Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Last Game

As hard as it is for me to let my kids grow up and leave home I need to remind myself that it is also difficult for them. Of course they're excited about all the new prospects in their lives, a new school, living on their own and moving on to the next phase of their lives but at the same time they're leaving their own friends and for some of them they're definitely moving out of their comfort zone. Last night was probably the last "official" football game that Alex will ever play in his life. He isn't planning on playing football at the college level and last night they lost in the quarter finals of CIF but Alex played a perfect game last night and he felt good about himself. The rest of the team however just couldn't get it together and Scripps Ranch played well so after a valiant effort they move on and we don't. I picked three of Alex's better tackles to share with you. They never threw a single pass Alex's way so there was no opportunity for a glorious interception like last week but oh well.

The video clip above was the very first tackle of the entire game and of course it was made by Alex. If you look closely you can see that Alex lifts that boy a couple of feet into the air. I love it. I show the slow motion clips because it goes so fast in the original video that it is hard to see anything but in the video with the sound you can hear Ben yelling in the background, "that's my little brother".

This tackle was one of his better plays during the game. He landed on his right arm and after he got up you can see him favoring it. He shakes it off and carries on but this morning he has a major case of road rash.

And finally, this tackle was appropriately the very last tackle of the game and it was voted by some as the best tackle of the season. It was made during the final seconds of the game and he broke up the pass. Since it was their fourth down we took possession of the ball. The coach pointed out to Alex that because Alex allowed us to regain possession of the ball and we still had lots of time outs he was able to put in three seniors who hadn't played yet and so they too were able to get in some plays in the last game of their high school careers. That was pretty cool. In the picture at the top of this posting the team is having their final speech. The parents were all at the gate trying to get onto the field to hug their boys but the wise security guard held them off until the coach was done his speech. He said that he'd coached before and he knew that the team needed this time to themselves. Ben and I had sneaked through another gate but we could also tell that it was a solemn moment so even though we were on the field we too waited until they had had their time. When they broke up we all walked up to them and most of the boys were just bawling. Even our tough Alex had tear filled eyes. It was a special moment. You could tell that the tears were not so much due to the fact that they had lost, but rather they were due to the fact that it was all over. Most of these boys have shared a very tight bond for the last four years (which to them probably seems like their entire lives) and now it was over. We all stood to the side and gave them a long and sincere applause. What a good bunch of boys.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Bowl

Years ago when Brandon and Ben were young teenagers the young men in the ward started a tradition. On Thanksgiving morning the boys and their dads go up to Black Mountain park and compete in the Turkey bowl. It started out as fathers against sons but that wasn't feasible with the wide range of ages and so it has grown into a sort of free for all. This morning it started raining so by the time we quit it had turned into a "mud bowl". It was a lot of fun but boy are my legs sore. Dinner was this afternoon and it was very delicious. If I'd been thinking I would have taken a picture. For dinner we were missing Brandon and Kira and their families. Compared to last year it was an empty house but we still had a lot of fun. We had Lisa and I, Ben and Sharley, Alycia, Alex, Sarah and the Missionaries. Peter had to work but they fed him at work and he showed up in time for pie and ice cream.

I have to tell you about the pie. As a teenager I really loved pie but for some reason Mom rarely made it. Once as I was complaining she told me if I wanted to have pie then I should make my own. I did just that and it turned out pretty good. When Lisa and I were just married I told her that my favorite food in the whole world was apple pie and ice cream. She made me one but as a stupid newly wed I told her that my pie was better than hers (stupid). She's never made an apple pie since so every Thanksgiving and Christmas I make two apple pies. Lisa does make the pumpkin pie but I'm only interested in the apple. It is pretty good if I do say so myself. That is one of my pies in the picture. Tonight the girls watched movies and the boys played "Settlers of Catan". I love that game. Ben had Patrick and Derek over so we had a good time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Today is Thanksgiving Day and I thought I'd take a minute and list just a few of the things I am thankful for.

My Family (wife, kids and grandkids)

My Family (parents, brothers and sisters)

The United States of America where I can live in peace and pursue my dreams

My Savior who has atoned for my sins and taught me how I can live that I might have joy.

A comfortable home

Plenty of food

My health and strength

A Career

and finally I'm thankful for Good friends. The list could go on for a very long time but these are a few of the things that top the list. Most importantly I want to thank each of you for being a part of my life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I was inspired by Rick's comments to dedicate this post to cars. I hesitate to tell some of these stories because I still have teenage drivers at home but just let me warn my children that if I ever catch you doing anything similar to what I did then you will receive the same punishment that I would have received had my Dad caught me.

My driving experience began when I was about five years old. Greg would either throw hay to the cows from the bed of this big truck or perhaps he was throwing hay onto it but what ever he was doing, he asked me to drive the truck while he was doing it. I believe it was a big one ton but I know I couldn't reach the peddles so he pulled out the throttle just enough that the truck was crawling across the field and it was my job to stand on the seat and keep the truck going in a straight line. When we reached the end of the field he would hope into the truck, turn it around and then I would get it to the other end of the field. We moved to Waterton when I was about 12 years old and as we were building the motel I drove the tractor quite a bit. I loved that job. Once the motels were built I then drove cars between the two motels hauling dirty laundry and clean laundry back and forth. Waterton during the off season is a very small place with perhaps a hundred people living there. Since we moved up long before the season began and moved back long after it ended I had plenty of chances to drive around town long before I even had my learners license. Technically I wasn't allowed to deviate between the shortest route between the two motels but I found that I often took the occasional detour. Suffice it to say that by the time I received my drivers license on my birthday in 1974 I had plenty of experience driving and I was so excited about cutting that apron string.

When I first got my drivers license my Dad sat me down and we had a talk. Since I was child number five and three of my four older siblings had given my Dad more gray hair and wrinkles that any father should deserve there was no way that I was going to get away with anything since he had experienced it all. He pointed out to me that we had three or four perfectly good vehicles sitting in the driveway so there was no need for me to go and buy my own car. He told me that if I drove his cars that he would always keep gas in them and he would pay the insurance but if I felt that I really needed my own car then I would be responsible for my own gas and own insurance (that one convinced me right there). He said that he would give me no restrictions on driving except for two rules, I was never to go to Lethbridge without permission and I was never to stunt. I wonder if off-roading could be construed as stunting?

The big pass time in Cardston was "dragging main street". Thinking back on it now it seems quite ridiculous but boy was it fun when I was a teenager. There really isn't anything like it in San Diego but let me try and explain it. Cardston has one main street and all we would do is drive up and down the street all night long. All of your friends were doing the same thing so you would roll down the windows and yell at each other and talk but that was all we did. We'd drive north and turn around at the car wash and then drive south and do a U turn somewhere around the bridge. Later at night "dragging main" evolved into something much more exciting. This was especially popular after the stake dances. I don't remember exactly what the point of this was but I think the idea was to try and lose the guy following you. For example if Tom was out in his fancy new little car then I would follow him in the old Ford and Tom would try and ditch me. He would speed, take corners way too fast or sometimes we would go off-roading through some very treacherous terrain. We knew every single back alley and dirt trail in town and we would hit most of them in a night. Tom always had a nice new car or his little pickup but I either had the Ford or Dads big Chevy and Rick has the huge old baby blue beast of a car that he drove. What was that car, a Mercury or something? It wasn't just Tom and Rick either but it seemed like most of the youth after the dance were involved. I have no idea why I never got a speeding ticket or wrecked the car but we would drive crazy. The ride home after the dance was usually a lot more fun that the dance itself. From the social center where the dances were to my house was less than a mile but I'll bet it took us an hour (and about twenty miles) to get home.

One time I was cruising town in Waterton. The speed limit in Waterton is something like 15 mph and it is really tough to keep the speed down. While living in such a small town has it's advantages it also has it's down side. A Mountie pulled me over for speeding, he told me that he didn't want to give me a ticket but I was going so fast that he just couldn't let it go. I knew I deserved it but imagine my surprise when I walked into the house and the first thing Mom said to me was, "so you were driving a little fast today were you?". That cop had given me the ticket and then drove straight to my parents and apologized to them for giving me a ticket. You can't have any secrets in a small town.

