMX races with my sons, while my wife and daughters went their own way.
After getting divorced and remarried, my new wife Janeen and I wanted to be with each other as much as possible, especially on our weekends. This reinstatement of life styles, that included the bliss of spending time with someone who also wanted to spend time with me, once again included camping.
My wife’s extended family enjoys an annual camping trip together. Her extended family includes a mother, two sisters, and two brothers, their children and their families and our children and their families. I wanted to impress my new in-laws by making meticulous preparations for this camping trip. I borrowed a tent, and made sure we had warm sleeping bags, air mattresses, pillows, extra blankets, chairs, a table, stove, cooking utensils, food, and as many of the comforts of home as possible while living in a tent for four or five days.
My wife wanted to support me and helped with arrangements. She had owned a motor home, but it was about 30 years old, had leaked for years, and was trashed inside. She gave it away to a charitable organization for the tax deduction. That explained why she did not have a tent and other camping equipment that would be expected with annual camping trips.
It was the word “camping” that threw me. I did not make the connection between the motor home and the term “camping.” We packed everything into our SUV and headed for the mountains. We arrived at the campsite early and chose a good site for our tent. It was a large campsite with what appeared to be more than enough room for even a large extended family.
As the others began to arrive, however, I realized that the term “camping” meant something different to me that it did to the rest of my wife’s extended family. Each family arrived pulling well equipped travel trailers, campers, motor homes, or toy haulers. Their idea of “roughing it” was having to manually adjust their portable satellite dishes for their TV reception.
The members of this group were kind and accepting of me, a newcomer to their family. They did not say anything negative about my lone tent among all their luxury mobile homes. Their idea of camping, however, did not extend to the lowly status of a tent. I took it in all in stride, and although I was somewhat embarrassed about my plebeian status, I got back at them by teasing them about their concept of “camping.” I have continued to tease my wife about her idea of “camping” since then.
I always enjoyed the annual camping trips, but instead of borrowing a tent, I arranged for some kind of travel trailer or motor home for my camping facilities. Wanting to fit in, I have since purchased a truck which is fully capable of towing a travel trailer, but I have not been able to justify purchasing my own camping “home,” partly because it reminds me of my mom and stepdad, who owned either a travel trailer or motor home after their retirement, and I associate those vehicles with being old. In my heart, I hope I never get that old — even though I am already older than my stepfather was when he died.

Salt Lake City’s Main and State Streets

Main and State

I remember approaching Salt Lake City at Christmas time from the north by driving up Victory Road, and as the car neared the west side of the State Capitol, a spectacular view of the Christmas lights on Main Street would appear. Prior to the construction of I-15, that was our family’s customary route returning home from visiting my aunt and her family in Centerville.

Main Street was beautiful and the activity hub of the city for shopping, banking, entertainment, and business in general before shopping malls and suburban sprawl. The street was wide thanks to Brigham Young, who designed the streets wide enough for a team and wagon to turn around. The Christmas lights on Main Street continued for several blocks, but the street was lit all year long for about six miles until just beyond 45th South where it merged with State Street, a street equally lighted and just as wide that ran parallel to Main Street from the State Capitol one block east and continued south for about 16 miles.

The wide, straight, and lighted Main Street and State Street contributed to an exquisite view looking south from the north bench above Salt Lake City. Brigham Young not only made the streets wide, but they all ran precisely either North and South or East and West and were numbered rather than named, which made addresses easy to find. My address was 3236 South 2600 East and could be found easily without a map at 2600 East and just north of 3300 South. It is a simple coordinate system.

Gasoline was less than a quarter a gallon, there were only three or four TV stations to watch, and there was no internet or cell phones. Streets were not just routes, but were objects used for recreation and socializing by young people who were old enough to drive, but had not yet encumbered their lives with homes and families and all the responsibility that comes with those things. Also, automobile manufacturers were under no pressure to build fuel-efficient engines, and muscle cars with powerful engines were very convincing status symbols.

Sunday drives, just for the sake of driving, were commonplace. I remember as a child taking a drive in the country to pass the time. We often found ourselves at the south end of the valley on Dimple Dell Road. As a teenager, when I had my driver’s license and access to a car, I would drive up Parley’s Canyon to Parley’s Summit, just to let off steam when I was frustrated. In 1970, our plans for New Years Eve fell through, and for something to do, we decided to take a road trip to Disneyland over the three-day weekend. Five of us drove to L.A. in one day, went to Disneyland the next day, and drove home the next. At $.25/gallon, and 25 miles per gallon in our Volkswagen Bug, the round trip cost about $15.00 for gasoline and $14.00/night for a hotel room for two nights. We did have to pay to get into Disneyland, but all in all, it was a cheap trip. We thought nothing of driving that far for one day of fun.

Driving was a key part of dating. I went on one date before I was old enough to drive, and my stepfather had to drive Tanya Chatterton and me. It was just too embarrassing, and that was the only time I dated before I got my license and could drive myself. Once I had my license, however, it was like a license to date as well as to drive. Driving gave me control of my life. It gave me the freedom to go where I wanted with whom I wanted.

Millcreek Canyon was a good drive while on a date. A girlfriend and I could stop for a picnic, or just take a walk in the forest. I knew every curve in that canyon where I could pass and where I had to slow down.

Romance was best pursued in a car, especially while parked high on the bench overlooking the city. There were several popular parking spots overlooking the city, but the most popular was Passionate Flats on the north bench looking down at the view of Main and State Streets. Another one was a landscaped, but vacant lot at the top of Olympus Cove called The White House.

Romance eventually gave way to style. The first full-size passenger car I saw with bucket seats and a floor shift was a 1962 Chevrolet Super Sport with a 409 cubic inch engine. The same engine The Beach Boys sang about: “She’s real fine my 409…” Bucket seats looked good with the console and four on the floor between the seats, but they put a real cramp in romantic activities while “parking.”

State Street was a key element in the mating game in Salt Lake City. Young people would drive up and down State Street looking for potential relationships with the opposite sex, but sometimes “dragging” State Street was just to show off your hot muscle car, or just your blue dot taillights. It was the same scene represented in the movie American Graffiti, complete with drive-in restaurants with carhops, but I don’t remember carhops on State Street moving between cars on roller skates. That entire scene from American Graffiti was repeated on State Street every Friday night. Even my music teacher my junior year at Olympus High School was a beautiful young blonde who drove a white ’57 T-Bird. She was single and I’ll bet she spent time on State Street. There were several drive-ins in Salt Lake, but the most popular was called Don Carlos on 9th South and State Street with its famous fry sauce – a combination of ketchup, mayonnaise, worcestershire sauce, and possibly some other secret ingredients. Hires Hamburgers was also a popular drive-in with fry sauce, but it was on 7th East and 4th South. Hires is still there with car hops and the same fare including fry sauce as was served in the 60’s, but Don Carlos did not survive the demise of dragging State Street.

So what factors contributed to the demise of this culture that held the car in such a prominent position in the teenage romance scene? First, was the increase in the cost of gasoline where a handful of people who controlled the petroleum industry decided that, if they worked together, could eventually raise the price of gasoline tenfold. Along with that increase came an increased awareness of air pollution from automobiles, which led to pollution-filtering equipment attached to engines in cars that resulted in a dramatic reduction in gas mileage to 4 or 5 mpg that further raised the cost of driving.

These two factors led to a need to get more mileage out of a gallon of gasoline and the decrease in popularity of big and powerful engines. The muscle car soon was no longer a macho symbol; lake pipes were outlawed, noise ordinances were adopted, and a group of frustrated old men (the Utah Legislature, who wanted to get back at those guys who had better looking and faster cars than they had when they were young) outlawed dragging State Street. They passed a law that would ticket any car that passed the same place on State Street three times within a certain period of time. Driving eventually was no longer a conduit for recreation or letting off steam. Homes were built on Passionate Flats and the White House, and cars were only used for just getting from place to a place to just “hang out” in parking lots.

