Sep 28, 2011

17 Miracles

I don't usually do movie reviews on my blog. Not because I don't enjoy movie reviews. I just like to have movies be a "fun" thing in my life... no work. Just watch and enjoy or laugh if it's a dumb movie. But recently I saw a movie called 17 Miracles. I didn't know what the movie was about; we saw it kind of on a whim. And Skywalker's sister recommended it highly.

I groaned when the movie started and I realized it was (yet another) cinematized depiction of the handcart companies, crossing the plains, yada yada.

But honestly... after sitting through the first 15 minutes, I realized there was something different about this movie. Something brutal. The directors didn't pull any punches. We saw frostbitten cheeks with the skin peeling off. Cracked, festering lips. Gangrenous feet. Starving people who looked, truly, like they were starving--emaciated, disturbing. Dead people looked dead.

It really tore at me. Honestly. I cried. I don't cry often, and when I do (admitting huge flaws here) I feel rebellious and angry at the people who see it happen. Except I feel safe around skywalker, but imagine NSG angrily scrubbing her face of saltwater and blaming the producers for depicting things... well, as they really were.

You see, I think we sometimes forget the pioneers were real people. Pioneer women grieved just as much as any woman today does, when their child dies.

One of the most heartrending scenes, to me, was a woman dragging her handcart with her five-year-old-son and her 1-year-old baby girl in the back. The baby girl was sick, and needed her attention, but the woman knew she had to keep up with the company or else none of them would survive. So there is her five year old son, bundled up with his one-year-old sister whose face is pale and still, and whose eyelids are horribly chapped with frostbite. And every once in a while, the woman looks over her shoulder and asks, "is she dead yet."

And the famous story of the couple who crossed the prairie together, the girl insisting that they wait until they get to the valley before they marry, so they can claim all the temple blessings from the start. NO kissing, even. WHen she is sick, he gives her his rations and doesn't let her know. He carries dozens of people across the Sweetwater River and, on the last trip, falls in the river himself and needs helping out. That evening, he dies of exposure. So she takes his body, wraps it in her shawl even though she badly needs it for the rest of the journey, because she doesn't want to leave him there on the prairie without some symbol of her love.

It all sounds typical hokey mormon sentimentality. But I have to say it felt so real in this movie. These were not gorgeous mormon models... they chose real-looking people, and that made it real to me. And I came away feeling all guilty and tearful and wondering... why do I have what I do? Why don't I have to go through privation, hunger, and working myself nearly to death? Why are all my children so healthy, so safe, so full of food and water, when women just like me buried their children on the prairie under two feet of snow and walked away, knowing wolves would dig them up? It really made me think how soft and ungrateful I am sometimes.

It's given me a sort of reckoning, too. Too often I'll have a long list of tasks that I'll stop in the middle of because I've gotten too "tired," only... what does that mean, really? I've decided not to can all the apples, even though they're rotting in the apple box, when my great, great, great grandmother would have saved her children with my apples? Was more tired than I could ever imagine, and still worked, still walked on, stumbling and feeling like her heart and lungs might give out from fatigue, so that her children would live the life she planned for them?

As I cut and blended and heated and sealed jars of applesauce the other day, I thought to myself, yes, my back aches. Yes, I feel a little sick inside. Yes, I'm feeling overwrought and snappy... but I'm going to finish this box of apples. This box of apples is a gift. If I decide to quit when I could have kept going and preserved all of this fruit that my family picked, then I don't deserve the bounty I've been given. And who knows, in our current economic conditions, how long "bounty" will last?

Could I survive on the prairie?

Today I was tempted to just do the dishes in the sink. My dehydrator trays have been waiting for a week, sticky with fruit-leather residue, for washing. AT first I thought, I'll leave them for another day. Then I thought, No, I'll remove all the trays and stack them on the counter so I know I have to wash them and they'll be on my mind, but I'll do them later.

And then I thought of those women with their bare, chapped feet and their half-rations of flour-and-water gruel, and I rolled up my sleeves and washed all of the dehydrator trays.

I live a very soft existence. People tell me I'm "Amazing" because I have 6 children age 9 and under. I feel blessed because all six of my children, age 9 and under, are healthy, well-fed, and well-educated. People tell me I'm superwoman because I homeschool my kids. I feel grateful that I have enough education to teach my children and enjoy their company, and that I don't have to make them work hard all day doing the chores that would keep our family in food, clothes, and shelter if we lived 100 years ago. I just wonder...

what else should I be doing?

Sep 27, 2011

The Grim Tale of the Battle of Fort Utah

*Another disclaimer. In my research and in the writing of Lightning Tree, my novel which is due to be released April 2012 by Bonneville Books/Cedar Fort, I attempted to read accounts from every side of every historical event that I could find, especially when approaching anything controversial. I don’t want to be an apologist—that is, someone who tries to gloss over wrongdoing on the Mormon settlers’ parts. I also don’t want to be “anti,” someone who seems to be devoted to painting the Mormon settlers in as bad a light as possible. I have attempted to find the most corroborated facts, and I will attempt to lay them out here without apologizing at all. These blurbs are not apologies; they are meant to be honest, interesting accounts for people to read and think about, and perhaps do further research on if they want to. *

When the settlers first headed down to Utah Valley, Salt Lake City was a neutral zone between the Soshone tribes to the north, and the Utes to the south. The Soshones claimed Salt Lake Valley as their own, but didn’t find it a good place to live or hunt, and so the Mormon pioneers were allowed by the tribes to settle there and claim a relatively peaceful existence.

