Our Family Legacy
No one can completely understand another human being. We can make word pictures of our impressions of various events. The unseen longings, desires, hopes, faith and the ambitions may be attempted, but the words which we use can convey only a fractional part of the meanings, the feelings, the heartaches, the love and the satisfactions experienced by others.
To evaluate these and to state them in logical sequence is difficult and probably impossible. In the attempt to remember my father, I have largely disregarded time sequence arrangement. I made no topical outline as a guide. Topics were added after the writing was completed.
There was little or no attempt to guide or force memory. Both content and feeling were given a chance to come to me as spontaneously as possible. I jotted down events and impressions without thinking about logical or chronological order. This may disturb those who attempt to read this article.
Probably no two people can receive the same impression from a given situation. Our past experience makes new experiences meaningful in different ways to each of us. If we depend largely upon memory, our feelings and observations may be somewhat changed by time. Each of us has a personal pattern of expression. This also affects the meaning of the ideas and feelings which we attempt to convey. So I consider these pages as personal notes.
Father had a large family. Each member of this group may have a different notion of Father because of different personalities and varied experiences in the home. This writing is primarily concerned with Father as I knew and remember him.
Largely as a result of pressures and conditions during the latter part of the nineteenth century in Utah, Mother was forced to assume an unusually important role in the raising and the support of her family. I have brought her into the discussion when the family faced very important issues and vital decisions.
There are some difficulties encountered when one attempts to evaluate distant happenings in terms of present feelings and understandings. Thinking into the past may be somewhat like looking at a distant view of nature, where all far-away objects are modified by a veil of atmosphere so that they appear changed in size, value, color and detail when compared with objects seen near the observer. The events and feelings of long ago may now seem changed or, in part, obscured by the intervening years.
To me, my father was a human being. He is not a mere mechanism who can be defined largely by listings of achievements. He cannot be hemmed in by dates. He was a pioneer who specifically belonged to the time in which he lived. He was a conformist who reserved for himself the right to say yes or no to problems in accordance with his understanding.
MY EARLIEST MEMORY OF FATHER
I was five years old when it happened. My bed was at the foot of Mother's bed in the east room, which was generally called Loraine's room. It was Wednesday night, May 1, 1887.
A sudden awakening from peaceful sleep startled me. I opened my eyes and quickly raised myself to a sitting position. I was afraid. A man was standing by my bedside in a menacing position. I soon recognized this man as our neighbor, a rugged middle-aged Swede with a mouse-colored, untrimmed beard. Everyone called him Brother Jensen.
Brother Jensen stood very near me. He was talking with a loud voice and violently waving his arms. A deputy marshal had handcuffed him and threatened to “shut him up.” His handcuffs consisted of a pair of locked metal wristbands connected by a short chain. When Brother Jensen shook his arms, the chain made a very loud noise.
The shackled man became increasingly angry and defiant. His voice increased in volume. His whole body shook. He looked through the middle door and yelled at the deputy marshal. “You double-crossing devil,” he said, and continued, “You lying traitor, you black coward. You promised your former friend that you would not molest him. Then you went out and gathered the scum of this valley. You deputized these law-breakers and with them you sneaked through the darkness to the home of a law-abiding and God-fearing man to make an arrest.”
Brother Jensen rattled his chain violently as he pointed toward me and cried out, “Look at this boy, you coward. You are not afraid of him now because he is a small child. But he will grow up, and as he grows to manhood he will carry with him the memory of this night. To him, God will give the power of vengeance. In the years to come, you will crawl from sight when you hear his name mentioned.”
In the next room there was another tense circle. Father stood erect in the center with Mother and Aunt Julia near him. They were facing the U.S. Deputy Marshal, who had said to Father a short time before, “Bent, you are an honorable man whom I have always trusted and admired. But you married a plural wife. Polygamy is now unlawful. Therefore I have a warrant for your arrest. I will never serve it if you will stay out of my way.”
Now the Marshal had broken his promise and arrested Father. Some neighbors heard that the officers were at our place. They quickly gathered to show their resentment. Some of them gave the marshal a bad time.
On Friday, March 16,1887, Father was sentenced to serve six months in the Utah State Prison and pay a fifty dollar fine. He was released Sunday, September 16,1887. Father still refused to abandon my mother and her children.
A MISSION CALL
In October 1881, my father was called to go on a Church mission to Norway, his native land. The call was signed by John Taylor, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The call came through Box B in Salt Lake City. For many years all missionary calls had the Box B identification mark on the enveloped. [“B” for Brigham Young.] When the Box B letters arrived in the local post office where someone from each family came for family mail, the arrival of the Box B envelope was broadcast to the entire town in a very short time.
THE LAW OF CELESTIAL MARRIAGE
With Church approval, Father had married a plural wife. He married my mother, Lorena Eugenia Washburn, in the Saint George Temple February 24,1880. Mother has told me many times that Father was esteemed by her and others as one of the very finest young men in Monroe.
At that time, the Church emphasized the fact that plural marriage was the Law of Celestial Marriage and that abiding by this law was the only way of securing entrance into the highest glory in the Celestial Kingdom. The general authorities of the church were generally living this law.
In less than a year after father departed for his mission, I was born, May 10,1882. I was father's oldest son. Mother and Aunt Julia, as we called her, lived together in a very substantial adobe house.
RETURN FROM MISSION
When father returned from his mission his health was broken. He had been sent into a hostile, mountainous section of Norway where, because he was a Mormon, he was refused food and shelter. After fighting his way through heavy storms by day, he was compelled to seek shelter in cold and drafty sheds at night. There was no place to dry his wet clothing. He became ill. His sickness resulted in asthma and slight heart trouble, which handicapped him during the rest of his life.
He was thirty-seven years older than I was. I knew him best when he should have been at the height of his physical manhood but his powers were lagging behind his hopes and desires. I was sure that his illness was a serious handicap. Before leaving for his mission he was physically sound and mentally alert. He was a leader and a hero in some athletic events. His faith in the future was unlimited. He had a good home, a fair-sized and productive farm in the heart of the north field.
A part of his best land was sold for a fraction of its real worth to get money for his mission. He had felt sure that when he returned with his usual health and with his normal robust hope and faith, the acquisition of more land would be no problem. I feel quite sure that he would have accepted the call to serve the Church even if he had foreknowledge of the sacrifice of health which would follow.
It is difficult for the well person to understand how perpetual illness can blight ambitious hopes. Father seldom went to bed during the hours when men should work, but I have been with him many times when his breath failed him so he was compelled to lean against a fence or sit on a ditch bank to recuperate. During intermittent attacks, Father was quite helpless. At other times he seemed slow, but otherwise normal in health.
PRIDE IN WELL DOING
Father possessed unusual pride. It was not the strutting, show-off type of make-believe pride. His pride expressed itself not so much in possession as in achievement. His were the most carefully built corrals and stables. He disliked sloppy workmanship. In his fields there was a maximum crop yield on every acre. His nearest rival was Uncle Andrew.
When the grain and hay were hauled and stacked in the yard against the coming of the winter, Father gloried in the ideas of abundance and security. His spirits dropped a little when he visited his brothers and saw that their harvest seemed to exceed his own. He was not envious of their good fortune, but he was sorry that his meager acres could not produce more. “This would not be,” he once told me, “if I were not compelled at times to almost crawl instead of run.” He wished that he could carry the work load of a superior man.
CLEANLINESS A WAY OF LIFE
The expression of pride was manifest in many ways. To Father, cleanliness was a must. At feeding time there was always an inspection tour with pitch fork in hand to make sure that no hay nor chaff was left where it should not be. Father kept his yards clean as a good housekeeper keeps her floors clean.
About twice a year, and especially at springtime, we raked the lots and hauled away all accumulated rubbish. Our neighbors did not do this. I sometimes accused father of being too finicky and fussy. To him, cleanliness was not merely next to Godliness it was an essential part of Godliness.
When he answered my objections, I felt as if he believed that our homes, including corrals and even the city lots, were a direct gift from our Father in Heaven, and that we were only stewards.
I doubt if anyone ever saw father drive a dirty team. While I was helping about the place, nearly every morning my assignment was to clean the stable floor, curry and brush the horses before putting them into the harness. Every night, bedding straw was carefully placed on the stable floor before the chores were finished.
Personal cleanliness was very important. As we walked home from church, Father sometimes expressed his disgust with men who rushed to meeting on Sunday morning without cleaning the muck off their shoes after they had been working in wet manure while doing their chores. He was especially offended by several high priests who came to meetings regularly with dirty necks. He expressed much sympathy for young boys who failed to wash themselves, but an old high priest ought to be demoted if he persisted in appearing in public with dirty neck and ears.
Personal cleanliness was a conspicuous aspect of father's pride.
ORDER, A DIVINE LAW
We often quote the old saying that “order is heaven's first law.” Father tried to make order a part of all of his activities. We began and ended every day with prayer. We thanked the Lord before we began our meals. Father and Mother were both very punctilious about prayer and were orderly in their thinking and in their work.
Work in the fields was planned, often the day before it was to be done. In the granary, Father kept partitioned boxes for receiving all kinds of waste materials which had promise of future use. Buckles of various sizes, pieces of leather straps, nails, bolts, etc., all sorted and ready for use were available when needed.
No one ever saw our harnesses dropped and left on damp or dirty ground. They were hung on large pegs especially prepared for them. If Father was away from home, he used the front wheels or the break rod for harness racks. All of our equipment received special attention.