Gravity Hill is another street that lawmakers legislated away. It is at the end of the road that surrounds Memory Grove at the mouth of City Creek Canyon where it meets the road on the east side of the State Capitol. It is actually an optical illusion. It appears that you are going down hill, but when you let your car coast, it appears to coast up hill; hence its name, “Gravity Hill.” Gravity Hill is still there, but it cannot be experienced legally. You would need to drive the wrong way on a one-way street to experience it. It is just one more example of lawmakers spoiling something fun.

I remember traveling from Salt Lake to California through Nevada. When we approached a town, there would be a sign that said, “Speed Zone Ahead.” We would slow down to 25 or 30 mph while in the town; and as we left the town, there was another sign that said, “Resume Normal Speed.” There were no speed limits between towns and you could make real good time in those muscle cars, traveling well over 100 miles per hour.

President Richard Nixon “nixed” another unique driving experience with his 55 mph speed limit law that was meant to save gasoline when the petroleum industry created their oil crisis to justify the sharp increase in the price of gasoline. The theory was that cars would get better gas mileage at 55 mph than at 65 mph. Nixon required states to enforce the 55 mph speed limit or face losing federal highway funds. Previously, many remote highways in states such as Nevada and Montana had no speed limits. Montana actually gave “Nixon tickets” for “wasting energy” rather than for speeding. Most drivers were irate over the law, but the trucking industry was hit hardest since revenue was paid by the mile, and miles per day were reduced. However, the radar detector business boomed.

Main Street is no longer what it was either. The beautiful view from the top of the hill at the west side of the State Capitol was lost when the LDS Church took over Main Street between North and South Temple for a garden. The garden is attractive, but it is the ugly gaping hole that is the entrance to an underground parking facility that now dominates the view of Main Street from the North and has destroyed any aesthetics that once were or might have been, even with the garden that was once Main Street.

Beyond the garden, Trax has taken over Main Street. I once had a company with offices on the third floor of an office building overlooking Main Street between 1st and 2nd South. We watched the Days of ’47 Parade every 24th of July from the windows of our office as it passed down Main Street as it had done for over 100 years, but the Trax tracks caused the parade to move to other routes.

Shopping has moved from Main Street to the suburban malls or the Internet. The LDS Church has made an effort to rebuild a shopping experience on Main Street with the City Creek Center, but that has affected only one block of Main Street. The other two of the three blocks that once made up the hub of activity are all but deserted.

Friday nights on State Street are now no different from any other night. People are just driving from one place to another. State Street is no longer an event in itself. When dragging State Street was banned, young people began to gather instead in friend’s homes, parking lots, bars, or dance halls such as The Boot in downtown Salt Lake.

Many things give way to progress, and I guess you have to say that this is progress. It is certainly faster to travel across the country on Interstate Freeways, but we never get to see the small towns that we had to slow down for about every 20 miles or so. In the days of horse and buggies, one could only travel about 20 miles a day, and towns were built to provide a place for travelers to sleep for the night. Those towns (if they still exist) don’t have the travelers to help maintain their economy anymore.

Some vehicles still function as virility advertisements, but the justification for these vehicles has been taken off our streets to rugged trails in the form of “off road vehicles.” If you ever find yourself in Moab, Utah on Easter weekend, you will see a nauseating display of oversized wheels, roll bars, and the drop steps needed to climb into the doors on raised vehicles that have little resemblance to what they looked like when they came from the factory.   It is my opinion that anyone with an IQ over 75 would feel out of place in such company.

Do I miss muscle cars and dragging State Street, or do I just miss being 16 again? My daughter has never heard of Gravity Hill, and there is something nostalgically sad about that. I love my new Chrylser with all its electronic features. I have thousands of songs stored in a sound system that was unheard of when I was a teenager. The big V8 engine gets almost as many miles per gallon as my old Volkswagen Bug, and there are no loud pipes or racing slick tires that say, “I am a tough guy,” and if it did, no one would be impressed anyway.

Remembering the Old Neighborhood

 

Memories from the Neighborhood

I did not want to experience my old East Millcreek neighborhood from memory so my wife Janeen and I drove to our old neighborhoods. Growing up LDS, we thought of the “neighborhood” as the LDS Wards we lived in. Although Janeen and I did not know each other then, we grew up less than two miles from each other, but since we were in different wards, we were in different neighborhoods. I delivered news papers for several years and my route coincided with the boundaries of my ward. I had to go to every house on my paper route once a month to collect the monthly subscription fee, so I knew almost all he families.

Large old farmhouses dating back a hundred years anchored newer and smaller homes built when the many of the old farms gave way to the post WWII building boom of the late1940’s and 1950’s. Janeen’s family moved into her home in 1951 and my family moved into mine in 1952. The homes were new, the children were young, income tax was 5%, and the parents were aspiring to the middle class when women were meant to stay home as homemakers raising their children and completing the housework wearing dresses, lipstick, elegantly coiffured hair, and smiles always on their faces.

At that time, a few of the old farms remained, but they were soon replaced by either duplexes or more small homes. Now, as we drove through the neighborhood, we saw that some of those small homes have been replaced by much larger homes built in place of two or three of the smaller post WWII homes. These large homes next to the smaller homes shaped an unmistakable contrast between the 800 – 1000 square foot homes built for the aspiring middle class in during the post WWII boom and the much larger 5000 – 6000 square homes built for today’s aspiring upper middle class who want new large homes, but want to stay close to downtown and are willing to buy two or three smaller homes to tear down, just for property in a respectable, east side neighborhood.

We stopped and parked across the street from the house I grew up in. Two of my friends lived in neighboring homes that backed up to the south side of my home on 33rd South, but their homes had been replaced by an office building. My home was still there and appeared to be in excellent condition.

I got out of the car and boldly walked down the driveway to see if my old swing was still there. Although the landscaping in the large back yard had been redone and our cherry tree cut down, my old swing was still there. It was large swing that was made from 3 pipes; two 12 foot long 6 inch vertical pipes connected at the top by a 4” horizontal pipe. My sister LuRae and I enjoyed that swing before we moved to our new home and my dad wanted to take it with us when we moved.   For stability, the pipes were cemented in the ground somewhere between 4” and 6” deep. He dug up the swing and chained it to the back of a borrowed truck and dragged it, with the cement still attached at the bottoms of the posts, along Highland Drive to 33rd South and then East on 33rd South to 26th East. I recall that roads in those days were not smooth asphalt as they are today, but more like gravel and dirt so I guess he got away with it. My mother said she could hear him dragging the swing while he came up 33rd South. I remembered climbing up those poles and learning to pump while swinging and then bailing out at the highest point to land not he soft grass beneath.

I was six years old when we moved into that home and my grandfather did most of the finished carpentry. He showed me how to install a door knob and I proudly installed all the interior door knobs in our new home. The exterior knobs were a little more complicated and installing them exceeded my technical capabilities. Our family spent that summer getting our new home in order. I rode on the pallet my father dragged to smooth out the dirt prior to planting lawn. I also remember trying to help, while not getting in the way, while my parents painted and hung wallpaper. I remember my mother transplanting some flowers she called “forget me nots” from our old home to our new home as a way of staying connected somehow.

Our first winter in that home, I remember my father, wearing a new green and white plaid flannel shirt my mother made him while he built me a snowman in our front yard. A couple of days later he was not feeling too well and thought he was coming down with something. After a few days he felt even worse, he saw a doctor and they put him in the hospital. It turned out he had polio. 1952 was the worst year for polio when 58,000 cases were reported and 3,145 people died from polio that year. That was just three years before the Salk vaccine came out and since then polio became rare.

The next few months were difficult for us. My mother spent as much time as she could at the hospital, and my father’s prognosis was bleak. I remember her telling us that my father would likely be paralyzed, but he would be able to drive a car if it had automatic transmission, which was a very new concept in cars then. My grandmother, Muzz, lived with us and took care of LuRae and I while my mother was at the hospital.