Jacking up the axle of cars has become a family tradition but we used it frequently as a teenager. I'd totally forgotten about this until Rick mentioned it. If you jack up one of the drive wheels of a car and sit the axle on a block so that the wheel is about a quarter inch off the ground then the car can't go anywhere. The spider gears in the differential try and evenly distribute the torque on the drive wheels so if one wheel is spinning the other wheel can't turn. When people were in the movie we would sometimes block up their wheels so that they couldn't go. It is amazing how long it took some of them to figure out what the problem was.

I never really got into the stunting thing because my Dads warning always went off in the back of my head but I did pick up some bad habits from Dixie. On the road to Waterton, highway 5 crosses the Belly River and leading to the bridge the highway goes a couple of miles down a very steep and very long hill. To make it even more tempting it is as straight as an arrow the whole time. With no turn and a steep down hill guess what any teenager just has to do? That is right, you need to see if you can bury the needle. You could never do this in the old Ford but Dad always drove big enormous Chevrolet Impala's and they had the kind of speedometer that came up from zero on the left side and then you hit the maximum (either 100 or 120 mph) on the right side. If you kept going beyond the maximum there was no pin so the needle just kept going until it was hidden behind the panel at the bottom of the display. Once the needle was out of sight then it was "buried". I'm guessing you were way over 130 mph once the needle was buried but Dixie did it once when I was a kid and I about wet my pants. Once I had my license of course I had to do it for myself. Going that speed is incredible and every dip in the road becomes a major launching ramp. There was a road going out to Aetna that was also very straight with no turns. There was no hill but it was much longer and that was another place where we used to test the ability of Dad's cars. Very exciting but also very stupid. I think a gopher might have sent my car flying into the ditch if I'd hit one, can you imagine what a cow would have done?

I remember very well the story Rick was referring to. It was Halloween and we were now too old to go trick or treating and we didn't feel right about stealing kids candy so we decided we would set a bail of hay on fire in some cool location. We would of course be responsible vandals and make sure it was a safe location. We were in the Ford which was perfect because the cops would instantly stop any truck with hay in the back. With the van we could throw a bail of hay into the back and no body would see it. We drove out south of town and found a good field with lots of hay bails. We pulled off to the side of the road, looked around for any witnesses and then we quickly threw a hay bail into the back of the van and we were off. We didn't even get a quarter mile down the road and a Mountie pulled me over. I have no idea where he was because we looked but I guess he'd been through Halloween before and knew what to expect. I guess we should have gone further out of town. I didn't get a ticket (thank goodness) but that guy ruined a very cool Halloween trick.

My favorite pass time was after a rainstorm or during the spring as the snow was melting. Highway 5 came into Cardston from Lethbridge and just as you reached town it made a big sweeping bend towards the west just as it passed the Indian Hospital. The highway at that point was quite steeply banked and it always formed a long and deep puddle of water right there on the shoulder. We would wait until there were a lot of people beside the road and then we'd hit that puddle going as fast as we dared. It would send a wall of water at least ten feet high completely engulfing anyone who happened to be anywhere close. We would drive all over town looking for puddles like that and innocent bystanders who we could victimize.

I have to tell a story about one time when I was the victim of such a rude prank. We were at "Whoop Up Days" in Lethbridge. I can't remember if I was with a girl or with my family but it had rained hard as we are at the park but it had quit just before the park closed. I was walking with a girl (either a friend or a sister) to my car. We'd parked outside the park and we were walking along the street and there were hundreds of people crowded together all along this street. I didn't really notice that the gutters were running quite full all along the side of the street. As we were walking I could hear screaming way in the distance behind us. The screaming continued and was getting louder. Finally it got so loud and so close that out of curiosity I turned around and saw a car going at least 40 miles an hour with his right tire in the water in the gutter. He was throwing up a wall of water just as impressive as any I had made and he was completely drenching everyone on the side of the road. I had no more than a few seconds to react but there were so many people that I didn't have a chance of escaping it. All I could do was to try and shield the girl I was with and admire the jerk who was driving. I couldn't even get mad at him.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Ford Econoline

One day I remember Dad drove home in an old beat up Ford Econoline van. It was bright yellow and had "AGT" printed on the sides. It had been used by AGT (Alberta Government Telephone) as a maintenance van. I thought it was the most beautiful vehicle I’d ever seen. I still wasn’t old enough to drive but I couldn’t wait. Of course by the time I could drive, Lester and I were the only kids left home so the van pretty much became mine.

Dad painted the van a dark blue and it was truly a cargo van. It had two bucket seats in the front and the back was totally barren. It had three-on-tree and windows in the back but no side windows. I don’t know the year for sure but it was either from the early 60’s and it was built tough. This was from the days when they meant “Ford Tough”. As an example, I remember one day Dad and I were driving to Waterton in the van and Dad must have dozed off. We started drifting into the oncoming lane of traffic and there was a car coming. I yelled at Dad and he corrected enough that we avoided a head on collision but he did side swipe the other car. He literally caved in the side of that car but I looked at our van and all he had done was scratched the paint. I kid you not; all he did was scratch the paint. The motor on that old van was a straight six and it was ridiculously simple to work on. Lester and I did everything on it ourselves. Since the motor was inside the van all you had to do was remove the cover with a couple of clips and the entire motor was right there in front of you. One time we lost the keys so we simply jumpered the starter coil and started it that way. We did quite a bit of work on the van but we loved it.

I think the best feature of the van was the window washers. It had a little foot activated pump and the jets where the water squirted out were actually little screws. If you turned the screw with a wrench then you could aim the water jet where you wanted it. Of course we figured it would be much more useful to aim the water jets out the side rather than at the window. Lester and I would drive around Waterton and as we passed pedestrians on the sidewalk we would press on the pump and nail them in the side of the head. It was hilarious and we thought we were soooo funny. One day we were driving down the back alley above the road on the west side of town and we nailed a guy in the side of his head and as we were laughing a rock came flying out from under the van. It took a moment for my brain to catch up to my eyes but I soon realized that the guy we had just squirted was throwing rocks at us. The rock was a huge one too, the size of a softball. Luckily he had thrown a big rock because he wasn’t able to throw it far enough to hit us but it did roll underneath of us. We booted it out of there as fast as we could and we thanked our lucky stars that we were heading the direction we were. That was a dead end street and if we had been going the other way we would have had to turn around and pass that guy again.

Another time we were driving the van between Cardston and Waterton when out of nowhere this humongous seagull flew right into the front of the van. It hit so hard that it made a big dent in the front of the van right on the O and R of FORD. That dent stayed there as long as we had the van.

This is also the van we used to collect our beer bottles in after the long weekends and I shared that story on Lester’s birthday. Just to bring it into my autobiography, I’ll repeat the story here. 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 was on foot and we were in the van so of course he couldn't catch us but then he then stood in the middle of the bridge (our only way out) 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.

I loved that van and I really hated to turn it over to Lester when I went off to BYU. A while back Lester sent me some pictures of our vans twin brother and I’ve looked all over for those pictures but I can’t find them. I grabbed a picture off the Internet that is pretty much the same van that we had. I’d love to have that van now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brandon and Serene were here

Tonight we sent Brandon and his family back home. They came for Renee Zierdon's wedding and it was really good to see them. Sydney is walking now. She was almost walking when we were up there for her birthday but I guess within just a few days after we left she started. I had to include a couple of video clips so you could see how cute she is.


Lester and I really wanted to have a pet Hamster. I don't know what it is with little boys and rodents but at this point in our lives we had it bad. One day Dad came home with two Guinea Pigs. I had never thought of getting a Guinea Pig but this was great. Sadly, one of the Guinea Pigs died that very first night but the remaining one came to be known as Ginny the Guinea Pig. The beauty of a Guinea Pig was that they couldn't escape quite so easily so instead of forcing Ginny to live in a cage we created a corral out of a corner of our bedroom. We laid down a sheet of plywood and built a wall about a foot high around it. Inside this corral Ginny had all the joys a Guinea Pig could want. Eventually we thought we would expand Ginny's horizons and we built a tunnel that led into the next room where we had another large corral. The tunnel passed through the wall through a heat duct.

