Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hay Days

I have recently been scanning some photos that were taken of my Grandpa's ranch, and his family.

Wow, its been a real trip down memory lane.

This photo is from the summer of 1967. That year we had a bumper crop of hay on grandpa's ranch. The rain came at just the right time, and in just the right quantity to make the grass and hay grow like crazy. The the rain nicely stayed away while we were trying to harvest the hay.

That is me at about age 9 in the straw hat and cowboy shirt.

Standing next to me is my Grandpa Hatch in his trademark bib overalls (pronounced "over-haul's") and green long sleeve JC Penny work shirt. Notice that he even kept the top button of his shirt done-up, so as to keep out hay and dust.

On the other side of grandpa is his Newphew Don. He was a great help to grandpa. I assume that much of the money Don earned would later be used to finance Don's mission, and possibly later college at Utah State University. Don would later become a civil engineer.

Seeing the machinery is a journey in the "way-back machine" as well. That is our Ford 861 tractor, that would have been about the same age as me. The implement behind it is a New Holland Haybine. The haybine would cut hay like a mower, crimp it to assist in the curing process, and then dump the hay out in a windrow, all ready for later baling. Previous to buying the haybine, the mowing and windrowing of the hay were two separate processes. This machine was a real labor saver.

In about another 5 years from this time, I would be operating this machinery myself. Farm and ranch kids learn how to operate tractors and machinery at very young ages. I think I started driving at about age 9 or 10. My first vehicle was a Willey's jeep. Grandpa would put the Jeep in "Granny Low" range. That way, even if I would "pop" the clutch, it still wouldn't kill the engine.

I was driving jeeps and tractors at a very young age. I was about 13 or 14 before I was allowed to operate the more serious machinery, like the hay baler and the haybine. Most of my driving was on private property on grandpa's ranch. If I did need to drive a vehicle or tractor into town, I would always just follow along behind grandpa in another vehicle, to make sure I was safe.

By the time I turned 16 and took driver's ed, learning to drive was no big deal for me. I already knew the mechanics of driving, I just needed to learn the rules of the road. Well, that and how to drive a high speeds. Grandpa insisted on a speed limit of 25 mph in the Jeep -- and even that was rare. Most of the dirt roads/trails on the ranch would tolerate only about 10-15 mph. When I took driver's ed in 1975, we still had 70 mph speed limits on the freeways (the double-nickel days of 55 mph were just around the corner.)

You can see other family photos I have scanned here. Most of them are from the 1960's.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chinook, Anyone?

OK, I’m ready for a Chinook! Not the fish – the weather pattern.

Nighttime temperatures around here have been hovering around or below zero degrees Fahrenheit for the last few days. I'm afraid the usual pattern of winter temperature inversions in the Salt Lake Valley is settling in. I’m ready a January thaw. Now! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a Chinook’s here!

In case you are unfamiliar with what a “Chinook” is, here is a good definition from The Weather Notebook:
“The Chinook Wind is not called "snow eater" for nothing! This western wind can vaporize a few inches of snow in two hours, skipping the better known phase of melting known as slush. How does this happen?

Chinook winds blow in from the Pacific in late winter and early spring. Their moisture evaporates as they pass over the Rocky Mountains. Once the winds come down from the mountains onto the high plains, the air can be quite mild and extremely dry,. When a Chinook takes effect local temperatures can warm up from as low as 5 degrees below zero to 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The air is so dry that when it hits snow, it sucks up the moisture, changing the snow directly into water vapor, bypassing the liquid slushy phase-- entirely. Called sublimation, this is a common way for snow to disappear quickly in arid climates.”
Chinooks happen frequently during the winters in Alberta, Montana, and other areas along the Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.

I haven’t had the privilege of witnessing one of these myself. Although I’d really like to – right about now would be nice, as a matter of fact!

I’ve heard wonderful legends of Chinooks as told from first-hand accounts by my Southern Alberta relatives. The best one I remember was a time when a Chinook came to the town of Cardston, Alberta area. The Chinook came to town, but only partway. Half the town was warm and thawed, while the other half was still frozen with snow and ice. There was about a 50 degree temperature difference between the two halves of town.

Great Stuff!

Now, wouldn’t a Chinook be nice right about now?

Monday, January 15, 2007

So Where's Captain Moroni When You Need Him?

President Bush's recent speech on Iraq came off as uninspiring to me. I really wanted him to outline the difference between what we have been doing in the past, and what has changed now with this new course of action. He did mention a few nuanced differences in policy and troop usage, but there was not much of a contrast between past polices and the new approach.

