Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cowboy Up!

Prologue: As I was growing up, I spent every summer of my life with my grandparents on their Cattle Ranch in Randolph, Utah. From time to time, I will share experiences from my cattle ranch days. The following is a story about my memories of participating in a cattle drive, during which I was a real, live cowboy.

In the Northeast sky, the black of night was giving way to shades of gray. It was still so early that not even the rooster had crowed. Even though it was summertime, there was still a cool crispness to the morning air – at nearly 7000 feet elevation. I was still buried under grandma’s quilts. Sleeping in the same room (and maybe even the same bed) that my mother had slept in when she was a child. I was 12 years old. Suddenly I was awakened by the creaky floor as my grandfather’s footfalls came towards the bedroom. “Come on, David – Let’s go!”

I quickly got dressed and went outside. There was now the faintest shade of pink along the Eastern skyline. Even though we had a big day ahead of us, we still had to do the “chores” – Milk the cows, feed the chickens and pigs, and gather the eggs. We had to bottle-feed the “bum” calves and lambs who had lost their mothers. The chores had to be done twice-a-day, without exception, 7-days a week, 365 days a year. The chores had no weekends, no holidays, no vacations. It didn’t matter if it was hot or cold, summer or winter, rain or shine, the chores always had to be done. Such is the lot a rancher.

While we were up doing the chores, grandma had risen as well. She had cooked us breakfast, and had fixed us sack lunches to take with us on our big day. For today, we would drive the cattle to the “Forest”.

We had begun our day so early to take advantage of the cooler part of the day, and to cover as much ground as possible while the animals were still fresh.

Next we saddled up the horses and loaded them into the back of the truck. We also packed our lunches and water jugs into cab. Then we drove to the corral where the cattle had been penned-in the night before. We unloaded the horses from the truck, opened the corral gate, ushered the cows from the corral, and began the drive. At this point, it would still be another half-hour until the sun would rise over the Crawford Mountains to the East.

In this type of a cattle drive, there would be several horses and riders, a well-trained cattle dog, and the truck following along behind on the or trail. The truck served as a modern-day chuck wagon. We would be outfitted with a hat, long-sleeved shirts, Levi’s (or bib overalls in grandpa’s case) and a good pair of boots and spurs. Each of us would also have a whip of some kind should the livestock need a little extra encouragement -- nothing abusive, just a little tap every once-in-a-while to remind the cows that this was a journey -- not a camp! We would usually carry some hard-tack candy in our shirt pocket, along with a small piece of rock salt. The candy would help keep our mouths moist (important in all the dust that was kicked up) and the salt would help us retain water. We would get a drink occasionally when we were near the truck.

Typically we would have a rider on each side of the herd, to keep them pointed on the trail. We would also have two or three other riders bringing up the rear of the heard and pushing the cattle along.

In a large cattle drive, of perhaps hundreds of cattle, cows and calves would invariably become separated. One of my jobs, when I was younger (say between 10-14 years old) was to follow along behind the herd to make sure none of the calves got left behind. The calves were still young and very inexperienced – some 2-3 months old. This was usually their first-ever cattle drive. Their instinct, once they were separated from their mother, was to turn around and go back to where they came from – back to the point where they were last with their mother.

The calves, and sometimes the cows too, would stealthily their way to the outer edge of the herd, and then, when they thought the time was most opportune – they would bolt out from the side of the herd, and then try to double-back to the point form whence they came. The cows would also try to bolt if we were crossing a particularly steep or difficult part of the trail. Like most of us, they would rather go down-hill than up. My job was to chase after the calves, or any other escapees, catch up to them, and turn, or “head” them back to the main body of the herd.

Cutting Horses
A well trained horse was an invaluable tool when performing this task. Such well trained horses made it possible for even young and inexperienced riders to get the job done. The horse would know how to accelerate after the calf, and would know just the right point to turn and “head off” the calf. I was usually given one of the gentle old mares to ride on the cow drives when I was a boy. They had many years of experience with this sort of work. All I had to do was to point the horse in the general direction of the straying animal, and the horse would practically do the rest. At first, I pretty much just held on to the saddle horn, and tried not to fall off the horse! Over time, it seemed like the horse actually trained me how to do this job, until I was quite proficient in my own right at driving and “cutting” cattle. I also learned how to move with the horse, so that falling off was no longer of concern.

Cutting cattle involves not only heading stray animals back to the herd, but separating, or “cutting out” individual animals from the herd (for medical attention, branding, weaning, or other purposes. Horses that specialize in this kind of work are called “Cutting Horses.” There are actually cutting horse competitions, which is a whole other take on equestrian sports. (No chasing foxes, or jumping fences or ponds here -- but something actually useful!) Heck, I would much rather see cutting horse competitions become an Olympic event, rather than the current equestrian events.

Cattle drives are not quiet rides through the woods. When I was younger, and I would tell people that I had spent the Summer on my grandpa’s cattle ranch, they would swoon at the thought of just leisurely riding horses all day out on the range. There is nothing leisurely about a cattle drive. There is a lot of noise. First there is the constant bellowing, or “mooing” of the cows and calves trying to locate one another when they became separated. Second, there were the sounds we made as well. We would constantly holler, whistle, and make hissing sounds to keep the cattle moving. The person driving the truck along behind the herd would make generous use of the horn as well to keep them moving. Combine the noise with the dust, and the manure, and you have something quite different altogether from the idyllic what my city friends could ever imagine.