Ginny enjoyed life for quite some time but one day she disappeared. It was very mysterious. There was no sign of escape and I had know idea where she had gone. Finally I gave up looking for her and accepted the fact that if she was dead we would surely smell her eventually. I didn't have to wait long. A couple days after Ginny's disappearance one end of the house began to smell very bad. After some investigation I realized that smell was coming from a heat vent in the utility room. At this point it became obvious that Ginny had chewed a hole in the wall of her tunnel that passed through the heat vent. The heat ducts in our bedroom on the second floor came straight up from the basement so Ginny had obviously fallen down the heat duct making this a two story fall.

Ginny had apparently survived the fall and managed to wander some distance from the place she had fallen. I mapped out the heat ducts and realized that if I could smell her in the utility room but not in the kitchen then she had to be in this one particular part of the ducting. There was no convenient place to separate the duct so I cut a hole large enough to put my head in the duct and with a flashlight I took a look. It took me a moment to realize what I was looking at but there right in front of me was what looked like a hairy pancake. I got a putty knife and scraped poor Ginny off the duct. Due to the condition of the body, the funeral was a closed casket and we ceremoniously dumped Ginny into the garbage can.

The next day was mutual and we were walking to mutual with Susan Olsen. The Olsen's had a dog named Tip and Tip loved to roam the neighborhood. Susan was telling us that Tip had dragged home this gross rotten animal. I don't think I told her about the fate of Ginny but it seems that Tip had managed to drag Ginny's remains out of the garbage can and dragged her home. It was really disgusting. As much as I love animals and pets I just can't look at Guinea Pigs the same any more.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

CIF Playoffs

Yesterday was the first CIF playoff game and boy was it a blow out. The final score was 38 - 0. I know the best games are supposed to be the ones where it is a tough fight the whole time but I think I enjoy the games more where the victory is assured. I know, that isn't very sportsman like but perhaps that is why I like to hunt deer with a high powered rifle much more than I would enjoy hunting grizzly bear with a hunting knife. Anyway, the best part of the night was Alex's interception. There were three seconds left on the clock and Hoover was right on our goal line. They threw a pass and if they completed it then they would be on the score board and I figured we'd come this far, why should we let them score with three seconds left. Amazingly, number 27 (that would be Alex) intercepts the ball and heads down the field. He didn't get too far but he kept Hoover from scoring. I think it is so funny that he caught an interception with a cast on his arm. I love it. You'll have to excuse the poor quality of the video. The blanking out of the picture is because a bunch of cute girls in front of us kept waving pom poms in front of the camera. Anyone who knows Alex knows that he is a friendly, fun loving kid. I'm not really sure how it started but at church we always wait in the back lobby while Mom gets her stuff put together and visits with all her friends. It can take a while sometimes so Alex gets board and one time he started teasing this little girl who was also waiting for her parents. The next thing I know there are about ten little kids all running around the lobby chasing Alex and he is having a ball with all of them. Four of little girls are the Kooyman girls. Since that day, every Sunday the Kooyman girls always wait for Alex to come out and they love to tease him and he loves to tease them. They have actually become very good friends. The oldest girl is 8 yrs. old and the youngest is scarcely two. This week they came to Alex's football game just to watch Alex and they sat in front of us. They had brought a little yellow pom pom with them and I knew we had some pom pom's in the van so during half-time I ran out to the van to get them for them. It worked out perfect because we had three of them so that meant that together with their pom pom we had one for each of them. It was pretty tough for the girls to pick out Alex because with the uniforms on they pretty much all look the same. It isn't like the little ones can read yet either and probably don't even know their numbers. Even with their names and numbers I can scarcely find Alex sometimes. I do have to admit though that with his big white cast on his arm it does make it a whole lot easier. After the game we always go down onto the field to say "hi" to Alex before we go home. The girls loved it and Alex was so sweet with them. It made their day and it made my day to see how he treated them.

Brandon and Serene also came down this weekend. A good friend of Brandon's got married today and Brandon figured he could spare enough time from his studies to come and see her. It was great because I also got to see Sydney. She is such a little sweetheart. Brandon had a major paper that was due today at 5:00. He worked on it right until the very end. As 5:00 started drawing near he had me call off the time every minute. He submitted it at 4:58. I asked him what would happen if he was one minute late. He said that the paper was worth 70% of this final grade and if he was even one minute late he would be docked a lot of points. He cut that one way too close. What would have happened if the web site had been overloaded or something? Too Scary. After the wedding we came home and all of us went to see "Twilight". I absolutely loved the movie but trying to be objective, I'm not sure if someone who hadn't read the book would enjoy it as much as I did. All I can say is if you haven't read the book you should.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Before Greg left on his mission I managed to get him to give me the secret ingredient to gunpowder, Potassium Nitrate, commonly known as salt peter. Potassium Nitrate is a strong oxidizer so all you need to do is mix it with a good source of fuel and a catalyst and away you go. In case you're interested, salt peter is a natural byproduct from the anaerobic decomposition of manure. If you flip over a very old cow pie, the white powder underneath of it is saltpeter. Back in the old days when everyone used outhouses I guess it wasn't all that unusual to be walking down the street and someones old outhouse would spontaneously explode.

I guess they actually fed the stuff to soldiers in first world war because it prevented them from getting an erection. They didn't want their soldiers distracted by those pretty European girls. From what I've heard it didn't really work all that well. For me, I had a much better plan in mind for my Potassium Nitrate. I made countless batches of gun powder in my lab. Back in those days you could buy Potassium Nitrate in any drug store. You can't do that anymore. I would mix up a batch of gun powder and make my own fuses and then roll the gun powder up in newspapers and make my own fire crackers. They were quite spectacular. I was never able to get the powder to make a real powerful crack like I figured it should, it was more of a whoomf. I have since learned that the secret to fast burning black powder is to mill it in a ball mill (rock tumbler) for a few days with ceramic balls and it will be real good stuff. I even made a pipe bomb once but I was too scared to blast it off. I wonder where that pipe bomb is today? I would feel real bad if someone got hurt. Mom probably threw it in the garbage like she did Greg's nitroglycerin.

What I did manage to make was real good touch powder. That stuff made a real bang. I borrowed some iodine crystals one day from the school chemistry lab and dissolved it into ammonia. The powder that precipitates out is trinitroiodide and is very similar to trinitrotoluene (TNT). It is very sensitive and will blow up just by touching it and hence it's common name as touch powder. The beauty is that when it is wet the powder is harmless so you can stick it in keyholes, under toilet seats or anywhere else your imagination can come up with. Once it dries it becomes extremely sensitive and may just literally scare the poop out of that guy sitting on the toilet seat. There was a large heating duct that passed through my lab and it was the perfect place to dry chemicals. I had a petri dish of touch powder up on the heat duct drying one day (or maybe it was Greg's it is so hard to remember details) and when I took it down to look at it, it exploded right in my face. There is no shrapnel or anything so the explosion is harmless but my ears were ringing for a very long time.

To get the precipitant out of the solution I would filter the ammonia through toilet paper. Since that left all the precipitant on the toilet paper it was very convenient to just to roll up the toilet paper and let the little ball dry out. One day I had a little ball of the stuff drying out on top of the fridge. Some time during the night it dried enough so that when the fridge turned on the vibration was enough to trigger the reaction and it exploded during the night. Mom went running out into the kitchen just in time to see hundreds of little pieces of purple toilet paper raining down all over the kitchen. When the reaction goes the end product is purple and it leaves a large purple stain all over everything. Fortunately, iodine sublimes at room temperature so the stain disappears over the next few days.