For Father, there were poor ways and better ways of doing things. He took pride in trying to do everything the right way. This was a part of the Gospel for him.
FATHER AS A TEACHER
Father was a good teacher. Sometimes he was direct and at other times very subtle.
Some object lessons given to me by my father have remained as religious guides. One morning we hurried to the field for a load of hay. The sky was dark with heavy black clouds. There was promise of rain. We loaded the rack with our best hay. “We must hurry this load to tithing,” Father explained. “The rest will be soaked before we return.”
“But we should not pay the first load but the tenth load,” I argued.
Father pointed to an adjoining field. Our neighbor was beginning to load some of his best alfalfa. “Every year it is the same,” said Father. “Our friend hurries the best of his crop into his own barn and when the rain comes, he goest to yonder corner where little else except foxtail grows. From there he will get the Lord's portion. It is much heavier when it is wet and therefore more tithing credit is obtained. Our neighbor expects blessings from his tithe paying, but it may be that his children will not be in the Church when they grow up.”
FATHER A PERFECTIONIST.
Like Mother, Father was a perfectionist. When we built the granaries, he spent considerable time lining up the structures with the north star. With his home-made plumb-bob he carefully checked all upright parts. Everything had to be perfect.
In the building of our haystackers, every log was carefully selected in the mountains for size and service. No weak nor soft wood units were used. Before the assemblage began, every log and brace was measured. When the construction was completed, the balance of frame and swinging arm was perfect. To me it seemed that the stackers were perfect in every detail and that they would last forever. I was very proud of my pa.
Father went beyond many men in seeking perfection in little things. By the hour I have watched him mend the harness. The harness took a beating during the wood hauling season. We jerked down large half-green juniper and pinion trees. These were trimmed with an axe for firewood. In the jerking and dragging process, lines, hame straps, belly-bands and even heavy tugs were snapped and severed.
Splices were made so carefully that they were not only strong but a delight to the eye also. Father's splicing of ropes made him a craftsman hero without a peer in the valley.
Each unit of a harness had a shiny, polished side and a rougher under side. As Father grew older, he gradually lost some of his finer adjustments. When he spliced a line for instance, he sometimes later discovered that he had placed the best side of the leather with the rougher underside of the strap. These “debatches” as he called them [debauches] caused him some worry and a little shame. After many years, his harness became old and conspicuously patched. This old harness on the sleek and well-curried old John and Bill, Father's favorite team, was a tragedy.
I well remember when we purchased the new harness and also when we bought the new Bain wagon. It seemed as if a good fairy had smitten Father with her magic wand and made him twenty years younger. I felt sure that his tread was lighter and that his face was tilted toward the clouds. One thing was sure. His pride and self respect was, in large measure, restored.
JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS
Father tried to be just and fair with his family. In this endeavor he encountered serious obstacles. Women who embraced the Law of Celestial Marriage in those days were often disappointed, hurt and compelled to suffer great injustice in family relations. But men also had problems in their attempts to be just and fair. Some of these problems were imposed from sources outside the family circle.
An interesting and somewhat unique aspect of fairness in our family was the fact that the children came in pairs. Marie was born to Aunt Julia before Father and Mother were married. But after Mother's marriage, there seemed to be no favorite wife from this point of view. In Bible times and in our own era, this type of justice has not always been the rule.
OUR SEPARATE HOMES AT MONROE
Mother also had a great sense of pride in her home, her children, her surroundings, and her work. It was inevitable that she have a separate home. She loved this little home of her own very much.
ON THE UNDERGROUND
When U. S. Deputy Marshals began to raid the homes of families who were living the Law of Celestial Marriage, it became necessary for Mother and her children to leave their home and become exiles on the underground.
We first moved to Redmond and assumed the name of Thompson. This imposed a serious handicap on family unity. We began a long period in which Mother had a major responsibility for her children. Father's family was separated. Our needs were very important. They had to be satisfied with little or no help from Father. A close relationship with him at this time would have condemned him to prison and increased our difficulties.
It became evident that our identity could not remain a secret in Redmond. Mother was pregnant with Enoch. This made her conspicuous and the subject of gossip and curiosity.
WAGON TRAIN TO SANFORD, COLORADO
A group of persecuted men, most of them from Sevier county, decided to take their plural wives to the San Louis Valley in Colorado, where they would not be molested by U. S. marshals. Father came for us and we joined the covered wagon train to Sanford. For approximately a year we traveled and lived together, Father, Mother and children as a normal family. We had difficulties but we were happy. There was peace and mutual good will.
I was very proud of my father as I watched him build a new house for us. It was a pioneer type of log cabin with a fireplace. The large room would seem crowded and inconvenient by our modern standards now, but Father built a table, a cupboard, a series of shelves and put pegs in the walls.
I helped Father place and secure the quartered sapling pieces to fill the cracks between the logs. We used wooden pegs instead of nails. Then we mixed the clay and water to daub these cracks. Father was extra particular to make the inside walls as smooth as possible. I rode with Father when he hauled the dry clay for the roof. We had no shingles.
When the house was finished, Mother spent a lot of time converting the house into a charming home. We all rejoiced. Then suddenly, one day, tragedy struck. A violent rainstorm was disastrous. The clay from the roof came in flood-like streams into the room, covering the beds, filling the cupboard, converting our clothes and most everything into a sticky mess.
Father hurried about. He was helpless to stop the disaster. Mother was horrified. Enoch was a baby. He had been born in a Mrs. Carter's home a block north from our new home. The cleaning up and restoring required courage and was a demonstration of genuine pioneer spirit.
When a much-advertised new canal failed to materialize as promised, work became scarce and some people were almost destitute. A large group of people in Sanford were Mormon converts from the southern states. They had been pressured by unscrupulous land agents to sell their homes and move to the San Louis Valley.
WAITING FOR BLANCO
A Brother Harris from Utah, with his young wife, Lizzie, who often visited our home, refused the low paid jobs available. He always explained that he was waiting for big opportunities to turn up at Blanco. “Waiting for Blanco” became a common expression when people were referring to a lazy or indigent person.
CAMPED ON LIGHTNING CREEK
We moved to Durango for the summer. Here Father hauled coal to the city from a large mine. He made a round trip each day. At night he and other haulers turned their horses out to feed on a large and heavily wooded mountain.
Often, long before daylight, I started with Father to find the horses. On occasion they wandered a long distance from camp. The mountain was infested with bears. Often grizzlies were seen. One man was attacked while we were there and he got away when the mother bear rushed back to her cubs. The man finally crawled away and with great difficulty reached a sheep camp. After that event, two men generally went together when hunting for their horses.
While we walked through the forest and across open spaces, we talked about ways of defending ourselves if we were attacked. One of Father's friends always carried a sharpened stick and a knife. He said he would rather meet a bear face to face. When it reared up to strike him and opened its mouth to bite him, he would push the stick far down the bear's throat and then he would use the knife. One old-timer said he would rather meet a bear with a sword than with a gun. In the semi-darkness, burned-out tree stumps in the distance took on the appearance of one or more bears. So we were always cautious.
One day when the workers on the railroad grade were resting and eating their lunches, a large grizzly came out of the timber and leisurely ambled across the bottom of the canyon. When he came to the new road bed, he followed the top of it for about one hundred yards and then disappeared on the other side of the canyon. This occurred quite close to our tent. When the bear approached the railroad workers, they hurriedly scattered in various directions.
While near Durango, we lived in a tent at the bottom of a large canyon. The meandering stream which supplied us with water was called Lightning Creek. A railroad was being constructed up the bottom of this canyon to service the coal mine and an army post further up.
ATTITUDE TOWARD TOBACCO
Father had explained to me why he did not use tobacco. When he was preparing for his first ocean voyage, like sailors generally did, he purchased a generous supply of tobacco and some clay pipes enough, in fact, to last for a long voyage.
After a few days out and a few tries at the pipes, he became disgusted and threw all of his smoking equipment overboard. His shipmates were much surprised.
Father told me that he had never smoked since that day and if I ever saw him using tobacco, then it would be time for me to start. Then he added, “Before you start, you should think of the great amount of time and money it will take just to make of you nothing more than merely a dirty stinker.”
I FOUND A PIPE
I was greatly surprised one morning at Lightning Creek when I went to the wagon and raised the jockey box lid. There at the top of the usual things lay a beautiful new tobacco pipe. That, I believe, was the first time that I ever mistrusted my father's integrity. I was not hungry that morning when breakfast was ready. I watched Father carefully. I tried to smell his breath. I was unhappy all day.
At the evening meal, Father explained that the day before he had found our neighbor's pipe near the coal bins but he had no time until after work to return it to the owner. Mr. Hodsteter prized the pipe highly and was delighted to have it returned.
I did not always agree with my father but, as I remember, I never had occasion to mistrust him again.
THE MANIFESTO OF 1890
When the summer was ended, we were on our way again toward Utah. While stopping for a short visit at Mancos, we received our first news of the 1890 Manifesto. Mother and Father were both violently shocked. This news was unbelievable. The Edmond Tucker law had been a troublesome reality. But this action by the Church leaders could not be true.
Most of the Church general authorities were in jail or in hiding. The Church property had been seized by the government. Now it appeared as if the Church had abandoned the Law of Celestial Marriage, as it had been understood, and had forsaken the men and the women who had already suffered much because they had followed the advice of their leaders. My parents refused to believe reports of the Manifesto until they reached Moab and talked with people who had attended General Conference.
