Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Lester

Today I would like to pay a tribute to my baby brother. Today is his birthday and he turns forty nine years old. Growing up I can't ever remember a time when Lester wasn't in my life. No one ever called for "Fred", they always called "Fred and Lester". Sometimes they would even call for "Led and Frester". That is just how we were. My earliest memories of Lester were when we lived in Leavitt and we were still in our cribs. I know, that is pretty pathetic that I was still sleeping in a crib while Lester was old enough to play with but I remember it well. We would climb up on the edge of my crib which was bigger than his and then jump into his crib which was smaller. Mine was a steel crib and his was wooden and eventually the floor of his crib broke through. We thought that was pretty cool because then we could climb through the broken corner like we were gophers going in and out of the hole. Dad finally came in and got mad at us but the scary part was that Lester had to sleep on the mattress on the floor and we were both scared for him because he didn't have the walls of the crib to protect him.

Another memory from the same time period was when we would get crayons and jump up and down on the bed (we were out of our cribs by this time) and draw on the wall while we were jumping. We did this long before "Spirograph" had been invented but we got some pretty "spirograph" like images. We got in real big trouble for that one. I remember when I started school. We lived on the farm still and I had to ride the bus without Lester. It was very strange and a bit scary being on my own without him. Sure, my older siblings were on the bus but they went way to the back and pretended they didn't know me. I had to sit on the front seat and I hated it.

Once Lester started school we always played together during recess and we walked to school together (we lived in town at this point) and we did everything together. We road our bikes all over town. One time, in the middle of the night we road our bikes out to an old abandoned farm house and climbed up into the attic. We shone our flashlight on some pigeons and simply picked them up and shoved them into a gunny sack. We took the pigeons home and raised them in a tool shed in our back yard. We raised several generations of pigeons before someone left the door open and a cat got in. The pigeons were all dead or gone and we decided not to continue that venture. I remember climbing on the roof of the school, climbing in the grain elevators, walking the rails of the corrals at the stockyards, we did it all. And then we moved to Waterton in the summers. Our biggest goal in Waterton was to always finish work as fast as we could. We had motels in Waterton and I did the laundry while Lester stripped and made beds. We usually finished up in early afternoon and then we did one of three things.

We hiked into the mountains. Sometimes we hiked on trails but often we headed off trail into the wilderness. We often took backpacks and just rolled out our bags where ever we felt like it and spent the night. We never owned a tent and we never took a canteen. There were streams all over the mountains and we drank straight from the streams. The best tasting water you ever drank. We climbed many cliffs long before rock climbing was a fad and it scares me to think of some of the cliffs we scaled. Many times we climbed straight down the face of "Bears Hump" if any of you know that hike. Of course we never had anything like ropes and carbeeners. One time we were hiding in some bushes on a cliff around the amphitheater while a park ranger was giving a speech to a bunch of tourists. We thought we were petty smart since we could sneak around so quietly and no one knew we were there. If I remember right there must have been more than a hundred tourists. I don't remember what the ranger was talking about but he suddenly stopped and pointed right towards us. I guess we weren't as quiet as we thought. He then told the tourists not to panic but he thought that there was a bear in the bushes and if they stayed calm the bear would leave. I about wet my pants because at first I thought there was a bear behind us that we hadn't noticed. It then dawned on me that he thought Lester and I were the bear. Once we got out of there without getting caught we laughed all the way home. We also used to chase the bears. One of our sisters boyfriends had a massive spot light that you could plug into the cigarette lighter. We would get in the back of his pickup looking for bears. Once we spotted one we would shine the light on him and chase him until he went up a tree. It was great fun and I'm just glad I didn't fall out of the truck and get left at the mercy of those bears. They were quite angry.

If we didn't go into the mountains we went across the street to the swimming pool. The Waterton pool was an Olympic sized pool and we swam all the time. When we got tired of swimming or if it was really cold (that happened often in Waterton) we would go in the showers and spend hours just playing in the showers. In remember one time Greg sent some fire crackers home from Australia. They were huge massive firecrackers. We took some cigarettes that had been left in the hotel and we put the fuse of a fire cracker through the cigarette. We then lit the cigarette and buried the firecracker in the flower bed at the swimming pool and sat back on the balcony of our motel and watched and waited. There were crowds of people and sure enough, the fire cracker blew and about a dozen people about wet their pants.

