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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kite-Flying Time

I have gotten into a routine, some might say a rut, lately with just posting my Rambling Through Time Articles here....sorry.  It seems like all I do any more is write, go to school, write, do Relief Society stuff, write, study and take tests, write, and occasionally do laundry and fix food.  

Happy spring.  Please go fly a kite for me!

One thing you can always count on in Millard County, in addition to the decent people of the area, is the wind.  The wind makes for either superb kite-flying or kite-shattering experiences.  When I was a kid I had a great deal of sympathy for Charlie Brown and his lack of kite-flying skills, but the spring after my ninth birthday I stopped feeling sorry for him because I was dealing with my own kite woes.

Every March a bucket full of paper-covered balsa sticks would appear near the toy rack at Morris Mercantile.  Word would spread like wild fire, "The kites are here" and all the kids in town would collect their quarters and head to the store.  The way the paper was tightly wrapped around the wooden sticks made it impossible to tell what the design on the kite would be, so it was always a surprise after paying your 75ȼ and unwinding the paper to discover what your new kite looked like.

The kite I opened on the steps of the Merc in March 1971 had a yellow background with a bright red Chinese dragon emblazoned on the front.  I excitedly ran home, asked my mom to attach a tail of fabric scraps, found several spools of string from previous years' kites, and headed to the pasture.

I carefully attached one end of string to the center of the kite, uncoiled a few feet of the twine, and tossed the kite into the incessant breeze.  This routine usually had to be repeated over and over, but on this particular day, that new kite caught a draft which carried is straight up into the air.  It spooled the string out so quickly, I had to grab the next ball of twine and the tie the ends together.  The air current continued to pull my dragon kite higher and higher until the second spool of string was exhausted and the kite was just a yellow speck far off in the distance. 

I was anticipating the bragging rights I would have at school the next day as I started winding the string around a wooden stake.  I kept wrapping the string around and around bringing the kite closer and closer. When it was about 100 yards out, a sudden gust of wind grabbed it, spun it upside down, and slammed it to the ground off in the distance.  I started walking and winding in the general direction of the fallen kite, exalting at the height it had achieved.  I rolled and rolled as I walked past the chicken coops, I wrapped and wrapped as I passed the pig pen, I wound and wound as I approached the corrals.  I saw the string was stretched over the top rail of the goat enclosure so I continued winding as I stepped on the bottom rung of the fence to peer over it to locate the landing place. 

Oh, the horror that met my eyes as I pulled myself up to look over the goat pen.  My kite had fallen right in with the goats and all that was left of it was some shredded yellow paper, the string, and the last bit of balsa wood support stick being chewed by the nanny goat.

I will never forget the visual image of that goat's lips, tongue, and teeth pulling those last few inches of kite stick into its munching mouth.  That picture has replayed in my mind hundreds of times over the years.  Good grief! I don't believe Charlie Brown's kite-eating tree has anything on my kite-eating goats. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Fever Rambling

This is my Rambling Through Time column for the 
3-20-2012 edition of the 
Millard County Chronicle: 

Ditch Burning Time

When the air warms up and the ground dries out, I begin to notice a waft of smoky vapor.  I inhale deeply trying to capture the fleeting scent, then realize it isn't real.  The distinctive smell drifts up from a corner of my memory every year about this time.  It is the aroma of burning weeds, grass, and leaves along the ditch banks of my childhood.  Early each spring, Hon Taylor would come by with his huge propane tank pulled by a tractor with a hose connected to his military-grade flame thrower, which he used to clean the irrigation canals of all the dried material which had accumulated over the previous year.

As small children, my brother and I were enthralled by this ritual and would follow Mr. Taylor and his marvelous contraption as he blackened the ditches all along the perimeter of our property.  The fire roared as it leapt from the nozzle and the stream of flame instantly incinerated the dead vegetation.  The blast of heat waves would redden our faces and arms as we observed the spectacle.  A time or two Mr. Taylor had to warn us to 'stand back'.  Okay, it was probably more than a time or two…but how could you resist striving for a better view of that action?

One year I recall that the large corner post of our lower corral, which was a creosote-soaked railroad tie, caught fire after Mr. Taylor made his rounds.  We hauled bucket after bucket of water down there that afternoon and thoroughly drenched the thing, but late the following night, my mom noticed an orange glow from that corner.  She and dad went out with more buckets of water and soaked the tie again. The next morning, we realized the fire had continued to smolder; there was nothing but ashes left to mark where the post had been.

After charring the ground each year, a miraculous thing always occurred.  Just like the legend of the Phoenix rising from the ashes; up through the sooty dirt of the ditch banks came the sweet, tender, spear-shaped shoots of asparagus. 