I viewed this as an opportunity for the President to rally people around the cause. I had hoped that he would outline just how important Iraq is to help ensure our safety here in the USA, and for success in the overall war on terror. With the current political climate in the United States, this truly is our last, best hope to achieve success in Iraq. I want us to succeed, and I support the President in his plans to secure Baghdad.

The majority of congress is against the president. Who knows what the 2008 election will bring. If the Democrats win the presidency, we all know what will happen -- our troops will be coming home from Iraq forthwith! And Iraq will fall into total chaos and civil strife. Terrorists could take over the Iraq's oil reserves (2nd largest known oil reserves in the world.) If that were to happen, there would be no shortage of funding to support terrorist operations around the world, including the obtaining of weapons of mass destruction. Pulling out of Iraq now might lead to a broader regional conflict in the future (possibly involving Israel). Such a conflict may draw us back into the region to protect the flow of oil in the Persian Gulf.

The whole political dynamic of the middle East is going shift -- one way or the other -- depending upon the outcome of events in Iraq. If freedom and democracy are established, freedom might bloom in other neighboring nations as well. If we fail in Iraq, terrorism and instability in the Middle East will reign.

The future of Israel is also at stake. If Iraq falls to the terrorists, there will be more guns pointed at Israel. Israel will be forced to take action on its own. Heretofore, Israel has let the US do much if its work for them, to help ensure their security. Without a significant US presence in the Middle East, Israel may have to take matters into its own hands. If that happens, a powder keg could be set off in the middle east. (Especially if Iran is allowed to get nukes).

President Bush gave a nice speech, but I didn't come away from it with a greater confidence in the president, nor with great confidence in the plan he laid out.

As genuine and well intended as President Bush is, there are times like these when we need a "Great Communicator" as was President Reagan. There have been times when George W. Bush has come off as Reaganesque, such as his speech at the National Cathedral after 9-11, and his speech to the joint session of congress in September 2001. However, we haven't seen that George W. Bush for quite some time now.

What we needed was a Captain Moroni Moment. In the Book of Mormon when the forces of the Lamanites were surrounding the Nephites, and when there was great political division and insurrection at home, Captain Moroni stood up before the people, took off his coat, tore off a piece of it, and wrote upon it the Title of Liberty: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children." Then he hoisted this title of liberty upon a pole before the people, and rallied them around the cause of liberty and freedom. (See Alma 46:12-13)

I don't doubt the sincerity of President Bush. I know his heart is in the right place. I only wish that he was better at getting his message across in a more convincing manner. It might have convinced the American public to at least give his plan an opportunity to succeed, and have a little more confidence in their president. As it is, the Democrats in Congress -- and it would appear the majority of the American public -- are unwilling to give President's plan a fair shake.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Today would have been my Grandpa Kenneth Hatch’s 100th Birthday. He made it to 96 years of age before passing away, four years ago this March.

Grandpa lived most of his life in the town of Randolph, Utah a town of about 500 to 1000 people (population has varied from time-to-time over the last century) and well-known for is cold temperatures. His family moved there when he was 3 years old in 1910. Outside of the 2 years he spent on his mission, and a few months away as a student at the University of Utah -- he spent 91 of his 96 years in Randolph. Whenever he was away from town for any length of time, he would become restless and fidgety and would want to return home as soon as possible.

It was not an easy life for grandpa in Randolph. At age 14, his father was killed in a gun accident. Someone came to visit my great-grandfather at his sheep camp. The visitor had looked at the rifle, leaned it on the wagon wheel of the sheep camp and went inside to visit. Somehow the sheep camp was jostled and the gun fell and discharged, which fatally wounded Grandpa's father.

From that time on, grandpa tried to help support himself as much as possible. He began with 3 pet lambs, which eventually grew to 15 head of sheep. He also raised calves, and trapped muskrat, skunks and coyotes to earn money. Through these activities, he was able to help pay for the expenses associated with going to high school, and 1 semester at the University of Utah.

In about 1928, he bought some land on Little Creek, about 5 miles outside of town. Later when Grandpa was called on a mission, he leased this land to his brother-in–law while he was away.

Missionary Experiences

In 1929 he was called to serve in the Western States Mission, which was headquartered in Denver, Colorado. He left on April 13, 1929. He first went to Salt Lake City to go to the temple, and receive instruction from General Authorities before proceeding to his assignment. He received instruction from David O McKay, and James E. Talmadge, among others. On April 25, 1929 he boarded a train to Denver, Colorado. When he arrived, he found that his mission president, Elias S. Woodruff, (son of Wilford Woodruff) had been born in Randolph in the Woodruff log cabin (which now is a historical site).