Another time Mom and Dad had people over for a party so I put touch powder along the sidewalk that leads to our back door. No one ever used our front door so I was hoping that I would get a few people when they left after the party. Unfortunately someone ratted me out and told Mom and Dad so when the party was over they had everyone leave out the front door. I was so disappointed. The side walk leading to the back door ran alongside the house and right underneath Mom and Dads bedroom window. The following morning the milk man showed up to deliver milk to our back door. The poor guy hit everyone of my pieces of touch powder. According to Mom there was a "bang", "bang", "bang, bang". The poor guy was probably quite scared to come to our house after that.

By far my favorite touch powder story is Jeff Gregson. Jeff was a bully who tormented me mercilessly in high school. By the time I got to high school most people had matured to the point that no one teased me anymore and life was for the most part pretty good. The one exception was Jeff Gregson. He was still quite immature and he loved to tease me every chance he got. To make things worse he was very popular and always had the prettiest girlfriends. One bit of satisfaction is that his girl friend ended up marrying a nerd in the end. Kind of like Lisa did, she was very popular in High School. I digress. I decided to get my revenge on Jeff in the only way I knew how. I took a huge piece of my touch powder to school. Understand that a piece of this stuff the size of a BB will scare the wits out of you. Something the size of a pea will make your ears ring. I took a piece the size of a marble. During math class I asked to be excused and I put my little bomb into Jeff Gregsons locker. After class I rushed out into the hallway to relish in my revenge. For my kids in California, when I say hallway I'm not talking about the outdoor "hallways" that we have in our schools, this is indoors, it's dark and dingy and lined on both sides with metal lockers from floor to ceiling. They are crowded with so many people that you have a difficult time wedging your way through to your next class. The noise is also deafening with everyone talking. Amid this chaos, Jeff opened his locker door and threw his book up onto the top shelf where my surprise was waiting. The explosion was extremely loud and greatly magnified by the rows of metal lockers that continued to resonate. Everyone went deathly silent and the only sound was the sustained high pitched ringing that was in my ears or perhaps it was coming from the rows of metal lockers. As the high pitched ringing sound began to fade away Jeff broke the silence with a very loud "HOLY SH*T". Cardston of course was a Mormon town with at least 90% of the students being Mormon that exclamation just added to the shock on everyone's faces. It was one of my proudest moments but unfortunately I didn't dare claim credit for fear of reprisal. I will claim credit now, I scared the crap out of Jeff Gregson.

I love to see things explode and I've often envied Michaels job in the army when he was the demolitions guy. How fun would that be to blow up bridges and the like. How do you get a job like that? Some day I've got to figure out how to make C4. That seems like one of the best inventions ever made.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Birth of a Laboratory

When I was about eleven years old Greg left to serve a mission in Sidney, Australia. While I was sad to see him leave this was a turning point in my life. Let me back up a little. When we still lived in Leavitt my Dad (who was a carpenter) was contracted to tear down the old Leavitt school house. In so doing he kept all of the laboratory equipment that was there. Sadly, it was probably Dad tearing down the Leavitt School house that led to his death. Dad died in 1998 from Pulmonary Fibrosis and while years of farming and breathing all of the dust and chemicals along with Carpentering and breathing all of the sawdust certainly contributed to his disease, pulmonary fibrosis is commonly associated with asbestos and the Leavitt school house was filled with asbestos. It apparently caught up to him.

All of the lab equipment from the school was given to Greg and when Greg left on his mission I inherited it. All of this equipment was in a small storage closet down stairs and it was now mine. There were test tubes, flasks, Bunsen burners, some chemicals, but more than anything it was an inspiration to me. I immediately proceeded to customize this little room to my own personality. An old table top served as the lab bench. The table top had a Formica top and a metal trim that ran all along the outside edge of the table. I had an old transformer from a train set that I mounted underneath the table and connected the output from the transformer to two bolts that I ran through the table. I wired a plug underneath the table and put a switch underneath the table that could turn the plugs off and on. This way I could plug the transformer into the plug and turn it off and on with the switches. This gave me a variable voltage on the two bolts that went through the table top. I used this voltage to run all kinds of experiments. My next big acquisition was a high powered high voltage transformer. Our Bishop (Bryce Cahoon) owned a lumber yard down town called "Cahoon Lumber". His lumber yard used to be an old "Roxy" Movie Theater and it still had the big old Roxy sign out front similar to what you see here. At one time the word Roxy had been spelled out in neon letters but they were all broken now. I knew that neon signs required a high voltage to operate so that in that sign somewhere there had to be one very high voltage transformer. I asked Bishop Cahoon if I could climb up onto his sign and get the transformer out of it. He looked at me and said, "it has a transformer in it?". I assured him that it did and since he wasn't using it I would be very happy to put it to good use. He said, sure go ahead. I climbed up onto the sign and sure enough, there inside the word Roxy was a big transformer that I unwired and hauled off home. I also noticed that the letter "O" from Roxy was still intact so I took the "O" with me as well. I put two more bolts through my table top and mounted the transformer under the table. I wired the transformer to the bolts and then I hooked up another plug and switch and plugged it in. I now had two terminals, one that varied from 0 - 12 volts and the other that gave out a very powerful 30,000 volts of electricity. I doubt Bishop Cahoon would have let me take that transformer if he'd known what voltage those things gave off. I mounted the neon "O" in the lab and turned it on but it didn't take long before I wanted something a little more spectacular. My first project with 30,000 volts was a "Jacobs Ladder". A Jacobs Ladder (remember the Bible story where Jacob saw a ladder that ascended into heaven?) consists of two rods that stand vertically but aren't quite parallel. The two rods are closer together at the bottom and further apart at the top. If you strike an arc between the two rods the arc will form near the bottom of the rods since the wires are closer together there but the heat from the arc causes the arc to rise and as it rises the rods get farther apart and so the arc will extinguish itself. The process then starts over again. I then made two aluminum balls out of aluminum foil and created an arc between the two balls. It was one very powerful arc and the smell of ozone in that room was very powerful. I love it. I then made a capacitor out of quart jars and aluminum foil to try and get the arc to pulse making longer sparks. It worked quite well.

We had a cat at that time named Sam (at least I think it was Sam) and I figured Sam would enjoy the smell of ozone and watch my new arc with me. I found the cat and held him on my lap and we watched the arc together. Sam didn't really enjoy it like I did but I held him fast and he couldn't get away. Earlier that day I had been running my little steam engine from water that I was boiling in an Erlenmeyer flask. The steam had left a big puddle in the middle of the table. What I hadn't noticed was that the puddle of water was slowly moving towards the bolts in the table that acted as my terminals. Just as Sam was protesting the show I was forcing on him, the water created a short circuit from the high voltage terminals to the metal trim at the back of the table. Thirty thousand volts then ran from the terminal, to the metal trim and following the metal trim it came all the way around to the front of the table where it entered into Sam's front paws, it went through the cat and into me, through me and into the floor. Sam and I both convulsed uncontrollably and the poor cat let out a scream that would curdle your blood. Sam recoverd faster than I did and I saw him leave the lab in a blur. Mom and Dad were sitting in the living room and our spiral stair case went from the basement through the living room and up stairs to the second floor. They say they saw this white streak going up the pole of the staircase to the upstairs. When I finally managed to poke my head up the stairs they asked what I had done to the cat.

Poor Sam died of blood cancer not long after that. I wonder if a cat can get blood cancer from a severe electrical shock?