There had already been some scuffles in Utah Valley as men from the settlement went south to explore and survey the area. The Battle of Battle Creek, which that area of American Fork is named for, happened just before Brigham Young called the thirty families to go south and form a new settlement. His instruction to the settlers was to “Be careful, not make [the Utes] any presents, teach them to raise grain, and order them to quit stealing.”

When the families first arrived in Utah Valley to set up their fort and settlements, there were two chiefs in the area who wanted to kill them off outright. A Chief named Old Elk declared that he would kill any white man to enter the valley, and Chief Walker (or Wakara, as he was called by the Utes) sided with him.

Above is a wooden statue of Cheif Sowiette, below a portrait of Chief Wakara

According to legend, it was Chief Soweitte who stood up and said that he would fight on the side of the settlers if it came down to a battle, and that the settlers ought to be left to exist in peace, that peace should be attempted. Old Elk and Wakara backed down at that point.

There were accounts of cattle being killed and corn stolen, but some histories also mention a treaty with the Indians wherein the settlers agreed to keep their hunting and grazing to certain areas, thus allowing the tribes to retain vital hunting and grazing of their own. It is possible that animals were killed when they crossed these boundaries. But it’s also possible that Indians killed the animals without regard for boundaries crossed.

Things came to a head when three of the men from the settlement ventured out to hunt deer. They were met by a chief named, by the settlers, “Old Bishop,” because his mannerisms and turn of phrase were quite a bit like one of the ecclesiastical leaders in the settlement, and also because he worked hard to keep peace between his own tribe and the settlers.

Old Bishop confronted the three men and stated that they had ventured outside of the area agreed upon by the tribes and settlement. In response, one of the men pointed at the shirt that the Indian chief was wearing, and claimed it had been stolen from his clothesline a little while before, that it was his shirt. Old Bishop denied it, and the three men attempted to overpower him and take the shirt off his back. Old Bishop raised his bow and arrow to defend himself and one of the men shot him through the head with their rifle.

Afraid of the consequences, the men opened up the dead Chief’s abdominal cavity, filled it with stones, and put it in the river, hoping it would sink so that none of the tribes would find it, and incident could be avoided for a while
** brief tangent**

The Old Bishop Ghost story.

Ute legend has it that on the yearly anniversary of his death, the spirit of Old Bishop rises from the Provo River and removes the stones from his body, one by one. He then sinks back into the river once more. Some people today claim to have seen this spirit as “whispy white mist” that rises from the surface in a certain area of the river.

Unfortunately (or fortunately? depending on how you look at it), the three men went back to the fort bragging, and the story soon spread. The tribes heard of it and searched the river, and found Old Bishop’s body tangled in the roots of a cottonwood tree.

The Utes threatened to attack the Mormon colony. Alexander Williams went to Great Salt Lake City and told Brigham Young of the threat, but not of the incident that provoked it. Still Brigham Young was against fighting, for peace if at all possible, but he allowed himself to be outvoted by the settlers, who wanted to clear the area of the Indians. Young allowed the settlers to engage in a conflict to “take” the land in earnest and to clear the Utes out and away from Utah Valley. And thus began one of the most (if not the most) terrible incidents in the history of the Mormon settlements.

A company of militia, led by George D. Grant and Major Andrew Lyte, met up and engaged the Indians along the Provo River, near fort Utah, using a “crude breast-works constructed by the settlers of logs” as a sort of barricade. The Indians were lead by Old Elk.
(portrait of Old Elk, and his squaw, who is the squaw that “squaw peak” legend stems from—that she fell, or threw herself, off the cliff to escape from the Mormon settlers. Not corroborated by many sources. I find this portrait a little strange as Old Elk appears to have been drawn as a Frenchman)

At the start of the fight, the numbers were about even. Issak Higbee’s son, John S. Higbee, was the only white man killed. When the Indian’s stronghold was overtaken in a cavalry charge, eight were killed. The rest fled. The settlers followed them up into the canyon. Several of the Indians were found dead along the way of exhaustion, wounds, and measles, which the settlers had brought into the valley with them, including Chief Old Elk.

The militia, under Daniel H Wells at this point (pictured above), went south down through Spanish Fork area and cornered the rest of the Indians who had engaged in battle with the settlers, at Promontory Point or “table rock,” south of Utah lake.