As I recall from memory, the confirmation of this news caused the darkest day in the lives of my parents. Rich family life seemed at an end. Hope for this life and the life hereafter appeared to be dead.
Some men abandoned their plural wives. Father listened to his friends and was almost persuaded that the plural wives should be set aside for this life but they must remain pure and faithful for the next life. Father might have followed this pattern except for the intense suffering of my mother. I am very glad that Father did not cast off and abandon a part of his family.
His refusal to abandon wife and children cost him this time a term of one month in prison. It also cost him a year in exile alone and away from home. Endless worry and trouble resulted from his decision.
ENFORCED SEPARATION FROM FATHER
It was because of the Manifesto that Mother and her children stopped for the winter at Huntington in Castle Valley. Father left us there and he returned to Monroe. This forced separation of Father from Mother and children brought about a type of broken home which was not good. In the eyes of many people, we suddenly became illegal or unlawful. We were castoffs.
When we finally returned to Monroe, our home life was not the same any more. The closeness of the two family units began to deteriorate because of conditions which the family did not choose nor want. We felt this most in Mother's home because friends and even some close relatives thought of us as law breakers. Very dear relatives openly expressed the idea that Mother should follow the church command and completely separate herself and children from Father. This was a very tragic period for the Church. Many were caught between seemingly opposing loyalties.
Often those who record history are so concerned with large movements and events that they fail to mention in detail the cries of anguish and the suffering of souls who are in reality the real substance out of which history is made. Mother openly expressed her grief. Father expressed himself with sad silence.
Before I began writing these brief notes, “Memories of my Father,” I decided to avoid the mention of this period in his life when his thoughts, his actions, and troubles were in part, imposed by orders from both the government and the Church. Life is made up of heart throbs plus factual experience. To record the memory of a growing boy's thoughts and feelings, one must probe deeply in search for meanings and explanations. As a boy and also as a young man, I was sure during this trying period that my parents, the both of them, spent very little time, or no time at all, looking backward, nor thinking of what might have been.
They knew that their troubles came largely from the system of plural marriage. They remained loyal to the Church. Their belief in the divine was strengthened through prayer. The pressure of persecution, as they believed, was a test of their faith and strength. They believed that the principle of plural marriage was a divine and eternal plan for testing the faithful.
For a time, Father came to our house after dark each day for supper. He read and reread the Deseret Semi-Week1y News, sometimes aloud and with comments. I enjoyed these visits, but to me they somehow lacked sufficient warmth, and after he left I felt that a near stranger had called for a brief visit.
We seldom discussed our home problems intimately together. There was too little lingering after supper. Always we felt apprehension lest he be seen by tongue-wagging neighbors who could inform the marshals.
In the early mornings, Father often called to wake me. He waited while I dressed. We probably hauled a load of hay before sunrise. As we rode together to the fields, we were father and son again. Restraint and fear had temporarily vanished. After supper, Father returned to the other place again to finish his chores, make minor repairs and see that everything was ready for tomorrow's activities.
From the beginning, it seemed only natural for Father to use his first home as his headquarters. The persecution later made this imperative.
During the critical periods in the 1880's and the 1890's when outside pressures made it difficult and unsafe for Father to be at our house except for very short periods, our intimate relationship with him naturally disintegrated somewhat. With the exception of the field work, decisions were usually made not so much by father and mother as by mother and children.
Even after some of us were married and when persecution pressures were somewhat abated, Father often came to Mother's home for meals. After finishing his meal, he would sometimes explain, “Now I must hurry home to plow the garden and repair the fence.” The going home from Mother's to do necessary work was a constant worry to Mother. I often wished that Father would learn to think of my home as his home.
Mother's responsibility had increased and continued without diminishing. From the time that I was eleven or twelve years old, I was given more responsibility and on occasion I tried to do a man's work.
The fall threshing was a great event when I was a boy. The horse power set-up attracted every boy and many grownups in the neighborhood. The rest periods were exciting. At these times there were often wise cracks, jokes and stunt demonstrations. Good-natured pranksters often expressed themselves freely.
For a long time there was no grain stacked at Mother's place. Pressure from judges and marshals made Father decide to deed his real estate to his two wives. As a result, grain was stacked in both Aunt Julia's and Mother's yards. It was a happy day for me. My home, through this event, attained full stature in the neighborhood. The boys flocked to our home to watch the threshers. Something else had taken place. When the threshers had departed, there was a bin of wheat which inspired a feeling of partial security. There was a quantity of screenings to feed the chickens during the fall and winter months. Moderate sized stacks of hay insured feed for cows. Thus more butter and milk would be available.
Farmers generally had very little or no cash money. At the stores people traded eggs, butter, and grain for necessities which they could not produce. At Mother's home, from the very beginning, we had very little to trade. Our small flock of chickens had usually scratched for themselves most of the time. With one and sometimes two cows it was often difficult to supply nine growing children with much-needed milk and butter. At times, when our cow was dry, we borrowed an unbroken range cow for a period.
Probably no one, except some of Mother's children, can ever know of her fatigue, her heartaches, and ofttimes her humiliation with poverty and with the feeling of aloneness in the struggle to provide for her family and to secure the wherewith to make her dreams come true.
The land division was a major event for Mother and her children. It furnished security for borrowing to continue the education of her children. The harvest from her ten acres of farm land helped lessen her worries about the day-to-day necessities.
FATHER ACCEPTS A CHALLENGE
During the rest period during one of the early threshings at our home, George Hicks, a part-owner of the threshing machine, very loudly challenged Father's pride and ability. He said, “Bent, you used to be a great wrestler. You were a great man in those days. You took on all comers. We were mighty proud of you then, but look at you now. You are getting old and shriveled and weak. You are not even the half of a man.” Pointing to Enoch, who stood nearby, George continued. “Even that thirteen-year-old kid of yours could put you on your back now.”
Threshers and spectators quickly formed a ring about Father. There was a moment of silence. Father straightened himself up, pushed out his chest and bent his two arms at the elbows. He walked over and took hold of Enoch, who seemed surprised. The crowd yelled approval. Enoch, somewhat embarrassed, put his left arm about Father's waist. Then he reached down and put his other arm under Father's knees. He gently raised Father in his arms, carried him about two yards and carefully laid him down on a small pile of new straw. The shouting from the crowd was terrific.
On that occasion, Father lost about twenty years in self confidence. It took him some time to realize what every aging person must learn, that the Good Lord has wisely planned our declining years so that aging is a slow process. When we compare today with yesterday, we perceive no change. We are shocked when we compare today with our vigorous youth in the distant past.
LOYALTY TO CHURCH LEADERS
As a boy, I sometimes thought that my parents went too far in their loyalty for church leaders. I know as most everyone does, that a man is not made perfect simply by being called and set apart for a position. Even ordination by divine authority may not transform a man nor change him into an entirely new being.
I was taught to speak no evil of those whom the Lord has chosen. When we speak evil of a man, we destroy his power to do good. We cause others to lose confidence. We may weaken the power for good in the world. We, ourselves, may lose much when we form the habit of looking for the bad.
In my youth, I felt that those who choose officers for wards and stakes should possess the power of discernment to a degree which would enable them to select worthy officers for the various positions. At a ward conference in Monroe, the Stake Presidency released our bishop and selected a new bishop for us. He was a well known business man and a successful farmer and rancher.
When he was presented to the congregation for approval, there was silence until the show of hands indicated that the candidate had been rejected by a very large majority. The Stake Presidency were taken by surprise. They asked for someone to explain why the man of their choice was rejected by the people. It would be difficult for me to forget the tension in the chapel when members arose to justify their negative vote.
I sat on an aisle seat. Father sat on the bench beside me. I never did find out how he voted because I was watching the congregation.
As we walked home together after church, Father was silent and sad. Finally he broke the silence by saying, “When a man is chosen by God through inspiration, it is not our business to criticize. It is the Lord's responsibility now, and He does everything for the best. It is not His fault if we do not always understand His way of doing things.”
I remember my father's reactions when he faced tense situations. He generally appeared calm and thoughtful. He never reacted by swearing. I remember no temperamental explosions. His voice did not become high pitched. His attitude was not menacing. His words did not take the form of name calling.
To me, Father became dignified with no indication of being afraid. He seemed to possess the power to gather and concentrate his strength. He seemed to have an unseen reserve for emergencies. Although Father disliked some people, I never heard him express the desire for revenge.
At times I felt sure that Father made some mistakes in judgment. On certain occasions I interpreted his attitude as being a little cold and indifferent, but I never thought of him as deliberately desiring to hurt a living soul.
THE NIELS HANSEN AFFAIR
It was late afternoon when Father turned the water from his wheat to an acre of potatoes which was next to the road and a part of our east ten-acre field. I was with Father. We had carefully distributed the water in the furrows and went down a little way to pull a few redroots which had escaped the hoe sometime earlier. We carried the weeds to a spot near the east ditch bank. There was a high growth of sweet clover along the bank. This concealed the view of us from the road.
After a half hour of weed pulling, Father decided to check the water. It was necessary to have the water carefully distributed so that the stream in all furrows would reach the bottom of the forty-rod potato patch at about the same time. We started toward the south ditch bank where we had left our shovels. When we reached a point about thirty to forty yards from the water intake, we saw Niels Hansen taking out our dam and turning the water down the main ditch. Our turn was not up for about three hours.
Father called to Niels who paid no attention. He probably had not seen us because of the high sweet clover. Father hurried toward him. As he approached, I saw Niels raise up and lift his shovel to a menacing position. I was almost paralyzed with fear. Niels was a large man in comparison with Father, but at that moment he seemed to me like a giant twice as big as Father.