One interesting thing happened just before Christmas. Mom, LuRae and I were driving up 33rd South between 11th and 12th East when we saw some stuffed animals in the road. We stopped and found that a box of 12 must have fallen off a truck and were in pretty good shape, except for the one we ran over. LuRae and I each kept one and we gave the rest out for presents. That was nice, since Mom had no time left for shopping.

It was a particularly bad winter and my mother drove through snow most of the time to and from the county hospital on 21st South and State where the county offices are now.

Children were not allowed in hospitals then and the only time LuRae and I were able to see our father in his iron lung was on Valentine’s Day the next February. LuRae and I never saw him again. Our father died on the 23rd of that month. LuRae, Muzz and I were sitting eating breakfast when Mom and Bishop Tame, (he had been our Bishop in the Grant ward when my father was his councilor) came through the kitchen door. From the look on my mother’s face, Muzz new that my father had passed away. There was a lot of crying and I figured I should be crying, so I tried to cry a little too. Being only seven years old, I did not feel the full impact of losing a father, but it came to me gradually over the next years and decades. The real tears did not come for a long time and I they still come from time to time.

 

Dick and Beverly Jolley lived across the street from us. Beverly was a beautiful woman who taught piano. I took lessons from her for a year. Dick Jolley got me a job with the florist next to his men’s clothing store when I returned home from my mission. Not long after that, he just disappeared. From his office, it appeared as if he had been kidnapped, but there was no ransom demands, and no body was ever found. It left Beverly in a real mess. She had no income, a lot of debt, and since his death was not confirmed, she could not collect on his life insurance. It was probably a decade later, when a young man who, as a child, had know Dick and was on a mission in Southern California when he recognized Dick while attending an LDS ward. Dick was busted! It turned out, that he had left his business, his wife, his three children, and just ran off with another woman from Bountiful and they started a new life together.

 

After reminiscing about my home, we began to drive through the neighborhood. Our ward was blessed with beautiful young women my age or just a year or two younger and I pointed out their homes as we drove by them. I associated somewhat with these girls in church functions, but I was too shy to date them. A couple of memorable moments stand out. I was on a church picnic in Millcreek Canyon and went for a walk alone with Susan Gallagher. As we were walking, I put my arm around her and felt the transition from her small waist to her hips. It ignited hormones in my body that I would never forget and I would never be the same. I walked her home that night and wanted to kiss her badly, but I did not have the nerve. That missed opportunity is one of my many regrets. At another ward function a bunch of girls and boys were in a car. There were more of us that there were seats and Mary Billiter had to sit on a lap. Instead of sitting on one boy’s lap, she laid across several boys including me. Her bare legs were on my lap and I had no place to put my hands but on those beautiful bare legs. It was wonderful. I was able to feel her legs in a totally acceptable and innocent way and they were some of the best legs ever. That was an experience similar to, but more intense, than the walk with Susan Gallagher.

Those “awakening” feelings were enhanced at school football and basketball games where the cheerleaders would stand with their backs to those of us in the stands and perform their cheers. I grew a particular fondness for the back or women’s knees. In particular, Illana Johnson who did her “Hey Yama Yama” cheer. She had some moves in that cheer that were incredibly sexy. I still think of back of the knees as the sexiest part of a woman’s legs. My entire sexual awakening thing seemed to progress one body part at a time.

 

We drove by Ronny Cottrell’s house who had been a year older than me. It seemed like the boys my age in the ward were of two distinct types: nerds or juvenile delinquents – nothing in between. In the LDS Church, when a boy is 12-13 years old he is a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood which means he can pass the sacrament in Sunday School and Sacrament meeting. The president of our Deacons quorum was Ronny Cottrell. He was of questionable character because his mother worked and his parents were not active in the church. He was not a nerd, but just the opposite – the leather jacket type.   We all liked Ronnie, he was a leader, and the year he was president of our Deacons quorum, the quorum received a trophy for having 100% attendance at sacrament meeting for the entire year. Sometimes, during sacrament meeting, after we passed the sacrament, some of the Deacons would go out in the parking lot and find those cars that had keys in them or were the kind of GM cars where a key was optional and they would drive the cars around the parking lot. I never did that, I only watched once, but Ronnie got into helping himself to cars a bit too much. When Ronnie was 14 he was caught stealing one too many cars and was sent a to reform school in Ogden.   He and some other boys escaped and were found, a short time later, by police officers. While being driven back, one of the boys in the back seat grabbed the drivers head, the car swerved into the oncoming traffic, and all were killed in a head-on collision.

I had seen several people in coffins including my father, but when I saw one of my friends lying in a coffin in a sport coat, it had a affect in me, as if to know that what we did was not just fun and games anymore, but our actions could have serious consequences. Ronny was only 14 years old, but I heard that he did not die a virgin.

 

We drove by Janeen Brady’s house. She and her husband both taught piano lessons, but Janeen was the most talented. Janeen composed musical numbers and wrote plays that the members of the ward would perform.   I was one of her favorite performers and played the lead role in several musicals she wrote. I sang solos, acted, danced, and I had a great time doing it. I even remember the words to a song when wrote that I sang as a solo in a play that she also worte. “I want to marry Mary, she’s the only girl I’ll ever love. I want to Marry Mary, she’s the one that fits me like a glove. And if I live to be a hundred and ten, I know I’ll never find a girl who makes me tumble and then, she leaves the other’s far behind, she’s always on my mind. I want to Marry Mary….” (or something like that) She later formed her own music company called Brite Music which is the company that tore down the two houses to the south of mine and built that office building.

These are just a few of the stories that came to mind as my wife Janeen and I drove through our neighborhood. There are many more stories in my neighborhood and just as many in hers, but she will need to tell those stories herself. Also, each of the storied I have referred to, have much more to them and those memories keep coming out of the past, opening up new worlds that have been all but forgotten. Would I like to go back to those days? Sure I would. Would things be different? Only if I knew what I know now, otherwise, probably not.

 

Random Word Exercise

Random Word Exercise

An exercise for my writing group was to find a random word and write something about what it means or what it means to me.  I thought I would be a hi-tech geek and use a random word generator on the Internet.  There are several, and I picked one that sounded good.  I had never heard of the first word it generated, and I checked Webster’s Dictionary.  I keep a copy of Webster’s Dictionary on my iPad to use when I play online Scrabble.  Webster’s had never heard of the word either, so I tried another word.  I had never heard of the second word, and neither had Webster’s.  By this time, I was feeling angry, the kind of anger that I feel when some egotistical pseudo-intellectual tries to be impressive by using words that few people have ever heard.  I tried a third word and got the same result.  I can’t remember what the words were since I did not write them down, nor did I want to remember them out of spite. The random word generator had generated three words that neither me nor Webster’s had ever heard of.

By this time, I recognized my feelings of anger and wanted to stop the process altogether since I had lost the spirit of the exercise.  I thought of all the jerks that have ever tried to snow me with unrecognizable words, and I wanted to get back at them, and that is where my feelings took me.  I did decide, however, to give it one more try from a different angle.  I got out an old printed dictionary and, with my eyes closed, I opened up the book to a page and put my finger down.  My finger happened to rest on the bottom of the last page of a section, and that part of the page was blank.  Now it was getting funny.  I tried one more time and really missed an opportunity.  My finger fell on the work “poromeric,” which was the next word right after “pornography,” and refers to a kind of plastic that has a high degree of porosity.  That plastic has millions of microscopic pores and is used in making shoes that “breathe.” Too bad; I could have had a lot of fun with “pornography.”  I checked the dictionary on my Mac Book, and “poromeric” was not in there either.  I may have heard of that word if I had majored in Materials Science, but I had not and I had not.  Webster’s Dictionary obviously does not get into materials science either.

So far I have tried four words from two completely different angles, and neither I nor my online dictionary had heard of any of them. There was the word “pornography;” a word that to anyone who goes to church, and has heard all the warnings about that subject, is familiar.  That would not be in keeping with the randomness of the selection since it was just close to, but not the word I had picked, so I did not go there. Plus, going on about pornography could get me where I really don’t want to go—too risky.

