2 February 2002
Vignette Number One
I don't remember much about my first year in grade school
except that my sister Rhean and I lived with our Brown grandparents.
Our mother had died that year shortly after school started. We
figured that out years later because someone saved my first year
report card. At the end of the first report period, the report
card was signed by my mother. At the end of the second period,
the card was sighed by Grandfather Brown. Mother had died in
between the two dates on October 11, 1932.
Things were pretty routine every day. The school was across
the street east of the Cardston Temple. Grampa Brown's home was
on a street about five blocks west of the Temple grounds. I guess
I found the long walk home pretty boring. There were lots other
kids who lived in that direction but I don't remember walking
home with any of them. I usually crossed the street to the Temple
grounds, climbed the wall which surrounded the temple, which
was a little higher than my head, and followed the wall around
the temple until it was time to get off. After that it was the
long walk home.
One day while walking I found a nickel. Where and how I found
it is not important. The important thing is what I did with it.
I took it home and showed it to Gramma Brown. She was pleased
that I had some money and told me to put it away and save it
rather than spend it. Which was ok by me. However, across the
street lived our cousins, the Nielsens, namely, June a year older
than I, Grant a couple of years younger, Helen and Ruth, both
really old in my book. They were probably teenager.
One day on the way to school I mentioned to June that I had
a nickel. Since we passed a little store on the way to school
she suggested that I should buy something with the money. I told
her of Gramma Brown's instructions, but she kept after me. Finally,
after a couple of weeks we went into the store and I bought something,
probably candy. Somehow Gramma soon found out that I had spent
the nickel. How she found out I will never know. The important
thing is that she found our while we were walking home from somewhere.
That is important because of Gramma's favorite method of punishment.
She would make the intended punishee get a willow from a tree
and carry it home, thus giving the intended victim something
to think about all of the way home. Upon arriving home she would
use the willow as a whip and spank the offender with it. I was
more than familiar with her system and knew that if you picked
a long thin willow ending in a point it would wrap around your
legs and really hurt. I'd been through that before so this time
I got a long stick and broke the end off so that it was about
the same thickness over the entire length.
When we got home Gramma gave me a good spanking with the stick
but I didn't cry. She was really surprised and called everyone
to see that when she hit me I didn't cry. It really didn't hurt
that much, especially when compared with being hit with the thin
end of willow. After that I really don't remember being spanked
From all of that I learned two things: 1) don't leave the
thin end on a willow which is to be used for
a spanking, and 2) don't ever trust June's advice when she is
the not the one going to get spanked.
My Junior High School Homeroom teacher was the most influential
teacher of my life.
To understand that, we must back up a few years to grade one
in Cardston. When I started school one of my mother's best friends
was my teacher. I knew her very well and she knew me. I guess
I was pretty shy because as she went around the class asking
the children to introduce themselves she came to me and said,
"What is your name?" I looked at her and said, "You
know my name." and was ready to let it go at that, but she
went on to say that the rest of the class would like to know
my name too. So much for that.
As I remember, I did not have much confidencee in my abilities
either. I was really happy to leave Canada when we did, because
to get out of the grade 4 you had to be able to count to 1,000
in Roman numerals. I just knew I would never be able to do that.
When we got to Utah I seemed to have the same problem but the
teacher was very understanding. She once wrote me a note saying,
"Why don't you raise your hand more often?" I guess
she knew that I could answer most of her questions. However,
when we got to California the next year it was a different story.
That teacher, Miss Morris, thought I was the dumbest kid she
had ever seen. She had a teacher's pet whom she adored. Once
when we had done a drawing she posted them around the room and
asked the class for their opinion of them. Several kids thought
mine was the best but she discounted that and liked the other
kid's better. As you can tell that still bothers me.
When we got to Jr. Hi. we met for a half hour every morning with
our Home Room teacher, Miss Jensen. She often read books to us
and finished several in the course of 3 years. I think she taught
ancient history. When the class split up for the day there were
several students that I never saw in any other classes. This
was disappointing because there was one girl that I thought was
really pretty but I never got to talk to her because we never
had any classes together.
At the beginning of the second year Miss Jensen called me in
to talk with her one day. She then spent lots of time with me.
She put me through a whole battery of tests on all sorts of subjects.
I remember one in particular in math. She gave a whole series
of numbers with the idea that I would then repeat them back back
to her in reverse order. That was hard because there were 10
or 12 numbers. I sat there for the longest time and then slowly
played them back to her in reverse order. She couldn't believe
that I could do that. My secret was that I sat there and memorized
the numbers in the order she gave them and kept saying them over
and over in my mind. Finally I would pick off the last number
as I kept repeating them in the forward direction. It took a
long time but I got them all right.
As it turned out she was giving me an intelligence test and shortly
thereafter I was sent to an entirely new set of classes. As I
figured it out later, my friend, Miss Morris had sent along her
feelings about me and I was put in the middle of the three levels
of students in Jr. Hi. Miss Jensen moved me up to the top level,
which scared me to death. Those kids were really smart.