I managed to call, “Pa look out!” As Father jumped the ditch, Niels raised the blade of the shovel high over his head. With a lightening-like, rotary movement, Father reached up, grabbed the shovel handle with both hands and, with surprise action, he wrenched the shovel from his opponent.
When Father had the shovel, Niels rapidly backed away. He soon turned his back and began to walk fast. Father spoke as he threw the shovel. He said, “Take your shovel with you, Niels. You may need it again. And remember Niels, it is a very bad policy to try to steal water.” Then Father turned to me and said, “Well that's that, lets go and tend the water. No, you go while I repair the dam.”
THE LOUIS ANDERSON ACCIDENT
During the wood hauling season in the Order Dugway area, Father had a number of experiences which tested his self control in the presence of danger and serious trouble. I remember an occasion when we were returning home with a large load in the later afternoon. On a dugway just above the rock dike which crossed the road, we came around a sharp curve and saw a serious accident ahead of us.
Louis Anderson, our neighbor, turned about to adjust the denim-covered quilt which he was using folded as a seat. His one horse slowed up a bit. This suddenly threw the right front wheel against a rock on the upside of the dugway. The wagon turned over. The horses came to a stop with their feet partly in the air and their backs were downhill. Louis was caught with both legs and a part of his body wedged between two large pieces of wood.
I wanted to run and start trying to pull our neighbor from his precarious position. Father stopped our team, fastened the lines to a tree beside the road. Then he hastily but cautiously approached the place of accident. He paused a brief moment and spoke aloud. “One careless move on our part,” he said, “will send the wood, the wagon and the horses rolling down over Louis' body and we will be powerless to prevent it.”
I was amazed at his ability to quickly size up the situation and formulate a plan of action. With first things first, he calmly and quietly proceeded. When we were through, the wagon was fastened so that it could not move downhill. The horses were released by cutting the harness in several places, including two tugs. The wood was blocked with rocks or tied in places to prevent rolling. Louis was released with the aid of a lever and, with some difficulty, he was placed on our load. In a comparatively short period of time, everything was under control without further serious accident. We tried to make Louis comfortable before we continued our journey homeward. The next day his sons Louis Jr. and Andrew with some friends recovered the wagon and the wood.
THE STEEP HILL RUNAWAY
On another occasion we took a long, round-about, zigzag route to reach a high part of the mountain. The easy places for getting wood had long since been cleared. We were seeking a way of reducing the long drag. When we were loaded, it appeared to us that the only way to get down was over the point of a very steep hill.
We put rough locks on both rear wheels. I rode the one so that the knotted chain would dig into the ground. We used four extra large tree trunks as a drag. The heavy knotted root ends or buts were pointed to the rear. As an extra safety precaution we attached an untrimmed pinion pine to the end of one of the drag sticks.
Father said that it was too dangerous to ride the load, so he walked beside the wagon to do the driving. We always carried a keg of water when we went into the fields or to the hills. On the load of wood we wedged the water keg between sticks of wood in such a way that the keg would not roll off. When we were part way down the steep hill, the keg was loosened. It rolled over the front of the load and landed on the middle of old John's back and then down between the horses, striking and frightening both of them. They were soon in full gallop down the steep incline.
Father was compelled to release the lines. It was a frightful experience to see the runaway from the steep hillside. We followed as fast as possible.
When the horses reached the more level ground at the bottom of the canyon, they tried to follow the road but the curves sent them smashing into rocks, brush and trees. The wagon and the harness were badly damaged. The horses were still frightened but quite unhurt except for some bruises when we approached them.
Father took charge as if he were beginning the regular work of a new day. There were no lamentations nor moaning. It was several days before the mending was completed on the harness. As I remember we built a new wood rack.
STOPPED BY A JUNIPER TREE
The next year during the wood hauling, Father tried the high juniper forest again. It was very cold and there were several inches of snow in the hills. Our feet were wrapped in gunnysack which was tied to our feet and legs, almost to the knees, with binding twine. We had no gloves and a cold wind was blowing.
It may have been the weather which caused Father to take a chance. In the middle of the afternoon we had about three fourths of the wood load on the wagon. Father walked a short distance down the north side of the hill on which we were located. When he returned, he stood for about a minute without speaking. Then he said, “On the hill below us there seems to be some fine, half-dry cedars which are easy to get. We'll try going down there.”
We both mounted the wagon and Father drove to the brow of the hill. There he stopped to take another look. “There is a clearing straight ahead,” he observed. “Hold the brakes tight. We'll take a chance. I think that we can make it.”
The brakes were not enough to hold the load. When it began to crowd the horses, they stiffened their legs and each dug all fours into the ground. A breast strap snapped and the wagon began to roll quite fast and was soon out of control. The wagon swerved to the right and we headed straight toward the center of a large green juniper tree.
It appeared as if both horses were headed for sure death. To our surprise, old John jumped as far to the right as he could and old Bill moved around the tree to the left as far as the harness would permit. The wagon tongue went through the middle of the tree which had two large trunks instead of one. The wagon made a sudden stop when the front of the load came in contact with the tree trunks.
Father and I were shaken a little, but we were not hurt. We were soon on the ground and Father was taking inventory of the damage. We freed the horses first. The harness was intact except for the breast strap and the two inner guide lines. A ring on the neck yoke was broken. Most of our emergency wire was used up in making repairs.
Next we placed rocks under the wheels. We secured the back of the wagon to a tree. Then we cut down the tree which had stopped us. Removing this tree was quite difficult because it was necessary to raise the wagon tongue and work quite close to the ground. We safely reached the top of the hill below us. When we had completed our load, we came out of the hills without more trouble.
When we reached home, I was still excited and thought that everyone should know the details of the way we faced death or worse. By observing Father, one might have thought that this incident was just a small part of the regular day's activities. He did say to Aunt Julia, “We are a little late. Things did not work out as we had expected. We will have a little mending to do before we go again in the morning.”
AIRBORNE - BY SURPRISE
My job in the wood hills was to scout for partially dry juniper and pinion pine trees which we used for heating our homes and for cooking. When a likely juniper was located, I usually climbed part way up the tree and shook it lightly at first to feel out the next procedure. I could often tell by the response to the light shake if the tree could be yanked over with a team. If the tree did not respond to a light shake, I used all of my strength to shake it more violently. Sometimes I climbed higher to get more leverage against the roots. Sometimes I climbed around the tree to find a vantage point for fastening a chain.
All partially dead trees had some dry or partially dry roots and also green roots. If by shaking the tree I could hear the cracking of dry roots, I tied a long chain near the top and pulled the tree over with a team. A straight pull seldom brought results. The horses were trained to jerk or lunge forward. Sometimes repeated jerking was necessary to get results. Often we had to cut a part or all of the green roots.
One day I discovered a super dandy tree. If we could get it to our wood pile, it would be the pride of our neighborhood. It was large and solid. It was beautiful in shape. I stopped to admire this rare specimen. As I admired, I calculated and decided that it would make enough stove wood to last our family for a whole month.
The tree grew on the edge of a rock cliff with a vertical drop of about ten feet to the steep hillside below. I had decided that I must have that tree. I stood on the ground on the uphill side and tried to shake the juniper. It was solid. There was no indication that it would loosen. I climbed up about six feet and tried to shake again. The results were disappointing.
Next I hurried up [the tree] until my hands were grasping the trunk quite near the top. There was a slight crackling from the roots. I became impatient and forgot what Father had taught me concerning the importance of caution. I moved around until my back was toward the vertical cliff and the steep downhill side. My body was pressed close against the tree trunk. When my footing on a limb was secure, I pushed my body backward with all of my strength. When it came to rest, I was lying on my back with my head down hill. The tree trunk was above me.
I might have been killed instantly except for breaking limbs which cushioned the fall. Big branches on each side prevented broken pieces from piercing my body. My breath was gone. I lay for some time unable to speak. Father called and when I did not answer he came searching for me. It required some thinking and careful planning to chop me out. After relaxing for an hour or more I was able to walk to the wagon and continue with some work.
Father's comment was, “We thank the Lord that your life was spared. The accident might have been very serious.” I felt guilty about my being careless and expected him to scold me. When we arrived home, I said very little to Mother about the accident. I knew that she would worry whenever I was in the wood hills if she knew about my trouble in attempting to bring home a show-off tree.
A DREAM CAME TRUE
When I was a boy in Monroe, many of my boy friends owned or had access to riding ponies. I loved horses. Father was interested in draft animals. We were very close to the early pioneer West. Horses were a necessity for survival.
My daydreams included a fine horse, a smart dog and a gun. Mother was afraid of dogs and guns. Father's answer was, “We have all of the horses that we need or can afford.” He seemed not to understand the humiliation of a boy riding an old pokey work-horse on occasions when other boys were showing off with alert and speedy saddle ponies.
Often there were horse races on one of the back streets. The race was a sort of competition to show not only which horse was best but also, in a way, to determine which man was most popular. Young men who owned beautiful and fast ponies were greatly admired and envied.
Uncle Orson imported and sold blooded stallions throughout the state. When he entered a town with a half dozen or more finely groomed and ribboned prancing, heavy weight English Clydesdale, French Percheon, and Belgian horses, the town suddenly waked up.
