He dreamed of walking…bare feet becoming pale with the dust of powder-soft dirt. In passing the tall milk barn, its shadow covered him and cooled him. He did not pause but kept moving forward on a path as familiar as his own reflection. Ahead there was a lengthy fence with a gate. He opened the rustic structure by holding and contracting the weathered wood with one hand and simultaneously lifting the loop of wire on the top post. Beyond the now freely swinging gate lay acres of the same dark green plant, two and a half feet tall, covered in smallish rounded leaves and smaller deep purple blossoms — alfalfa.
Urgent steps led him through the field. There was work to be done, but where were his shoes? He rubbed his forehead with a puzzled gesture. He noticed he also had no hat to give protection from the fierce sun. “I am completely unprepared; what is wrong with me?” he thought. He made to turn back for shoes and hat, but instead continued on with an unstoppable forward momentum. As he walked he veered in a direction that eventually took him away from the alfalfa and to the top of a ravine. A faint path wound its way down into dark and hazy brush below. Wild plants and sage barged into the path, brushing roughly against his legs and prickling his feet.
As he descended the air became noticeably cooler. He hurried down, anxious for relief from the heat of his journey. Now he was almost to the bottom and stepping high and heavy to clear the thick mat of plant growth. He heard the sound of fast water before he saw it. Suddenly there was the gully filled with moving water. He plunged one foot into the delicious wetness and then the other foot. The cold water roared through his body. He allowed himself to sink deeper until he became the water.
Lena finished cleaning several pieces of cookware, the water once steaming hot from the wood stove now barely warm. The cast iron skillet was last to be cleaned — scraped and lightly washed with just a small amount of water, never submerged in the deep soapy wash tub. She dried the heavy black piece and then using a bit of clean rag polished a dot of lard into it until it gleamed. Lunch had been simple but filling: cold roast beef, boiled red potatoes with parsley, pickled beets, and a shining mason jar of Utah peaches (her own canning work.) She looked in the next room where her husband lay on the sofa, not snoring but exhaling with audible puffs. It was time to bring in the peas before they grew too fat and tasteless. She would take a stool and the large steel milk pail to clear the vines. Should she wake him? No, she could indulge her Frederick an hour’s more rest. Putting up hay was exhausting work after all.
On her way to the door she had a thought, turned around with a smile. Soundlessly the stool was placed at the sleeping man’s head. Lightly she ran her fingers through his hair. The summer haying had been all-encompassing as usual and now she observed the state of his lengthy locks — long overdue for a trim (in fact approaching a record length.) Lena left the room and returned with something in her hands. With a hushed chortle she sat and ever so delicately picked up the strands of hair and began to weave the clumps of hair into braids which she secured with the hair pins in her lap. After a few minutes something like two dozen small braids encompassed all of Frederick’s hair. The braids stood out slightly, giving an impression of a sort of halo. A smiling Lena sat back and enjoyed her work with a satisfied sigh. Eventually she headed outside to tend to the peas and then a variety of other outdoor chores demanded her attention.
Inside, Frederick continued to sleep on, dreaming of cool water and wind in his hair. A persistent knocking at the door woke him. Yawning, Frederick got up and slowly crossed the room. He opened the door to see the Bishop of their small ward in Star Valley, Wyoming. Frederick invited the Bishop in where they had a conversation around the table. If the Bishop smiled a bit more than usual, or seemed to look more closely at him, it passed Frederick by. Parting words were spoken and the Bishop left. Frederick returned to his work until evening when at last he and his wife met up again. Lena, who had forgotten her earlier mischief, now burst out laughing and quickly found a mirror to show off her handiwork. They both enjoyed a bit merry hysteria. Finally they could breath again and then Frederick remembered his visit from the Bishop…
This story of my paternal grandmother and grandfather is a little family treasure. It gives some insight into the prankster that was “little Grandma” as we called her. I never knew Grandpa Frederick at all and so I treasure this story all the more.
This is the first attempt that I know of to put the story to print. I suppose every family has a few priceless stories. These stories whether written or passed down orally bring our ancestors to life.
Family stories have been on my mind. Recently my two teenager participated in a “Spirit of Elijah” family history conference along with hundreds (maybe thousands) of Latter-day Saint youth in Southeast Idaho. The young adults have been challenged and invited to discover the stories and records of their ancestors. Not only that but they will most likely be the ones teaching adults how to better use technology to “hasten the work” of redeeming our dead. Elder Neil L. Andersen recently spoke at a youth devotional in conjunction with the RootsTech Family History Conference, February 8, 2014. In the devotional he stated that “some experiences are saved for specific generations.” Elder Neilsen also taught this work of which the youth will play a major role as a “chain that binds and a welding link connecting families together from one generation to another.” I can see the youth finding joy in discovering their families, sharing and recording stories, and performing work the 143 exsiting temples.
What are some of your favorite family stories?