Cool, Clear, Water

Occasionally we would come to a stream. We would pause there for a few minutes, and let the cattle and horses rest and drink. Sometimes we would come to a spring along the way. We too would get down on our bellies, and sip the Cool, Clear Water (Think of the Sons of the Pioneers song here!) as it bubbled up from the ground. I’ll tell you NOTHING could taste better after all the heat and dust that we had endured. We would wash our faces in that cold water, and maybe even dunk our heads in the water to stay cool for a little while.

At some point along the way, we would eat the lunches that grandma had prepared for us. Sandwiches, chips, some home made cookies, – and best of all, a bottle of grandma’s home-canned peaches. I’ve had some nice meals in my lifetime. Some of them at some very nice restaurants. But I don’t think any meal has tasted better to me than those lunches on the cattle drive when you were so hot, tired, and HUNGRY.

After a few hours on horseback, your hip joints become kind of displaced. It really felt good to dismount, stand up and stretch, and straighten out your legs for a bit. Although walking felt good, your knees would be a little wobbly from having stood up in the stirrups so much.

Then we would mount up again, and keep those doggies movin! (Think of the Rawhide TV show theme song here!)

The End of the Trail

Eventually in mid to late afternoon, we would arrive at our destination – some 10 hours later, and at a gain of 2500 feet in elevation. We would open the gate that separated the BLM land from the Forest land, and herd the cows through the gate, and close it behind them. Of course, the cattle would immediately head/run for the watering hole. The cows and calves would bellow and moo until they found one another, then they would pair up, and the calves would have their dinner, courtesy of mama.

We would let the horses drink, then we would tie them up to a nearby tree and let them graze for a little while in the tall forest grasses. Meanwhile we would refill our water jugs from the fresh, clean, and cold water from Longhurst Spring, and perhaps have another sandwich courtesy of grandma. We would lie down under a tree, watch the puffy white clouds move across the deep blue sky, and listen to the wind rustle through the leaves of the aspen trees.

Let's Head For The Barn

After resting up a bit, we would load the horses in the truck, and begin our descent off the mountain, and back home to the ranch. Upon arrival, we would unload the horses from the truck, take them to the barn, and remove their saddles. The horses were then turned loose in the corral, and they made a beeline for the watering trough. After they had their fill of water, we would turn them loose out into the pasture.

It always amused me that after a long, hard ride like that, that the first thing the horses did after being turned loose, was to find a patch of bare, dry, ground, and roll around in the dirt on their backs. I suppose it was a way for them to scratch their backs, and to get rid of the feeling of the saddle blanket. Then, as horses do, they made their way out to the green grass, and started grazing away, with their tails a-swishing.

As for us, we still had the chores to do, once more. After that we would have a nice dinner prepared by grandma.

Then came the fun part – the “tick check”. Everybody had to strip down and check each other for wood ticks. Having been around the cattle all day, and having brushed up against the same sage brush and trees that the cattle had been brushing up against, there was a good likelihood that we may have picked up a wood tick or two. Usually the ticks would embed themselves where your clothing would fit tightly, mainly under your waistband, or around the top of your socks. On more than one occasion, I found that I was host to a wood tick after a cattle drive, and the same with my companions. We removed the ticks right away. If we had a stubborn one, we would get grandma to help us. She had been a Registered Nurse in her day – and she had her ways.

Following the tick check, we would have a bath or shower, and go right to bed. We were sooo tired. It had been such a long day. Usually the insides of your knees, thighs, and calves would be rubbed raw by being on horseback for so long. Oft’ times you would have saddle sores on your behind as well. Worst of all were the knees. They would really ache, from spending so much time standing up on the stirrups and bouncing on the horse all day long. The knees acted as shock absorbers for the rest of your body.

Finally we would lie down to sleep. As I closed my eyes, my minds eye could see nothing but cows and calves, dust and manure. I could still hear the bellowing and mooing as if it were right there before me. But soon – very soon, fatigue would overtake me, and I would be fast asleep. – Until, that is, I would hear the floor creak once more. It was time to do chores – Again!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

First Snowfall

(Click on Photos for Larger Images)

Today we woke up to 8-10 inches of snow. Fortunately, it worked out well for me that I didn't have any early morning (6:30 am!) church meetings this Sunday. In fact, the first church meeting I needed to attend was my own ward at 11:00 am. (My wife, Dawn Ann, was wistful this morning that we only had 4 more Sundays until our ward would go to the dreaded 9:00 am block schedule -- "Pretty soon we won't be able to sleep-in any more on Sundays." I jokingly harrumphed, "Speak for yourself my dear!)

It had started snowing last night, so I knew what to expect this morning. I tromped out in the snow to our shed to retrieve the snow shovel. After taking a couple of swipes at the snow, I could tell that the type of snow we received would be prime snow for the snowblower! That's good news. A year ago last fall I had the snowblower serviced, and had it all ready to go. I never used it at all last year! In fact, after I removed a year's worth of stuff that had been piled on the snowblower, I found the service tags still attached.

About this time, Bryan came out in his new snow suit. I told asked him to get his snow shovel and start clearing off the porch, while I got the snowblower going. After filling up the bone-dry gas tank, it started right up. The snow was deep enough, and powdery enough so that it didn't plug up the chute very much. During the last few years, the snow we have received has been so heavy and wet (and only a couple of inches deep) that it rendered the snowblower practically useless. You would spend more time unplugging the chute than it would take just to shovel it! Hence last year's lack of use. Last year we got a lot of moisture, but it was mostly in rain or slush. In fact, I haven't used the snowblower much over the last several years because we've been experiencing warmer and drier winters in general.