I could be one of those jerks and bring out my thesaurus, but verbosity is execrable to me and not indigenous to my domain and epitomizes a virulent shibboleth, and I would need a pejoratively aspirational edition of a thesaurus with words that go far beyond the words in my Pages’ thesaurus. Being a white personality, I would rather use words that my audience is familiar with and not create a hostile relationship with my readers.

When I had calmed down and decided to leave the shoptalk to those in the shop, I tried another less offensive (I kinda like he word pejorative) random word generator. This generator gave five words at once; robbery, pilgrim, bestial, hop, and puppet.

“Robbery” makes me think of my divorce, and I don’t want to go there because when ever I do, I get grumpy and Janeen complains.  “Pilgrim” makes me think of John Wayne. “Bestial” – well I don’t want to go there for the same reason I did not want to go to pornography. “Hop” reminds me of my ex-wife who liked to decorate for almost all holidays with bunnies wearing appropriate costumes. “Puppet” reminds me of what my ex-wife expected me to be. Also, “puppet” reminds me of Mia Love, a less than attractive puppet of the Republican Party and whom I am so tired of seeing on TV and in the newspaper.   I should not get too much into politics—except to say that I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get Mike Lee and Mia Love bobble-head dolls for some of my Republican relatives.

Next week is Thanksgiving, so I guess I will choose the word “pilgrim.”  We have several pilgrims adorning the house for the holiday, including a bunny dressed in a pilgrim outfit that I somehow ended up with from my divorce.

I don’t know why John Wayne called people “pilgrim.”  One of the definitions of “pilgrim”  (yes, it is in the dictionary)  is a traveler or wanderer. In some western movies (in Hollywood, western movies are called oaters because the horses eat a lot of oats), pilgrims are people who have come to town from somewhere else looking for a place to settle down and make a home.  Maybe John Wayne called everyone “pilgrim” in those old westerns because they were always heading for somewhere else, like another saloon.

I wonder why men always gathered in saloons, day and night, in those old western movies.  Most of the action in those movies occurred in saloons where the men were either getting drunk at the bar or playing poker at a table.  What about their families, and did they ever work for a living?  What did their wives think of their men hanging out with those saloon girls with their ample cleavage pushed up.  Speaking of that, could they have pushed those bazooms up so high without duct tape?

I am descended from pilgrims. I have an ancestor, Roger Mowrey, who was one of the founding fathers of Providence, Rhode Island in the 17th century.  I am sure he could be classified as a pilgrim; he may even have hung around in saloons, but who knows.

I may have gone off the intended track here, but maybe not. I could have followed the intended track exactly.  There is not much more I can say about the word “pilgrim” without going into American history, Mecca, or some other such religion-inspired roaming event.  In any case, I need to stop writing so I can go shopping for a turkey, cranberries, yams, potatoes, beans, and of course, pumpkin and pecan pie ingredients.- YUM

Young Schussboomers

Young Schussboomers

An idea germinates in a family and grows rapidly until the idea becomes an obsession; then it grows into an undertaking that involves the entire family, and then the extended family. Something like that happened last year when one of my grandkids came up with the idea of skiing. They had never seen their parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles ski. It must have been a friend at school, or maybe the complimentary season pass offered their father as a result of a business negotiation, that sparked their interest. Whatever the cause, the idea caught on and I offered to help them out. My stepfather taught me to ski, and I had taught skiing off and on since I was in high school at Alta, Brighton and Solitude. I taught my own kids to ski when they were young, and I thought it would be fun to teach the grandkids.

One child cannot begin skiing without their siblings also learning as well, and the same goes for cousins. The skiing project grew to include four grandchildren with new skis, pole, boots, helmets, goggles, and clothing. I was in for a busy winter!

The youngest was Eliana, age 4, and her brother Connor, age 7. Then there was their cousins Dylan, age 8, and his sister Deana, age 16.

Eliana is a delightful, artistic type with very strong and definite opinions about appearances. What she wore and what other people wore was her primary interest. She has been known to change her outfit two or three times before going somewhere, where she needs to be dressed up. She picked up skiing quickly, but her main concern was what the other people on the hill were doing and/or wearing. She would constantly point to someone  and ask, “Why is she wearing that? “or “Why is he doing that?”  Eliana also loved to sing. At age 4, she could sing many  children’s songs in tune and on key without missing any of the words, either at home or in front of a full congregation at church.

Connor is a boy with no brothers, two sisters, and 10 cousins. Of the cousins, 8 are girls and 2 are boys.   Connor needs to defend his masculinity. He is accustomed to not doing what all the girls around him do. Connor is smart – he is always at the top of his class and somewhat aggressive. His birthday is in August. I have a September birthday and, having suffered all the disadvantages of being one of the youngest in my class, I had encouraged his parents to postpone his enrollment in school so that he would be one of the oldest in his class. Then he would enjoy all the advantages such as coordination and intelligence that come with being almost one year older than his classmates.

Dylan is a tech nerd. He probably would rather have been at home playing Minecraft on his computer, but he agreed to try skiing.

Deana is a dancer. She is tall, slender, attractive, smart and a teenager. She is on the school drill team, and can do things with her body that I could never think of.

I usually skied at Snowbird and  had a season pass since ever since I got old enough for the senior rate. We all ended up at Snowbird on the Chickadee hill, which has a gentle slope and is a great place to teach beginners. Normally, I only use the Chickadee lift to get me up to the parking lot at the end of a day of skiing. Also, at the bottom of the hill there is a small area with a short, gentle slope and a conveyor belt about 50 feet long that skiers can step on and take it to the top of the slope. They could easily get to the bottom after attempting one or two turns, get back on the belt, and try again. The best part is that the area is enclosed. I could keep all the kids within shouting distance. As they appeared to master a turn, I could take one or two of them to the Chickadee lift while the others could stay on the belt.

I began with the fundamentals. I began with how to hold the skis, how to put them on, how to walk on level ground in skis, how to fall and how to get up. It was not easy to keep them from going down the hill out of control before they learned how to turn, but I did manage to show them the snowplow and even how to use it to turn. It would have been so nice if they would all stay in a straight line and pay attention while each one attempted a turn.

Being the grandpa, I did not have the control, nor could I demand the discipline, that comes with the authority (and accompanying special parka) of a professional, certified instructor to whom mom and dad paid big dollars. I could not keep them on the top of the hill, let alone in line. Once they thought they could turn, I lost control.   Some went their own way, and all I could do is try to direct them to the area with the conveyor belt.

The younger kids picked it up faster than the older kids, probably because they had no fear. Eliana picked it up quickly once she began to pay attention to skiing. The first time I took her on the lift, she got on ok, and I tried to explain what she was to do when it was time to get off at the top. When we reached the off ramp at the top, she was looking over her shoulder and her skis were turned crosswise. She fell and as I tried not to step on her,  I could not get out of the chair. I continued in the chair until I hit the bar that stops the lift. When I asked her why she was looking over her shoulder instead of getting of the chair, she replied, “I was looking at people.”

As a dancer, skiing came naturally to Deana. I likened skiing to dancing and taught her to rhythmically move her weight from one ski to the other. She did not like the snowplow, probably because it looked to undignified, so I started her out on parallel turns first thing.   On her first trip down the hill, she was doing parallel turns.

Dylan and Deana’s dad was an accomplished skier and was there with us, so when he saw that his kids had caught on to the basics and could ski in control after just a few runs, he took over and skied with them while I was left with the two younger kids, Eliana and Connor.

We spent one or two more days on the Chickadee lift, and then it was time to try the big lifts. Connor had a season pass and Eliana was young enough that a day pass was free. School got out at noon on Fridays, so the next Friday I picked up the kids to go skiing after Connor got out of school.

