Sunday, August 3, 2008

Grandma and her boys "river rafting".

Early Saturday morning McKee and Luke were out on the pond in the paddleboat feeding the fish. The night before they asked if they could go on the river and I said I thought it was too dangerous but Saturday when they asked again I thought, “Why not? Angie and her friends and even Meghan, and Lauren have canoed down the river,” so I said, “Sure, let's give it a try!" It took our combined strength to drag the paddleboat up the gradual pond bank, across the lawn and into the creek. We quickly discovered that McK was the only one who could steer correctly. Feeling like Huck Finn we paddled down the creek sailing along smoothly until we got to the bridge where we had to quickly lower the canopy in order to pass under it. That caused some excitement and McK was nervous and sure the boat was going to sink, Luke remained calm. We paddled around the corner and discovered that the bridge by Bob and Lil’s house was lower than the first bridge and I sure didn't want to get stuck under it with my boys. We turned around but we could not paddle strong enough against the current to make any headway and we were quickly drifting toward the bridge. We maneuvered close to the bank where the current wasn't as strong. I grabbed the grass, reeds and rosebushes and pulled us along making about 30 feet in 30 minutes. We needed more power so I sent McK after the oars from the canoe. While waiting for McK to return Luke asked, “Grandma do you think this was such a good idea?” I knew Mark and Shari were anxious to leave for California and they had no idea where we were. I mustered my most brave and confident response, “Sure, I said, we're going to be fine, just fine.”

When McK returned with the oars it quickly became evident that strong rowing and not-so-strong rowing make for "going in circles". Next McK helped by digging an oar into the mud in the creek bottom and pushing as I pulled along the reeds in the blistering heat of mid day. A few more minutes of that and I was totally exhausted. There was no way we could maneuver the boat back to where we launched it. Finally it dawned on me, ‘Maybe we should have a prayer!” McK eagerly offered to say it asking Heavenly Father to please bless us that the boat wouldn’t sink and that we would be able to get back safe. I am a bit reluctant to admit how shocked I was when within a few short minutes I looked up and saw a man standing above us on the river bank - in fact I was ‘stunned! It took me a couple of seconds for it to register that indeed we were being rescued ‘immediately’ following our prayer. Josh May, who is renting Bob’s house, said that he and his wife looked out the window and saw something blue on the creek and he decided to come down and check it out. If it had been me I would have thought “Oh, yeah, how interesting, something blue is floating down the creek." I believe that in answer to our prayer, Josh was inspired to come to our rescue. He and I easily lifted the boat up the steep bank.

As my boys and I walked back to the house McK said, “Grandma you are the most righteous person I know. Now I’m not here to judge, but that’s what I think.” Shari said that I am not the only person McK has said that to. He is a pretty observant kid. He knows what is right and he wants to be good. He - almost too quickly - recognizes the righteous efforts of others and eagerly points out virtuous and sometimes even unrighteous characteristics. My new resolve is that my grandchildren will always be able to see me as an example of righteousness.

As I have pondered our experience I am amazed at my slow response in asking for God’s assistance. I strained, struggled, and figured out my own failed strategies in the blistering heat until I was completely exhausted before asking for help. It was a perfect example of "man trying to prosper by his own means." When I humbled myself and McK asked for help, IMMEDIATELY the prayer was answered.

Alma 33:11 And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy... Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies, which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son... O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?

Since I asked a few weeks ago to be shown that prayers really do make a difference, I have seen numerous examples of the absolute and definitive difference that prayer makes in our lives. Of course I pray morning and night, but struggling against a strong current with two impressionable boys, I realized that in the moment of tribulation prayer is eminently significant and efficacious. Most of the time it takes awhile for our prayers to be answered, sometimes years, but it is nice to know that when necessary, the answer sometimes comes unexpectedly and instantly.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Raising The Victorian #3