Not today however. We had prime snowblowing conditions! And Bryan just couldn't wait to get his hands on it either! After I cleared the driveway, I let Bryan tackle the sidewalk. We live on a corner lot, so we have lots of sidewalk to shovel. Bryan started out OK on the snowblower, but the snow stuck to the wheels which prevented them from turning (Our snowblower is not self propelled-- so if the wheels stick, you end up "sledding" the snowblower along its way.) It turned out to be a little harder work that Bryan had anticipated. He did alright when it was going downhill, but I needed to take over for going uphill.

Bryan has really been getting more and more helpful these days. During the summer, he mowed at least half of the lawn each time we cut the grass. He has been helpful with shoveling snow, and now he's learning to run the snowblower. It's great to see him grow and progress.

After doing our yard, we loaded the snowblower and shovels into our truck and went over to an elderly widow's house nearby to do her walks and driveway. We fired up the snowblower, and got her taken care of pretty quickly too. Then we drove back home, and carved out a track in the snow to the chapel (about 4 doors away from us) . It was nice to have a clean walkway to get to church.After we were done, there was just enough time for Bryan to make a snow angel, just before we had to dash in to get ready for church.

Even though Bryan is 12 years old now, its still nice to see the little boy in him too. Enough little boy that still paints a big grin on his face while playing in the snow!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Hanging Up The Christmas Lights

Friday's job (other than sleeping in as late as we wanted!) was to put the Christmas lights up on the house. I keep vowing to do this job in the balmy weather of October before Halloween, but it just never seems to happen that way. Last year, I waited until Thanksgiving, and weather did not cooperate. Whenever I had time off (holidays or Saturdays) the weather was too inhospitable to be on the roof.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving day the weather was perfect. Sunny skies, temperatures in the 50's and no wind. Today, however, the skies were cloudy, we had a strong South wind (which means a storm is coming) and it was quite chilly. It was dry, however, and I knew that if we didn't get the lights up today, that chances were we would miss getting them up again this year. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow!

We got our lights out of storage, and the gutter/shingle clips with which to attach them. We all climbed up on the roof (that is me, Bryan and Amy -- and major bravery points for Amy!) only to find that our 10-year-old gutter clips were now so brittle, that ever time we tried to attach one to the rain gutter, that they snapped in two.

I had remembered seeing some gutter clips at the local Harmon's grocery store just inside the front entrance. So we made a quick trip to the store, got the clips and came back.

The new clips worked just fine. Bryan really wanted to help, so for the first time I let him attach the gutter clips, and then attach the light strand to the clip. I insisted on doing the work around the corners of the roof, which are much more dangerous. I was proud of Bryan being such a great help. Amy also helped by keeping us supplied in gutter clips, and bringing a new strand of lights to us when we were ready for them.

We got all the lights up and then just spent a few minutes admiring the view from the roof. While we were up there, I took a few photos. Here is the view looking toward the east from my rooftop: Click on Photos for larger images. Also, you Can see more photos from Thanksgiving Weekend Here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Day 2005

We had a nice Thanksgiving day. We were invited over to Grandma and Grandpa C's house. My Mother, and my brother Mark, did most of the cooking. When we arrived, the turkey was still in the oven.

This year, Mark bought a new cooking gadget called the Turkey Cannon. This device is supposed to result in faster, more evenly, cooked of the turkey. In addition, the turkey is supposed to come out more moist as well. You can fill the cannon with liquid of your choice (we used white cranberry juice) which steams the turkey from the inside as well.

Fresh sage, rosemary, and a few lemon slices were stuffed into the cavity of the bird. Then it was impaled placed on the Turkey Cannon. The exterior of the bird was also rubbed with herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, and time (Yes! just like the song!, And no, Simon and Garfunkel were not there.)

So, what was the verdict on the Turkey Cannon. Well, there were mixed reviews. Personally, I liked the way the Turkey turned out. It had a nice flavor, and I found it to be very moist. Even the white meat! (Ordinarily I have to slather on lots of cranberry-orange relish to handle the dry white meat, but I didn't have to this time. In fact, my white meat was nearly all gone from my plate before I realized I hadn't had any cranberry relish with it at all yet!)

I guess I'll never know whether the extra moist bird was attributable to the Turkey Cannon, to the use of Mark’s fancy meat thermometer. They took the bird out of the oven at 160 internal degrees. Mark tells me that the little plastic popper that comes with the turkey doesn’t usually pop until about 180-185 degrees internal temperature. I think this amounts to a conspiracy hatched by the Norbest legal department exercising undue control over the turkey cooking directions. I’m told that 160 degrees is quite adequate for meat safety concerns. The 180-185 degrees required to set off little the plastic popper may give the company an added layer of protection from salmonella law suits, but only at the expense of a more moist, flavorful turkey.

After the Turkey Cannon experience, my mother is of the opinion that she prefers her turkey the way they did it in the previous couple of years. Last year they soaked the turkey in a brine solution for a day or two before Thanksgiving. Then they cooked it, along with the herbs, inside of an oven bag. She felt that the turkey was even more moist with the bag, than with the Turkey Cannon. And because the roasting bag seals in all the steam coming from the bird as it cooks -- that it actually cooked faster. This year's bird was fairly large sized (22 pounds), which according to mom, made it difficult to position the bird onto the Turkey Cannon. The Turkey Cannon can also be used in a barbecue grill as well as the oven. Mom thought that might be nice way to cook a smaller bird in the summer. Maybe we’ll give it a try in warmer weather.