The men, women and children tried to flee, crossing the ice of the lake. Nearly all the men were killed. The women and children were spared. And, in a move that still baffles those who look back and study the incident, the heads of the dead were severed, boxed up, and taken to Great Salt Lake City for “scientific study.” The women and children traveled, by some accounts, in the same compartments where the moldering heads of their husbands, brothers, and fathers were placed.
Picture of Ute Woman and Child

The women and children were given to Mormon families to “wean from their ways of savagery.” Most of the women ran away at the first possible opportunity. The horses of the defeated Indians were given to the more friendly Soshone tribes near the salt lake valley, as gifts.

The colorful account of the Battle of Fort Utah, by William “Wild Bill Hickman,” who was, by some accounts a terrible but righteous man and by others, a mass murderer, is an interesting read. I'd take it with a few pinches of sodium chloride, as this history was written after his excommunication, and therefore, is likely to err on the side of bitter/slanderous, perhaps.

William Hickman

Very scary. Perhaps he had a poisonous dandelion in his breakfast salad the morning this was taken. More on him later, but for now I’ll just leave you with this juicy tidbit: According to local and written legend when Old Elk’s body was found in the canyon, Bill Hickman offered a cash reward to anyone who would go and retrieve the head and bring it back to him. He wrapped the head of the old chief in a blanket and tried to pass it off as the head of Young Elk, another chief in the area who’d had a reward placed on his head. Hickman was unsuccessful in his scheme.

Sep 26, 2011

The saga of the house hunt, part I

We are starting to feel settled here in our new home, and I feel secure enough, and the chaos and stress surrounding our move and house hunting is starting to fade into the background. So... I can write about it.

When we first arrived in town, we realized several things. First, it was cold. But not as horribly cold as people had warned us. It was strange... I quickly became accustomed to the cold and even liked it. I joked with Skywalker that it was my viking blood, waking up. In the past, I was always the one to step outside on the first below-freezing morning and gripe that "no human being should be expected to live in such conditions." Well, I was cured of my sissiness. And quickly came to appreciate the beauty of a truly-cold place (Dave, I know you're laughing at me... but c'mon. Not all of us can live in 80 below conditions. And 20 below is still really cold!!!) It was, in fact, the coldest winter in 20 years, on record. So Heavenly Father laid it on real thick.

As we drove around, we planned and thought. We had a few options. Because of a giant tax return we had coming to us, we could buy a house properly. Something we previous thought would be 3-5 years out. We considered buying in town, something we could turn into an investment property, and living there for a couple years and building somewhere out away from town on acreage. After looking for duplexes/triplexes, we realized this is a tricky business, because this city is all full of crazy zoning laws and swift changes, and everything close to campus is being torn down and replaced by huge, multi-building complexes.

Some of the houses we seriously considered:

1) Creepy house. Well, we didn't seriously consider it. But it had 3100 square feet, a basement apartment, and was close to campus. When we went to see it, we went in through the basment which was a dank hole with a 60's era tiny kitchen and damp, mildewy bedrooms with windows only a cat could fit through. IT wasn't zoned as a duplex. Still we looked at it, because the price was 115,000 and there were, in all, around 7 bedrooms. By the time we worked our way upstairs and became truly acquainted with the strange floor plan of rooms off of rooms off of rooms, the sadness of dark-wood paneling on the walls, a wall in the entry hall checkered with large squares of black plastic faux-marble and cork board (with lots of pushpins and needles sticking out of it), the kitchen with that 60's era plasticy stuff for the counters and awful decaying vinyl tiling and various other strangeness, we decided that 115,000 wasn't worth it... the whole thing would have to be burned. Honestly. It was soooo depressing.

2) Farm House. Built in 1910, one of the oldest houses up on the hill by the school, lots of history. On 1/3 of an acre (which is a large lot in town!) Four bedrooms, two of which were huge. A giant fireplace reaching to the ceiling of sparkling, soft-white stone chunks that Skywalker said were quite valuable as they were made of some kind of rare material nobody uses to decorate with anymore(forgot the name). We considered walling off part of it and turning it into a duplex, but it didn't quite work. And the upstairs bedrooms were dormer-windows even higher off the ground than where we'd been living previously... and there were the same problems of non-updated electricity possibly causing a fire hazard. Oh, and just before we went to look at it, the roof of the garage collapsed. 149,000... we decided it would be too much work for too little return.

3) Yost house. We found a steal of a deal--a beautiful, red-stone house in a neighborhood that is considered very desireable. It was a short sale, and we got caught up in it for a while... made a bid, got it accepted, waiting on the bank. This took four months from our house hunting. ANd I think it was supposed to, because if we hadn't waited around those four months and kept looking, it's quite possible we would have ended up somewhere else. In the end, I appreciate yost house. But I'm freaking glad we didn't move there! Every time we drive into town and end up in that area, I turn to SKywalker and say, I"m so glad we didn't buy Yost. We would have been miserable. But somehow, for four months, it seemed right, and kept us hanging in there. God works in mysterious ways, I guess.