Grandma Washburn was alive then. She occupied a room in a large brick house which Uncle Orson had recently built. I was at Uncle Orson's home one day where I saw a young sorrel mare with a new colt. The mare had fared for herself on the range. She appeared to be half starved. Most of her bones were badly showing. The colt was lively and beautiful. I told Uncle Orson that some day I hoped to own a colt just like that one. His answer was, “Sometime we'll talk about it.”
A few days later he came to our house. He told me that he had come to talk about the colt. I was disappointed when he said, “I know that you had your heart set on that colt. I came to tell you that I can't part with it now, but I have a proposition for you. You may have the colt's Mother for fifteen dollars.” My heart began to beat a little faster and then it almost stopped. Where could I get fifteen dollars?
Uncle Orson spoke again. “You are able to work, aren't you? If you want the mare, I'll give you fifty cents a day. You work thirty days for me and the mare is yours. I have one condition. You must keep the colt until it is old enough to wean.”
No one can ever know how much I wanted that mare for my very own. I told Uncle Ort [sic] that it would be necessary to talk to my Father before I could give my final answer. When I told Father, he was very much surprised. He began to explain why the idea was impossible. He began by saying, “You scarcely have enough hay at your place to feed one milk cow. A horse will take up a lot of your valuable time. And besides, why do we need another horse?” I said, “We may not need another horse, but I need one and I would like to have this little mare.”
I am not quite sure that I succeeded in getting him to understand the pent-up longings in a boy's heart, the need to have some living thing which was my very own, the need to stick out my chest a little in the presence of other boys, the need to mount a steed and ride against the wind at full speed, the need to love and train some living creature which would respond and cooperate with my varied moods.
I had raised rabbits. I had a collection of toads in the empty potato cellar. Christian Nielson and I had four young badgers which we kept in a horse stall. I had enjoyed these pets, but the possibility of a horse of my own was thrilling. It meant that I had arrived in a man's world. I was now experiencing the same feeling and thoughts which motivated Father when he chose a big ship with tall white sails to ride the open sea thirty-seven years earlier.
Father gave only partial consent for me to buy the mare I wanted. It was difficult for him to understand my problem. My problem was the same as his problem had been, but the time and the place were different. This mare, called Pet, became a valuable asset to the family. She gave us some very valuable colts, but to me she was a satisfaction beyond price.
IMPORTANT FAMILY OBJECTIVES
There was a wide difference between Father's ideas and Mother's ideas of the necessities in family living. Father insisted on staying within our means. He tried to supplement the meager income from the farm by freighting trips with farm produce to Nevada mining camps during the cold winter months or hauling hay and grain to Kimberley on Gold Mountain. He was opposed to waste of any kind. In work and thought, he expressed the idea that physical needs were very basic and must be supplied first.
Mother was greatly concerned with physical needs also and worked hard with a variety of activities to supply food and clothing. But she often went far beyond the merely physical. Her aesthetic sensibility insisted upon a quality of beauty in clothes and other objects which she made for her family and others. This was a plus quality. She wanted much more than shelter in her little home. She put an individual touch into everything.
Mother maintained a driving faith in continuous progress and eternal betterment. I was continuously baffled by her ability to project hope into the dark future and arouse energy in a tired soul to strive toward the accomplishment of a seemingly distant goal. While Father was struggling against odds to maintain the status quo, she appeared to be always searching and planning for something better; often seemingly beyond our reach.
Since I can remember, the four Larsen brothers set a very high standard of fraternal brotherhood and presented models of Christian virtues. But in my opinion, they were naturally conservative as a group and as individuals. Their honor and their credit rating was high. They were known as good craftsmen. Sometimes I may have underrated the scope of their creative imagination. They were solid, dependable citizens.
THE PROBLEM OF EDUCATION
One of the widest differences in family thinking about the future was concerned with the problem of education. Until I was seventeen years old, my opportunities for school were quite limited because we were on the underground, traveling or moving from place to place. I was approximately ten-years old before we settled down again in Monroe. Then Father's health was at a low ebb. He needed my help in the fields. I soon learned to assist with crop gathering, with fall plowing and some harrowing. When the ground became frozen so we could not work in the fields, then we went into the hills for fire wood, enough to supply two houses for the next year.
Early in the spring we hauled many loads of barnyard manure from the town yards to the fields. When the ground warmed up in the spring, we prepared the ground, planted the crops and cleaned the water ditches. We also helped to clean the canal. In the summer we irrigated, cultivated, pulled weeds, hoed corn, and gathered two crops of alfalfa hay. I soon learned to run the mowing machine and the horse rake, and later the self-binder. Occasionally it would be almost Christmas before I entered school and I was out again very early in the spring.
I was promoted each year but felt the handicap of my short school season. When I reached the eighth grade, I decided to repeat. During the second year in the eighth grade class, for the first time I remained in school until it closed for the summer. I made the decision to repeat the eighth grade because Father and I considered this the end of school for me. Mother, however, had a different plan and pursued it so vigorously that Father and I had to surrender.
I wanted to continue school, but this would require money. There seemed no way of securing it. So I proposed getting a job to herd sheep for Alma Magleby and, if possible, go away to school later. I knew that Mother's idea of higher education was not just for me but for all of her children. This made it imperative that I prepare at once.
When I decided to leave home for more schooling, Father opposed my decision. He felt that I was deserting him in time of need. When we talked about it, he kept reminding me of how much the entire family needed me at home. I tried to explain that the family would need my help more in later years, and that I should have the right and the responsibility to prepare for my own future and for help to family members yet unborn.
Father kept telling me, also, that in order to survive we needed most to attain success by gaining ability to accumulate material possessions. He insisted that education and poverty would always go together. He could prove that the most important men in the Sevier Valley had attained success by work, by frugality and by know-how, rather than by book learning.
In Monroe, there were probably less than a half dozen men and one woman who had spent one or more years at the Brigham Young Academy. Mother believed that more education had not only made them more polished, but that it had created new horizons and given them a better and broader outlook on life. Father claimed that they came from well-to-do homes and their new polish was rather superficial and about as practical as if one discards the furniture in his home and goes in debt for new furnishings less comfortable but more dazzling and sensational.
One of Father's favorite church leaders was B.H. Roberts. He was a great orator and a very important writer. He had improved his natural ability. Father generally explained that Roberts was one of our best blacksmiths. Blacksmithing was his insurance, his security in case writing did not pay.
I cannot remember that Father ever suggested aesthetic or intellectual supremacy for me. He often expressed the hope that when I matured I would have a large, well proportioned body like Sol Sprague. He extolled the power and prowess of Jack Sullivan and the speed of Dan Patch.
In two years I finished a three years course at the Snow Academy. I received good grades for my work and was president of the graduating class. I received a B. A. degree from the Brigham Young University later and went on to the University of Utah for an M. A. degree. I attended other schools in America and Europe. I do not remember of Father, while he lived, ever congratulating me for success or offering me God-speed in my work.
In spite of this, I was proud of Father and I always felt sure that he was pleased with my work, especially when I was principal of the Monroe Public Schools. I felt sorry that he did not express the wish to help me when I needed help very badly. I felt that he was sorry so we just never mentioned this topic to each other. I loved him and I knew that he loved me.
Father was amazed when I left for the Academy at Ephraim with only $16.00 in cash and some provisions and bedding in the wagon. Mother's life seemed like a gamble against my success. Not only her help but her faith in God made my work possible.
When I graduated from the Snow, I made a secret vow that I would not take on any obligations, including love and marriage, until I gave help to all of my brothers and sisters who desired higher education.
I was able to get some work in Ephraim but I remained in school largely because of Mother's moral and financial help, and other members of our family made great sacrifices for me. We had to borrow money.
ANSWER TO PRAYER
It almost seemed at times that Father's slogan “Education and poverty belong together” was true. At the academy in Ephraim, I got through the first year with the help of Mother and the children. They all worked and helped. I borrowed a team and worked some in Ephraim too. But debts accumulated. My work the next summer helped to liquidate a part of the indebtedness.
The second year away was even more difficult. There came a time during midterm in the spring when I wrote Mother that I could not take it any longer. I did the chores for President Canute Peterson in exchange for my bread which was baked by Aunt Maria, his wife. I had not money to purchase things which I needed. When my food supply dwindled to the bread and a handful of dried prunes, I wrote Mother that I was intending to walk home if I could not catch a ride. The distance required two days by team.
Word came back to me very soon. Mother wrote: “I and the children will fast and pray. You join us. The Lord has helped us in the past. He will not fail us now if we ask in faith.” Four days later I received some money with Mother's explanation of the miracle which had happened. We all fasted and prayed. On the first day of the fast Mother contacted friends with the hope that someone could lend her a little cash. In the past she had usually borrowed from two well-to-do farmers. She approached one, whose usual statement to her was: “We have a little money which we are saving for our old age. I'll let you have some if you won't tell my wife, Hannah. I'm a little different because I believe that savings are better if they do someone some good while they are being saved.” When Mother asked him for a loan on this occasion he was unable to lend her any money.
Next she went to a man who had helped her before. He asked her if she needed it badly. She explained that the loan was an absolute necessity. He then told her that he would gladly let her have what she needed but he would have to charge her 22% interest.
She tried for two days without success. She was tired and sick at heart, but she still believed that the Lord would not fail her. On the third day after prayer, she intended to visit Uncle Al and other relatives. On the way as she was going south on the east side of Main street, she stopped suddenly when she heard her name spoken.
She looked across the street and saw Hugh Lisonbee who was headed north. He called to her again and said, “Loraine I'm coming over. Wait until I get there.” When he had crossed the street he said, “Loraine, I have just sold a large herd of sheep for cash. There is no bank in Monroe. I have no place to put the money. I thought that you might know someone who would like to borrow some cash.”