Mean while over at Carol’s blog, I’m afraid I apparently sparked an interest in the Turkey Cannon. Carol had quoted a humorous poem about flying/exploding turkeys. I made a comment that perhaps the Turkey Cannon might have been to blame for the problem. Go read the post, and be sure to check out the comments.

Meanwhile, while we were waiting for the turkey to cook, we played some games together, and put together a couple of jigsaw puzzles. Mostly we just relaxed, visited with each other, and had a nice time together. We didn’t even have the TV on before dinner.

Once the Turkey was cooked, it was time for the marshmallows to be toasted on the candied yams. Then the rolls got their turn in the oven. Finally it was time to eat, and we had a nice meal together.

After dinner and cleaning up, the kids had turned on the TV. We watched the some of “A Christmas Story” for a little while, and chuckled at Ralphy’s antics while our food was settling.

Finally, we spent some time learning about our newly discovered Mayflower ancestors. I read the biographical sketches I had found on the internet for each of our seven ancestors who came to Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower. It was a fun time of discovery for each of us. It was nice to remember them on this holiday. It brought the history and meaning of the holiday much closer and more personal for each of us.

Before we left, we were treated to some of grandma’s pumpkin pie, with fresh whipped cream, courtesy of Dawn Ann. It was very good too, and a nice way to close out the evening.

We came home, rolled into bed, and settled in for a long winter’s nap.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mayflower Ancestors

Looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday, I have been doing some research to find any of my ancestors who were passengers on the Mayflower.

Until recently, I knew of only one Mayflower Ancestor, William Bradford. After doing a little more research, I have found a total of 7 Mayflower ancestors from my family thus far.

Below is a list of the Mayflower passengers that I am descended from. Alongside each name, is the years of their life-span, and their age at the time they sailed on the Mayflower

Bradford, William 1590 - 1657, Age 30

Brewster, William 1560 - 1644, Age 60
Brewster, Mary 1567 - 1627, Age 53
Brewster, Love 1595 - 1634, Age 25

Cooke, Francis 1584 -1663, Age 36

Hopkins, Stephen 1580 -1644, Age 40
Hopkins, Elizabeth (Fisher) 1595 -1640, Age 25

If you click on a link, associated with one of these names, you will be directed to a brief biographical sketch of each person.

I recently read that there are now at least 30 million living descendants of the original Mayflower passengers living in the United States Today.

For a complete Mayflower passenger list click here. Once you see the passenger list, you can click on any passenger's name for information about that individual.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Piano Recital

Friday night (November 18th) both Bryan and Amy participated in their first piano recital.

I met the family at a local piano store's recital hall after work on Friday. They were all dressed up in their Sunday best, and looked so nice. Both of them had been practicing for months to be prepared. Bryan and Amy each performed twice during the course of the recital. They were pretty nervous, but were able to overcome the butterflies in their stomachs. (One little girl froze at the piano. Her mind blanked out on her, and she couldn't remember how her piece began. -- Poor thing.)

We were so proud of them. All their practicing really paid off. They had both their musical numbers memorized. Their performance was nearly perfect, with very few, if any mistakes!

After the performance, they were on cloud nine! They were so relieved to have the recital over with. With everyone all dressed up, we decided to go somewhere nice for dinner.

We decided to go to one of those Brazilian style restaurants -- where the gaucho guys deliver the various skewered meats to your table, which have been cooked on a rotisserie. The kids had never been to a Brazilian style restaurant before, so it as a new experience for them. We liked the beef chicken, and ham. However the pork seeed a little too salty. Our favorite was the grilled pineapple.

Saturday morning, the kids were still giddy and happy about the recital. They got up and first thing went to the piano and played their recital pieces again -- this time, just for the fun of it. Now that the recital was over, the pressure was off. It was nice to see them playing the piano, just for the pleasure of it. Hopefully that pleasure will keep then interested in continuing their piano studies as well.

On Sunday night, we visited Grandma and Grandpa C's house. We were celebrating Dawn Ann's birthday. The kids got to perform their recital pieces again for grandma and grandpa too.

I have previously posted a blog entry on how music also serves as a form of therapy for Bryan's learning disabilities. Bryan has been taking music lessons for a little over two years now. We feel that it has been a real help to his manual dexterity, and fine motor skills.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Gratitude -- More Than a Platitude

I spoke in church today. My topic was on gratitude, in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. Here are some excerpts from my talk:

This week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a time for family gatherings and for feasting. Traditionally, a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, filled with the bounty of the harvest has been used as a symbol for our Thanksgiving celebration – symbolic of the many bounteous blessings we have received from our Father in Heaven.

For many, Thanksgiving, our other sacred holidays (Christmas and Easter) has lost its spiritual meaning. Now it is referred to as “Turkey Day”. Football games often receive more devotion than does God. The poor newspaper carrier has to deliver the largest, heaviest newspaper of the year on Thanksgiving day, in order to prepare consumers for the special sales taking place on the following day. Others like Martha of old, are so busy cooking, and making preparations, and getting everything set just so, that they can hardly wait for Thanksgiving to be over with. Lost in the shuffle is the better part of Thanksgiving – remembering our Lord, and the many blessings He has bestowed upon us.

Is there anything wrong with turkey, or football, or shopping malls? No, not by themselves. However, if they distract us from truly taking stock of our blessings, and expressing our gratitude to God, then we lose out on the true purpose and meaning of the holiday. In fact, we miss out on some choice blessings, if we do not have grateful hearts.