K, now for the real drama: We got out of yost, finally, and started looking at what we should always have been looking at: large houses with property. We went and saw:

4) Archer House. 12 minutes to Skywalker's job, three acres, nice setup. 6 bedrooms, an already-constructed horse corral and chicken coup, nice flat fields. A very busy road in front (one of the dealbreakers for me) and... the price was 200,000. The very, very tip top of anything we'd even consider offering on (for 10-20,000 less). Unfortunately, this house wasn't a hurting property, and so we decided it wouldn't work out. It didn't feel exactly right to me, either.

5) Collapsing-Basement house. ON the listing it seemed fairy-tale-like, made of logs and cute stonework, lovely light-colored stained oak floors and a staircase and giant, stained-log beams on the inside. It was soooo beautiful. About 3600 square feet. 6 bedrooms. 4 acres. 14 minutes from work and 13 minutes from Winco Town (where we travel at least 1 time per week.) Unfortunately, an elevated septic tank and severe water damage in the basement clued us into the fact that there were problems with flooding... likely the whole basment would need to be redone somehow... drainage reworked... and the price was 190,000... still kind of outside our ballpark. And it was in an area we weren't all that thrilled about... a nice family-town but already getting too crowded for our taste. And flat. Really, really flat.

6) Ship's-Prow house. A giant, jutting southern bank of windows that came to a point that looked like the prow of a ship, and a porch all around... right on a cliff's edge overlooking a giant, gorgeous river. It was situated at the edge of a certain set of buttes that I loved the minute we saw them, coming into town. IN the wintertime, we drove out there a few different times to see the beauty of the ice-green river, and the rugged, rough, lava-stone buttes. The wind blew through the lilac bushes that bordered the property, bringing the fresh scent of the river... Skywalker and I both relaxed, walking around that property, and smiled at each other--such a peacful place. Peeking inside, we saw that the decor needed updating. ANd there were dank, narrow hallways leading to the bedrooms--only three in all. The cliffs that lead down the river were beautiful in a raw sort of way. They formed slate-colored shelves that could possibly be turned into a natural sort of porch-garden.

But when the realtor told us that this area was the most treacherous area of the river, that he (an avid duck-hunter and fly-fisherman) only went on it with a trained guide and a life jacket, that his friend, a veteran river-guide drowned in it just the previous summer, that it was full of hidden currents and deceptive calms that covered little maelstroms that would suck you down because of the offrun of irrigation ditches... In his words, "you lose a child in this river? You're not getting them back. Up higher, in the rivers of the upper valley, you'd probably be OK. You'd probably be able to jump in and save them. But here? IT'd be a lost cause within seconds."

That convinced us it wasn't the house for us. And also, the fact that it was a 25 commute to work, and the road wasn't the best. Likely not always plowed. Likely, we'd need a vehicle with big tires and 4-wheel drive if Skywalker wanted to get to work every day.

I was getting a little bit depressed at this point. Ship's prow house had been so special. We had already built so many dreams around it. Committed a little, emotionally. But we went on to go look at:

7) Octagon House. OK....let's just say that this listing seemed completely unbelieveable. 10 bedrooms. That's right, 10. 9 bathrooms. And when we went to go look at it, we saw gorgeous, custom-made jetted tubs in two of the rooms--one shaped like a heart (tub of iniquity??) and giant paintings on all the walls. The rooms were themed: eg, wildflower room. Cowboy room. Teton room. (hehe.) (grand teton was painted on that wall.) (hehehe. K, I'm done...) A giant kitchen with industrial-sized sinks, a 10,000 refrigerator-freezer system.

It was an inn. Built ten years before, and gone bankrupt. The acutal worth was probably around 500,000. IT was listed at 183,000. And the clincher... ten acres. Fenced. With a horse barn and corral on it.

but when Skywalker and I walked through it (and having a hard time believing our own eyes), we had a feeling.

It was too much house for us. I mean, lets say we got it. IT was a strange configuration: two octagon shaped structures, joined by a straight piece in the middle--so it was possible we would have a hard time finding a loan for it. But say we did get it.

The roof. If it had to be replaced, it would bankrupt us. We would never be able to afford it.

And the utilities. Each room had its own thermostat, so we could shut a few of them off, shut off one of the octagons perhaps, live in half the house--we went over and over this, thinking of way we could make it work.

By the way... did I mention the indoor solarium, compete with landscaping, indoor sidewalk, leading to a giant hot-tub room? Oh, and the inside paneling of said solarium was cedar wood that smelled heavenly? And the house itself was built of cedar? No? Just the icing on the cake, I guess.

As we drove away, I felt so depressed I didn't exactly know what to say. Because Skywalker and I both realized that, while we could possibly afford to buy the disney-house-of-our-dreams, we couldn't afford to live there. Literally. It was too much house for us. It was like closing the door on fantasy, on the fun, on the limitless ideas of "what if," and stepping sort of a mediocre reality. We had to settle. We couldn't buy this house, because our lifestyle just woulnd't support living in it.

I was so sad.

ANd on that note.... I'll leave part II--the strange miracle of our home!(this was already too long and rambling!) For next week.