Later on during the semester our algebra teacher passed out the
results of a recent test and announced that I was the only one
in the class who got all of the problems right. That made me
feel pretty good, but the real benefit was that the girl I mentioned
earlier that I thought was so pretty, she talked to me after
class and asked me to help her with her homework. For the rest
of the year I went to her house or she came to mine to do homework.
Wow! I thank my lucky stars for Miss Jensen. She made a big difference
in my life.
July 5, 2002
Memories brought back by farm artifacts at an RV park in Magrath,
A couple of years ago we took our 5th wheel to Magrath, where
we wanted to scan some family photos in the possession
of relatives in the Southern Alberta area. At the RV Park, we
found an old butter churn, which may very well be the one owned
by Aunt Lis and Uncle Grant. The other was a wheat wagon. First,
lets explore the story of the butter churn.
To understand it you must refer to the first picture of the churn.
Particularly note the long handle shown by me in the photo. Pushing
that handle forward would cause the churn to rotate forward.
It was supported in the middle with solid supports, which allowed
it to rotate around an axis in the center of gravity of the churn.
There was a ratcheting mechanism so that you could move the handle
to the back and then pull it forward again imparting more spin
to the churn. After a couple of minutes it took only a slight
motion of the handle to keep the churn tumbling over and over
on its supports. The churn was filled with fresh cream and after
about 45 minutes of tumble action the cream would turn into butter.
It took about a weeks worth of cream from 10 cows to fill the
Well, standing there pulling that handle for 45 minutes was
a pretty boring operation, and I found that if I tied a rope
to the handle I could sit across the room on a chair. If I gave
the handle a pull at just the right time I could keep the churn
tumbling. All of this took place in what was called the shanty
in back of the house. After about 15 minutes Aunt Lis opened
the door to the shanty and came in. Disaster struck. I let the
rope go a little slack. It wrapped around the lock to the lid
of the churn, and dumped the entire weeks worth of cream all
over the floor. I still feel bad about the whole thing. At the
time, I realized that what I had done was really bad, but I didnt
know about the depression and that the weeks worth of butter
was the only money the Crookstons would have to live on for the
week. It was a real disaster for them much more than for me.
Now, after all of these years, (I was probably 7 at the time),
and now that I have seen the original churn, I finally understand
what happened to dump the cream all over the floor. Look carefully
at the lid. In the middle you will see a metal object with two
ears sticking up, not very high but high enough. (You may be
able to see them better in the first picture.) Connected to this
centerpiece are a whole series of semi-circular rods, which extend
to the outer perimeter of the lid. When the centerpiece is rotated
it forces these rods into a groove around the top of the barrel.
When the center piece is turned solidly the lid is held securely
in place. The problem was that when I let the rope go slack the
churn continued to tumble because of its own momentum.
The locking device caught on the rope and unlocked the lid. The
churn kept on rotating and dumped the cream. End of a long sad
story. I was never punished for this disaster. I guess Aunt Lis
thought the experience was already bad enough. All she said was
that when I saw the cream spill I turned white as a sheet. That,
and I was never asked to churn the butter again.
The next story took place on the Mc Intyre Ranch and involved
a wheat wagon. The wagon in the picture looks very small now,
compared to what I remember. The wagons were pulled by a team
of horses. Each wagon was pulled into position close to the threshing
machine. A big tube was swung into position and wheat was dumped
through it into the wagon. Next to the wagon was a drive belt,
which went from a gasoline engine to the thresher. It supplied
the driving force by which the thresher operated. The belt was
level and about the same height as the bottom of the wagon bed.
When there was wheat in the wagon, I found it was great fun to
stand up on the side of the wagon or near it and jump into the
wheat. The wheat was nice and soft and it was like jumping into
On one of those jumps I lost my balance and fell over backwards,
landing on the drive belt, which was about 10 inches wide and
was enough to break my fall. In length, it was at least as long
as the wagon and the team of horses combined. I guess I rode
on the drive belt some 10 or 15 feet because the next thing I
knew was that I had been thrown off of the drive belt and was
on my back on the ground looking up at the horses heads.
That was not much of a fall, but it seemed like a lot to me at
the time, and being under the horses was pretty scary. As I recall
I cried a lot, and I guess I got some kind of burn from the belt
because I had a scar under my upper left arm. I carried that
scar for some time but it seems to be gone now.
Well, those are a couple of memories that few people get to have
because the items of equipment involved are now relics of the
past. We refer to the times back then as the good old days, scary
but good. The last picture is part of the wagon story in that
it shows what I looked like while I was at McIntyres that
summer. After a week there living in the bunkhouse with everyone
else, Dad dropped me of with Aunt Joyce. She came down to the
main street in town to pick me up. As I recall she was absolutely
horrified because I had bed bugs. I dont remember who cleaned
me up or where it was done, but the occasion was memorable.