Our prayers were answered. I remained in school to graduate. I became a teacher and later married a girl who was employed as my assistant. She has been my faithful assistant for more than fifty-five years since that time. We have five wonderful children and also an exceptional group of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I have continued my education with opportunities for travel and study in foreign countries. My fifty years as teacher at the Brigham Young University have been a great blessing.
Most everything that I have or have accomplished is associated with the answer to that family group prayer. My family, my friends, my work, my happiness, the world as I know it are the result of group effort and God's help in making right decisions.
My work at the Snow Academy was rewarding and pleasurable. I had many valuable experiences as a student. It was necessary to continue summer jobs of various kinds during the summers which followed. I began my career as a teacher, and teaching has been my major work since that time. When I came to the Brigham Young University, I brought four of the family with me. They were: Oliver, Enoch, Floy and Jennie.
Even much later when I talked to Father, he still expressed the belief that education was a risk and a mistake unless we could afford it as a sort of luxury. In the home, the problem of education continued to be a controversial subject but Mother vigorously supported higher and continuous learning even if it had to be financed chiefly by faith.
THE QUESTION OF LAND INHERITANCE
Another quite serious difference in family objectives was the acquisition of more land while it was still available. This was the basis of physical security which had been sought by the Saints from the beginning. In the hereafter, we wanted the Celestial Kingdom. In this life we sought a physical inheritance in the land of Zion.
MY VENTURE WITH LAND
Largely because of Mother's urging, I acquired three forties of new land on the bench near Uncle Parley's farm. I spent a lot of time and money for surveys, for water stock, for canal right of way, for clearing and planting. This interfered with my educational program and was a bad investment.
Mother wanted more land. She dreamed of a peach orchard. I engaged Christian Anderson to check title and survey several areas for her. Under the new South Bend Canal, Monroe men were acquiring new rich farms but Mother could not get Father interested. Health and other difficulties seemed to prevent him from plunging or taking any risks which might involve difficulties which he might not be able to solve.
A strong desire to possess a worthy morsel of America as an inheritance for his family motivated Father when he was young and strong. He often told me that Brigham Young urged the early settlers to be modest in land acquisitions so that emigrant saints would not be denied the blessings inherent in the Promised land. When prominent families, fathers and sons, disregarded Brigham's requests by taking large quantities of both land and water, Father thought of them as near apostates because they would not follow the advice of the prophet. He said they were selling their eternal spiritual birthright for a handful of gravel and clay.
I remember Father as being in statue a little shorter than the so-called average man. He was rather slender during the years in which I knew him best. His white hair and well-trimmed mustache and chin-beard or goatee seemed to have been a part of him always. Like other members of the Larsen family he grayed at an early age.
At times, I fancied that I could look through Father's eyes to his inward subtle moods and feelings. Often his twinkle spoke of friendliness and good will. He had positive notions of right and wrong. He believed that a Mormon could not be a Latter-day saint if he departed from the narrow path.
HELP FOR THOSE IN NEED
The two great commandments as explained by the Nazarene were very important to Father. A very popular man in Monroe lost his hay-filled barn by fire. We hauled him a large load of alfalfa hay to help compensate him for his loss. I protested by reminding Father that this gesture of good will was wrong because, in spite of the fire, this man still had several times the amount of hay which we possessed. Father replied by saying, “We need the blessings which come only by sharing with our heavenly Father and with our fellow men. And it could be,” Father continued, “that even rich men sometimes need lessons in Christian brotherhood.”
When we returned home from the fields, I often slid to the ground or climbed down the ladder from the load of hay or grain or swung from the binding pole at the rear. At such times, Father reminded me that when he was a boy, if his father or the ship captain called, he always came-a-running. Or he would make seemingly casual remarks such as: “If we hurry fast when we have a job like opening the big gate or taking down the bars, the drudgery goes out of it and the work becomes real fun.” Advice of this kind was quite common and was given sometimes in a serious and sometimes in a playful mood.
A PROBLEM OF SELF DEFENSE
Mother always advised against fist fights. On certain occasions I defended myself rather than retire when I was imposed upon. In cases of retreat I always felt shame. I wanted to stand on my own feet and act like I thought that a man should behave. I resented any apron strings holding me back when I felt it necessary for me to stand my ground or even to move forward.
I sometimes thought that Father was indifferent to my adolescent longings and desires. I wanted the adventure of hunting. I longed to go fishing with other boys. I did skate a great deal after school in the winter, but it was Mother who procured my skates.
I practiced one-old-cat, two-old-cat, and town baseball team. The ball season was in the summer. Father felt, at that time, that he could not give his consent for me to leave my work. I would not go without his consent. It puzzled and sometimes irked me because Father showed so little enthusiasm for my recreational desires.
One evening, five or six friends and I were passing Aunt Mary Ann's house. Inside there was a party in progress. We stopped on the sidewalk for a moment to identify some of the guests. Then we moved on and stopped again on the Hessy corner. Before dispersing, we heard loud shouting and someone running toward us. It was the male guests from Lila's party. They had discovered the loss of a large cake which had been placed in an open window to cool. The assumption was that we stole the cake. Running had increased the anger of the party men.
When they reached us, they immediately shouted loud accusations. One of the boys, who was more than a year my senior, strutted through the middle of the crowd and began to hurl defiant insults at us. I lost my patience and walked up face to face with him. I told him in effect that none of us had the cake, that none of us had taken it. I added, by way of emphasis, “If you say just one word more against us, if you so much as whisper a lying accusation or threat, I'll plant my fist right in the middle of your face. And if that is not enough to shut your loud mouth, then we will find other ways of doing it.”
The party guests retired and our group broke up. When I reached our northeast corner, I discovered Father standing against the fence. He said, “I was just ready to send for the marshal. Your conduct was disgraceful.” This was something new in our father-son relations. I answered by saying, “Go ahead. If you want to have your son arrested for defending himself against falsehood and insulting charges of stealing and lying, then go ahead and do it.”
His answer was, “I did not want anyone arrested. I just wanted to stop that disgraceful noise.”
FATHER'S BOYHOOD HOME
If we could see Father's parents as they were in the home in which they lived in Riisoer, dressed in the costumes of the day and resting after the evening meal was finished, twilight would be disappearing slowly, Grandfather Ole would be relaxing in his big chair smoking his pipe. Grandmother Ingeborg would be reading the story of the lonely Robinson Crusoe. She would occasionally wipe the tears from her eyes or sob aloud at times in sympathy for the poor shipwrecked mariner. Grandfather Ole would stir at intervals and rebuke her sentimental outbursts.
In Riisoer, Robinson Crusoe was not just another book. It was a very special book which retold some of the life story of many Riisoer boys and men who had been shipwrecked in strange and distant lands. I have seen photographs only, and listened to word pictures of a small city called Riisoer which is located near the southern tip of Norway. I have known about this city for as long as I can remember.
I grew close to my father partly because of his animated stories about his wonderful birthplace. The city is located on a long, winding fjord which is an important harbor. Shipyards were located there in which Father, as a boy, could watch the workers build great sailing ships, from the laying of the keels to the hoisting of the sails and the finishing of the cabins.
To Father, the city was not only a boy's paradise, but the harbor was the gateway to the world of both reality and fantasy. From his home, in the morning and evening half-light, a new world was visible which stirred his romantic imagination. The ripples on the semi-tranquil water gathered the sunlight and broke it up to make rainbow hues of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues and violets. These were mixed with the local colors of the earth and sky to produce a wonderful fairyland.
The houses were tall and well painted. Some of them wandered up the heavily wooded mountain side. Their three or more stories pushed skyward. Some were capped with warm-hued tile roofs. Plain walls with many-paned windows faced the fjord.
Ships, intriguing ships, formed the center of interest in the significant arabesque design. White sails pointed heavenward. They reached into the mysteries of the sky to connect the unknown in the heavens with the known on the earth. Mystic reflections directed attention to the underworld beneath the surface of the water.
The white ships were symbols of far places and strange thrilling wonders which only bold seamen can ever find. The beautiful sails, waving in the breeze, beckoned young men to a life of adventure on the sea.
My father was born in this magic Norwegian city in the land which sent forth the bold Vikings to conquer the world with their ships many, many years ago. Father loved to recall the hopes, the dreams and the adventures of his youth.
What a blessing memory is. It is good medicine for youth and old age. To Father, it relieved the painful monotony of the merely routine. When adventure ceases, man is dead. The tempo of life may increase with memory. The joy of living returns when memory brings back to us the thrills of younger years.
Fairy tales were seldom told in our house when I was a boy. Only factual truth was worthy. There were plenty of true stories from the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I was a big boy when I brought home Robert Bruce and the Scottish Chiefs. There was real trouble when I attempted to read Macbeth. The book disappeared before I finished it. Washington Irving's “Settlement of Astoria” fared better.
Father's travel stories seemed to satisfy an intense hunger in me. At an early age I sensed a whole world of fancy. The things which I saw had other meanings rather than merely utilitarian values. Mother wrote poetry for all occasions. She dressed facts in beautiful rhythmic language, but seldom ventured into the world of fantasy. Her dreams reached into realms of the unknown, but dealt largely with factual truths.
I often wondered why Father did not stop more often to enjoy a sunset or a wild rose. I wondered why he, who was often thrilled and animated by recall of the adventures of youth, should be unmoved by the color of a grasshopper's wing and other small things which interested me. I never saw him stop to pick up an arrowhead or to bring home an unusual stone or notice a beautiful plant. I collected these things.