Sep 23, 2011

Lit Review: There Came a Surgeon

Having put aside my classics for a while, I have decided to review some of the most significant pieces of literature that grace my shelves. Today's review will be on a piece of avant-garde feminist literature from the mid sixties. This book has everything: Sweeping romance, philosophy, drama, good and evil in its starkest forms.

Tite: There Came a Surgeon

Author: Hilda Pressley

Cover Art:

Summary: "Another child's toy, another girl's boy, it was all the same to Elvira. Whatever Alison had, Elvira had to try and snatch it from her-even to the extent of becoming a nurse in Alison's hospital.

And Alison never realized how much she minded Elvira until Steven Hartley joined the hospital staff...

Pertinent selections from the text:

During the meal she noticed he gave her an odd puzzled look every now and then. She was tempted to ask him what was the matter, but she found she was curious about him, too. She had the impression that he was well used to entertaining the opposite sex. Not merely because of his courtesy--though Alison had rarely been made to feel so feminie, so precious--it was his whole manner. She found difficulty in putting a name to it. It was something in the nature of a quality which was absent in Johhny. Yet she had the impression that this man could be very, very masterful indeed when he chose. (pp. 54-55).

"There's no reason at all, of course," Stephen said, 'why people shouldn't take a drug like a tranquillizer to allay anxiety and nervous tension in special circumstances, just as drugs are taken for pain or any disorder of the body. The trouble begins when people come to rly on them too much. Then, drugs are taking the place of character. Instead of learning to deal with life and its problems they turn to a tablet or pill."

"like drowning their sorrows in drink," contributed Alison.

"That's right. And of course that solves nothing, only makes matters worse."

"I suppose, in a sense, it's on a par with treating mastoididtis with aspirin."

"Exactly. Half the time people ought to be visiting a psychiatrist instead of a physician."

Alison considered this. "Even that can be a sort of handing over to somebody else instead of grappling with the problems themselves, can't it? Except in special circumstances."

Stephen smiled. "Perhaps I should have said clergyman instead of psychiatrist. Or do you think that even then, people should do their own homework?"

"Well, yes, I do think so. How does the old hymn go? Something about: "Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in Prayer."

"I see what you mean." He looked at her interestedly. "Are you a deeply religious person, Alison?"
pp. 114

Elvira looked at the lipstick and Alison saw that old, familiar sly smile appear on her face.

"Where did it come from?"

"From where you left it," Alison told her. "Or rather, from where you put it--in Mr. Hartley's car."

The smile vanished. "What do you mean, where I put it?"

"I think you know," Alison said as gently as she could. "It hasn't worked, you know, Elivra. Neither has planting all kinds of things belonging to Johhny in my flat."

Now an angry flush appeared on Elvira's cheeks. "I don't know what you're talking about. If this is why you invited me here--"

pp. 144

Elvira clung to the railings, a litle pale, but her jaw set obstinately. "you can talk until you're blue in the face, but I shan't budge on your say-so."

..."You want Steven to come. Is that it?"

Elvira gazed out across the expanse of sky. "He got the man down from the roof in your ward."

...Elvira was standing sideways on the parapet, but the top half of her body was screwed round so that she could hold the rail with both hands. As Alison finished speaking she made a sudden movement which caused Alison's heart to leap, thinking Elvira would slip. But she leaned over the top rail, her face distorted with emotion. "I hate you! I hate you, do you hear?" Her voice rose to a screaming pitch, then became hysterical as she repeated: "hate you, hate you, hate you!" She burst into a flood of the most heart-rending weeping.

Alison moved swiftly towards her and put her arm around the girl comfortingly. "Elvira dear, I'm sorry. But it was better out than in. COme along now, one foot at a time and you'll be safe."

To her great relief Elvira returned to safety, sobbing as though her heart would break. Then she almost fell into Alison's arms. "Oh, Alison--"

"There now, don't worry dear, Everything will be all right. I know you love Steven. So do I. But shall I tell you something? He doesn't love me either. And my heart's almost breaking, too."

pp. 177-178

unfortunately the last page of the work has been ripped in half, so I will only include the words that I can decipher, of the last paragraph of the book:

"arling," he said softly. "if you... een searching for you, last I've found you...ever intend letting you go." ... pulled his face down to


Clearly (as you see) There Came a Surgeon is a classic, and a must-read.

Sep 22, 2011

Aaaand we're off... Obamania (or Nobamania) 2012

So... guys. In order to be completely honest with the all of you, I need to come clean. A bit. On my own shifting views of our current president.

You'll remember that I had great love and respect and admiration for Barack H. Obama in 2008 when he was elected.

And that I defended him as a centrist when the left jumped off his wagon and the right began using nasty words like communist.

But I have to be honest...while I still believe that

1) Obama is a good person. Brilliant, informed, and with the right heart about our country and our foreign policy, and people working together etc etc


2) He likely made one heck of a harvard professor and community planner,

I have to conclude, at this moment, that Obama is

3) Not the right president for right now.

When we elected Obama (OK, not all of us did... in fact many of you, reading this, did not)...