Grandpa Described some of his first missionary experiences in his journal as follows:
  • On the second day of his mission, he had his first experience riding a bicycle.
  • On May 27, 1929, he had his first experience as a missionary with a dog. Grandpa said: “It was little, and it was brown, and he had me by the leg!”
  • On June 19, 1929 he had his first street meeting, which he described as: “Kind of a shaky business.”
Meeting Grandma

On October 20, 1929, grandpa was diagnosed with appendicitis. He was sent by train from Grand Junction, CO to Salt Lake City for treatment.

While in the hospital, a certain student nurse, named Lucille, admitted him to the hospital.

Well, one thing led to another, and sparks began to fly. Lucille managed to find clever ways for them to meet together. Her friend and roommate, named Fern, was the assigned to take care of him. Fern arranged ways for Lucille to meet up with grandpa, even though she wasn’t exactly assigned to take care of him.

After being released from the hospital, Grandpa stayed in Salt Lake with his Aunt Algie, for about 6 weeks until he was able to return to his mission. All I can say is that Mission Rules must have been WAY different in those days. During that time, Grandpa and Lucille were able to go on a few dates, and spend time together during her off hours. On December 1, 1929, Grandpa returned to his mission, but not before giving Lucille an engagement ring first!

Grandpa received an honorable release from his mission on April 22, 1931. A year later, he and Lucille were married in the Cardston, Alberta temple on May 5, 1932.

Hard times

Circumstances had changed a lot since Grandpa had left for his mission. The stock market crashed while he was in the hospital with appendicitis. By the time he got home, the Great Depression had set-in. Times were tough. Cash was hard to come by. There were times when they had to live on game meat. He and his brother-in-law (Uncle Hyrum) would gather firewood together up Old Canyon to burn in their stoves. Coal stoves were used to heat their home in the cold Randolph winters (Temperatures can reach 30-40 degrees below zero in the winter!) They would milk several cows, by hand, twice a day in order to sell milk to the local creamery. Grandma earned some money as well by working as a county nurse, and traveled all about Rich County on horseback, and by hitching rides with the mail carrier to Woodruff and Laketown.

Grandpa told the story of when he and grandma had to take out a loan for a sewing machine when they were first married. He just hated having to make payments “on time” as he called it. They paid off that sewing machine as quickly as they could. Grandpa would never again incur any other debts throughout his life, with the exception of mortgages for land purchases – which he also always paid off early. He was always very frugal and careful with how he spent his money.

On the other hand, Grandpa was also very generous with is money. There were many people who he would help who were in need, always in a very quiet way. Sometimes that help involved bringing young men, who we would call “at-risk” youths nowadays, to the ranch to work. The deal was: he would give them a job, and they would stay out of trouble. Grandma and Grandpa maintained lifelong relationships with some of these young men.

The Ranch

Grandpa Hatch would eventually purchase additional tracts of land that adjoined his property. Eventually he would own nearly 2,000 acres of land. About 800 acres of it was cultivated farmland, with the remainder being rangeland for pasturing livestock.

Grandpa started out as a sheep rancher, but converted to cattle in the late 1940’s. Eventually he would have about 250 head of cattle. He would raise the calves each year, and eventually would sell them to feed lots in the Midwest, where the calves would be raised until they were ready to go to market.

One unique thing about grandpa’s cattle operation was that he always raised enough hay and grain to feed his cattle through the winter. He never had to buy feed for his cattle from others. In this way he was always self-sufficient. In fact, he would usually sell any extra hay to his neighbors, and extra grain to feed companies, which provided a little extra income.

However selling the calves each year was his main source of income. Income would vary depending on the number of calves, and upon market prices each year. Cattle buyers would visit him each year. They would offer to contract with him to buy calves at a fixed price in the fall – call it cattle futures. He could contract with one of these buyers if he wanted to, or he could wait until the fall (usually around November each year) and get whatever the going rate was at the time. He had to know the market enough to decide whether to contract early, or wait for the fall market prices if he thought the contract price offered was a low-ball offer (which they usually were.)

Grandpa would save as much money as he could each year. Eventually he would have a large enough nest egg, that he was able to finance his own operations even in the lean years, without having to take out loans. It always amazed me to go with him to a car dealership, or an implement company and see him write out a check for a new car, truck, or a new tractor. (Actually, it was Grandma who wrote out all the checks.) But that’s just the way he did things. He was able to achieve relative financial security as a result.

Family and Church

Grandpa Served in many church callings. His two favorite assignments were as Stake Mission President, and as an ordinance worker in the Ogden Temple. In each of these, he was able to use his outgoing, gregarious personality as he reached out to others, in the service of God.

Grandma and Grandpa had 4 daughters, 17 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. I was the third grandchild, and the first grandson. As such I was the first boy in the family. I spent all of my summers as I was growing up on grandpa’s ranch. It was a wonderful opportunity that I will always cherish. You can read more about my experiences on the ranch here.