Why Are We Commanded to be Grateful?

Why does God want us to be grateful unto him? Does he want our praises and thanks for His benefit – or is there another reason?

Is it because he expects our thanks after all that he’s done for us? After all, we owe him, don’t we? I would suppose that might be part of the reason as well.

Heavenly Father does not just want to hear us say “Thank-You”. In his wisdom, He knows that if we will carry a spirit of gratitude in our hearts, that he can bless us in ways that otherwise would not be available to us.

In order to carry a spirit of gratitude in our hearts, it requires of us to be humble. If we are not humble, we will not acknowledge that the blessings we have been given are from the Lord.

Conversely, ingratitude is a form of Pride and arrogance.

Over time, if we fail to thank the Lord for his blessings, we start to believe that those things which we have are by our own doing alone, rather than having been received through the grace of God.

Keeping Score

A lack of gratitude can lead to a condition I refer to as: “Keeping Score”. This is where we keep track of how good someone else has it, and how lousy things are for us.

Keeping score always has at least two elements:
  • A comparison between us and someone else, and
  • A feeling that we are not being treated fairly.
Think of the workplace. Some tasks are more desirable than others. How many times do we roll our own eyes when asked to do an unpleasant task. How often to we complain, or hear complaints about how so-and-so always gets out of having to do the unpleasant tasks that we seem to always get stuck with. Do we hear or make complaints of how unfairly we are being treated? Are we keeping score?

Each of us would be less prone to keeping score, if we were more humble, and more gracious.

The Savior’s Example

Let’s look to the life of the Savior. Did he keep score? After a long, tiring day, when the little children were brought before him to be blessed, did he tell them go away? No! He invited them to come unto him. He took them on his knee and be blessed them. His disciples had figured that he had already done enough for one day, but the Savior’s response was to turn no one away. (See Mark 10:13-16)

When we call upon the Lord for his blessings, will he turn us away? Will he hang up a “closed” sign and tell us to come back some other time? No! He invites always to come unto him, at any time, and at any place.

When Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, and as he Hung on the Cross, was he keeping score? Did he complain about how hard his task was, compared to what was required of the rest of Heavenly Father’s children? No! He bent His will to that of the Father.

Then he took upon himself the sins of the world. Again, was he keeping score? No! For his was an infinite and eternal sacrifice, for which it was impossible to score.

Even though we can’t comprehend what he went through, we know that he did accomplish the work of the Atonement. And we know that he did it for us, because he loved his Father enough to do His Father’s will, and because he loved us enough that he was willing to bear all of our sins and burdens in our behalf.

If He could do all of that for us without complaint, without keeping score, how is it that we have such a hard time loving and serving one another ungrudgingly. When you think of what the Savior has done for us, it makes our whining and complaining and score keeping seem very small, indeed.

Passing Along Our Gifts

Perhaps the best way we can show our gratitude for what the Lord has done for us, is for us, in-turn, to give the heavenly gifts we have received to others.

We can give our children the gift of a good home. We can teach them, by precept, as well as by example the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can also reach out and share the gifts we have received to those around us who may not as yet received these great gifts.

How pleased and honored our Lord would be if we were to assist Him in His work of bringing souls unto Christ.

As we enter this holiday season, may we do so with grateful hearts, recognizing our dependence upon the Lord for all that we have, all that we are, and all that we ever hope to become.

As the gift-giving season approaches, may we remember that the greatest gift ever given was that of our Father In Heaven sending us his Only Begotten Son to be the Savior of the World. May we also reach out to our families and fellow-man, and give them the gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which will last well beyond Christmas morning, but will last for a lifetime, and endure throughout all eternity.

The full text of this talk can be read here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pivotal Moments In History

As I prepared the previous post on the Kennedy Assassination, I began to wonder, in addition to the Kennedy Assassination, what are some of the other important, pivotal moments in our recent history? Here are some examples I thought of:
  • December 7, 1941 -- Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
  • May 14, 1948 -- The establishment of the State of Israel
  • November 22, 1963 -- The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
  • June 17, 1972 -- The Watergate Break-In
  • November 4, 1980 -- Ronald Reagan's election to the Presidency of the United States
  • November 19, 1989 The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • September 11, 2001 -- Terrorists attack the United States
Each of these events, in-turn, have spawned other events which have turned the course of history. Each of them, in their own way, has, or will continue to have a lasting impact on world and national history.

I would be interested in your thoughts as well. Leave a comment, if you would like.

What are some of your thoughts regarding these pivotal moments?

Or you could contribute a pivotal moment of your own as well.

Texas Schoolbook Depository

Next week will be the 42nd anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.

In June of 2003, I spent a week at a convention in the Dallas, Texas area. I flew in on a Saturday, to get the best air fare possible. That left my Sunday free, since the convention didn't start until Monday morning. I decided to visit Dealy Plaza, the location of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This was a moving experience forme. Here are my thoughts after my visit, which I wrote in my hotel room later that night:

Texas Schoolbook Depository
-- Sunday, June 15, 2003.

Today I visited the Texas Schoolbook Depository at Dealy Plaza, in Dallas, Texas. This year, on November 22, it will be 40 years since John F. Kennedy (JFK) was assassinated there.

My Own Recollections

It was a moving experience to be there. I am old enough that I remember that day, back in 1963. I was a Kindergarten Student, at Jefferson Elementary School in Salt Lake City. The assassination took place on a Friday, at 12:30 PM in Dallas. By 1:00 that day it was announced to the world that JFK was dead.

