As a young wife, I found myself in the unique position of being the only person in the position to help my father-in-law during the day when he was building their home. We had moved our mobile home onto their land while we were getting our own land ready to live on. At that time, my father-in-law was leveling an area of land so that he could build the home he planned to build on it. His way of leveling the land was to have me drive the tractor…something I had never done before…while pulling a scoop, guided by him behind it. My first worry was that I would go too fast and end up dragging him behind the tractor. He reassured me that it would be ok, and I knew he needed me to be there for him, so with a pain in the pit of my stomach, I set out. There were a few jerky movements, but in no time, I got the hang of it, and found that we worked well together. It was an experience that I will never forget…for a city girl, who had never driven a tractor, it was…well, amazing!
As I was scanning pictures from my Uncle Bill’s lifelong accounting of our family history, I came across something that made my experience look like learning to ride a bicycle. My Great Aunt Bertha, my Grandpa Spencer’s sister, was raised by a family named Hoover. I don’t know all the reasons behind that situation, but Uncle Bill simply states that she and her mother could not get along. The Hoover family used a steam tractor, and Great Aunt Bertha learned to operate them very well. Today, that might not seem like something so awfully special, but that was back in about 1910, and the girls didn’t do that kind of work much. Nevertheless, there were then, as there are now, people go beyond the normal expectations to do the extraordinary. Great Aunt Bertha was one of those people. She was well known for her ability to operate the steam tractor…so well known, in fact that in 1956, while attending an antique tractor and thresher show, one of the old timers, who knew Great Aunt Bertha, offered to let her take the steam tractor for one last spin.
He didn’t have to offer twice. Great Aunt Bertha jumped at the chance to drive that incredible machine one more time. She got on and drove it like she had never been away from the farm. I suppose that it is like a bicycle in that way. Once you have learned to operate it, you never really forget. So here was Great Aunt Bertha driving around on that old steam tractor again in the year 1956, at the age of 61 years. I would have loved to be there to see that. There were likely men there who would not have been able to run that machine, and here was this little old girl, driving it like she was born there. Amazing!!
My grandmother never learned to drive a car. That was not an unusual situation during her lifetime, even though it is very unusual today. I never could figure out how women…or anyone for that matter…could get by these days without being able to drive, much less manage to raise nine kids and get them through all the stuff needed for their schooling without driving a car. Nevertheless, my grandmother did just that.
Since she didn’t ever drive, and counted on Grandpa for all the things that went with raising a family, I also found myself surprised when she said she was taking a trip to Ireland with her sisters. It wasn’t so much that traveling was so unusual for my grandmother, because my family had taken her places, as had Bob and I. I also know that there were other family members who had taken them traveling…so, while taking a trip wasn’t an unusual thing…taking a trip to Ireland seemed like taking a trip to the moon. It seemed so strange that Grandma and her sisters would be going so far away alone!!
The trip was to follow their roots. They planned to stay with family that lived there. It was the trip of a lifetime for my grandmother and while I felt nervous, I was so excited for her. She would see the green Irish hills, castles and ruins. She would see the coast of Ireland that I had heard was so beautiful, and most of all she could trace her roots back to there. I can’t think of a more exciting trip for my grandmother to get to take. What a wonderful treat for her!
The trip was everything she had hoped it would be, and she returned to us different somehow. She was a world traveler now. She had been to distant shores and visited family and graves far away. I was so happy for her, and secretly hoped I’d be able to make such a trip some day. I imagined seeing castles and the ruins of castles. I wondered what stories I would hear of the past and those who lived in it. I am so happy that my grandmother had the opportunity to take such a trip. The chance to see new places, and meet new people…the chance to go in search of her roots.
My parents always liked to travel, and sometimes they didn’t have vacation time coming, but wanted to feel like they took us someplace. So along came going for a drive. I know lots of people who, like my parents, love to go for a drive around town, just for the pleasure of the road trip…even if the road trip is only 10 miles or so. It always took longer, of course, because we would stop and look around at all the sights. My favorite ride was up to the mountain, to look out point, or up to the hill where the Events Center now sits (though it was not there when I was little). We would always end up one of those places at night, so we could see the city lights.
Dad and Mom always liked the view of the city lights, but I think they also realized that with 5 girls, twinkling city lights would always be viewed with a sense of awe. It was the highlight of the whole drive. Sometimes we had to look quickly as we headed on into town, but other times we got to stop and just enjoy the beauty of the lights. We girls always called the lights The Jewelry Box, because the lights seemed to form sparkling necklaces and other pieces of jewelry. Sure, you had to use your imagination, but we were quite good at that.
