I miss celebrating this day with my children, but at least I have my little Alex. Hopefully the others will know how much I missed them (even cried a bit) this day and always! OXOX
I have dozens and dozens of "Happy Birthday Wishes" on my Facebook profile, to which I am very thankful to know I have so many friends and well-wishers in my life. It's good to be liked and loved.
Recently my father, Howard Hatch, sent me a journal entry email, of which seems to be a small portion of his youth or childhood. It was good reading!
Below, I will post this fun story of which seems to be the first half or beginning of what he will later finish. Enjoy!
Youth Installment by Howard Hatch
“Centerville is a pretty little town,” sang the meadow lark. “Little” indeed it was in those years, about a thousand people, all good, honest folk, for the most part. And a great place to grow up. The town had begun just over 80 years before I was born into it at home on a foldout divan. The pioneer town was composed mostly of Mormon families like the Porters, the Waltons, the Roberts, the Randalls, the Claytons, the Tingeys, the Fords and the Smiths. Add to that the later arrivals such as the Worsleys, Glovers, Noakes, Bloods, Nortons and a handful of lesser notables. My clan, the Hatches had primarily settled in Woods Cross and Bountiful until my father branched out by moving to Centerville in the late 1920s. He and his family had tried homesteading in the Wyoming's Big Horn Basin and later in northwestern Utah's Box Elder County. That was before my dad and mother bought the historic Sanford Porter home on Porters Lane, now 400 South Street. It was a definite “fixer upper,” when acquired, lacking indoor plumbing and many other modern conveniences we take for granted today.
Childhood chores like tending the chickens, gathering their eggs from bins in the old wooden coop, or collecting kindling and coal for fires, led to graduated obligations such as feeding the horses and cows, then milking the cows, slopping the hogs or tending the rabbits. Summers meant helping to plant, weed and water the vegetable garden, harvest the hay and herd the cows to pasture. The latter was my assigned lonely chore for more years than I care to remember. While we had 20 acres of pasture land below town, Dad always felt the grass was more green and luxurious along the creek bank on the road down, which it was of course, much superior to the salt grass growing in our “alkali flats.”
However, those many lonely hours provided the inspiration for a poem composed for a creative writing class in later university years:
From dusty road and fields green,
From gentle winds along the stream,
From insects hum and meadow lark,
And willow whistle with bitter bark;
To songs of children sung in pews,
And moral lessons from Gospel news,
To good and bad and love and hate,
To “do not lie” and “don't be late,”
Came I when life was innocence,
Without the need of penitence.
Perhaps the only compensation for those times was when we got old “Beauty,” a part racehorse filly who could really fly. She was much more fun to ride than a bicycle but then the bike you didn't have to tend, or curry or feed, or help shoe when they got skittish and you thought you were going to be trampled underfoot as they reared up on hind legs. A bike you could just drop where ever and off you went to play with friends. But the horse always wanted to pull away from the hitching rail and mosey off to eat grass somewhere. And then there were some of our hoses not nearly as gentle as Beauty, one who took off running down the old highway and wouldn't stop or turn down Porter's Lane when we came to the corner. It was a good block before I could calm that horse down and get him to turn around and come back. Made me sometimes envy the other boys in town who didn't have a horse, just a bike.
But those lonely hours also taught me an important lesson when faced with my youthful disdain for boring classrooms as I announced to mother that I wasn't intending to go to Sunday School anymore on a Sunday summer morning. My father, who had not been inside a church meeting house in years, said that was just fine... so long as I didn't mind herding the cows on Sunday mornings, same as any other day of the week. After a moment's consideration of the alternatives, I decided I preferred the company of children to that of the bovine species.
I learned another important life's lesson during those summer days. It involved the loss of a pocket knife while herding the cows along the creek. It was a pearl handled, 4 blade variety, one of father's favorites taken from a kitchen cupboard without permission.
As I proceeded down Porter's Lane, below US Highway 91 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, I realized it was now missing from my pockets. What were my prospects of recovering it in the deep grass along the way? The horror of considering what my punishment might be once my father found out, prompted me to launch into an earnest prayer to a loving Heavenly Father whom I was certain could inspire me as to its location. In an instant the thoughts came to me: the cows had strayed across the creek into old man Perkins' apple trees to eat those fallen on the ground. And as I returned from driving them out, I had jumped the ditch and fallen on all fours. And now, remembering that I had been carrying the knife in my shirt pocket, it must have fallen out as I landed. Retracing my steps now to the place I had crossed, sure enough there lay that cherished object. That story later provided material for many a short talk in Sunday School when various of my eight children were asked to give talks.