I remember an announcement over the Loudspeaker at school. The announcement would have been made at Noon, in Utah because of the time zone differences. I remember how stunned and silent we were, when the announcement came over that Loudspeaker. School was let out early that day.

I don't remember how many days it was until school went back into session, but I think we were out until after JFK's funeral.

I remember being camped out in front of our little black and white TV set (with rabbit ears), watching the events as they transpired. I especially remember seeing the casket in the Capitol Rotunda.

I remember the funeral procession as it moved down the road to Arlington National Cemetery. I remember horses in the procession.

Perhaps on of the most poignant images for me was that of the president's son, JFK Jr, in his little short pants outfit, Saluting as the flag-draped casket of his father passed by. John Jr. would have be just about 3 years old on that day.

I remember Jackie Kennedy's strength and resolve through these most horrible circumstances. Her actions always seemed to be filled with such poise and grace.

Dealy Plaza

Upon my arrival in the area, I first walked up to the JFK Memorial. It is a large square structure, intended to have a tomb-like appearance. It has four walls, but no ceiling. The walls are comprised of several cement pillars, but they are constructed in such a way as only eight of the pillars actually touch the ground. The other pillars appear as they are floating, unsupported in the air.

Inside the tomb, is a large, nearly square, black, monolith. It too has the appearance of not quite touching the ground. On the sides of the monolith is the gold lettered name of "John Fitzgerald Kennedy".

I next walked over toward the Texas Schoolbook Depository. The sixth floor of the building is where Lee Harvey Oswald fired those fatal shots. I walked around Dealy Plaza, and took photos of the Plaza, and the Building.

Conspiracy Theories Abound

Outside the building were hucksters. They were conspiracy theory mongers. They were spouting diatribes against the findings of the Warren Commission, and the other 4 governmental investigations into the assassination.

They were trying to sell books, video and audio tapes and CD's, and magazines -- each purporting to tell the "real" story. As you would walk around the Plaza, while trying to contemplate the magnitude of the crime that took place there, and the impact that the assassination had upon our nation, and upon the world, the hucksters would assail your thoughts and contemplations. Just when you wanted to have a quiet moment to think and reflect, they would shove grisly autopsy photos in your face, and try to sell you their wares, and profit by attempting to convince you of the validity of the some conspiracy theory. After one such incident, I learned to avoid the conspiracy profiteers by waiting until they were occupied with other listeners (either willing or unwilling) and slipping past them before I could be flashed with another autopsy photo of the President's head.

The Sixth Floor Museum

I had my dark glasses on, and had parked several blocks away. I wanted to go into the museum, but needed to have my clear glasses first. So I walked back to the car that I had parked on a side street (free parking meters on Sundays!) and drove the car back over to the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

Having retrieved my clear glasses, and freshened up a bit. I entered the museum at about 4:30 PM. (The museum closes at 6:00. Later I found that I should have allotted more time. I could easily have taken 3 hours there, instead of the hour-and-a-half that I spent there.)

The first 5 floors are still being used as government offices. The Sixth and Seventh floors are part of the museum (also an annex has been built at ground level, with its own elevator up to the 6th floor, which bypasses the offices that are still located in that building.)

The museum starts off first by setting the stage of the times in which this event took place. Such things as what the popular books, movies, TV Shows, and music were at the time. Many of these things brought back memories for me.

Next were the highlights of JFK's life, before taking office as President. There were pictures of him as a youth, in his Navy Uniform, and of his Wedding Day.

The Presidential Campaign of 1960 was also covered. It showed both JFK, and Jackie hard at work on the campaign trail. There were excerpts of his speech from the Democratic National Convention of 1960.

There were many photos and excerpts from his inauguration and the famous quote -- "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country."

The 1000 days of the Kennedy Presidency were reviewed with its failures as well as its successes. The legacies of the Kennedy Administration: The space program, the Peach Corps, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, The Civil Rights Act, and our military involvement in Southeast Asia (Vietnam).

I remember as I carefully weighed the programs and policies of this administration, I think as a whole, I would not have supported it. In, fact on that fateful day in Dallas, there were many here in this city who were not enamored of the president's policies. In the museum, there were copies of full-page ads taken out in the Dallas Morning News from those who opposed many of the president's programs.

Then the museum showed the moment-by moment events of that day, Nov. 22nd, 1963. The president had been to Ft. Worth earlier that day, and had flown over to Dallas before joining the motorcade. He rode in a black convertible limousine, with the top down. At several points along the parade route, the president had the vehicle stop, where he would get out to greet and shake hands with people. There were approximately 230,000 people lining the parade route that day. The president was en- route to a bi-partisan luncheon that day.

There were 2200 highly-coveted invitations sent out to the luncheon. The tables were set, and the crowd awaited, but the luncheon never took place. Just a few minutes longer, and the president would have been dining with his guests. The place setting for the president was left untouched. (That place setting, with the china and silverware are now a part of the museum exhibits.) JFK was near the end of the parade route when three shots rang out from the Texas Schoolbook Depository and rained down upon Dealy Plaza. The shots found their mark. The president was dead, and the Governor of Texas, John Connaly was also wounded.

The nation, and the world were brought to their knees. The young president, so vivacious and full of life was now dead. His wife, now a young widow, and their two young children were deprived of their husband and father. A nation was deprived of its president, and the world was deprived of the Leader of the Free World.

