Tuesday, October 31, 2006 Observation:
Each year when Halloween rolls around I am reminded of my mom and dad, long since gone from this earth. They were married in Abraham, Utah on October 31, 1925 -- Halloween. At the time of their marriage my dad was 17 and my mother 18. My dad had only an eighth grade education, but my mother had graduated from Hinckley high school, near Delta, Utah, as valedictorian.
They couldn't make a living by farming in Abraham, so when my 17-year-old dad heard that there was work in the mines in White Pine County, Nevada, he went there to investigate. He traveled to Ruth, Nevada, a very small mining town, and went to the Star Pointer Mine, an underground copper mine, owned by Kennecott Copper Corporation. The day he went to the mine there was a large line of men also seeking work. Dad was only 5'4" and weighed, at that time, probably 125 to 130 pounds. The hiring boss took one look at him and told him there was no way that somebody so small could do the hard physical labor required of a miner. Dad, never lacking in confidence, told the boss that he could out shovel any man he had working for him. The boss liked his spirit and said he would give him a chance to prove what he said was true. That began dad's career as a "mucker" in the Star Pointer Mine. A mucker is one who shovels ore into little ore cars after blasting takes place in the tunnel in which they are working. True to his word, dad was a world-class mucker as I learned later in life in trying to keep up with him shoveling anything.
Dad sent for mom and they began their life together in Ruth, Nevada and working for Kennecott which dad did until the day he died in 1970. On his 34th birthday he was walking home from work one day and realized that he had spent exactly half of his life working underground. He applied for a new position above ground which he was granted and eventually began working in the warehouse where his expertise with numbers and handwriting stood him in good stead. He was working in the warehouse at the time of his death.
Mom and Dad had one message for their boys; "Go to college, and don't end up in the mines." We must have paid attention because all four of us graduated from BYU and went on to receive graduate degrees. Both mom and Dad were instrumental in inspiring us to go on to college and to a better lifestyle, but mom was the driving force. It was not until I was paralyzed and living on life support that I truly appreciated what my mother did for me as a young boy.
She was a voracious reader all of her life, and instilled a love for reading in me and I believe in all of my brothers as well. Almost every year for Christmas and my birthday I would be given a beautiful book of some kind. I remember receiving and reading such books as Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Heidi, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Bobsy Twins, and a series about a great fictitious athlete by the name of Chip Hilton. Chip Hilton was a fabulous baseball and basketball player and through this series I followed him from high school through college. I could hardly wait to get my next Chip Hilton book.
Mom was the cultural refinement teacher in Relief Society for many years. Her love was to teach great literature which she shared with me and my younger brother, Kim. She introduced us to Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a host of other great writers. In the early 1950s before the civil rights movement began she had us read a book entitled "Black Like Me". I still remember how horrified I was as a young boy to read of the plight of African Americans in the United States. My mom was forward thinking with regard to these kinds of things.
However, she was not only a voracious reader but she loved music and sports as well. She never forced me into music but once I signed up to play the clarinet in the fourth grade and then to take piano lessons when I was 12 years old she would never let me quit. I can still remember her standing behind me and counting out loud while I practiced the piano. She was a pretty tough taskmaster. As the years went by I began to love music and had always loved sports of any kind. She was a knowledgeable sports fan and won a little money by entering the Ely Daily Times football prognostication contest for college football. In her 80s when she would be living in our home for several months out of the year, we would watch every Lakers game we could together, and she knew what was going on and had a few insults for the referees if the call went against the Lakers, or especially her hero, Magic Johnson.
When I had my accident it took only a few days to realize that my life from that point on would be a life of the mind and spirit. Because my mother had instilled such a love of reading and music in me, and because of her constant encouragement for me to do my best as an athlete I discovered that my life could be very fulfilling and satisfying because I loved so many things that I could do with my mind. Of course I couldn't play my instruments anymore or participate in sports as I had once done, but I could listen to music, and watch sports, and especially I could read and write with my voice recognition software. Reading the scriptures and other great books has been so fulfilling and rewarding during the 17 years I have been paralyzed, but I have also enjoyed great music, great baseball, basketball, and football games, as well as Turner classic movies.
The mother of a teenage boy who had a spinal cord injury called me to ask me if there was any hope for a good quality life for her son. I began telling her enthusiastically about the computer and the blessing it is to someone in my condition to be able to read and write and have access to the Internet and etc. There was a pause and then she said "I'm afraid that won't do my son any good. All he has done during his lifetime is to play and ride motorcycles. I don't think he has ever read a book." That was one of the most tragic statements I have ever heard.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once spoke of traps that we might fall into during mortality if we are not careful. "[one trap]... is that some of us neglect to develop multiple sources of satisfaction. When one of the wells upon which we draw dries up through death, loss of status, disaffection, or physical ailment, we then find ourselves very thirsty because, instead of having multiple sources of satisfaction in our lives, we have become too dependent upon this or upon that..." (Neal A. Maxwell, But for A Small Moment, 1 Sept.1974, BYU Devotional)
Thanks mom and dad on this Halloween for having blessed me in so many ways to deal with my physical ailment because of the multiple sources of satisfaction in life to which you introduced me as a young boy.