Centerville Elementary was situated just below the mouth of Parrish Canyon and had been inundated during the devastating flood of the '30s. Huge boulders still remained in a scrambled pile not far to the east of the school building itself, perhaps left there to protect it from a future watery debris onslaught. Recess being my favorite part of the school day, I remember well playing Cowboys and Indians or Knights of the Round Table in, about or under those great boulders.
What recollections still remain of those mind numbing years? A few, like Mrs. Wilson, the big busted 3rd grade teacher with the low-cut dress. Fifth grade teacher Mrs. Farnum was perhaps my favorite as she inspired me to read books of the adventure type, introducing me to the ferocious and independent wolverine and “White Fang” in Jack London's tales of the Alaskan frontier. My love for books proved profitable later during junior high school years since an older brother, who hated reading, would pay me fifty cents to read the book he was assigned and tell him the story so he could do a book report in English class. While that brother was never gifted academically, he proved to be a stellar athlete, and one whose prowess proved impossible for me to imitate.
It was while I was in 3rd grade that the war broke out in the Pacific. My oldest brother, Spencer, joined the navy air corps and served as an aircraft carrier pilot in the Pacific theater. The next brother in line, Roy, was a sea-going marine and served in the Pacific as well, doing work as a security guard aboard ship. After the war was over and he came home, we became pretty good buddies. He would give me a penny to go to the cowshed with him as he milked the cows. A penny wasn't much even in those days but I liked to do it because he taught me some fun songs while we were there. I still remember very well one of them because I often sang it to my kids. It goes like this: “I was born up in the mountains where rattle snakes have legs, where hoot owls speak in English and roosters lay square eggs.. I shaved my beard and mustache the morning I was born and beat up my old man that night and drank his rye and corn.” and the refrain goes something like this... “I am a truthful fellow, they call me true blue Bill, I never told a falsehood yarn and I bet I never will!” There are a few more verses, fun like these first ones of course.
Old Mr. Moss, sixth grade teacher and school principal, one of whose sons was a classmate of ours, stands out as he demonstrated it was impossible for a star to really be located inside the crescent moon portrayed in Muslim flags. A great story teller, he would entertain us well with his many tales of life as it never really was.
Of course, there were those lovely summer days between the school year. Not far below the elementary school house stood a farmer's concrete reservoir usually filled to the overflow with cold artesian well water. It was a great place to wash off after a hot summer's day weeding old man Porter's onion patch, my first summer job. Being a fair distance from any dwellings in town, swim trunks were unnecessary even to hide the “shrinkage” effect of that icy cold water on a certain part of the male anatomy. As the Bamberger Railroad tracks ran right along next to Wayne Smith's reservoir, we might have seen the necessity but there was always ample warning before a train came by. And besides what better excuse for some of the more brazen boys to moon the train's passengers. And there was always the recurrent discussion if some of the town's young girls weren't equipped with spyglasses up on the old highway 2 blocks away learning what a naked boy looked like. But the townspeople never seemed to care about what was going on at the town swimming hole so long as no one drowned.
The rites of passage for young men in our town were about the same in those days as during the frontier times: get your nose bloodied in a fight every now and then, hunt pheasants, duck and the mule deer.. My first of the four mentioned came in defense of a grade school friend who was being bullied by a ruffian from the “Lund Home,” a foster care facility in North Centerville. I told him to leave my smaller friend alone and he challenged me to a fistfight in the boys bathroom downstairs. Not being afraid to take him on, we proceeded to the rendezvous point when he put a wood chip on his shoulder and suggested I knock it off in the proverbial fashion. I didn't hesitate but was not ready for the “sucker punch” he landed immediately. But we wrestled until the matter finished unresolved in something of a Mexican standoff, yet gaining enough mutual respect for each other that it stopped the bullying on his part and my naivete in not watching out for that first surprise whack. It also taught me that standing up for others was not without its price to be paid.
The pheasant hunt came in early November traditionally, and usually before the snows came. But this one year, the snow came early and heavy. So heavy that all the pheasants were hunkered down under the many shrubs and bushes of the Porter-Walton plant nursery behind our house. My older brothers went out with our shotguns to get as many as possible, even if over the limit put on the hunt back then. And with the help of our trusty cocker spaniel,“Sport,” they got quite a few, many of them caught by the dog herself before the birds could escape their snowbound cell.