"The Old House"was filled with memories from the first, second, third and fourth generation Orson Pratt Thatcher family. Each one of you have your own set of precious memories. I remember sitting at the kitchen table when I was dating Sid and eating Mom's homemade bread with gravy (a real treat if you haven't tried it.) Kimberly, Karen, Brent, David, Mark and Sid and I, lived in the Old House from Jan to April 1976 while we built our house. When we tore it down it was perfectly obvious that there was no insulation in the walls. No wonder it was so cold. When we lived there  we got up at 4:00 a.m., started the fire and jumped back into bed until it was warm enough to get up and get breakfast. Our children slept in bunk beds in the living room. A couple of years later Bob and Lillian installed a furnace and carpet and lived there while they built their house.  Our children used it at Halloween to terrorize each other and their friends by rigging mannequin parts to appear when doors opened.  They watched scary movies, had prom banquets, invented horror stories and took people on "Tours" through her. They swear that there was even a real ghost sighting in the south bedroom window. At one time I planned a complete remodel and wanted to move her across the creek on the hill north east of the deck. When that proved impractical we contacted Utah State University and offered it to them for the the American West Heritage Center since it was the first non-log house built in the valley.  The extended Thatcher family offered to pay to move it; however, red tape and bureaucracy multiplied until we gave up.  The children are gone now and the reason for keeping it has vanished. The porches were caving in, bats enjoyed the peeling wallpaper, and it became a junk collector and a fire hazard.  July 4th, 2008 became Liberation Day for the "Old House." Sid rented a D315 Track Hoe and a Front End Loader. David, Tara and Claire came from California and brought Mark and Shari's children, McK, Luke and Logan. MaRea, Kyle and Kaden, and Lindsey, Riley and Jack came Thursday night. Paul, Nicole, Carson and Brynlee came Saturday. Thursday night David and Sid cleared out the trees and equipment on the west and dug a hole for debris.

Everyone was told that if they wanted anything in the house to get it.  McK, Luke and Kaden found a treasure box of 78 rpm records from the 60's and called them their "Big CD's".  They played with them on the lawn throwing them like frisbees until the sun warped them. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Raising the Victorian" Part 2

A common definition of raise is to put or take to a higher position, elevate, make nobler. Ironically, raise also means to put an end to, to break up and remove. My objective in using the title "Raising the Victorian" is to apply both definitions to "The Old House". We want to pay tribute to this grand old lady and evelate her in the hearts and minds of her posterity at the same time that we put an end to her earthly existance. Sid told Earnie on the phone tonight that after someone has died it is time to bury them and now was her time. She was magnificient in her day. Built in 1884 certainly qualifies her to be designated "Victorian" which is anything associated with the reign or time of Queen Victoria of England (1837-1901). Our "Victorian" - The Old House, had three bedrooms upstairs and two on the main floor including my favorite, the beautiful large West bedroom with it's bay windows. If I had been able to do a 'make over' on the house which I always hoped possible, that bedroom would have become a beautiful library. Last fall I removed approximately 8 layers of wallpaper down to the very first richly hued ornate wall covering printed in New York City. The magnificent deep burgandy, gold metalic and green medallions and swirls in coordinating patterns graced the walls of the mainfloor bedroom, and dining room. Both rooms were finished with superbly beautiful 18inch borders and matching ceiling paper. The window in the door of the foyer entrance was etched with a replica of the Salt Lake Temple. Before her "raising" on July 4, 2008 we preserved two of the beautiful newel posts from the stairway, a few of the doorway medallions and the three decorative pieces on the outside of the bay windows. Reese, Steve's son, was wise enough to preserve some of the door medallions in the doorways of the home he built.

It was to this house that the Orson P. Thatcher's moved in 1909. The Thatcher's themselves were often referred to as "Victorian". Grandma Nettie was very proper, straight laced and conventional. She never went anywhere without her hat and gloves. She was very careful and close about what was said and to whom. Thus she would never let Grandpa Orson P. talk about the circumstances surrounding Moses Thatcher being dropped from the Twelve Apostles. Family members would have liked to have known Grandpa's perspective but no one was ever able to hear it from his lips - at least that we know about.

When ORT's twin sister Virgina divorced her husband, their oldest son Gilbert said he chose to live with his father's family, the Olsen's, "because the Thatchers were so straight-laced and the Olsen's were fun loving and easy going." That was before Amelia came on the scene because she had a wonderful sense of humor which her children consciously or subconsciously inherited - thank goodness!