Eliana could turn when she needed to, but she preferred to just get in the snowplow and continue straight down the hill without turning. Sometimes she scared me when the hill was steep and she reach what I thought were excessive speeds. Connor was even more aggressive and had a hard time waiting for Eliana who would have stopped to smell the flowers if there were any. The first couple of runs Connor waited for Eliana and me, but his patience waned and the second run he was off on his own. We looked for him for a while, but he was nowhere to be found. We had been riding the Mid Gad lift and had been talking about trying the Baby Thunder lift, but I was not sure if Connor had gone there. I wanted to stay on the lift we had been riding in case Connor was looking for us there. I asked the Ski Patrol to help find Connor.  After an hour or so, I was sitting on the porch of the lodge talking on the phone to Connor’s mother telling her I had lost her son, when I saw him getting in the lift line of the Mid Gad lift. I immediately ran to catch up with him, and he said he had been skiing on the Baby Thunder lift as we had discussed. I was not surprised that he did not know he had done anything wrong. It was obvious that I could no longer take Connor and Eliana skiing together.

It really worked out better when Eliana went with me on Tuesdays and Connor on Fridays. It was a great bonding experience for us and they learned to love skiing. After just a couple of days on the smaller lifts, I took them on Gad Zoom, the high speed quad lift, and they could ski any of the blue runs just fine. Connor could go as fast as he wanted and on whatever trails he wanted. Eliana skied like she was just loving the experience. She was never in a hurry, and she never stopped singing. She would sing the entire way down the hill. Once in a while she would reach down, without stopping, and pickup some snow to eat.

Connor and Eliana’s parents had signed each of them up for professional lessons later in the season. They were both qualified for the advances classes. As it turned out, Eliana had only one other student in her class and Connor had no other students in his class. Private lessons were a good break for Connor, he and soon advanced to the Black Diamond runs.

This year we all have season passes at Alta since Deana and Dylan’s dad could get an Alta pass for half price and we all wanted to ski together. Connor and Eliana are eager for me to take them skiing regularly this next winter and I am looking forward to it.

My Favorite Season of the Year

My Favorite Season of the Year

As a boy, I loved summers because there was no school. I could do anything I wanted all day long.  I had to report in for lunch and dinner unless I made other plans and kept my mother informed.   My bicycle gave me enough mobility that I could go anywhere in Salt Lake City.  I remember riding my bicycle to the zoo or airport from the East Millcreek area where we lived.  Several years, during summer, a friend and I rode the bus downtown to take swimming lessons at the Deseret Gym.  At the Deseret Gym, swimming suits were not allowed, and we had to swim naked for our lessons.  It had something to do with cotton from swimming suits clogging up the filters, or something like that.  Boys and girls used the pool on different days.  I wonder how different life in Salt Lake City would be if boys and girls used the swimming pool on the same days.  The American Association of Nude Recreation(AANR) would be doing a booming business here.

When I got old enough to have a job, summer lost some of its allure.  School sucked, but working sucked even more.  While working, I was confined to one place and had to follow someone else’s directions. Ever since I was old enough, I always had some kind of job—a paper route at about 11 or 12 years old, but not a job full-time during the summer until I was 16.  Working brought in money but cost me the freedom I had enjoyed previously.

My mother married my stepfather when I was ten; my father died from polio three years earlier.  My stepfather was a skier and taught me to ski. He was friends with the Engen brothers. Alf Engen developed the first ski resort in Utah when Alta’s Mayor Watson asked Alf to develop a ski resort at Alta.  As a matter of fact, Alf gave me my skiing merit badge when I was a boy scout.

At ten, I was able to fit into my step grandmother’s skis and boots. The skis were the right length because they came up to the palm of my hand when my hand was stretched as high above my head as possible.  They were wood skis, but good skis for their time because they had metal edges.  The bindings were referred to as “bear claw bindings” because your foot would not come out of them if you fell. If you fell wrong, your leg would snap before the bindings would give.  The boots were leather lace-up boots with a thick sole that would fit into the bindings.  The bindings had a front section that held the toe of the boots and there was a cable that went through rear guides and around the heel of the boot.  The boot had a groove in the heel to hold the cable. For cross-country skiing, all you had to do was remove the cables from the rear guides and the heel could rise up off the ski for easy walking.

Since the boots would not come out of the bindings, one of the first things taught was how to fall without breaking a leg.  If you felt you were in trouble, you would just sit down on your uphill side.  Skis were not as high tech then, and body rotation was taught for turning.  It was not easy to get those long, straight wooden boards to change direction.

It took me about five years and a whole lot of patience on my stepfather’s part to get me to the point where I could ski any terrain on my own.  By then, safety bindings had been developed, and toboggans transporting skiers with broken legs were not as common on the slopes as they had been before safety bindings that could release before your bones snapped. I believe it was safety bindings that made skiing much more popular in the sixties.

I was never all that good at team sports.  I attribute that to the fact that my birthday was just four days before the cut-off date for the school year.  I was younger than the others in my class, and therefore, I had less skill and coordination.  I was always chosen last when teams were formed during recess and after school.  Skiing gave me a sport that I was good at and I did not have to compete with my classmates. It also gave me freedom, speed, and a constant challenge to improve.  I loved skiing.  Skiing had not become popular when I began to ski.  I only knew of two or three others in my school that skied. I was a better skier that my friends, and it as I began to teach my friends to ski, gave me a little badly needed confidence.  I remember once, I was skiing with some friends who were just learning and I caught an edge and flipped over.  Fearing embarrassment, I tucked and rolled back into a standing position and continued my momentum as if I had just performed a real cool trick.  My friends were totally impressed.

When I was in high school, I became a ski instructor.  The cost of a day pass had risen from $3.00 to $5.00.  Teaching beginners to ski helped me with the cost of skiing.  I would teach from 10 am to noon on Saturdays and ski the rest of the day for free.  In addition I got a day pass to use another day and more than enough cash to pay for the gas to drive to the resorts.

Even after I was married with kids, I still taught skiing on Saturdays.  The commitment made it possible to keep skiing at a high enough priority to trump yard work or house work. However, when we moved to Denver in 1975, 20 years after I began skiing, the ski resorts were too far away to make skiing a weekly event.  It took four hours instead of a half hour to get to the resorts in the mountains west of Denver.  As a matter of fact, for a weekend of serious skiing, sometimes I would travel to Salt Lake City to ski.

I did find the time to teach my kids to ski.  I loved the time I could spend with them.  I enjoyed having the undivided attention of my kids while I sat next to them on the ski lift.  There was nothing else for them to do; they could not go away, and we could just talk.

The last four years, I have purchased season passes.  That has given me a renewed interest in skiing.  I can go for just one or two hours, almost every day.  Last year I loved teaching four of my grand kids to ski.  This year the five of us have already purchased season passes at the same resort, so I am looking forward to skiing with them a lot this winter.

I believe skiing had made winter my favorite season of the year.  In addition to skiing, there is little yard work to do.  Shoveling snow is not nearly as much work as cutting and trimming lawn, weeding and pruning.  Cold weather has never bothered me. I am not usually aware if the temperature is too high or too low until someone else mentions it, and then I think, “Oh yeah, I guess it is.”  Now, in winter, I get that one-on-one, undivided, attention with my grand kids while on the ski lift.  Living in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I can be working in my office and then on the ski lift in 20 minutes.  So when everyone around me is complaining that summer is coming to a close and the temperature is getting colder, I don’t say anything, but I begin to look forward to the snow flying.

Someday, when my wife retires and is no longer tied to the Utah legislative session during the best part of the snow season, she will be able to join me on the slopes with her own season pass.

Current US Political Scene

 

Our Changing Political Scene
My Ideas
By
Don Halverson

I am going to start with the Utah Senate not recycling.  They do recycle paper, but I know of only one recycling receptacle for plastic bottles and I know of nowhere to put cans for recycling.  The republican legislature takes the position, when asked, that it is cheaper to send it all to the dump.   What about the environment?  They obviously don’t think the environment is worth protecting, even if it costs a small amount of money.