There was a duck hunting season as well, but usually for most of the winter starting in early December, shortly after the pheasant season ended. Centerville, being immediately east of the Farmington Bay water foul refuge comprised of many fresh water ponds and dikes meant there were plenty duck and geese to be hunted. But they were a cagey bunch and took a lot of effort to fool them, either an elaborate blind to hide in, a row boat to take them unawares, waist-high waders to slip through the reeds and cattails or all of the above. Unless of course you waited in the fields below town until they came in from floating on the water to nest and feed in the salt grass. That was, of course, against the laws of the hunt so you had to be pretty cagey yourself to avoid the game wardens.
One such wintry evening, I went along with an older brother to watch the action. He had the shotgun of course and got a few shots off as the ducks came gliding in to light. Other young men from town being in the fields next to our pastureland got off some shots too. The noise of gunfire below town much have brought the game warden down that way. Well my brother hearing a vehicle arrive and some discussion going on up by the gate, decided he would avoid a hunting violation by stashing the gun in the rafters of our animal shelter then proceeding with me to the gate and confrontation with the warden. Without a gun to show he had been duck hunting, the warden was without probable cause to issue a citation.
The fourth and ultimate of the rites of passage was hunting the Utah Mule Deer. In those days we commonly looked for them in the mountains above town. I had heard many stories about the hunt and had even been on a few as an observer. Finally I was old enough to accompany my dad up the Skyline Drive running from Bountiful to Farmington Canyon, along the summit which separated Davis from Morgan County.
A favorite spot for me near the top was the so-called “Bucklin Flats.” It was at one edge of that relatively open space that I had my first real chance to bring down a 2-point buck. The deer was standing still at the edge of the flat just inside the trees. As I pulled the trigger it went down and I shouted, “Oh, Dad, I shot it, I shot it!” But to my surprise, my dad who was nearby insisted it was he who had brought it down. Proof in his mind was having heard a thud just a fraction of a second after he had fired, sure that was the moment his bullet had entered the deer's body.
All the way home, there was no way I would be able to convince him it was my kill. But after we had strung it up on a branch of the Linden tree behind our house, we could determine the outcome. As we skinned the deer and removed its hide, we discovered there were two bullet holes in its side, both of which had struck vital organs but only one had penetrated the heart. So whose bullet had struck the deadly blow? That would forever remain a mystery since the science of firearms ballistics was not that far along in those days and there would be no CSI to come to our aid. But did any of that quibbling matter? No, because finally I had arrived... no longer a child, now I was a man! Well, not quite, but a budding one all the same.
It was a few years before that I was learning all about the hunt when we spent the Labor Day weekend at the “farm” father and mother's old homestead, in northwestern Box Elder County. It was past Brigham City and Tremonton so quite a drive. It was at “Dove Creek,” just beyond Park Valley where the Kunzlers lived. That was the family who tended the ranch in our absence and grazed it with their cattle, entitled also to use the stone cabin when needed, one my father had built as a newly married young man. The lease payment equaled the amount for taxes each year. Our pilgrimage there was a coveted occasion and seemed like many years before Father said I was big enough to take the trip with my older brothers. I was so excited at the prospect I couldn't sleep those few hours before leaving home at 3 or 4 in the morning and I was pretty sick all that day. It was always crowded in the car and on that first chance to make the trip, I didn't mind sitting on someone's lap. On one such trip I was made even sicker from the cigar smoke of my Uncle Les, a Jew my oldest sister had married. And that was the time as I remember our car struck a rock on the oil pan making a hole which was draining the engine oil out pretty fast. Luckily we were not far from one of the rare ranch houses along that stretch of the road. Even though just before dawn, the man was up for his morning chores and offered to repair it for us. My brother Roy milked his cows in exchange for the mechanical services.
While there we always had fun hunting sage hens or mule deer. And as the jack rabbits were more than abundant we got training in our gun skills shooting them on the run. It was hardly any sport to shoot them with a shotgun, the challenge was to hit them running using a 22 caliber rifle, or even more so with a pistol. We never ate the “jacks” as the rabbits were called; they were believed to carry worms which might infect your stomach. Rather we ate the sage hens or liver from the deer we often poached, it being too early for the traditional hunt. Deer meat is always better after being aged for some days but it was not too early to eat the heart and liver.