When ORT (Orson Reeder Thatcher) and his new bride Amelia (Emelie) Fuhriman moved into the house following their marriage in January 1936 they were given the main bedroom. It helps to remember that this was during the Great Depression when it would have taken real courage to even get married. Grandma lost her first baby, Reed, during child birth in November of 1936. She said he was a perfect full term baby. No reason was ever given for his death but she felt that his neck was broken during delivery. He was buried under the walnut tree West of the house. Sharon was born the next year in November 1937, Howard March 14, 1939 and the twins in May 1940. Steve in 1942 , another still-born son Grant and Aurelia last. As far as we can determine they lived in the "Old House" until after the twins were born because she often told of hanging over a hundred diapers on the line as she had four children in diapers at the same time. Sharon was three years old but she had contracted meningitis when she was 18 months old and although her life was saved by the "New" sulfa drugs she was left physically and mentally impaired. Thus four babies with mountains of diapers washed in a wringer washer in the basement under the kitchen which was more like a dugout - dark, damp and without heat and hung on the line two and three deep winter (when the clothes pins froze to the frozen diapers), spring, summer and fall. One of the most admirable characteristics of Amelia was that in spite of all her hardship; living in one room with four children, sharing the rest of the house with her austere in-laws, washing and hanging all those diapers in all kinds of weather, her sense of humor squelched and unappreciated, she was never bitter and she never complained then or since. Whenever she talked about it she recited the details as if it were a documentary - without guile or accusation. In fact she always chuckled when she told us how resourceful she was to discover Grandma Nettie's recipe for flaky pie crust which she refused to share, by discreetly watching her and making a mental note of the amount of the ingredients. Amelia's pie crust was amazing.

The photo of Amelia kneeling under the window of "The Victorian" with her new born twins is one of the most touching old photos I have ever seen. Of special interest are her gloves and shoes. The photo of her with her four babies in diapers shows only the peace and satisfaction with which she accepted her 'lot in life'.

Sid believes ORT must have built the basement house in the early forties as the pictures of Sharon, Howard and the twins were taken in front of it. Ill advised that it wasn't necessary to reinforce the two-bedroom cinder block basement it wasn't long before it split at the corners. The children remember waking up in the morning with snow on their beds which blew in through the cracks in the walls. It was in the basement that Sid innocently aimed a loaded gun at Howard and instead of blowing him away, blew out the window above his head.

Shortly before Amelia delivered the twins, she asked the doctor if he thought she might be having twins. He laughed at her and said, "Why would you think that?"

"Well", she replied, "My sister just had twins."

He laughed again. But the last laugh was on him when five minutes after the first one was born, he said,

"Woops, here comes another one."

Orson P. and Nettie moved to Logan First Ward in the 1950's and ORT and his family moved back into the Victorian. To them it was a mansion after having lived in the deteriorating cinder-block basement.

Monday, July 7, 2008

"Raising" the Victorian Part 1

For 30 years we have wanted to tear down the old house, but it was hard to make the final decision because of all the family memories and history connected to that old house. We tried to interest USU in using it at the American West Center on Highway 89 but it was too political even though the extended Thatcher family offered to pay for the moving. The "Old Victorian" house was purchased by Orson Pratt Thatcher and Nettie Elizabeth Thatcher in 1909 from John C. Dawdle who built the house in 1884 and moved to Canada when they sold the farm.  It is reported to have been the first non-log house in Cache Valley.  Dawdle was also supposed to have been the person who built the first log house in the valley. J.C. Dawdle's descendent, Claudia Findlay, married Ed Prince, the cousin my dad raised. The information concerning Dawdle's building experiences comes from his personal journal in the possession of Claudia Prince. 

Grandpa Orson P. was not a farmer, he had been swindled out of a laundry business by an unscrupulous partner but had enough to make a down payment on 120 acres and house in Young Ward. The purchase price was $3,500.00.  

They raised chickens, eggs, sugar beets and grain crops.  During the depression, Orson 's half brothers at the Thatcher bank threatened to foreclose on the farm until Grandma Nettie went into the bank and read them the 'right act.'  They made him sign the farm over to his wife Nettie.  Grandma Nettie insisted they drill the well down in the West field and it was a real gusher.

Orson Reeder, Orson P's son is in both photos.  Orson P.  was driving a load of sugar beets over the bridge when the load shifted and the valuable work team ended up at the bottom of the creek with the load of sugar beets on top of them. He lost everything - the sugar beets, the team and the wagon.  It was a devastating  financial and emotional blow for grandpa.  