Could it be, I wondered, that men cease to care for beautiful objects when they grow up? Our grain and hay stacks were beautiful to me. Father would not want them otherwise. As a small boy, I wondered why he did not show his love for the many things which God had created. Father seemed to focus attention on work and on church duties. I felt that his illness had something to do with it.
SENSE OF HUMOR
When Father became as old as I am now, he could relax. I visited him quite often when he lived in Salt Lake City with Minnie and Clair. When I called him the most unusual Mormon that I had ever known, he laughed aloud. I said, “Dad, you work in the temple all day performing very sacred ordinances for the dead, and when night comes, you occupy a permanent ringside seat in McCullah's arena and cheer the big phoney wrestlers who make believe that they are savages trying to tear each other to pieces.” He laughed and said, “Don't worry about me. Some very important people have permanent reserve seats next to mine.”
THE COFFIN FACTORY AT MEMPHIS
It seems very strange now that I cannot remember of more than one time when I heard Father laugh aloud. It was not his habit to laugh aloud freely and heartily as some men did. As a small boy I wondered if it was the wheezing in his throat which came in spells with over- exertion. I thought that this trouble might prevent his laughing or reduce the laughter to an audible chuckle.
There were times when humorous incidents, real or remembered, changed his facial expression quite completely. On such occasions his face lighted up as if some one had turned an electric switch which illumined his face.
When Father talked about the coffin factory in Memphis his face fairly gleamed with an expression of mirth. In Memphis, Father worked with Grandfather in a coffin factory at a time when an epidemic of cholera was killing hundreds of residents every day. It was a most serious period in the history of the city. A large number of men were making coffins for the dead.
In Norway, Grandfather Larsen had formed the habit of taking a nap each day after lunch was finished. In the coffin shop he continued this habit. My Father and a number of other men joined him in this procedure. They found the best resting place in the factory to be inside the soft, newly lined and upholstered coffins. Grandfather soon fell asleep. Father tried to lie still, even if he could not sleep. He listened, and later remembered some of what he heard.
Some of the-workers sat about in groups and talked while they smoked during the noon period rest time. There were a few gossips and wise crackers. This lying down to rest in coffins was just the right stimulus for calling forth their witticisms. One day, a group approached Father. They stood around the coffin with his outstretched body and pretended to weep. One remarked with a sad voice, “It is such a pity. He is so young to die.” Another said, “Take him to your very bosom God.” Still another said, “If he has difficulty in entering Heaven, please Lord, hold your judgment till we arrive. He was a good boy and we will testify for him.”
Then in low tones to each other they whispered, “Yes but you know we will have to tell the truth up there. Do you remember that all-night session we spent at la Petite? I think I can rig up an alibi for that, but what would we tell about this and that experience?” etc. They knew that Father was a model in conduct who had never gone out at night with any of the men. But in pleading his case with St. Peter, they tried to make it appear very difficult for Father to get through the pearly gates.
On one occasion when the noon period was almost finished, a number of men surrounded the coffin where Grandfather lay. One shouted in a loud voice, “This is the glorious resurrection morn. This day the scripture is being fulfilled. Isn't it wonderful that the Christians are all up and alive while these old heathens are still sealed in death.” This procedure went on intermittently and gave Father broad smiles when memory brought to mind this interesting situation.
EARLY MORNING MISTAKE
Father often chuckled at his own mistakes. On east fifth south streets there were three houses built almost exactly alike. Father was living with Minnie and Clair who occupied the center house. Father got up in the morning and took a walk. The others remained in bed. When Father returned before the others were up, he began kidding them and challenging them to get out of bed.
One morning when he had walked farther than usual, he came in through the front door, crossed the large entrance hall, walked to the stairway, put his arm on the rail and began to shout, “Get up, you lazy sleepers. Good men and women everywhere are already on the job. What is the world coming to when people play most of the night and sleep all day. Get up! Get up!”
Just then a stern voice answered, “That is enough, Mister. You may act crazy as a loon in your own house if the others will let you, but in my house I am the boss and out you go now, or else! He turned around and faced a large woman in her dressing gown standing near the open door of the downstairs bedroom.
Father glanced around the big entrance hall a couple of times. Everything was as it should be. He could not see anything that was different. Even the big wall clock had not changed a bit. His feelings warned him that he was wrong. When the big woman, with a menacing expression, slowly moved toward him, he hurried out through the front door. Then he sensed for the first time that he had entered the wrong house.
Father did not tell Clair and Minnie what had happened. About two weeks later he absentmindedly did the same thing again. This time there was something new about the experience. When he turned around the second time, the big woman was standing in front of the main entrance. She silently gazed at Father for a moment and then said, “Son, this is a lodging house. Everyone who stays here pays for his keep. Since you came here about two weeks ago and you are still here, you now owe me a half month's rent.” Then in a stern voice she added, “I want my money now.”
I was visiting there on the day that Father was ordered to pay or be arrested. He told Minnie and Clair and me. During the telling, his face lighted up again and he expressed pleasure when he told us about this amusing, personal experience.
A GOOD JOKE ON MASS PETER
It seems rather queer now that I do not really know the man's name. I think that I heard a person say that he was Mads Peter Madsen. To the people of my town he was simply Mass Peter.
Mass Peter was a glazier, but his work consisted mostly of home repairs. He served as general handy man. As he moved from job to a new job, he always had to return to the place of the old job to get a tool or two which were needed to start the new job. His work became complicated when he had forgotten tools left in various sections of town. Father often sent me to Mass Peter's home to get Father's precious diamond glass cutter which Mass perpetually borrowed. This diamond cutter was a rare tool which Father brought from Norway. I got the cutter for Father each time I went, but within a day or two Mass Peter had it, again.
Finally Father gave the cutter to the man who used and liked it so very much. I had the idea that the diamond cutter was the most prized object which Mass Peter possessed unless he valued his fiddle more. I do not remember of ever hearing him play on his fiddle. I am not sure that he could read music. Some fiddlers of that day could not. Some said that he could improvise to suit various occasions and to fit his artistic moods.
A group of men living in the Sevier Valley were called by the church to go to Saint George for the winter months to help build the temple. Father and Mass Peter were members of that group. They traveled by team and camped out several nights during the journey. Mass Peter's frequent fiddling annoyed some of the men in the company. They accused him of trying to show off. They probably thought of him as a dude because he knew very little about camping and doing his share of the work incident to travel on rough roads.
Mass Peter had sent word to his relatives living at Kanarraville that his group planned to arrive there in the evening of a certain day. He asked his relatives to arrange a party for him and invite their friends to hear him play his violin. The wagon train was on schedule, but the leader decided to stop at a good campground three miles from the town where Mass Peter's reception was to be held. While the fiddler's attention was being diverted, a couple men removed the bow from his violin case. Several members of the group knew about this prank when they all shook his hand and wished him well as he began his three mile walk to the village.
Father smiled as he told of this incident which he called “a joke on Mass Peter.” But he was quick to explain that the joke was an example of crude thinking and bad manners. “This joke,” Father said, “like many other pioneer jokes, went too far and got out of hand.” Father explained further, “When living is meager and life is hard, a harmless joke can bring a little merriment with uplifting effect. There must be no feeling of revenge nor the get-even attitude about it. Otherwise it may become bad and even brutal.”
THE JOKE WAS ON THE PAUL BOYS
Every youngster in Fountain Green was “fed up” with “the nothing doing here” feeling. Some one suggested a chicken raid. That was the answer. The suggestion was whispered from person to person. Too much publicity would spoil everything. The married folks must not know. There was more fun and excitement in secrecy.
The party was held in one of the larger homes. The girls planned an unusual midnight supper. The boys organized the chicken raid with as much care and preparation as if they intended to rob a bank. The young man who directed the planning and the execution of the raid was a member of a very important family which I shall refer to here as the Paul family.
Chris Paul was a self-centered leader. He loved to display authority. He had been accepted rather than elected as director of the raid. When the chores in the village were finished, when the coal oil lamps were all out, when the farmers and their families were in bed, then Chris Paul sent the boys out to steal chickens for their supper.
They went by two's to assigned chicken coops. Each pair of boys was to bring back two. healthy chickens for the party. Chris made the assignments and gave the order for the raid to begin. He had made a written list of the assignments. The raiders were cautioned to sneak or crawl to assigned hen coops and carefully enter. Then they were to feel in the darkness for the roosts, muffle the first chicken they touched so it could not squawk. Then without noise which would attract attention they must bring their prizes to the yard of the house where the party was being held and sever each chicken's head so that after draining the blood it would be ready for the plucking.
As the assignments were being read before the boys went out, one boy noticed that coops belonging to the homes of all of the boys at the party were to be raided except the coops belonging to the Paul boys. The boy communicated this fact to his partner when they were on their way. They thought that this arrangement was being a little sneaky and unfair. So they decided to do something about it. They shifted their course and raided the Paul coops. When all of the raiders had returned to the appointed place in the yard, they made a grand entrance by two's through the back door with their stolen booty held high for all to see.
When the last two boys displayed their prizes the shouting stopped. Everyone looked at the angry, red-faced Paul boys. Silence followed for a minute and then a peal of loud laughter burst forth. All realized that it was a good joke on the Paul boys because their prize rooster was beheaded and ready for the kettle. This rooster had been the subject of bragging with a partly concealed inference that the Paul boys were superior because they possessed a superior chicken. Now the whole crowd expected to see that chicken cooking in the same pot with common chickens and that they would all share in eating it.