What has happened to our society over the last 40  years?  It started with a gradual and deliberate shift of the wealth of the nation from the middle class to the upper class.  President Reagan did two things that stand out:  One is his “trickle down economics” where the wealth that is moved to the upper class should trickle down to the middle and lower classes, but it never did. The second is when he eliminated the ability to deduct all interest except mortgage interest from income tax.  The upper class does not pay interest on credit cards, but it is a substantial expense for most middle class families.

Since then, we have seen inflation raise the cost of living at a  much higher rate than the salaries of the middle class, and the income of the upper class rise at a much higher rate than the income of the middle class.

As examples:

When I got my first job out college in 1971 with a major utility company, the president of the company made about ten times what I made.  I made about $10,000/year and he made about $100,000/year.  Today, presidents of similar corporations make about one hundred times what a college graduate makes.

I bought a home just after I graduated.  It was a pretty nice home of about 3000 square feet in a new subdivision on the east bench overlooking the valley.  It cost me about two and a half times my salary, and my payment was about one fourth my monthly take home pay.  Today, assuming a college graduate can get a job for about $40,000/year, at those ratios, that graduate could buy a home for $120,000/year.  A house like the one I purchased would now be worth about four times that much.

I purchased a new Mercury Monarch in 1975 for $2500.  In 1981, I paid over $10,000 for a new Plymouth Reliant.  I was doing well and my salary doubled in that time frame, but the price of cars increased by a factor of four.  The wealthy whose income has increase a hundred times can well afford the increase in prices, but the middle class has a hard time with it.

 

The momentum of this shift of wealth has permeated the culture of our lawmakers to the point that they no longer represent us.  Money has become the driving force rather than the interests of the people they represent.  The position that money is everything is what Douglas Wilder, the first African American governor of Virginia, meant when he said, “There is a one word definition of politics in America, and that is money.”

What does that mean?  We elect our representatives to be our voice in our government affairs.  When those representatives stop working for the voters who elected them, their constituents,  and begin working for someone else, we have no representation, and our system of government ceases to operate as it was intended.

Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate member of the U.S. Supreme Court, retired in 2006 and was replaced by Samuel Alito, nominated by President George W. Bush.  Since then, the Supreme Court has shifted more to the right in their decisions.  In a series of decisions from 2010 to 2014, the Supreme Court has eliminated the cap on campaign donations from individuals and has defined corporations and unions as individuals.  Since then, there have been vast amounts of contributions to congressmen in exchange for favors and thus has created the culture of greed and building wealth in our government.  The constituents represented by our elected officials are no longer those who voted them into office, but the donors that build their “campaign fund” treasure chests.  Promises are made to those few wealthy individuals and corporations that contribute the most, and our lawmakers need to make good on those promises by passing laws that favor the interests of those wealthy contributors or they will not get re-elected. The interests of the voters are no longer a consideration.

Political campaigns cost money, and the candidate with the deepest pockets who can purchase the most advertisements, hire the strongest staff, and wield the greatest influence on the media will win the elections, regardless of their character and standards.  Therefore the incumbents have a huge advantage at election time, making it almost impossible for new candidates to get elected. If a fluke happens and a new representative is elected, he/she needs to aggressively raise funds in order to stay in office over any other objective.  They are sucked into the “money” game their first term.

The incumbents have a lock on the system, and even though almost everyone I talk to thinks we should clean house and vote all the incumbents out, but the incumbents just keep getting voted back in because their apponents do not have the money to compete.  Voters  could get past the political rhetoric and actually research what their representatives are doing, but there are a few who will take the time to do that. The majority of voters just vote for the familiar names, and propagate the system.

Term limits and caps on contributions would eliminate this impenetrable “good old boy” network, but the “good old boys” won’t pass them.  Why would they cut off the hand that feeds them?  There is too much money to  be made.

This trend is creating an aristocracy-based society where the wealth of the nation is controlled by an elite few.  This is exactly what our founding fathers fought against in the Revolutionary War.  It also makes the right wing republican “Tea Party”  an absurd contradiction since the term “Tea Party” refers to an activity conducted by our founding fathers in protest of this aristocracy mentality.

 

 

 

 

Desolation Raft Trip

Desolation Canyon Raft Trip

kayak

Sometimes there is an event or series of events that, in review, represents a microcosm of your life, and that microcosm can be helpful in understanding your life why questionable decisions are made.  Why did I not report Elder (Phil) Bradley after that first night on my mission?  Why did I marry Nancy in spite of all the warnings I received, such as the engine problems and Nancy being too young to get married without her parents permission?  Why, when she told me she was going to build a life apart from me with friends (male and female) whom I would never know, and she discussed getting a divorce, did I not pursue the divorce?  I could have started over with a marriage to another woman who was not constantly expressing criticism of me and her disappointment in who I was. I could divorced her and have more children who would be raised my a loving mother and father instead of being subjected to the angry, controlling and insecure person I was married to.  The only counseling I pursued was an academic counselor who I thought could help me find an alternative to suicide.  I was raised to follow directions without question  Did I not get a divorce because I did not want to loose my children, or was it because there was no one to tell me to pursue a divorce.  A river trip was going to be one of those microcosms. 

At the time we moved into our new home in North Salt Lake all the home at our end for the street were new and several families were moving in about the same time. Billy and Betsy War moved into their new home across the street from us.  They had a daughter the same age as our daughter Amy.   Billy had been transferred in from Denver to work in one of the nearby oil refineries.  Like us, they had no idea how conservative a neighborhood they were moving into. They felt snubbed when they noticed that all the other new families on the street received numerous visits from their neighbors often bringing plate cookies, but no one visited them.  Billy and Betsy were Catholic, but even though we were active LDS, we also did not fit in either since Nancy worked outside the home. This was frowned upon since the conservative LDS culture favored women staying home to raise their children.  It was especially offensive to the LDS housewives who had to justify not working themselves. Billy and Betsy became our closest friends in the neighborhood.

Billy was an engineer for the Husky oil refinery in the valley just west of us.  The refinery manager, Al Guraltei and his wife Charla, also moved into a home on our street.  He, Billy, and several others at the refinery were river rafting enthusiasts and they were planning on a 4 day, 90 mile trip down the Green River through Desolation Canyon between Vernal and Green River, Utah; a trip that several of them had taken before. They were going in May when the river would be at its highest and the rapids would also be at their highest level. They were confident enough in their abilities that they did not engage a guide for the trip. Billy and Al had two-man Kayaks made by Folboat for them and their wives, but for some reason Betsy could not go, so Billy asked me if I would like to join them and go down the river with him in his two-man Kayak instead of his wife Betsy.  Nancy did not have a problem with me going for four days.  She even encouraged it. I was sure she had plenty of friends to keep her entertained while I was gone.

The kayak was made of sturdy vinyl over a collapsable frame and could be easily transported in the trunk of a car.  I liked Billy and I thought it would  a great experience.  I had never done river in any kind of boat, let alone in a kayak.

The refinery manager, Al Gualteri and his wife Charla, would be going in their two-man kayak.  Five other friends including another couple, an attractive and flirtatious single woman with her boyfriend, and a teenage boy, would also be going not the trip, but they would be riding in a 6-man rubber raft along with the food and cooking equipment.  I was new to the group and having had no experience river rafting, and I was a little intimidated.

I was going to go on a kayak 90 miles down the Green River through something called Desolation Canyon when the rapids were at their peak. I figured that if it was my time to die, as it was my father’s when he died of polio, this would be a fun way to go, and if not,  it would be a great experience that I would never forget.  I knew only Billy, and all the others worked together at the refinery, but I was sure, by the end of the trip, we would be well acquainted with each other.

Al and Charla seemed to have the most experience and was leading the group and acting as our guides.  Billy assured me kayaking down a river was not too difficult and I would have no problem picking up the basics.  I had paddled a canoe at scout camp as a boy scout, so I figured I could pick up the rest.