"Summer Snow"

As a child, our basement house was built into the hillside of the treeless Southern Alberta foothills on the verge of flattening into the expansive prairie. The closest trees were a good 1/2 hour by horseback to Kaye Woodard's, a couple of miles up the road. Their little brown house was next to a bridge on a coulee surrounded by TREES. On beautiful summer days, lying on a little cot in the grass we watched the clouds through the leaves and thought heaven couldn't compare. I yearned for my very own stream, bridge, grass and TREES. It was never a conscious goal and I don't think I ever believed that my dream would come true but I dreamed and wished anyway. It makes me reflect upon Alma's statement in Chapter 29, "for, I know that he (God) granteth unto men according to their desire...." for today some 60 years later, two streams meander lazily past our home. The banks are lined with native Cottonwood Trees -gentle giants that grow profusely, their mammoth trunks straining the bridge girders and deforming the deck flooring. Every year they shed forth their froth filling your eyes, nose and lungs, irritating allergies and decorating your car and clothes. Do I love them? Yes I do, passionately! Remembering my childhood desire, I find myself filled with gratitude for my bridges and creeks, the refreshing 40 degree pond with its 52 second feet of water (whatever that means but is very impressive to fact-spouting men like Sid), the hundreds of trees and the full acre of grass surrounding our house. One magical morning I walked out the front door and for the first time saw the flowers buried in 'summer snow" thanks to my beloved Cottonwood Trees.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A reminder of what could have been!

Yesterday was Sunday and as I walked, almost ran - skipped down the hall of the church house because I was in such a hurry to get back to the Relief Society room where I was teaching my lesson I passed Rachel Daugs, our neighbor and daughter of our old bishop. She fell on the ice just before Christmas and broke the same ankle she broke on our trampoline when she was about 10 years old. She broke one bone and got two pins. She was barely walking, last week she still had her crutches. He whole leg from her foot almost to her knee is swollen and she can hardly stand on it. Arvonna Jenson, our former Stake President's wife broke her ankle and got a couple of pins about 5 years ago. She is still limping. I was reminded of a year ago Feb 22 when I fell down the stairs at work and broke both ankle bones, one on each side. When I tripped on the landing I popped my ankle one direction and then popped it the other direction ending up on the floor moaning and groaning with a double fracture and dislocated left ankle. Paul took me to the hospital in Sid’s truck. He was so gentle, kind and supportive. He stayed with me and gave me a blessing once they looked at the X-rays and decided that the operation needed to be done immediately. An orderly anointed me with the oil and the very moment that Paul put his hands on my head to give me a blessing I relaxed and the pain left. That blessing was the most powerful IMMEDIATE blessing I have ever received. When he laid his hands on my head the excruciating pain totally subsided and I felt the spirit surge through me completely. In the blessing Paul promised me total recovery with no negative affects. There were 24 staples holding two incisions together. The outside incision was about 6” long with a metal plate and 7 screws holding the vertical break in place. The inside ankle incision was about 4” long and has 2 screws holding the large horizontal bone break in place. Within 8 weeks it was completely healed to the point where I didn't limp. A year later there was no swelling, only a few little stitch marks. I have been greatly blessed. Paul was promised in his Patriarchal Blessing that he would perform miracles. I believe I have been blessed as the recipient of one of those miracles and I was duly reminded of it Sunday as I witnessed the pain that I could still be experiencing. Thank you Paul for your gift and your kindness, mercy and patience with me. Thank you for being worthy to bless me with your Priesthood. Thank you for your continued efforts to work at becoming the kind of husband and father you want to be. Thank you for being my precious, wonderful son. Without you my life would not be complete!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"No Greater Joy."

Last night, Saturday, April 12, 2008 Sid and I left for SLC about 4:15 to go to Chuck A Rama with MaRea, Kyle and Kaden and then to the Jazz Game (Denver Nuggets – they won by 20+ points – my kind of game!) It was the best time we have had since we were in NYC with Dave, Tara and Claire - funny how the best times are always with our family. It was so good to see them again – I have missed them terribly. The most sensational event of the whole evening was when we were passing the temple and Kaden, who will be 3 on my birthday August 23, kept saying ‘Temple, mommy, Temple.” MaRea asked him. “When are YOU going to the temple Kaden?” and he said, “Mission.” She asked him, “What are you going to teach people about on your mission?” And as quick as she asked him he answered, “Jesus.” Then she asked him, “What are you going to teach them to read?” And he replied, “Book of Mormon.” She asked him, “We read two stories every night and one of them is the? And he again replied, “Book of Mormon.” My heart skipped a beat and it was instantly filled with JOY. I have no worries about Kaden. He will be fine in this difficult world because he is being rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He will know who he is and whose he is. He will be founded and grounded in love and he will seek after righteousness. Kaden Kyle Hess will find peace in a chaotic world because he will have faith, hope and trust in Christ. As John says in 3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Last night was full of JOY.