Those drives and beautiful view of the city lights are things that we will always have in our memories. Mom and Dad just wanted to give us a chance to go for a drive, when there was not much else to do that didn’t cost a bunch of money for 7 people, but what they really gave us was a lifetime of memories. To this day, all of us love to go for a drive, and I don’t think any of us can come into town at night without remembering The Jewelry Box when we see the city lights.
We will always consider ourselves blessed because of all the places our parents took us on vacations. We have seen so many states, and experienced their beauty. We have camped out and stayed in hotels. We have learned about the Oregon Trail, and just about every other historical marker we ever came across. We have seen both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. We have been to Canada and Mexico. Yes, we have been very blessed because of our parents love of travel, but one place that has always brought special memories was right in our own back yard…The Jewelry Box.
My Uncle Larry went home to be with the Lord yesterday. His passing was quick and unexpected and we are very saddened by it. We will all miss him greatly. Uncle Larry was my mom’s older brother and someone she looked up to as a child. They, along with mom’s younger brother, my Uncle Wayne, were…shall we say, partners in crime…or at least the mischief that the three of them could manage to get into together. Mom tells me of the time that Uncle Larry was in big trouble with my grandma, and she was giving him a good spanking for his wrong doing. My mom decided to step up and defend the brother she thought could do no wrong. So she began chewing her mom out for the horrible injustice that Grandma was inflicting on her brother, Larry. It was a decision that would get my mom a spanking too, and one she would not repeat. I’m quite certain that Grandma and Uncle Larry are laughing about that in Heaven, right now.
Uncle Larry loved a good joke and told a great many. He also liked to tease people and make them laugh. His had an infectious laugh, and he used it to bring joy and laughter to many people. But he also had a soft side to him. Once when my Aunt Delores said that she liked a set of dishes, he made a promise to her that when he could get the money together, he was going to buy her those dishes. I don’t know if he ever bought her those dishes, but he sure wanted to. It was just the way he was. Loving and giving.
Another time, Uncle Larry, Uncle Wayne and my mom were at the store, when my mom saw a set of salt and pepper shakers she liked. She has always liked salt and pepper shakers, and in fact, has a collection of them. At that time, she was a young girl, and she didn’t have the money for the salt and pepper shakers, so when she wasn’t looking, her brothers put their money together and bought that set for my mom. It was such a sweet thing for them to have done, and it touched my mom deeply.
Uncle Larry always tried to help people, but even he had to draw the line somewhere. When my mom was learning to drive, she had gone through several people as teachers. No one wanted to teach her after a time, because she just couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around how the gears worked…something many people have trouble with. So her brother Larry decided to give it a shot. They ended up in the middle of the street with the car jerking along, and the cars around them honking their horns and trying to get around them. I’m sure it was a comical site to those around it, but it made Uncle Larry very nervous. He kept trying to get her to do the proper procedure. Finally in desperation, he couldn’t take any more. He told my mom to switch places with him…he would drive. I don’t think he ever gave her another lesson.
Uncle Larry was a son, brother, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, and great grandfather. He meant so much to so many people, and I can’t help but feel that a good many people are going to miss him very much. We will see you again someday. We love you very much. You were a blessing to all who knew you. We love you Uncle Larry.
Recently, one of the companies I write insurance for gave our office a Garmin, which my boss gave to me (because he is a very nice guy) and this is the first really long trip we have used it on. The Garmin is a wonderful item, and one I would highly recommend to anyone who likes to travel. We easily maneuvered Salt Lake City, as well as Reno, and all along the California coast and across Oregon. Normally, these trips would find me with an atlas making sure we are on course, but this trip I was able to relax and let someone else be the navigator.
The Garmin girl does have a couple of quirks, however. She just doesn’t like it when you disobey her orders. If she were a real person, you could say she was controlling. And I guess you could say it anyway, but there is not much you could do about it. Whenever you decide to stop, be it for a pit stop or something interesting you want to see, she begins the directional repairs. “Recalculating…drive 1.2 miles then turn left, and turn left…” It is all designed to keep you from getting lost, but we found it quite funny. It was like being scolded for not following directions at school. We laughed every time, and even warned each other that she was going to be upset, because we were about to get off course.
The poor Garmin girl just couldn’t understand that we knew what we were doing that time. All she could see was that her charges simply refused to listen. So….here we go again, “Recalculating…drive 500 ft and turn right…then turn right…so you can get yourself back on track…you silly driver who can’t listen, and refuses to pay attention to me. Don’t you know that I am in charge???” Finally in desperation, she says, “Make a U-Turn…Whenever possible, make a U-Turn!!!” I guess we freaked her out!! We laugh and go our merry way, and then when we are ready, we begin to follow her instructions, and once we are back on track. All is right in her world again, and she can relax.