Getting electrocuted gave me another wonderful idea. My neon transformer was way too powerful to shock people with (I knew that first hand) but I figured the spark from a cars ignition coil should be safe. The only problem was trying to figure out how to hook up a breaker like the points they have in a car. It then dawned on me that I didn't need a breaker because the 12 volt transformer I had was alternating current and the coil would simply act as a transformer. I hooked the 12 volts to the primary coil and I used a spark plug wire for the secondary and grounded it to the housing of the coil. I then set this up behind our couch and I took a cushion from the couch and opened the zipper on the back of the cushion. I put two sheets of aluminum foil inside the cushion just under the fabric. I figured thirty thousand volts shouldn't have much trouble going through the thin fabric. I hooked the spark plug wire to one sheet of aluminum foil and the other foil I hooked to ground. I figured that once I plugged the transformer in that the two sheets of aluminum foil would have about 30,000 volts similar to my neon sign but it would have much less current and would not cause any permanent damage to the human body. My Dad watched me set this whole thing up an so we waited for my first victim. Along comes Lester and he plops down right on my special cushion. Filled with excitement I flipped the switch and nothing happened. I was so disappointed. I went around to the front of the couch and pulled Lester out of the seat and plopped myself onto the cushion to see what the problem was. Once again, violent spasms went through my body and I bounced around on the cushion for a while before I could flop myself out onto the floor. I had absolutely no control over my body. Having confirmed that my project did indeed work I was preparing for my next victim but Dad, having seen my reaction made me disassemble my project. I figure I had the first tazer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I do like music, sort of

Music has always been a part of my life. This was true when I was a child and it is true as an adult. My kids may not agree with that statement because I don’t listen to FM radio, I rarely put music on if I’m home and if I’m studying I must have silence. My kids on the other hand have to have the radio blaring noise all day long and they often leave their stereo’s on at night while they’re sleeping. Even though I don’t listen to a lot of music I really do appreciate a pretty song. The problem is that I have a very narrow definition of what “pretty” is.

One of the first things mom did when we moved into town was to sign me up for piano lessons. I didn’t really mind playing the piano but I hated practicing. It probably went hand in hand with my never doing homework. I first took piano lessons from Mr Webster. I thought he had the coolest piano. It has a grand piano with a mirror along the front of the keyboard. I loved it. I forget Mr Websters name but he was Maurine and Orvy’s dad. He tragically died during a routine surgery (I understand he drowned on his own vomit) so I switched to a woman who lived on the east side of town on the top of the hill. What was her name? I can’t remember. I guess I was real bad luck because her house burned to the ground. For a while there they lived in a motel and I was taking piano lessons in their motel room. Finally half way through my second grade level of piano (which I’m quite sure took a lot longer than two years) Mom gave into my tantrums and lack of practice and I was allowed to quit piano.She didn’t let it go at that however and she pulled out this big old Alto Saxophone that she got from somewhere. I wonder who has the Sax today? She then signed me up with a kid who I think was named Merlin Hall to take Saxophone lessons from him. I’m not sure if I fought mom on that so she switched me again or if I just wasn’t progressing but in grade 7 band I started on the trombone. I loved the trombone (but I’m quite sure I still didn’t practice) but the band really needed a baritone player. Since I didn’t own my own instrument and I was using the school instrument I was the one who got switched. Mr Cahoon was the band director in seventh grade and I did pretty good. I remember at the first of the year they had us all blow into a mouthpiece to see how we did. My big fat lips just couldn’t make any sound out of that little tiny mouth piece for the trumpet so that was out. I did just fine with the big old mouthpiece for the tuba, trombone and baritone however so that is how I ended up on the trombone. I don’t remember why I didn’t play the saxophone though. The band director for my second year was Mr Hunter. Yes that would be Pam and Christine’s dad. Mr Hunter was a very scary man. He was tall, very muscular, he had a military buzcut and when he spoke you listened. He also started up a marching band that I joined. We practiced every morning at some very unearthly hour in the middle of the night. We combined with the Magrath band and we were called the Magrath-Cardston Marching band. We had a big MC on our uniform just like Mt Carmel. Ironic eh? I think Magrath got their name first because they had more members than we did even though Cardston was a much bigger town. We alternated our practices between Cardston and Magrath and we were very good. We played at half times for CFL football games, we played at many competitions and in many parades. When other bands just marched we did fancy moves as we marched down the streets. We didn’t do big field shows like the bands down here do however. I don’t know why, no one did. I really liked our drum line. When we marched we had such a loud and unique sounding cadence that other bands practicing would get confused. We were so good that we were even invited to march in the Rose Parade. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the money to go. I remember in one of our band practices (in school not marching) Wayne Wheeler was on the drums. Wayne was obviously had some form of aspergers long before that was understood and diagnosed. We used to tease Wayne and make him cry because he would get one question wrong on a test. He was very smart but very immature socially. Wayne was fooling around in band practice one day and Mr Hunter finally told him to leave the class. Wayne was almost crying and he got very serious but he would not go. Mr Hunter would never accept that kind of defiance so he stormed to the back of the band room and picked Wayne up (Wayne was not a skinny boy) and he hauled Wayne to the door with him kicking and screaming (yes, literally screaming) all the way. Mr Hunter opened the door and threw Wayne into the hallway. It was a VERY quiet room after that. I really wanted to continue band into High School but I had a decision to make. If I took band then I would be very limited on what other electives I could take. Basically I had to choose between Band and Automechanics, graphic arts (drafting) and woodshop. It wasn’t much of a decision, Band was out.

I remember when we got our first stereo. Lester and I were the only kids home and Dad finally decided to buy a new stereo. Lester had made a beautiful new wooden cabinet in woodshop and Dad let us pick out the stereo to put in it. We picked out the receiver, the speakers, the turntable and tape deck and wired it all together and we even got to buy the first record we played on it. We had bought a copy of Simon and Garfunkels “Sounds of Silence”. I still remember how thrilling it was to hear such a pretty song in Hi-Fidelity for the first time. It was a thrill. Every time I hear that song now I still see us in the living room after putting together our stereo. The look on Dad’s face was a combination of pride and surprise. He was clearly pleased. Just a few years ago Kira told me that she has figured out the kind of music that I like. I like songs with a very pretty and soft melody with a clearly defined beat in the background. She is absolutely right. Below are a few of my favorite songs.

Dreams - Cranberries
I Want to Know What Love Is - Foreigner
its all coming back to me - Meat Loaf
Music Box Dancer - Frank Mills
Popcorn - Hot Butter
Fernando - ABBA
Chiquitita - ABBA
Don't Cry for me Argentina - Andrew Lloyd Webber
Every Time we Touch - Cascada
Sound of Silence - Simon and Garfunkel
Crimson and Clover - Tommy James
St Elmos fire - David Foster
99 red balloons - Nina
sandstorm - derude
chasing cars - snow patrol
I need a hero - shrek
beth - Kiss
Shannon - Henry Gross
The Power of Love - Celine Dione

Lisa and I have chosen to follow in the footsteps of my mother just like she apparently followed after her mother. Each of our kids were started in piano and in fifth grade each of the kids are “strongly encouraged” to start on an instrument. Kira started on the clarinet but in middle school when they asked for volunteers to switch to Oboe we had her at the head of the line. I would never have known what an Oboe was but Pam Hunter played Oboe in our band and I loved the instrument. I used to blow her double reeds and I thought it was the coolest thing. Kira took to the oboe like a duck to water (pun intended). She has been first chair for most of her life and it has really bugged a lot of people to have a freshman as first chair in the upper level bands. Kira went through BYU and the University of Florida on scholarships and she now has a masters degree in Oboe Performance. Brandon played violin and even though it wasn’t his chosen direction he has always loved to play it. He bought an old violin in Mexico on his mission and played in church’s, jails and in people’s homes. They loved him. Brandon figures he could have become famous if he had stayed in Mexico. Ben played trumpet but when he got to high school had to make a choice similar to mine. Trumpet or Football. Football won out. Alycia played the flute. She also dropped out in High School but more out of a lack of interest than due to any conflict. Alex played the saxophone. He started on Tenor Sax and switched to Alto Sax. He was good but he also died out due to a lack of interest. He was quite happy that High School sports required him to drop band. Sarah started out on the Clarinet and she too chose not to carry on.We have a tradition in our family to go caroling to our neighbors during Christmas time. I remember one year we had all of the kids on their instruments and the Leavitt family band played Christmas carols. I think Lisa and I were the only ones singing because the rest were on instruments.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It was like one of my children