I would walk along the ditches of our property during those first weeks of spring searching for the elusive asparagri with my hunting implements of a brown paper sack and small paring knife.  It takes great persistence and fortitude to locate enough of the slender plants to make a meal.  Each expedition would take me on widening circles to procure adequate supplies of my prey.  Like any fisherman or huntsman, the best hunting grounds were secret places known only to me.

Asparagus season lasts a very short time. The stalks become woody, begin to grow tall, and develop feathery fern-like tops with red berries as summer comes on.  It takes six years for a asparagus root system to mature sufficiently to send shoots through the soil and several more years before they are large enough to cut.

During those few magical weeks of spring as I would proudly return with my sack full of prized, succulent shoots, mom would have a pot of water boiling.  After a quick wash to remove dirt and ashes from the beautiful spears, they were quickly simmered and served salted and steaming.  Pass the butter, please.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Random Rambling

           The summer of 1968 when I was six and my brother, Jim, was three, our mother was admitted to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City for surgeries and treatment of a tumor in her adrenal gland.  She was away for nearly three months so Jim and I became Relief Society projects as we were passed from house to house to be cared for until she returned home.  I have some hazy memories of the kind townspeople who allowed us to stay in their homes, sometimes for weeks at a time.

One of those families was the Taylors who lived on Main Street in Hinckley.  Mr. Taylor was an old farmer, who walked with two canes.  He lived with his sweet wife, and their 30-something son, Ralph, who had been blinded in one eye.  There were legends circulating around town when I was young, that Ralph, as a teenager, had been hit in the face with a snowball containing something that caused him to lose that eye. Some of the stories said it was a rock, others said glass and I remember one version which claimed it was acid.  Regardless, the Taylors were charitable and allowed this couple of little snot-nosed, cry-baby kids to stay at their home for a period of days while their Dad went to work and their Mom was in the hospital.

The Taylors didn't have any toys at their house since their youngest child was an adult and I don’t believe they owned a television set. Needless to say, those few weeks were less than thrilling for Jim and me. Jim showed his displeasure at being there by running away at least once a day. A three-year-old on the run was a big sister's responsibility so I would track him down and bring him back. He was usually hiding in a haystack or old shed somewhere between the Taylor's house and our place. 

Mrs. Taylor made us liverwurst sandwiches for lunch each day we were there. She used crumbly, homemade wheat bread.  One day as we sat at the table eating our sandwiches, she decided to treat us to some Kool Aid. We thought that sounded tasty on a hot afternoon. Mrs. Taylor set out some silver-colored aluminum tumblers. (Do you remember those tall aluminum tumblers that looked like hammered metal? They made everything taste awful and I think may be the cause of Alzheimer's in many people of that generation. For some reason they are a hot ‘retro’ item now and you can buy or sell them on ebay for an exorbitant sum.) Mrs. Taylor filled two of those shiny, metal cups to the top with orange punch.  Jim and I each took a big, thirsty gulp only to be shocked into nearly spewing it all over the Formica table. Mrs. Taylor hadn't added the cup of sugar to the water and little packet of orange powder. It was nearly the nastiest-tasting stuff we had ever tasted, but our parents had demanded we be polite, say 'thank you' and eat/drink everything we were given and never be wasteful, so I dutifully and miserably swallowed every drop of bitter Kool Aid.  I was never so relieved to see the bottom of one of those ugly cups.  I had to coax, threaten and cajole Jim into finishing his punch. He kept sipping and making faces.  Just as he finally drained the last dribbles from his tumbler, Mrs. Taylor walked back into the kitchen and cheerfully refilled both cups with more of the sour stuff. Without even a pause for breath, Jim burst into tears, jumped from his stool, and ran out the door to find another hiding place.  

Do you have a Random Childhood Memory you would be willing to share? Please email Georgia at  She will help write it up to share with Chronicle/Progress readers in this space. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Near Perfection

The sanctity of the track has been absolute the last two mornings.  There were no shrieking teenage track team members; there were none of the normal chatty, middle-age walking groups; no speed-demon racer charging up behind me; there was just me, all alone with the whole track to myself for a full hour two days in a row.

The full moon was beyond spectacular both mornings.  Yesterday I watched it setting in the west and gleaming across Willard Bay in a glorious manner.  This morning it was in a more southern position and seemed like a spotlight because of its brilliance.  I could read my watch and pedometer without having to come into the pool of light from the parking lot...amazing.  It was so bright, I could actually tell that the new track suface is indeed red.

With a beginning like that, I should be able to do well on my biology quiz, write two Chronicle articles, clean my house and make a nice dinner for the kids who are gathering to have their dad help them do their taxes  today.  Heck, with a beginning like that I should be able to do something really spectacular....hmmm what should it be?