After the Ranch

While I was on my mission, grandpa sold the ranch. He was nearly 70 years old at the time, and age was catching up with him. It was probably the right decision, but selling the ranch nearly broke his heart. There is something about putting so much of yourself – literally your blood, sweat, and tears into the land. Then not to have that land any longer – your whole life’s work – its almost too much to take. So many memories, over every inch of that land. Land that he had worked for more than 50 years! Grandpa could hardly drive past the ranch in his later years. It was just too painful for him to even look at -- knowing that it was not his anymore.

I think I know a little of how he felt. So many of my memories are in that place. My memories only span a period of about 15 years. However they were my formative years as I was growing up, and my experiences on there on the ranch are forever embedded into who I am. The ranch will always be a part of me that I will carry with me, wherever I go for the rest of my life. When I drive past the ranch now, the memories flood through me as well. Now that grandpa is gone, I see things that no one else sees. I know things about that place that no one else knows – even things that the current owners will never know.

Grandpa was always a busy, up-and-doing "Type A" kind of person. Having nothing to get up for each morning really made him feel like he was not being useful. He tried to busy himself by helping out on his nephew’s ranch, but that didn’t really make him feel useful either. Finally, he and grandma became Temple workers, and then they felt like they were doing something useful and worthwhile once more.

Being a temple worker also worked on him. I noticed that some of the rough edges – like salty language, etc. – that you might expect to find in a rancher disappeared after he worked in the temple. His temple service in turn served to refine an polish him in his later years.

Then came the years of declining health. Grandma’s health failed first. Grandpa took care of her the best he could, with the assistance of my mother. Eventually grandma passed away. My mother continued to assist grandpa for another 5 years, until grandpa got his final wish – to be reunited with his eternal sweetheart.

We miss grandma and grandpa Hatch. They were fine people, who have given us, their family, a wonderful heritage and legacy. We look forward to being reunited with you again one day.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Are You Still Here?

If you are reading this post, it means that you are still here upon this earth, and that God has granted unto you the privilege of living in mortality for yet another year.

This past year has been a challenge for me. It was filled with unforeseen health challenges. There were times when, if events had gone differently, I might not have been granted the privilege of seeing yet another year here on this earth.

I learned to cherish health as a great blessing. Although I am no longer facing life-threatening health challenges, I still have my battles, mostly with peripheral neuropathy and psoriatic arthritis. These challenges have made mobility difficult at times. I am on medication to treat both of these conditions. It is my hope that in time, the medications will help bring these conditions under control. But for now, I have some relatively good days, and then again some days in which I have a hard time getting around.

The decisions of life and death are in the Lord's hands. If it were his will, I could have easily been a Missionary in the Spirit World right now. However, I believe that my being here indicates that it is His will that I yet remain upon this earth. I still have a work to do here: I have a wife and two children to support and take care of. I still need to see my children through to adulthood, and get them on their own. I will have opportunities come to me to serve in the kingdom of God on earth as well. We never know how the Lord may choose to use us to influence others for good. And in the process of serving Him, our souls will be enlarged as well.

Another reason that I am still here is that I still have a lot of work to do on becoming more Christlike. I know I have much yet to do in this regard. Having more time here on earth gives me the chance to improve myself, to overcome my weaknesses, and try to become more like the Savior.

The Prophet Alma said:
And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God. (Alma 42:4)
According to this, I am on probation, with the Lord being my parole officer. I have to check in with Him each week and report my progress, as I partake of the Sacrament. It is up to Him to decide when my probation is over. For now, I will continue to walk in the path upon which He has marked the way.

So, now that God has granted each of us the privilege of another year on earth, how are we going to use it?

I would like to issue a challenge to myself and to each of you:
  • Choose one thing that you are doing wrong now, and stop doing it.
  • Choose one thing that you are not doing right now, that you should be doing.
Ask the Lord to help you know what these two things should be. Make a decision, and write it down. Commit to yourself, and to the Lord that you will make these changes. Work on them, stay with it. If you slip up, don’t be discouraged, don't get down on yourself. Just renew your resolve to change, and keep at it. Eventually these changes will become second nature to you. Then you can select what you should work on next.

If you take it one step at a time, real progress can be made. At the end of this year, you will be able to see the changes for good in this life. You will have good things to report to your parole officer.

The Lord is pleased when we desire to repent, and change, and follow his will. He will bless you in your righteous efforts, and will help you to achieve your goals. You are precious to Him, and he wants for you to return to his presence, and live with him one day.

I hope your New Year goes well. -- And I'm glad that you are still here too!