When I voted for Obama, it was in a culture of emphasis on foreign policy. Obama was the man to elect to change the way we were headed... war in two countries, horrible relations with the Middle East, a declining reputation in just about every other area of the world. And... let's just say, I agree (mostly) with the foreign policy decisions Obama has made in his presidency. I have never believed that we should constantly side with Israel. I have never believed that we should keep fighting in Iraq... and Obama has done his dardest to get as many troops out of Iraq as he could, without causing disaster. We also have to remember that this presidency is the one under which (yes, it's been overadvertised) Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed. To me, Bin Laden was the ONLY reason we were in Afghanistan in the first place--we were attacked, and we couldn't just sit around and not do anything in response. Afghanistan was harboring, for a while, the man responsible for the attacks, therefore, we went into Afghanistan. And... to me, mission accomplished.

(So why do we still have troops in Afghanistan? And President Obama... seriously, the patriot act? Gitmo? You have dissappointed me...all topics for another day.)

At any rate, what we failed to predict was that the main issue/concern/threat to our country would turn from diplomacy and foreign relations to the economy. Obama did not campaign on the economy... and it's a good thing, because, as far as I can tell, he can't do math.

SO, when our biggest issue switched to the economy, in my mind that's when Obama went from being a great leader, a godsend, someone who could change the destructive course our politics have taken...

to not the right guy.

Well, and I'm not BLAMING our current economic crisis entirely, or even slightly on Obama either. I mean, we know what caused our problems. It's called speculation, it's called overconsumption. It's called a bubble that burst, and we all know (those of us who are smart and willing to examine reality behind propoganda) that no president or politician could have predicted or stopped it from happening. OK, there were some politicians who made it worse:

a) the chairman of the federal reserve

b) the previous president, who sponsored tax cuts that made taxes historically low (Like... since the 1950's) and at the same time, started wars in two countries. (He also wasn't all that great at math... could it be a sign of our declining school systems when two men who got the most important job in the country don't seem to be able to do simple arithmetic or balance a budget? George--if you don't make money, then you can't spend it. And Barack... Barack, Barack. My friend. It's wonderful to want to feed and clothe people, and give them health care, but... well, you need money to do it.) which leads me to my next point-

c) Obama has continued the trend. Of overspending without trying to recoup costs. Of trying to throw monopoly money at problems that require real solutions. But you have to admit he's got a tough road ahead of him, with the democrats refusing to cut any domestic spending on some of the programs that take a lot of our budget, and the republicans refusing to raise taxes to gain more revenue, and the tea party causing ruckuss and proposing drastic cuts in spending that they know they won't get votes for. It's all posturing... and it's killing our economy. What can a president really do, if he doesn't have a legislature that wants to cooperate instead of slinging stones at each other? Not much.

So.... anyway... never thought I'd say this but... Obama out.

So who next?

That's a discussion for another post. But for now I'll just say...

Rick Perry makes me puke.

Sep 21, 2011

Things We Say: Castrating Goats

(setting: NSG, Skywalker, and kids are sitting at the table eating dinner)

NSG: (thoughtful) You know, we always talk about how much we want to raise animals. But Skywalker, have you thought about the fact that this means killing animals? Like, we can't keep boy goats. Maybe one, or even two, but... half the babies that are born every year will have to be sold for meat.

Skywalker: I have thought of that. It's troubling.

NSG: Of course, if we lived in a place that had grazing year round, I guess we could castrate some of them and make them into grazing animals.

Loli: What does castrate mean?

(NSG and Skywalker eye each other, trying to decide who gets this little gem of an explanation)

NSG: (sighing internally) It's where an animal, like a goat, has their boy parts cut off--

Skywalker: (shoulders shaking as he laughs silently at me) not ALL the boy parts. They don't cut off the whole thing!

NSG: (giving Skywalker the evil eye) OK, not ALL the boy parts. Just some of them.

Bella: Which boy parts?

NSG: (ignoring Skywalker's grin of enjoyment and trying to form her lips around what is perhaps the most disgusting couple of words in the English language) they cut off the testicles and scrotum.

Loli: What are testicles?

NSG: They're the part of a boy's private parts that kind of comes down in back. Like, you know, when you see Sammy running around the house naked, how he's got that little bag sort of thing? That's the scrotum. It has these things in it called testicles.

Bella: (completely unperturbed, nodding)

Squirt: (Bright eyed, as Mom describes in great detail his special boy parts) Yeah! That's what I have!

NSG: (abruptly) well that's the part they cut off.

MayMay: Why?

NSG: Well, it means the boy goat can't make babies. And isn't as mean.

Skywalker: and isn't as stinky.

Squirt: (gets up on his chair, thrusts his fingers in the direction of his chest, shrieks) Mom! I have nipples! I have nipples!

NSG: (Buries face in hands.) Yes, Squirt, you do. Good job.

(setting: squirt has just been denied a treat because he wet the bed)

Squirt: Mom, I don't like you!

NSG: I'm sorry you feel that way, Squirt.

Squirt: Mom, you're... (peering at me cautiously, then mumbles) momyou'renotmymom.