As I stood next to the window from which those shots rang out, I could see the sniper position that Oswald had staked out for himself. He had arranged some boxes of books to screen himself off from the view of others. He had also placed some boxes in front of him to use as a lean for his rifle. From his position, the president's motorcade would have been traveling away from him in a straight line. I could see now, how he could have accomplished his deadly feat. I also felt more inclined to believe that the conclusions of the Warren Commission were essentially correct. The findings of the commission may have been off on a few minor details, but they did the best they could with the information they had at the time. I came away from this experience believing that Lee Harvey Oswald was indeed the killer, and that the fatal shots came from his location. As far as we can tell, Oswald acted alone. We have no definitive evidence to the contrary.

I do not accept the premises of the conspiracy theorists. I will let this matter trouble me no longer. For me, this matter is resolved and put to rest.

The "What If's"

What does remain unresolved, and can never be resolved (at least in this life) are the "What If's". What if this assassination had never taken place -- What then would the world have been like? The assassination of John F. Kennedy is one of those small hinges, upon which the course of history pivots from the due course of "What would have been" to what, instead, history actually became.

Would JFK have been re-elected in 1964? -- Almost certainly.

What would have happened in Vietnam? President Johnson was the one who really escalated US involvement in Vietnam. Perhaps President Kennedy would have brought about a different outcome, who knows?

Would the civil rights movement have turned out differently? Its hard to say. Johnson was able to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed largely as a memory to the Legacy of President Kennedy (and with the help of the opposition political party). Had Kennedy remained president, who knows when or if the Civil Rights Act would have been passed.

Would others have been assassinated as well, had not JFK been assassinated? -- The assassination of JFK plunged the nation and the world into a new round of violence and confrontation. There were those who saw how effective assassination was as a tool to achieve their political and social purposes. The example of the Kennedy Assassination could have greatly contributed to that mindset of violence. One can not help but wonder if Marin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy would have still met their same fates, had not JFK first preceded them in martyrdom.

Also with the assassination of JFK, it seems like the national innocence was lost. Many young people became lost souls when their young and energetic Idol/Leader, JFK was killed. I believe that much of the unrest of the 60's, the rebelliousness of the hippie and drug cultures, the anti-war, anti-American sentiments, even the so-called sexual revolution all have their roots in that fateful day in November of 1963.

When considering the "what-if's" it would be easy blame all of the cultural and society degradations we have seen on this assassination. Some of them probably would have happened in their own due time anyway. However, I see the assassination of JFK as a catalyst, that accelerated all of these trends into an explosive mix, that turned out to be the decade -- and the legacy -- of the 60's.

A Personal Interaction.

As I toured through the Sixth Floor museum, I was left mostly alone with my thoughts.

However, at one point, as I was viewing one of the displays, a Hispanic young man came up next to me. I could tell that he too, was moved by the experience of being in that place. His remarks to me were about Cuba, and how JFK had tried to take out Fidel Castro -- and that because if this "they" had JFK killed.

He leaned over and read one of the articles that were in opposition to Kennedy's policies, including the polices relating to Cuba. One of these statements indicated their disdain for the president leaving 7,000,000 Cubans trapped as prisoners on that island. Many thousands of Cubans had been killed and imprisoned, with may more being rounded up daily.

The young Hispanic man exclaimed, "7,000,000 people! Wow!", and he walked off, shaking his head as he mourned for the dead and lost Cubans. I am sure also, that as he walked way, he was totally convinced that Fidel Castro was behind the assassination of JFK.


It was a moving experience for me to visit the memorial, Dealy Plaza, and the Texas Schoolbook Depository. I began to realize that others would come away from this experience with differing impressions than mine. It is interesting how the tide of history turned on this single event.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Musical Choices

I was reading Dandelion Mama’s blog recently, where she has a post those who seem to question her musical tastes. I wanted to leave a comment on her blog, but found that I had more to say on the topic than I realized, and didn’t want to make too long of a comment on her blog. Instead, I decided to post my thoughts here, and will leave a link to my thoughts in her comment section.

There are many types of music out there – so many styles, and types. Some vocal, and some instrumental. Some music is definitely sacred, uplifting and holy. Some music is just for fun. Sometimes music can help us to alter our moods – for better or for worse.

On the other hand, music can also be evil. Think of music that incites people to disrespect authority, depravity, or even to open rebellion to the point of killing police officers or other violent acts. Some music calls for the disrespect of women, by treating them as sexual objects, and labeling them with various epithets. (I’m thinking of Gangsta’ Rap here.)

Words, or the lyrics associated with music do the most to overtly convey its message, but even instrumental music can have subtle, covert influences upon us as well. The music itself can create a wide range of feelings within us, from feelings of peace, inspiration, and well-being – to feelings of anxiety, and despair. Sometimes music can appeal to our more base natures, even without words.

In the church, perhaps one of the most definitive talks given on this subject was deliverd by Elder Boyd K. Packer, in the November 1973 General Conference. The talk is titled: Inspiring Music -- Worthy Thoughts. If you are unfamiliar with this talk, I would encourage you to read it. This talk not only deals with making wise choices in our music listening, but how music can be a powerful tool in gaining control over evil thoughts.

I was a teenager in Jr. High School when this talk was originally given. I remember having to take stock of my musical listening choices at the time. I remember a few of my records didn’t make the cut (yes, they were records – vinyl LP’s – way back in the olden days). After listening to Elder Packer’s talk, I evaluated my musical selections, and chose to cull a few albums from my record collection. It was my own decision though, made by what I felt was right for me at that stage of my life.

Since this is a personal choice, I wouldn’t want to judge others based upon their musical tastes. Music that affects me in a certain way, may not affect others in the same way as well. Also there is a certain latitude given for varying musical tastes as well.