I am by nature a pretty care-free guy. I tend to live life in the moment and I don't worry too much about the future. While this is a tremendous blessing when it comes to stress and worry, it makes it very easy for me to procrastinate and to miss commitments I have made. This has been a constant source of frustration for Lisa who is quite opposite in that regard. She worries about everything. She even worries about things that she can't do anything about and that is something I've never understood. One time, not long after we moved to San Diego she bought me an electronic planner hoping it'd make me more responsible. I fell in love with it instantly. Here was a device that could do all my worrying for me and it would simply sound an alarm in time for me to get to what ever meeting or appointment that I had to be to. I could now remember birthdays, dates, meetings and I even would set reminders to fertilize the yard and call home. The problem with that first planner that Lisa got me was that it couldn't synchronize with the computer so one day when it died for whatever reason I lost all my data. That was a sad day but I now knew that I needed such a device and I started researching them. A very good friend of mine, Kirk Knowlton used a palmpilot. The palm pilot was a very new product in 1995 and he had just upgraded to a new one and sold me his old one at a very good price. He was doing me a favor and I'm forever grateful. I have had one ever since and I could not live without it. It has my entire life in there. The palm pilot has evolved over the years and what I had until last Saturday was the Treo 650. It has a much higher resolution screen, a ton of memory, full color display and it is a cell phone as well as a planner. I have it loaded up with about 3,000 phone numbers (every time I make a call I add the number to my Treo) and for each member of my family I have all my bank account numbers, pass words, drivers license numbers, resident alien numbers, social security numbers (and social insurance numbers for Lisa and I), codes for all their padlocks, serial numbers for their bikes and musical instruments, their shots, hundreds of books including all of the scriptures, photo albums, songs, everything. In addition to all of that, I have lots of cool games and important things like the tide tables, periodic table, phases of the moon and the location of different planets and stars. I can load word documents, exel documents and power point presentations. I can even do email and cruise the web on the device but I usually use my laptop for email. Saturday I ran up to Vons to pick up a few items for Sunday (and another container of eggnog) and for some dumb reason I sat my Treo in the shopping cart. I paid for my groceries, loaded the groceries into my car and headed home. I had only been home for a few minutes and I needed a calculator so I went to whip out my handy Treo and it wasn't there. I immediately realized I'd left it in the shopping cart so I ran back up to Vons and it was gone. I checked with the store and no one had handed it in. I called my phone hoping to hear it in one of the hundreds of shopping carts in the store or in the cart coral but to no avail. I feel like I've lost one of my children. It is so sad. The beauty is that the soul of my Treo is not lost. Once I get a new one I can download all of the data from my old Treo into my new one but I'm just a little worried about identity theft. Who ever took it is obviously not an honest person and I've got everything in there. I'll give it a few weeks and then I need to check my credit report (and that of my kids) to make sure nothing fishy is going on. I don't need to worry about the bank accounts, there's nothing in there.

I guess it is about time I upgraded, both Ben and Brandon have newer versions of Palms that I do. I think Justin and I are the only ones with the old 650's.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Senior Night

Last week was Senior night for Alex's football team. Since Alex was a senior he was honored. We got to walk out onto the field while they introduced us over the PA system and read what Alex wrote. It was kind of special. They took our pictures and I just saw that the pictures were posted. It is the greatest joy in life to watch your kids grow up but oh how sad when they leave and spread their wings. I can't believe that this is Alex's last year to live at home. I don't want to think about it.

Lisa wanted me to show you this video clip of Alex when Westview won the Kiwanis cup on Friday. There was just a few seconds left in the game and Mt Carmel was within field goal range. I could have video taped the players but instead I chose to video tape Alex on the side line. I love how excited he gets. Westview blocked the kick and we won the game. Does Alex look excited to you?


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kiwanis Cup

I think football is going to send me to an early grave. Last night was the last game of the regular season and what made it all the more exciting is that it was against Mt Carmel. For those who may not recognize the significance of that, the community where we live has two high schools. The older high school is called Mt Carmel and it was the only high school here when Kira, Brandon and Ben went to high school. That means that those three graduated from Mt Carmel so Lisa and I have several Mt Carmel shirts and we have some allegiance to the school. About the time Alycia was going to head off to high school they had built a new high school called Westview High School. The two schools are about two miles apart and we actually lived in the Westview school boundaries but because she had a sibling going to Mt Carmel Alycia could have gone to either school. If Ben had not been a senior she would have gone to Mt Carmel but since all her friends were going to Westview and she would only have the one year with Ben she chose to go to Westview. That year we had Sarah in Sundance Elementary school, Alex in Mesa Verde Middle School, Alycia in Westview High School, Ben in Mt Carmel High School, Brandon at BYU and Kira and the University of Florida. Maybe Brandon was actually on his mission, I'm not so sure now. It's late.

So as you can imagine, there is significant rivalry between the two High Schools and the local Kiwanis club has a trophy for the school that wins the football game between the two schools. Back when Ben played for Mt Carmel the cup was for the winner between Poway and Mt Carmel but now it is Westview and Mt Carmel. Ben won it his senior year and Alex actually won it last year and as you can guess from the picture, Alex won it his senior year but the score was 21 - 20. What a nail biter. The game wasn't as close as the score suggests because we really did dominate them but we would occasionally mess up and Mt Carmel would get a touchdown out of it. My heart rate was much too high during the last few minutes of the game. We had some added excitement during the game as well. Take a look at the video clip.

video clip removed - see comments

Yes, that is a couple of streakers. I would have video taped them out on the field jumping around trying to swing from the goal posts but I was in a state of shock and it took me a minute to remember I had a video camera in my hand. There was actually a third kid but he chickened out and stayed behind the stands. We had one very fast security guard and when these kids headed out of the field this guard was right behind them and they actually caught them. They will be expelled from school and have to finish up their year at Abraxis High School which is the school for all the trouble makers. It was a very exciting night.

Today I put drywall up in my garage. I was working too hard to take a picture, sorry. Now I have to mud it and then paint. I have no idea why they wouldn't just finish the garage when they built the house. Oh well. It looks nice.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Elementary School

Living in town was very different than living on the farm. The biggest difference of course was that we had neighbors on three sides of us. Our official address was 432 2nd ave West. No one ever used addresses however and I doubt most people even knew their address. On the map above I have located our house as point #1. East of us lived Hank Hall. They were an elderly couple and very friendly people. They also had a big crab apple tree in their back yard that we always used to swipe apples from. They also had a strawberry patch in their garden that was very delicious. I'm sure they knew that we "borrowed" their apples and strawberry's but they never said anything. If we'd asked they probably would have let us eat them but I guess my attitude was, "why take a chance". For those of you living in Rosemary, Hank Hall is Richard Halls grandpa. That was a cool connection that we made when Richard and Lori moved to town.

West of us were the Olsen's. Nan was a widow raising five kids on her own. Her youngest two kids were the same ages as Lester and I. Diane was my age and Susan was Lester's age. We became pretty good friends with them but we rarely actually did anything together. We would often walk to school together or to mutual but that was it. Directly across the street (north) from us lived Don Palmer. They had a girl Lesters age named Diana. I thought Diana was very pretty and I had a pretty big crush on her from the day I moved in. I was always way to chicken to do anything about it so we were pretty good friends while we were younger. Down the road on the corner lived the Brooks. Eric Brooks was a pretty good friend also. Up the street about three houses lived Dale Jensen. Dale was also Lester's age. Those first few years while we were all still in elementary school we hung out quite a bit. We went to school at Westside elementary school (#2 on the map). I don't know if they only had first and second grades or if that was all I attended there but my first grade teacher was Mrs Nielson. I don't remember my second grade teachers name. Something like Mrs Bechtol. Eric, Dale, Diana, Susan and Lester and I were pretty good friends those first few years after we moved to town. I remember we even used to play "kissing tag". This was pretty innocent stuff with just a peck on the cheek but I do remember always trying to catch Diana. They would probably be quite horrified to think about that now. As we got older my group of friends changed as they seem to do with most kids. I always stayed friendly with that orginal group but in High School we weren't what you would call close friends.