NSG: (turns, raises an eyebrow) What did you say? (sidenote: "you're not my mom" is not a phrase kids are allowed to use in the Nosurf home when they're mad... has to do with the whole adoption issue)

Squirt: I... I... (shifting weight from foot to foot) I... you ARE my mom.

NSG: (smiles) yes, I am.

Squirt: I.... if I don't shake my head, you are my mom. If I shake my head, it means you're not my mom. (violently shakes head.)

NSG: (sighs) squirt, go to your room.

Squirt: (Shrieks) No! No! You ARE my mom!!

NSG: For a few minutes squirt. You know we don't use those words to hurt each other in this family.

Squirt: (heading up the stairs to his room!) Mom, I don't like you! Mom, I love you! Mom... I'm going to SLAM THE DOOR!

NSG: OK, squirt. (above, the distant sound of door slamming violently)

Squirt: (ten minutes later, after being let out of his room, suggles up to NSG on the couch) Mom, I'm sowwy I said you're not my mom.


Squirt: Mom, I really just like you.

NSG: (squeezing Squirt) I like you too, Squirt.

Squirt: (Springs up, bright eyed) Mom, can I have a treat?

Sep 20, 2011

Fort Utah: the beginning

Disclaimer: These are not meant to be scholarly articles. They are meant to be fun. To read, to think about. I don't plan on peppering these "blurbs" with references, though if anybody asks, I will provide a specific reference or two for something they'd like to do further research about.

Honestly, I think of these blurbs as legend-telling. I go all over the internet and all over the sources I've collected from the library, from those lovely Special Collections at the good old HBLL and also from archived newspaper articles, the entries of a private journal or two that I have at my fingertips because of the nice people at the DUP museums (which I will sometimes reference) or just random family geneology websites where stories are told and anecdotes are cached. The pictures I use in these entries are all pictures I've verified as "allowed by courtesy of___" for purely non-commercial purposes, or have been posted anonymously to various family-history sites on the internet.

So... prepare to enjoy. Not to criticize, argue, or to any degree, complain about what I've got written in these less-than-professional blurbs. And... another tip. If you want to read basically what I've read... put names into your google search engine along with "fort utah" or "Provo" or a relevant date... and you'll pretty much come up with what I've used to write these here things. So, without further ado...

Fort Utah: The Beginning

In 1849, about nine years before I begin Maggie's story, Brigham Young called 30 families to travel south out of Great Salt Lake City (as it was known then) to settle the fertile valleys surrounding Utah Lake. Among these families were the Higbees, the Beans, the Baums, the Holdaways, the Cluffs, the Turners, the Huntingtons, the Peays, the Millers, the Hawses, and many other names that are still familiar to current Provo residents, either because they have them in their own family histories, or because they've dated someone with that last name, or they have paid attention to the business owner's signs as they drive around town.

John S. Higbee was called to be leader of the settlement. His counselors were Issak Higbee and Dimick B. Huntington.
I couldn't find a picture of John S. Higbee. The top is Issak Higbee, the bottom Dimick B. Huntington. Issak looks like he's had a hard life, doesn't he? Well, he did. He was older. And in addition to going through hostilities in Missouri and Illinois, he tore up roots to settle in Great Salt Lake City, and then accepted a call to Provo, and later, various calls further south. The Higbees could likely be seen as the community leaders. For a long time, "Higbee Row," made up the block now north of the old pioneer park. I'll talk about that in a later post.

Dimick B. Huntington believed he was called by Joseph Smith to be a liason between the Mormon settlers and the Indians. He learned several Ute dialects during his years in Utah Valley, and had dealings with the Indians during many significant events, including the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which, for a long time, was blamed on the Paitues who lived in the valley near Provo and other Mormon Settlements. He looks like he's really suspicious of whomever took his picture. Maybe it was somebody he didn't like. At any rate, various accounts I've read paint him as a man who tried hard to do what was right. He wasn't perfect of course, but none of us are... and we have to remember that Indian-Settler relations were messy, in just about every account where settlers and native tribes crossed paths. I'll do more posts about that, as well.

Fort Utah, the first fort, was built close to the riverbottoms. The settlers unwittingly chose a site very important to the tribes of the area--important for fishing, and as a gathering place. It was a damp, marshy area not all that healthy to the settlers either. After some more hostilities, with losses that occured on both sides, Brigham Young asked the settlement to move further north and east.

Provo's North Park is the site of the second fort. There are several cabins and other buildings from the second settelement there today. The exibit is maintained by the Sons of Utah Pioneers. The park used to be named "Soweitte," after chief Soweitte, who intervened on the settlers' behalf when another chief, Walkera, declared "war" on the settlers. In addition, a replica of the first fort has been created in about the same spot where the fort once stood. If you would like to visit, it is along Geneva Road in South Provo, just past the KAO campgrounds, where Geneva Road crosses the Provo River.