In judging if music is right or not I would leave my judgments to what is right for myself, and my own family. I would ask myself some questions about how the music affects me. You might want to ask yourself some of these questions as well:

  • Does it invite you to do good?
  • Does it strengthen your faith?
  • Does it lighten your mood or quicken your step?
  • Does it give you strength to help you get through the day?
  • How does the music you listen to affect your relationship with the Holy Ghost? - - Do you find it easier or harder to have the Spirit of the Lord with you as you listen to this music?
  • Does the music you are listening to cause you to think of worldly things, or desire to participate worldly lifestyles?
I find the 13th article of faith (I call it “Test 13”) to be helpful in judging music, as well as other entertainment choices, (books, movies, tv shows, etc.):
“ . . . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
For me if an entertainment choice can’t pass “test 13” then I know that there is a probably a better choice to be made.

In the end, it is up to you to judge what music is appropriate for you and your family. (See Moroni 7:16-19). This is a personal decision that each of us must make. Usually, unless the music is openly advocating something that is harmful, illegal, or immoral, I wouldn’t get too concerned about someone’s musical choices. Even if my choices might be quite different from those of someone else.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Going South!

I took tomorrow off work, and have Friday off for Veterans Day. We decided it would be a good time to go see grandma and cousins living in the St. George area. Last time we visted there was over the Memorial day weekend. We hope to do a little exploring and rockhounding along the way. Maybe we'll even get a few nice photos too!

(Click on Photo for Larger Image)

This photo was taken by Dawn Ann last spring (March 26, 2005). The foreground is of the bluffs just North of St. George, with the heavily snow laden Pine Valley Mountains in the background.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Joshua Moments

Each of us will arrive at a point in our lives when we must choose for ourselves how we are going to live our lives. That might come earlier or later in life, depending on the circumstances of our lives. For new converts to the church, that choice is made as they accept the gospel and are baptized into the church. However, each of us must become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ – regardless of whether we are new to the church, or if we come from a long line of many generations in the church.

To those who have been raised in the church, it is sometimes easy to accept the gospel as a way of life, or as a cultural experience rather than a personal, spiritual journey. We go to church because our family does -- we were raised that way. We might even go on a mission, or marry in the temple – all worthy pursuits – but we may have done them because of the expectatons of others, or out of a sense of duty, rather than because of our own spiritual convictions.

As we grow older, and begin to observe the world around us, we discover that there are many lifestyles and philosophical choices from which to choose. However, for each one of us, there comes a time in our lives when we have to choose – really choose – how we will live our own lives, and what kind of a man or woman we will really be.

Unless we have had our hearts changed, so that we have given our own will over, to the will of God, it will be difficult, if not impossible to withstand all the trials and temptations of mortal life.

Each of us, sooner or later will have our own “Joshua Moment". It was Joshua who said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house – we will serve the Lord.â€ï¿½ (See Joshua 24:15)

My Own Joshua Moment

My Joshua moment came when I was about 30 years old. I realized that I had been drifting along, and was beginning to go off the straight and narrow path. I decided to re-read the Book of Mormon once again, but this time, just as one who is investigating the church would read it. As I read, many insights came to me. The power of the Holy Ghost issued a gentle call to repentance as well.

I began to make the necessary changes in my life, but was still a little unsure of myself, and of my standing before God.

Then one day, a priesthood leader asked me to fill an assignment. The time of decision was at hand. How would I choose? It seemed like, for a few moments, that time had come to a stand-still.

I began to wonder if I was up to the challenge. Was I worthy? Could I do it? Was I ready? As I pondered these things, and began to question myself, I felt a wondrous flood of light, and a feeling of peace and confidence in the Lord flood over me. I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost with great strength and power.

It was like the Spirit of the Lord had become my best cheerleader, urging me on to take the next step in my progression, with faith. I felt him saying: "Yes! You can do it! Commit to yourself, and to God that from this day forward, you will leave your old self behind, and walk with Him in a newness of life."

For the first time in a long time, I had real hope, and a confidence that I could do it -- with the Lord's help.

All of these thoughts and feelings transpired in a single moment, maybe 1 or 2 seconds long in real-time, as my priesthood leader awaited my answer. At that moment, I made my choice. My Joshua Moment had come. I chose that as for me, I would serve the Lord. I had made the choice because it is what I wanted to do. Not because it was expected of me, but because I had made my own choice.

I accepted that assignment from my priesthood leader, and fulfilled it. He may never know what great impact he had on me, just by asking me to fulfill an assignment. From that moment on, my heart was changed. The results of that Joshua moment, changed my life, and will have eternal consequences.

I chose to have the Lord’s will written upon my heart. And because of that choice, I wanted to do His will, instead of following my own selfish desires. Not because I felt obligated to do it. Not because someone else was expecting it of me. But because it was my own choice. I knew how I wanted to live my life, and I had made the commitment in my own heart to follow Him.

With that willingness and commitment, comes a great power. The power to change. The ability to overcome weaknesses. To have a new view of life opened up before us, where we can see more clearly, and know more fully what is most precious to us, both now in this life, and in the eternities to come. All these blessings, and more come to us through the power our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Through Him, I found the power to overcome my old self, and become a new and better person.

I'm still not perfect, -- not by any means. But from that day forward, the direction of my life has remained sure. I have never again had to question which way I should go, or how I should live my life. As a result, my life has been blessed with a great wealth of personal, family and spiritual blessings, for which I will be eternally grateful.