The liver Dad would bread with flour and cook over the campfire between the house and the creek which ran down the bottom of the hollow below. One time I was told to take a plate of the cooked liver into the house from the fireside. As I was walking to the door I stumbled and dropped the liver off the plate into the dirt. Anxious not to be yelled at for wasting it, I slipped unnoticed down to the creek to wash it off. Well if you are familiar with meat breaded in flour, there is no way you are going to clean it properly under cold water. Not realizing this, I just put it all the same on our rustic wooden table in the cabin ready for lunch. It took only one bite and for Dad to sink his teeth into the grit imbedded in the breaded surface of the cold liver before he shouted, “What the hell happened to this meat?” I had to confess immediately, of course, and the liver on that plate was given to our hunting dog, Sport.
By that time in life, I was old enough to take a more serious interest in the young girls of our town. Unfortunately I was too bashful to make any kind of move, too numb and dumb I suppose. Although there was a pretty young thing from out of our area who baby-sat a neighbors' children. I really got with it that time, I dared put my arm up over her shoulder for quite awhile as we sat on the couch listening to music on the radio. It seemed like an eternity to me, probably to her as well, waiting for me to kiss her or make some other move. The next time she sat for those people she said she didn't think it was a good idea I should come over... hmm, wonder why?
Of course there were ways to sublimate all that building sexual tension. While there was little extra time after doing the chores, I did get a model airplane kit of balsam wood and put it together. A cool place to work on it was the dugout root cellar my dad had built to one side of the horse sheds. I had it all but finished and would be ready to see it fly anytime when the dog which had been left on our doorstep and I had insisted on keeping as my own got into the cellar and tromped all over it, crushing the fragile wings so it would never fly. I could hardly blame it too much I suppose, as it was still pretty much a pup at the time. But so dumb and disobedient it wouldn't come off the highway when we called it one time, but just laid down wagging its tail and lay there till the car was so upon it that he got killed by the car's front bumper. An older brother had a 22 rifle with him at the time so put the poor animal out of its misery, standard procedure in those times. But did he have to kick it over into the ditch and just leave it there? My two younger brothers and I came down later and buried it to one side of the ditch, laying some wild flowers over the grave to express our love and regret at its passing.
Speaking of those two younger brothers; when I graduated to milking the cows from herding them, it was they who got that task. Remembering just what a lonely time it had been for me, whiling away all those hours as the cows leisurely grazed their way to the pasture and back home again, brought tears to my eyes. Little did I know but later found out, for them it was a blast. They would drive the cows straight there and then take off on the horse and goof off all day till time to bring the cows back to the barn for milking. On one such occasion they rode into the foothills to what we called the “dike.” It caught excess runoff from Duel Creek out of Centerville Canyon storing it for the summer. It was very useful because the water sub-irrigated the town's crops as it seeped into the ground below. Toward the end of summer, no more fresh water came in from the creek and the trout living in the pond struggled for air. After walking the horse through the pond a few times, it muddied the diminishing water enough that the trout were all thrashing about on the surface, struggling for oxygen. It was an easy matter for my brothers to simply scoop up the fish in the wire mesh basket they had with them. I greeted them as they rode into our yard, the older boy guiding the gentle horse, the younger one turned backward balancing the basket on the rump of the horse filled with 25 or 30 good-sized fish.
As a town, Centerville got its moment of fame as the home of Brigham Harry Roberts, or B.H Roberts as he was generally known. An English convert who had come across to America as a lad in his teens, he walked to Salt Lake City to get an education. Later he served the Church as a mission president and member of the First Council of the Seventy. It was he who often served the Church as its representative at national ecclesiastical conferences or when the Church needed its best apologist to represent it at gatherings of the learned. When B. H. died and was buried in the weed inflicted town cemetery, the visiting dignitary sent to dedicate the grave, J. Golden Kimball, a colorful and outspoken man cried out, “What a hell of a place to bury a churchman and statesman!” Not long thereafter, one of our neighbors, Herb Haacke, was hired to be the caretaker and from then on, it was one of the loveliest green cemeteries to be found in the state. One of Robert's plural wife widows was still living in town as I was growing up. She was a strange old gal we called “Luna” Roberts, never knew what her real name was.