We went to church at the chapel(3) across the street from the temple(4). It was a huge two story chapel and the Junior Sunday School actually met upstairs. During Sacrament meeting it served as the cry room because it had windows that looked into the chapel. I believe it was at church that I became friends with Tom Crooks. I don't actually remember ever being in any of his classes at school but we were friends our entire lives. Back in those days we used to go to Primary on weeknights right after school. I remember that I would walk from the school to Primary and then from there home. One day I was sitting in Sunday School and I noticed a new girl. I thought she was very pretty and I learned that her name was Christine Hunter. Lester and I came to be pretty good friends with Christine and her sister Pamela. They were both very pretty and I remember being surprised that they wanted to be our friends. They used to come over to our house and we played a game in the snow. I can't remember the name of the game but we made paths in the snow and played a kind of tag where you had to run on the paths. I think the game had the name "goose" in it. Something like "chase the goose".

Our favorite game of all time was "kick the can". The entire neighborhood used to come out to play "kick the can". We did it at night time and the whole idea was that one person was "it" and he had to catch people. If you saw them then you would both race to the can which was in the middle of the back lawn. If you were "it" you would jump over the can yelling, "over the can on so-and-so" and that person was a prisoner. If the guy who was caught beat the person who's "it" to the can then he would kick the can and yell, "kick the can" then all of your prisoners go free. We used to sneak around in the dark hiding behind bushes and tree's and it was a lot of fun.

Third grade was another new experience for me because I moved to the Hill Crest school(5). Hill Crest was a very old beat up school that was truly right on the crest of "power-house hill". Power-house-hill is very steep. One time I road a bike down the hill and by the time I hit the bottom I was going so fast and the road was very rough that I went out of control and wiped out. It really hurt. My teacher in third grade was Mrs. Grant. She was old and she was blind and she hated children. I was quite shocked to learn that she had just got married. Her name used to be Miss Sheffield. It was very hard to me to imagine someone wanting to marry that old hag. She wore glasses that were truly "coke bottle bottoms". One time I was sitting in class with my legs out in the isle focusing on my work. She walked down the isle and tripped over my feet. I was afraid I'd killed her but she jumped up and boy was she mad. She really hated me after that. Another time I was playing on the hill during recess and I found a garter snake. I was so excited and I was sure Mrs Grant would love it and use it for show and tell so when we went back to class I took the snake with me. She did not appreciate my gift. In fact, she went completely ballistic. If she hated me before she really hated me after that. Third grade was when I truly became convinced that I hated school.

In another class in Hill Crest school I saw one of the coolest tricks I've ever seen. It wasn't Mrs Grants class (that is for sure) but I don't remember who the teacher was. Maybe it was a substitute. Anyway, this teacher had had a mouse problem in the school and finally he was able to trap it. He made a little hang mans noose and he ran the string through a hook he'd screwed into the very high ceiling and ran the string back to his desk. The mouse was way up high in the near the ceiling so nobody noticed it. In class we had a discussion about capitol punishment and he told us he was aware of someone who had recently been hung for stealing food. We were all given a reading assignment after that and at a point when everyone was reading and focusing on their work the teacher slowly lowered this mouse down until it was dangling right in front of this girls face. I had noticed the mouse being lowered so I was watching the whole thing. I think that girl may have wet her pants when she saw the mouse. I will never forget that lesson about the poor creature who was hung for stealing food.

After third grade I moved over to the E J Wood School(7). E J Wood is named after Edward James Wood who was very well known in Cardston but I'm not really sure what he is well known for. I think he was one of the early Stake Presidents of the Cardston Stake but you would think that you would have to be more than a Stake President to have a school named after you. Next to E J Wood school to the east was a big old two story school(6) but I don't remember what it was called. It is not clear to me what classes were in which school but I will highlight some of my classes. For fifth grade I was in the big old school(6) and I had Mr Sheen in the mornings and Miss Stonehawker in the afternoon. For the first time in my life I was the teachers pet. I loved it, Miss Stonehawker was related to me through the Lybbert side somehow (maybe through the Hatches) and I never had such an easy class. She loved me and I loved her. I saw her years later and she never did get married. I don't think she actually remembered me but she certainly had an impact on my life. Mr Sheen sort of made up for it though because he was very strict. For the first time in my life I got the strap from him. The strap was actually a fairly common tool used back in those days. Quite unheard of today but I really think it should be re-instituted. It is quite funny though, I was actually proud to get the strap. Isn't that dumb? All the tough boys used to get the strap all the time but never me. I had to go up to the front of the class and bend over and "whack" on my bum with a yard stick. My kids will laugh when they hear what I got the strap for. Chewing gum. I hate gum and my kids have probably never seen me chew it. If it were up to me I would make it illegal. Mr Sheen was quite famous for several other things too. If he was writing on the board and he heard someone talking he would whirl around as fast as he could and throw the chalk at whoever was talking. He had deadly aim too and he threw the chalk fast. He could have easily put someones eye out but not too many people talked in his class. Some times he would throw the brush. That would hurt. He would also walk around class while he was talking and if someone dozed off he would smack a book down on their desk very hard making a VERY loud bang. That would certainly wake them up. Another class I had in the same old building was taught by this very old man. It was early in the year and he gave a big homework assignment that had to be done for the next day. Do you remember how much homework I did? Well you guessed it, I forgot to do this assignment. I was really worried about it but when I got into class someone came in and told us that the teacher had died the night before. I'm a bit embarrassed to say just how relieved I was. Isn't that terrible? In those elementary school years my favorite teacher was Mr Cooper. He may have been a Junior High Teacher but he taught me Science. I loved him and I loved his class. If I remember right I think Tom Crooks is related to Mr. Cooper. Mr Cooper also taught a hunter training class. I love it too. One time during this class we all went down to the car wash to shoot a .22 rifle. You may wonder why we would shoot in a car wash but the car wash was built into the side of a hill. This meant that if someone was a real bad shot the bullet would go into the hill. I, of course, shot very well but there was this girl in the class and when she shot we couldn't find a hole in the target. Mr Cooper put up a huge piece of cardboard so he could see just how bad she was shooting. When he couldn't find a hole in the cardboard he got scared and told her that she was done.

As anyone who knows me will attest, I am not much into competitive sports. I've always been in very good shape, I'm tall and quite athletic so I've examined myself closely trying to evaluate why I was never into sports. I came up with two reasons. In third grade my mother decided that she should check out my vision. As it turns out, I was quite blind. Of course, it is in the first few years of school where you're exposed to all of the sports and I just never could hit the ball in baseball or catch it, if it was thrown to me. I can't help but think that the biggest reason for this was not my clumsiness but rather the fact that I couldn't see the ball very clearly. Of course by the time I got my glasses in third grade I was already labeled a klutz and I was also totally turned off of sports by then. I think the second reason was my personality. I loved being active in non-competitive activities such as hiking, skiing, biking and such but I didn't have the competitive drive that made me want to win at all costs. I don't think I really understood this until Ben came along. I watch him play sports and he absolutely has to win. He will sacrifice his own well being just to catch a fly ball or to drive for the basket. And if he loses a game; don't go near him for at least an hour until he has had a chance to cool off. I've also noticed that his mother is much the same way, as is Alex. Me on the other hand, if I lost a game, "who cares, it's just a game". I decided that without that "win at all costs" mentality you can't really be an exceptional athlete. I did try them all, I played baseball and quit, I joined the ward basketball team and quit, I joined a hockey team and quit. I played badminton for quite a long while with Tom but he always won and I didn't really get into it too much.