When Father related this story, I challenged his attitude of pleasure when the problem of stealing was involved. He justified the stealing and explained that the easy and funless way would be for each boy to bring his own chicken after getting his parent's consent. The joke, Father explained, was the way the group disciplined the boys who needed a lesson in unselfishness, honesty and fair play.
DREAMS OF ADVENTURE
As a boy, Father learned the name of each ship which arrived in the harbor. He made friends with the captains and crew members of all new arrivals. He listened for information about distant lands and strange people who spoke queer languages.
Father's daydreams were of adventure in graceful ships with tall masts and great white sails moving in immense oceans to strange cities filled with interesting people. Father imagined the beauty and excitement of being a part of a great ship on the seemingly boundless oceans with no land in sight for days and weeks at a time. He heard the sailors talk about the calm when their ships drifted aimlessly and out of control because there was no wind. He wondered and learned about great storms at sea when every ounce of strength of men and ships was marshaled to fight the fury of the elements. These adventures as told by others helped to shape a portion of his life.
Ships, both old and new, in the harbor were a playground for Father and his boy friends who romped on the deck floors and chased each other through the rigging. The boys were also interested in and very curious about new cargoes. They learned much about foreign countries from the cargoes which the ships carried.
CHOOSING A CAREER
Father was graduated from school by passing the examination conducted by a Lutheran priest. Now in 1859 he was expected to choose a career as all boys did when they were about fourteen years old. He was guided in his choice by his love for ships and the sea and his restless desire for adventure in far away places.
ADVENTURE AT SEA
It was arranged for him to sign as cabin boy with his mother's brother, Captain Thorvaldsen, on a vessel called “Dorthea”. With this vessel he first made a number of coastwise voyages touching various ports of his native land. Next this vessel carried him to England, to Gibralter, to Philadelphia, U.S.A., back to England again, and then to Sweden and Norway.
In 1860 Father was shipwrecked in the Baltic Sea near the Russian shore. The vessel went down during the night. The Captain and the crew reached the Russian shore at dawn. The Czar of Russia was there inspecting his armies. My Father managed to stand, for a short time, by the side of the Czar. Captain Thorvaldsen secured passage for himself and the seamen back to Norway. Father was home again before the end of 1860.
In 1861, Father shipped with his Uncle to Hammerfest, Norway, which was farther north than any other city in the world. Other trips were exciting but rather routine in comparison with this cruise.
The voyage to Hammerfest was made on the schooner “Toljo”. The sea was heavy with wind and storm. Father was sixteen years old and the youngest crew member. The weather was very cold. The ship's crew had to be alert, with little or no time for relaxation and rest. Father's specific assignments were to provide hot coffee and hot lunch for the captain and crew and to keep a fire to dry their clothes and furnish some warmth for crew members who were near exhaustion.
Under normal conditions, this assignment was not difficult, but with high winds and a violent sea, with the fight of the men to control the tossing ship, with huge waves smashing over the deck and filling the hull with icy water which doused the fire, Father experienced a fight with death which probably surpassed his other experiences. I listened almost breathlessly when Father first recited for me the details of this episode in his life. On this voyage, Father visited Sweden and France before returning home to Riisoer.
In 1862 he sailed on the bark ship “Regena” [Regina] to the West Indies. He also made a voyage to Canada, a voyage to France, a voyage to Spain and two voyages to Baltic ports. In the summer of 1864, Father made three voyages to France and one voyage to Holland.
These travel experiences were the realization of his boyhood dreams. In the various countries which Father visited, he picked up a few words of the native languages and he observed the dress and the customs of the people. As he talked to me about the people, I was puzzled by one idea which he often repeated. He said that each country had its own individual smell and that he had learned to tell the country that a man lived in by his body odor.
GIFTS FROM FATHER
Father played Santa Claus at Christmastime at least once in our home. He was so well disguised that we did not recognize him until later when I found his Santa costume hidden behind the big flour bin in the kitchen. He gave a jolly performance for us.
I do not remember birthday presents from him. Mother generally made our birthday and Christmas presents. But on two very special occasions, Father selected unusual gifts for all of us. I can discuss here only the gifts from him to me. While on his mission when I was a baby, he sent me a boy doll with china arms, legs and head. It was dressed in black velvet with jacket, knee trousers, and a very interesting cap. When he returned from his mission he brought for me a very marvelous watch which had been used by his father's family for several generations as a timepiece for the workers at the ship yards in Riisoer. When the watch was placed in Mother's care for me, Father's instructions were that it should be preserved in the family from father to the oldest son in each generation as the Larsen family heirloom.
Grandfather Ole owned this watch when he was preparing to leave Norway for America. It was too large to carry in his pocket, so he traded it to his brother for a smaller watch which he gave to Father just before he died in Memphis.
When Father went on his mission, he visited his uncle in Riisoer. He saw his father's old watch hanging on the wall. Before he returned home to America, Father traded the uncle's old watch for grandfather's old watch, which was given to me upon his return to Monroe. For many years it was on the mantle in Mother's home and was the family time piece. It is wound with a key and it kept perfect time.
During the period of tension caused by U. S. Marshals on the prowl, one of Mother's good friends, a Mrs. Broadbent, came to stay with us for a short period. Her baby was fretting, so she carried it about in her arms. While standing by the fireplace she lifted the heavy watch from the mantle to amuse the baby. It was dropped onto the hearth. The face crystal was smashed and one hand came off. Mother put the watch away for some years.
After I received it from her before she died, the Nate Morgan Jewelry Company initiated a competition in which they offered a new Bulova watch to the person who possessed the oldest watch in this part of Utah. Many old watches were submitted, but I have been wearing the prize Bulova because Grandpa Ole's watch was the oldest one submitted. It was sent to experts in New York City to verify the local committee's findings. After undergoing some minor repairs, the big watch still keeps perfect time.
While serving time for polygamy, many of the Mormon men were very busy learning new crafts. Most of them specialized in one craft and exchanged their products with each other. Some of these men were trained craftsmen before they were sent to prison.
Father brought home a variety of presents for his wives and children. Each of his boys was given a riding whip with rolled rawhide centers, with carefully braided covers made from very heavy black cotton thread. There was a leather popper on the end and the handle was covered with a beautiful pattern of black and white horse hair with a black tassel binding the whip and the handle together.
On the handle of my whip an interesting pattern of white hair was woven against a black hair background. Black letters, B.F.L., were woven against a white background and white figures, 1888, were woven against a black background. The craftsmanship and the decorative quality of the whip is very distinctive.
The most wonderful present for me, on this occasion, was a model ship. It was fully rigged with white sails and it was reminiscent of Father's boyhood and early manhood. The ship was made by one of Father's seafaring friends. The hull was an enviable masterpiece. It was of perfect design in shape and proportions. Father said that this model ship was a replica, perfect in every detail, of ships which had been a part of his life. [This model ship was tragically burned in a garage fire caused by using coal oil brooders to keep baby chicks warm. See Geneva Day Larsen's history for details.]
FATHER JOINS THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
The greatest adventure in Father's life was his conversion to the Latter-day Saint faith. To him it was more important than ships on great oceans. It changed his life. He forsook his seafaring career which he had loved so much. He was filled with the desire to gather with his family to Zion.
He began a new venture in America, the land of promise. This adventure with a family and with planting and harvesting, of working the land, of building a home and living in one place was very different from the life of travel to which he had become accustomed.
The Church was a new challenge. The law of Celestial Marriage was a supreme test of faith and courage. His willingness to sacrifice for a mission to his native land was another test of supreme faith.
Father often talked to me about the day he returned home from a long voyage expecting the usual greetings from his family. He found them strangely different. He could not understand the change which had come over them. Even Riisoer was not the same place in which he had grown up. His welcome home was hearty and sincere, but there was a difference which he could not understand. Something had changed his family and a few of his best friends.
Two young men, from Ephraim, Utah, visited his home frequently. He soon learned that they were Mormon missionaries who had converted his family while he was away. His mother had vigorously resisted the missionaries for some time. Father became interested in the missionaries, Canute Peterson and Charles Dorius, who later married Grandma Ingeborg's sisters.
Father was baptized July 27,1867. He never ceased to wonder just how the acceptance of the Latter-day Saint's faith can become a miracle and change the entire life of a convert. He expressed sympathy for families where rifts were formed because some members espoused the faith and other members could not do so.
Father's place of residence, his way of life, his thoughts, ideals and objectives developed anew as a part of his conversion. While I was at school in Ephraim, President Knute Peterson often told me about the conversion of Father and his family.
MY GRATITUDE TO FATHER
I am grateful for the days when Father and I rode together from town to the fields and back again, just the two of us together. With great pleasure I recall lunch time together in the fields, in the wood hills, in the tall timber when we were getting poles or logs. I remember the times we slept together in Old Cove Fort when Father went freighting to the Nevada mining camps. I cannot forget the days and nights together in Clear Creek canyon when the roads were bad and when we dug down through three or four feet of frozen snow to find a place for our bed.
Equally impressed upon my memory are very cold mornings when we waited for daylight so that we could see to continue our journey. There were times when we used horse blankets and quilts to blanket the icy road to keep the wagons from sliding into the stream.
How can I forget many cold days up Order Dugway, gathering wood to last through severe winters when the chains were frosty and our hands were cracked and bleeding. There are a thousand and one little things which tied me to my father.
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