We all met downtown at a restaurant to get acquainted, plan the meals, go over the logistics, and determine how much the trip would cost.  Not having to pay for a guide, made the cost quite reasonable.  The food would be mostly dehydrated, but we would have a large cooler for the few things that needed to be kept cool. We also needed to pack our own drinking water, since the Green River earned its name from an abundance of algae and other contaminants.  We could also either boil water from the river or use chemicals to purify the water for cooking and for drinking.  Billy and I were to share a two-man pup tent that we had to carry in our kayak. Our sleeping bags, clothing, and personal items, were in water-tight bags tied to the inside of the kayak.

Desolation Canyon was a long canyon with little access except by the river.  The water would be mostly calm or light rapids at first, but would turn to serious rapids later on down the river.  There are several rating systems for rapids, and in this case, they were rated from one to ten.  Ten was the most difficult rating, and was found in Catarack Canyon on the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon.  The highest degree of difficulty on our trip would be an eight.  We would be traveling in the last half of May during the season with the highest volume of water which would make the trip more challenging.

At the restaurant, I was offered a cup of coffee, and being my usual flirtatious self and the only non coffee drinking Mormon in the group, I turned down the coffee and said, “If I do any sinning on this trip, I am not going to waste it on a cup for coffee.”   I really did not have any sinning in mind, and it seemed like a harmless joke, but Billy must have not only noticed the comment, but taken it seriously, because in the tent the first night, he mentioned that the attractive single woman in our group had a social disease.  I was fully committed to Church standards and was surprised that he had taken my comment seriously enough to feel the need to warn me about her. I admit, the conversation was arousing.

Al had arranged for a couple of vehicles to get all of us and our equipment to Sand Wash, a place on the Green River down stream from Vernal, Utah, where we would launch the boats and get on the river.  Al also arranged for our vehicles to be driven to Green River for our trip home.

When we reached Sand Wash, we setup our collapsible kayak, attached our personal items, and went through some basic instruction.  A kayak is very agile and easy to upright if it overturns, but a two-person kayak is a little more cumbersome.  Not only is it larger and heavier, but it takes some coordination between the two people.  For instance, in the case being overturned, it needs to be discussed ahead of time what direction to attempt to upright the kayak, or the two people will fight each other and never get upright.  Normally one person paddles on one side of the kayak, while the other person paddles on the other side to keep it going straight and when a rapid turn is required, a quick response needs to be rehearsed. There is also the drill for getting out of the kayak quickly if it is upside down and the uprighting action does not seem to work.  We would release the ties holding the watertight skirt around our waist and do a kind of forward summersault while holding on to the sides of the kayak. We ran through it quickly for my sake since everyone else was experienced.

Once we were on the river, it became evident that kayaks traveled considerably faster than the rubber rafts, so the kayaks had to slow the pace occasionally and wait for the rubber raft to avoid getting too far ahead of them.

The first day we encountered a few small rapids, but nothing that required any special attention.  We found a place to camp in the afternoon leaving us plenty of time to make camp, set up the tents, cook and eat a meal before dark.  The food seemed to be plentiful and tasty and the cooks had the necessary experience with dehydrated foods.

The second day, was still mostly calm water, with the exception of a few more serious rapids.  I was having a great time in the kayak and the scenery was spectacular.  Everyone got along well, we hunted scorpions and cut open a barrel cactus.  I had never seen a barrel cactus before and found the inside was very watery like a melon, but tasted more like a tomato and was an obvious source or water if one was stranded in a desert.  Later on we sat around telling stories and commenting on the experiences of the day.  We all seemed to be having a great time.

Once we got into Desolation Canyon, the scenery was even more amazing.  The canyon walls were 200-300 foot high on either side and it was obvious why it was called Desolation Canyon.  It is hard to believe how anyone could get in or out of the canyon expect by boat.  We did see one abandoned cabin and what looked like an old road, so there must have been a road into the canyon.

It was not easy to find enough level ground to camp for the night.  The rapids got increasingly more difficult in the canyon, and by the third day, the rapids were difficult enough that we had to stop above the rapids, get out of the boats, and look at the rapids to strategize as to the best approach.  The more severe rapids changed the overall experience from a peaceful sightseeing journey down the Green River to a technically challenging and dangerous adrenalin high.  More and more, the rapids represented life-threatening challenges.  Most people run the river in rubber rafts, but two-man kayaks are a different story.  The fun and excitement of the easier rapids of the previous day were augmented by an element of fear.  By the end of the third day, we were drenched and exhausted when it was time to make camp. Thanks to our waterproof equipment bags, we were able to get into dry clothing and sleeping bags. The stories we told around the campfire reflected the most severe challenges of the day.

The next day the rapids were even more challenging, and two in particular were the most difficult of the entire trip.  One was Rattlesnake Rapids where the river flowed forcefully into a rock wall and made a sharp left turn.  The turbulence caused by high water flow in May made that turn in the river especially savage.  We beached the boats well above the rapids and walked as close as we could to the bend in the river, but we still could not get a good enough view to identify the best strategy. As far as we could see, there was not one place in the rapids better than another to shoot for.  The entire river was churning, muddy rapids with no apparent focal point.  We decided the best approach was to stay as far away as possible from that rock wall where the water was most turbulent.  We got back into the boats and it became every boat for itself when we entered Rattlesnake Rapids.

Billy and I had to work hard to keep our kayak upright and facing down stream.  The flow was so swift that it did not take long to pass through the roughest part.  When the water became calm, we looked around for the others.  We saw the raft, but there was no sign of Al and Charla in the other two-man kayak.  We finally did see their overturned kayak up river from us.  We waited for them to upright their kayak, but there was still no sign of them.  We feared the worst and after what seemed like too long, we saw a couple of heads bob up in the rapids up river from us and Al and Charla’s kayak.  We immediately rowed to the heads and could not see any signs of life.  We reached for them and grabbed their life jackets.  We could not bring them aboard the kayak since it could not hold more than two people. We were relieved to see they were both breathing, but too exhausted to say or do anything.  Al and Charla were able to hold on to our kayak as we paddled to shore.  Kayaks may be easy to maneuver normally, but with two people hanging onto them, they are extremely slow.  We finally got to shore while the others of our group in the raft went after the kayak and oars.

Later, they explained that the force of the rapids had capsized them, and the current held them under the water with such strength that their life jackets had little effect, and they could not get to the surface.  While getting them to shore, we floated far enough down stream to be in calmer water, and when they had enough of their strength back, we reunited them with their kayak and oars. We were all happy they had survived. If the most experience couple barley made it out of those rapids alive and we had made it easily, maybe it was not our time to go.

The next major set of rapids was created by another river called Clear Creek that flowed into the Green.  It was rated more difficult than Rattlesnake Rapids and the rapids were huge. There was more open terrain, and when we beached and walked along the shore, we were able to get a good view of the rapids.  There was a large rock toward the far side of the river and a clear “V” in the middle of the river leading into some very high white water.  It looked like there was calmer water on the far side of the big rock, but we could not see the flow on the other side or the rock.  The others decided to head for the middle of the river and the “V”, but Billy and I decided to shoot for the other side of the big rock.

Out group was not alone on the river at that point. There were some other people on the other side of the river taking movies of their friends as they negotiated the rapids.  When they saw our kayaks, I am sure they wanted to hang around to see the crazy kayakers give it a try.  I never did find a way to contact the John Ford wannabes to get a copy of our attempt.  It would have been nice.