The fort was set up with a set of walls or barricades made of logs. In the center of the fort was a hump of land, on which a platform was built, where the cannon was placed. The school-house was also in the center of the fort. George Washington Bean was the first schoolmaster (more on him below.) Cabins lined the inside of the walls, or made up parts of the walls, and eventually there were cabins outside of the (2nd) fort.

That first year, 1849, was a miserable one for the settlers. There was a great deal of flooding, which washed away planted crops, and so the settlers didn't grow much. They had to live on gleaned foods such as dandelions and sego roots, dug by the river. The river was full of fish, and the settlers took advantage of that, but that meant that the Indians had less of their main food source as well, and this increased tensions.

Eight people died and were buried in that first fort, later called "fort field." Their bodies were later moved to the current Provo Cemetery.

Among them were George and Matilda Haws, father and daughter. Matilda was 22 when she died, unmarried, six months after arriving in the valley. Later, her sister married Shedrick Holdaway, and Shedrick had Matilda sealed to him as well by proxy. This was a common practice at the time.

There was no picture of Matilda Haws. Above are Shedrick (Shadrack) holdaway as young man and his wife, Lucinda, who is older in her picture. She also looks suspicious. But the accounts I've read say she was an intelligent, friendly woman. She raised a lot of children, some not her own biologically. And she loved poetry. She had fiery red hair when she was younger. Shedrick is said to have had very nice horses. He was a hard worker, too; his name is on a lot of the early accounts of public works--surveying, leadership positions, etc. He apparently had a "van dyke" style beard a lot of his life (that's like the beard the devil is drawn with) and also a devilish sense of humor.

Harriet Turner was 14 years old when she died. Her mother and father (pictured above), as well as the rest of her siblings, survived that first year. Most of them lived into old age.

Joseph Higbee, only living son of Issak Higbee (1st counselor of the settlement) died during a scuffle with the Indians. He was hiding with some other men from the fort, behind some logs. He raised his head, looking quietly around, and was shot in the neck. The Indian responsible for his death was later tried by the settlers and executed by disembowelment (wow.) Apparently this was a common practice at the time as well--the settlers would execute by shooting the offender in the stomach, remove the insides, and fill it with stones, then sink the body in the river so that they could delay the inevitable conflict that followed. Later on, I'll tell some of those stories... in particular, the story of "Old Bishop" which has become a local ghost story, and promulgated a lot of the hostilities those first few years.

William Dayton and George Washington Bean were doing a demonstration of the 5 lb cannon that rested on a mound in the middle of the fort. They shot it once, and then neglected to clean the barrel. Some of the powder on the barrel ignited and the cannon exploded, instantly killing Dayton and practically tearing off George W. Bean's arm (which had to be amputated just below the elbow), as well as delivering over 200 splinters all over his body.

George Bean's recovery was painful and took several months, during which his mother and several Indians nursed him to health. He received a priesthood blessing which cured him of the blindness he suffered for a long while after the accident. While nursing him, the Indians taught George their language. George became a good friend to some of the Indians in the area, and after his recovery, was often sent on missions to talk to and trade with the tribes. Here is George Bean as a younger man.
In all the images I've seen he is tall, very beanpole-skinny. His personal history is full of energy and humor. He was a man who tried to do what was right, who laughed at himself a lot, and who married three lovely women and had so many children that branches and runners of the Bean family are now spread throughout the United States and possibly Mexico, too. My brother-in-law, one of his direct descendents, is also tall, slender, full of energy, and full of humor and intelligence.

And, just an interesting note to end on: An anecdote retold by the son of Betsy Cluff, one of the first settlers in the fort.

According to Betsy's biography, she sat on the wagon tongue following supper that night and surveyed their situation. After taking a good look at the shabby condition of the fort and the wild-looking country surrounding it, she spoke in a disheartened voice, "So, this is Provo, where we have come to make our future home. The outlook is dreary; the future is not very bright."

Her young son Benjamin overheard her dejected soliloquy and replied, "Mother, remember the old adage, 'The darkest hour is just before the dawn of day.' "

This response somewhat cheered the pioneer mother, and she responded in a slightly more positive tone, "Yes, my son, we will hope for the best and put our trust in the Lord who has never failed us."

That is lifted directly from here. It's an interesting story... I'll definitely be talking more about the Cluffs, later, as they are one of the most interesting (to me) families to settle in Utah Valley.

Sep 2, 2011

history blurbs

I have a lot of interesting utah valley history tidbits floating around in my mind. There are some cool sites out there, some fascinating journal entries saved and put online by families, some amazing pictures.

Cedar Fort marketing people have given me the go ahead to er... go ahead, and post some "utah history blurbs" once in a while, to (in part) build anticipation for my book when it comes out, and also to sort of flesh out the world my characters are set in, and also give those who are as fascinated by this as I am, a place to go to read more. So I'm going to be doing a blog post here and there with utah history including some of the fascinating stuff I've found, and linking to some of the websites/sources I used to research Provo, Utah, in the years of its earliest settlement.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy reading this stuff, and looking at all of these amazing pictures, maps, and family history sites, as I have over these past couple of years! Hurrah for the pioneers!