I also remember the time we would go into the campground in the middle of the night and light firecrackers outside of the tents. We figured we were safe since the guys had to dress before they came after us. And then there were long weekends. We would take the old Ford Econoline out on the Monday morning and gather up the empty beer bottles that were laying all over town. We would fill the entire van with hundreds of cases of empty beer bottles. We eventually got tired of picking up the loose bottles laying on the ground and started collecting the empties people had stacked in neat cases outside their trailers and tents. One time we were in an area of the campground where the only way out was over the bridge. Someone got mad at us and tried to chase us down. He then stood in the middle of the bridge and we were lined up at the far end of the campground. It was a straight road from our van to where the man was so we played a game of chicken. We sped down the road right at the man on the bridge. Obviously he jumped out of the way but if he hadn't we would of killed him. How dumb, but what fun memories. The cops finally tracked us down when we were out in the middle of the Dardanelles and when he saw who we were he called in on his radio. "It's just a couple of locals out making some bucks collecting empty bottles." He did point out that it was against the law to have a blanket hanging out of the back of the van covering our license plate. Ooops!?! Apparently the guy who we nearly ran over reported that we were stealing things from the campground. He didn't know what we had stolen though. Thank goodness no one accused us of stealing empty beer bottles because we were guilty of that.

The third thing we would do is go boating. Dad's cousin, Clark Leavitt had a ski boat that we used often or we would take our Kayak. Fara also had a canoe that we used often. We paddled all over that lake. I guess a fourth thing we did was ride our bikes. We soon got bored with the roads and started riding bikes on the trails. Coming down those mountains got very exciting at times. We had more than one terrifying wipe out. Our cousin, David Lybbert wiped out one time coming down from Cameron lake and he was unconscious for an hour. It was very scary. It kind of ruined the day.

I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood growing up and Lester, you're in all of them.

Again, when I went off to college it was another strange event for me because I was going alone and Lester wasn't there. It just felt so strange. By the time I returned from my mission it had been four years since Lester and I had really been together. I had part of the summer after my first year at BYU and then I was on my mission in August. I left for college in September 1976 and Lester came home from his mission and started school at the University of Alberta in January 1980. We were roommates for a semester and then we were both married in 1981. It is kind of sad that after we were married he moved north and I moved south and we have rarely seen each other since then.

I know it is my own fault but I have not kept in very good touch with any of my family since I've been married. When we lived in Alberta we saw Fara and Jackie and their families often because they were still in Cardston but we rarely saw Greg, Lester or Dixie and I feel a real sense of loss because of that. My only excuse is that they lived so far away and I was so into my career and raising my own six kids that it was difficult to extend beyond that.

Lester I want you to know that even though we have done little together in the last thirty years you are an integral part of me and I do think of you often. I consider it a great blessing to be able to get to know Peter better and he reminds me of you in many ways. Not only because he is so tall but he also looks and acts like you. He is a good man.

Lester, have a great birthday. I love you;


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Lester. Rick has shared many a story about Tom Fred and Lester.
From Karin and Rick in NY

Fred ... said...

Yes, I'm sure Tom and Rick were in many of those stories I remember so fondly.

Justin, Kira and Evan said...

This was one of my favorite posts dad! I love hearing stories about you growing up. These were even different stories than the ones that I knew, so it was a special treat! Happy Birthday Uncle Lester ... I am so sad I am not still in Florida to be a little closer!

Lynn said...

LOL!!!!!!!! Oh my Fred! This explains your love of camping and the outdoors. But I never knew you were such a brat! LOL!

Great stories!


Fred ... said...

I have been told by more than one source that I was a brat.

Lisa L said...

You were a brat and you didn't even share some of your other bratty stories! I think you were brattier than our boys!!!