As Billy and I ventured to the far side of the rock, it became evident that we had possibly made a mistake.  The rapids were smaller, but the force of the river was pushing us into the big rock faster than we could move around it.  I was in front and tried to push us away from the rock with my oar, and in so doing, broke the oar and we capsized.  We were not wearing helmets, and the water was just shallow enough that my first thought was to keep my head from hitting the rocks on the bottom as I was upside down in the capsized kayak.  It was kind of like walking on my hands along the rocky bottom of the river.  That worked for a while, but I needed to breathe.  I don’t know what Billy was doing, but I remembered our drill on righting our kayak and went through the motions.  After a couple of tries, that did not seem to work.  I remembered the forward summersault drill, and I used that to get out of the kayak and did it without hitting my head on any of the rocks. I guess it was still not my time to go. Billy and I were shaken, but both unhurt.  I had broken my oar and had to get by with half an oar for the rest of the trip.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, partly because the rapids were not as severe and partly because we were now old pros at river rafting.  We got off the river a little above the town of Green River.  We could not go any further because there is a small dam above the town.  The River below the town of Green River is another great rafting trip.  It goes through Moab and the confluence where the Green River combines with the Colorado River, then into Lake Powell.  I had experienced enough excitement for one trip and was not disappointed to get out of the river.

The vehicles were there in Green River as we expected. It took us a while to get the boats folded and loaded into the truck along with all our other gear.  Then we found a small cafe and went in to have a real meal.  It was certainly not a 5-star restaurant, but after four days of freeze-dried food, nothing could have tasted better.  Everyone but the teenage boy and I ordered beer.  I guess if you are a beer drinker, a beer after four days without, is a big deal. I felt like I needed to order one, too, until I realized we were off the river and I no longer needed to follow our leader.

Everyone talked about what a great trip we had.  We talked about how close Al and Charla came to not surviving the trip, how happy we were that they did, and the excitement of walking on my hands on the rocks underneath the kayak.  We also talked about the spectacular scenery and the magnificence of the 90-mile Desolation Canyon trip and when and where the next rafting trip would be.

While negotiating the Rattlesnake Rapids or walking on with hands on the rocks while upside down in the kayak, I was not afraid.  I made it through the Rattlesnake Rapids and I got out of my kayak in the Clear Creek Rapids.  I was only bummed that I broke the oar. I was doing what I was told. There was no reason to think I might get hut or drown.  It was only afterwards when we were discussing the events of the day that I understood I could have died.  If I had run out of options as how to get out of the kayak, I may have become afraid.  Why should I think for myself if I had instructions to follow.

Why did I marry Nancy in spite of all the warnings I received, such as the engine problems and her being too young to get married?  Why, when she told me she was going to build a life apart from mine with friends (male and female) whom I would not get to know, and she discussed getting a divorce, did I not pursue the divorce?  I could cut my losses and start my life over with another mate who was not constantly expressing criticism of me and her disappointment in my life. I could have more children who would be raised my a loving mother and father instead of subjecting those additional children to the angry, controlling and insecure person I was married to.  I did not even consider this.  The only counseling I pursued was an academic counselor who I thought could help me find an alternative to suicide.  Was it just because I did not want to loose my children, or was it just because no one told me to pursue a divorce.  I was taught to follow directions? I saw no other options.  Did I stay married to Nancy because there was no one else to tell me what to do?

A few years later, Nancy and I moved to Denver, and we never saw Billy and Betsy again.  The last I heard, that they had moved to Cody, Wyoming. We never did that next trip.  I went on one or two-day trips on rafts, but nothing like that four-day trip down Desolation Canyon.

 

Lunch with Mom

Lunch With Mom

If I had the chance to enjoy a casual lunch with anyone, living or dead, I would choose my mother.  She died about 14 years ago, and more than anyone else who has passed on, I miss her love and advice the most. I always knew she loved me, and no matter what, as long as she was alive, there was always a place I could go and be safe and loved.

This is how I think it would go.

“Hi, Mom; boy you look great. I love you, Mom, and I really miss having you nearby. You look just like I remember you when I was little.”

“Yes,” she said, “I love you too, and the wrinkles, the bad back, the aches and pains, and the failing organs are all gone.”

I said, “Now I am the old one here. I have inherited your aches, pains, and wrinkles.”

She said, “Yes, but don’t worry; they are only temporary.”

“Are you living with Dad?“ I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “We live together in a beautiful home, and he sends his love.”

“What about Bart (my step father)?” I said.

She said, “He is with us and sends his love, too.”

“I always thought you had a pretty tough life,” I said. “You buried two husbands, and you were plagued with health problems, but it does not look too bad in comparison to my life. I guess I have really screwed things up, haven’t I? If we learn from our mistakes, well, I guess I have an advanced degree.”

She said, “You have made some big mistakes, but you are on the right track now, and yes, you have learned a lot.“

I said, “I almost joined you prematurely a few times, but now I am not ready to join you just yet.”

She replied, ”It was touch-and-go there for a while, but you got the help you needed at the time, and you still have a lot of work to do; but keep going the way you are going, and you will be fine. “

I said, “Yes, I am doing much better since I married Janeen. She was a lifesaver.“

She said, “Yes, she is. There are a lot of people who love you and are looking out for you.”

I said, “Do you mean she was not just an accident?

” She said, “You asked for help and you got it. She was just what you needed at the time, and she was looking for someone like you, too, so it was a match made in heaven.”

I said, “Oh, that’s good. You always liked a good pun.”

I said, “ I ask for a lot of things that I don’t get, like a relationship with my kids; what about that?”

She said, “They make their own decisions. It is hard for them, too. They need to want a relationship with you bad enough to fight for it. They will come around in time. You need to be patient. They will always be your kids. No one can take that away from you.”

“So, what do you do now besides look out for your kids?”

She replied, “What! You don’t think that is a full-time job?”

I said, “If they all need as much help as I do, then yes, it just may be.”

She went on, “We do a lot of things that you may not understand or appreciate. The things you need and work for are plentiful here. We don’t worry about food; we all have lovely homes; transportation is not a problem; if we want to be somewhere, we are there. There is no limit to time. As a matter of fact, we don’t see time like you do. We have already died, and we will never do that again. We will never grow old. We continue to learn, to love, and build relationships with others. There are more ways we can continue to improve and grow in experience and intelligence.”

I asked, “Do you sing much?”

She replied, “Yes, your father and I have some special musical talents, and we are called on to sing quite often. Bart sings with us sometimes, too. You have some talent there, too. I wish you would have sung more.”

I replied, “I was always intimidated and not confident enough to sing, but I wish I had overcome that long ago. I would like to have put music higher in my priorities.”

I asked, “What about your parents, Muzz (my mother’s mother) and her husband?”

She said, “They are all here, and Rays’ parents, too, and their parents, and their parents. It goes on and on. You have done enough genealogy work that you should have an idea of who I am talking about.”

“Yes,” I said, “I enjoyed putting that book together on Grandma and Grandpa Halverson and their ancestors. I would like to do one on your side of the family, too.”

She said, “Yes, that would be good. There is a lot of material to work with. That Halverson book was wonderful. It meant a lot to a lot of people. You should keep at it. You have experiences of your own that would benefit many people. So, keep writing about your life, your loves, your achievements, and your mistakes. People will love you for it.   I will love you for it.”

“Mom,” I said, “This has been so wonderful to have had this discussion with you.   It has meant more to me than you could ever imagine. It is like you are still there for me giving me the love and counsel I did not think I would ever have again.”

She replied, “I will always be here for you. I have always been here for you. You are my son and always will be, just like Amy, Jason, Julie, and Michael are your children and always will be.   You just need to have faith, patience, see it through to the end, and never give up.“

I asked, “Mom, what advice can you give me. What should I do now?”

She replied, “You know what to do; follow your heart and stand up for what you believe without concern of what others may think.   Don’t let anyone tell you what you believe in your heart is not right. That does not mean you should stop learning through studying and through making more mistakes.   You will never know everything, and you will never be perfect. You should just keep making corrections and listening to your conscience. You still have a lot of years left in your mortal life. Enjoy what you have and share your love with those around you. You will be surprised at how many people love you and look up to you.”

I said, “We have not even ordered anything to eat yet.”

“That’s okay,” she said. I don’t need to eat. I am more interested in talking to you. You go ahead and eat, but watch the cholesterol.”

I finished with, “Thanks Mom, I love you.”

She said, “I love you, too.” Then she left.