Another interesting event from this time in my life was fist fights. I've been in two fights in my life. Actually there was a third fight in high school which doesn't really count. As I said, I've worn glasses since third grade and glasses were very expensive back then. I also had lost or broken many pair of them and Mom would get very angry. I was always so worried about my glasses that I did all I could to avoid a fight because I was really worried about breaking my glasses. When some kid is teasing you, and it's looking like a fight is imminent, it is pretty hard to say, "here, wait a sec while I take my glasses off". Besides that, I really can't see very well without my glasses so that concerned me too. I was in a class in the E J Wood school (don't know what grade) and Patrick Isfield was teasing me. Patrick is a short little jerk who barely came up to my chin so I'm not sure what he was thinking but he was right in my face. The class was full of kids but the teacher wasn't there yet so I was really going to lose face if I backed down in front of all those kids. I don't know what it was all about but I clearly remember we had our fists up and ready and Patrick kept saying, "come on, hit me, hit me, I dare you, hit me". I finally said to myself, "to heck with it, I can't let this little squirt do this to me" and I nailed him right in the nose. Just as I let go with my punch the teacher walked in to the class. Patrick went down like a sack of potato's and I thought I was really in trouble now, but I didn't care. To my amazement the teacher said. You kids can't fight in here. Meet me at lunch and we'll put the gloves on. And that is what we did. We went on the stage at lunch time and put on the gloves. It was not even close to a fair fight. My arms were much longer than Patrick's and I was a good head taller and I just kept punching him in the nose until he was backed up to the wall and the teacher made me stop and go back to the center of the mat where we repeated the same procedure. To his credit Patrick never quit and I was getting more and more excited and Patrick was getting weaker and weaker. The teacher finally called it off. Patrick always argued that he never quit but he never bugged me after that.

My other fight was over a girl. Dale Jensen and I both decided that we were in love with Christine Hunter. Christine was actually my very first real kiss that counts. We were friends for a long time but one time we were walking home from down town or school or somewhere and we cut across the temple grounds. On each of the corners of the temple were tall pine trees and we would often go in behind the trees and the space there was very private and it made a very nice "fort". Christine and I went in there and I kissed her right on the lips. I thought we would get married and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure she had the same plans. Dale Jensen was also in love with her and she wouldn't choose between the two of us. That was probably smart of her, but Dale and I got in a big fight over it and we were going to it on the street in front of my house. If anyone knows Dale Jensen now they would probably not believe my story because I think he is twice as big as me and he could probably squish me like a bug but this was still back when we were kids and we were pretty evenly matched. We went at it for quite some time just wrestling because we were actually friends and neither of us really even thought about hitting the other guy in the face so we just wrestled and punched each other in the stomach and arms. I was actually getting the better of him but he wouldn't quit so armed with my new found knowledge of punching in the face (from Patrick) I finally got him on his back on the ground with me sitting on top of him and I punched him in the face. It must have really hurt too because his head was on the ground and he couldn't move with the punch. Blood burst from this nose and the fight was over with the first sign of blood. Technically I won that fight and the girl should have been mine but I think after that Dale and I made up and neither one of us went for the girl. Either that or she dumped both of us. I don't really remember what happened. We still stayed friends with Christine though, I do remember that.

Living in town I quickly realized that I needed to learn how to ride a bike. Lester and I didn't have bikes but Jackie had an old beat up girls bike. Our street was a gentle hill so we used to push the bike up the hill and try to ride it while coasting down the hill. The fact that it was a girls bike was quite embarrassing but it actually made it much easier to learn how to ride. It didn't take long before I could keep up on the bike but it was really tough figuring out how to stop while keeping my balance. To stop you had to peddle backwards and that was too confusing when it is all I could do to stay up. There was a wooden fence along the side of our drive way so what I would end up doing is trying to turn into our drive way but I wasn't able to make the turn so I would run into the fence. By the time I had mastered riding the bike the fence was so beat up that Dad just tore it down. One of my favorite places in the neighborhood was the creamery(9). I loved going into the creamery. It was just a block down the hill from our house so we would always walk down there and buy creamsicles. It was a real creamery and they had huge tanks full of milk. It smelled like milk and there was milk spilled all over the concrete floor and loved it. They had water hoses and they would just hose down the floor with warm water. I remember wondering at the time why they didn't just build houses like that. Put a drain in the corner and just hose it down. It seemed a lot more fun than sweeping the floor or vacuuming. One day I rode my bike down to the creamery and I was really smoking down the hill. I turned the corner onto the street where the creamery was and suddenly a stupid dog ran out right in front of me. It was one of those slow motion moments. I can still see myself flying over the handle bars thinking, "this is really going to hurt" and then landing on my back. The only satisfaction is that the dog was in just as much pain as I was.

Just up the street from the creamery were the stock yards (10) and next to the stock yards was Dad's Esso dealership (11). I would spend hours over at the stock yards. Farmers would bring their cattle into the stock yards and they would have auctions to sell the cows. We could actually hear the auctioneer from our house. My favorite thing to do was to walk along the tops of the fences. They were 2 x 4 rails and it took some real balance to not fall off but we got pretty good after a while. We didn't want to fall into the corrals because there were either a bunch of cows in the pen or a lot of manure. Neither one was much fun. Once we were really skilled at walking along a 2 x 4 we felt it necessary for us to walk along the fence between our house and the Olsens house. Mrs Olsen did not like that. I must have been a real jerk because I kept doing it even though I knew she was going to come out and yell at me.

Next to the stock yards and Dad's Esso dealership were the train tracks. The trains would come in to pick up the cows and to fill Dad's tanks. We would climb up onto the railway cars and walk for what seemed like miles. We would jump from one car to the next car. Some of the cars were oil tankers, some were cattle cars and some were grain cars that hauled grain from the graineries. We climbed them all. The tanks at Dad's place were huge and they had ladders that went up the side of them. They must have been a hundred feet tall. I wasn't allowed to climb them so I only climbed them a couple of times when I thought I could get away with it.

The blocks in Cardston are huge and everyone has very large yards. Behind our house we had a normal sized lawn and behind the lawn was a very large garden, which again meant a lot of weeding. Only this time I was older and so I got my fair share of picking weeds. Everyones yards met in the middle of the block so we would often sneak all over the interior of this block thinking that we were so sneaky. This is where we were much of the time when we played kick the can. I'm sure the neighbors all hated us. The best part is that in the middle of this block behind the Olsens house and their neighbor, Ben Higgs (or something like that), was a huge shed that Dad ended up buying. This shed turned out to be one of my greatest joys. More about that shed later. Directly behind our yard the neighbor never did anything with their yard so it was all very tall grass. We would crawl through that grass like we were Indians and no one could ever find us. I doubt they were looking but I didn't think of that at the time. In the middle of this grass we built ourselves a little camp with a brick fire place and everything. We would actually build little fires in this fireplace and we had a ball. I don't know what it is about very dry grass and boys with matches but there we were roasting our hot dogs. One day, you will never guess what happened. OK, so maybe you will guess, the grass caught on fire. We quickly tried to stomp out the fire but there was a breeze blowing and I quickly realized that it was out of control and I was never going to get it out. Now I have to admit, even if I do say so myself, that even though I was a stupid little kid playing with matches I was also quite smart. As soon as I realized that I was never going to get this fire out and it was blowing right towards the guys house, thethought came to me. If I run up to the house and start a fire there I can keep it from burning the house because it will be small and maybe the fire will burn up wind and by the time the big fire gets to it there will be no grass for it to burn. I figured out the concept of a back fire long before I realized that it is a very well established technique for fighting fire. So I did just that, I ran to the house and lit several small fires across the width of the yard. I let the fires burn up wind and I stomped out the fire that burned down wind. It worked just like magic. The two fires came together and they burned each other out. The strange thing is that no one ever said anything to me about all the burned grass. This guys grass is long and dry one day and burned and gone the next day and no one wondered why? My parents didn't say anything and the owner of the house never said anything. I thought I was in for big trouble but nope. I got away with that one.

One of my favorite Christmases was the year Lester and I got brand new bikes. We came down stairs and there were two bright new red bikes. I was so happy. This meant that I didn't have to ride Jackies "girl" bike any more. With our new found freedom we covered the entire town. We went out to the dump ground (several miles east) and we went out to the grave yard (several miles west), we went to the golf course and way up Lee's creek. We even went out to St Mary's river where it crosses Highway 5. Nothing could stop us now.

So that pretty much covers what I can remember from my Elementary school years. Next time we will move on to Junior High School. If anyone remembers anything that I've forgotten please send me a reminder. I'd really like to get as much into here as possible. Also, if I've gotten some of my details confused please feel free to straighten me out. I've been accused of having a very bad memory.