April to November in Obits

Quirky obituaries have all but dried up in this past year; it’s taken me since last spring to gather enough to share a posting.  Perhaps the younger generation has lost its sense of humor and is becoming more serious when writing obits for their loved ones.  Anyway, enjoy the offerings below and let’s hope things loosen up a bit and it won’t take another year to cobble together more excerpts to share.

N. B…. “J., we were sad that you went fishing without us on April 17, 2012…You were such an inspiration to us since you came into the world in 1960.  Raising hell and enjoying life to the fullest prevented you from finishing high school, but didn’t stop you from having great jobs by building and repaving our roads.  Your passion for arm wrestling, fishing, and music has influenced so many people…Go fishing and have a beer with M. and tell him we said hi.”

D. M…. “The youngest of eleven children, our mother was also known to her family as Mom, Mama, Mumsiepoo, Mothea-thea, Thelma, Grandma D., Gram, GGma, and Aunt D.”  Mumsiepoo?

F.L…. “F. had a way with words and could say exactly the right thing to put you in your place.”  Ouch!

C.M…. “Young father left his family too soon.  Highlight of his life was his LDS Mission to Peru, where he learned to love the people, but never acquired a taste for guinea pig or cat.”

And then in pretty much its entirety, yet another teen suicide:

S. B…. (1993-2012) “One score minus two years I entered this world in the traditional way, born to less-than-traditional parents.  Beginning with my arrival those parents dedicated much time and creativity to helping me understand freedom, hard work, and responsibility in an attempt to produce a productive, non-parasitic individual of whom they could be proud and may possibly support them in their old age.  At times their methods were unorthodox and their point came across with the subtly of a freight train, but we had a great time!  Life is too short to be taken seriously. …  A small celebration of S.’s life will be held on ____ at the ___ LDS chapel.  This past year S. finally found something he cared about and had a passion for: a place where he became a leader, a coach, and strangely enough, a choreographer.  In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the ___ High School Color Guard.”

And a somewhat more chipper obit:

J.S…. “As some of you might have thought, I did not arrive at my demise while driving a Wal-Mart truck.  I was a much better driver than that!  After being diagnosed in April with ____ I spent seven months trying to beat it.  However, since you are reading this, I guess it wasn’t in the cards. …  If any of you want to come to say your last farewells, I will be at ____ Mortuary on Friday from 6-8pm.”

To end on an even lighter note, here’s a recent write-up that caught my eye, pretty much in its short entirety:

K.D…. “K. lived a long and happy life, but died of old age syndrome.  He married an ugly woman named S.  Together they had three ugly children [all sons].  Their boys were lucky because they were able to marry two beautiful women [I assume one son is still single.]  Fortunately K. had seven good-looking grandsons and one beautiful granddaughter whom he loved greatly.  Services will be held….”

How can you not smile?

Published in: on April 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The LGBTQ Meets the LDS in SLC

It seems pretty obvious who blinked first.

Not exactly qualifying for a historic moment, but a seismic shift of some sort just the same, this past Monday, April 23, leaders of the Soulforce Equity Ride,  a national bus tour aimed at “promoting acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and allied people” met with representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints somewhere in downtown Salt Lake City.

According to the Deseret News, the LDS-owned daily newspaper, Jason Conner, co-director of the Equality Ride and director of programs for Soulforce, said he is “cautiously optimistic” the morning session represents “a really good first step” in discussions between Soulforce and the LDS Church.  Soulforce is, according to its website, “committed to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people from religious and political oppression through relentless nonviolent resistance.”

“We are disappointed that leaders of the church didn’t sit at the table with us, but the people we met with were great,” Conner said of the meeting, which was hosted by members of LDS Church’s Public Affairs Department. “They listened to our concerns. We talked about some very important things.”

LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter confirmed the meeting took place but didn’t comment on the specifics.

Prior to the meeting, Soulforce indicated its agenda for the meeting included concerns about Evergreen International, an independent organization that “sustains the doctrines and standards” of the LDS Church in its work to assist those who wish to overcome homosexual behavior and diminish same-sex attraction; the church’s political efforts with regard to same-sex marriage; and the church’s human resources policies about non-discrimination in church employment and at LDS Business College.

For the LDS Church to even be in the same room talking with members of the LGBTQ community is huge.  Church doctrine revolves around family and there is no room for same-sex unions.  In fact, based on newly released statistics, Utah has the highest suicide rate in the nation.  (It’s really sad and obvious in the obituaries when a young person takes his or her life.  It’s almost a code: no reason for death is given, active in the LDS church, loved life, and will be missed by all.)  Not surprisingly, the intense pressure put on gay adolescents and young adults to deny who they are and tow the doctrinal line is enormous.  For any young man to rise in church leadership, get married and have children–this is a huge part of life out here, folks–he certainly cannot be gay.  This goes for women, too, church involvement and motherhood are expected.  It’s the prevailing cultural norm for both sexes.

And this follows hard on the heels of Brigham Young University–the bastion of Mormonness–students recently coming out on campus and identifying themselves as part of the national LGBTQ community.  This is unprecedented!  I’m pretty sure their families were blind-sided!

I doubt that any real change will happen any time soon, as it means totally changing LDS Church tenets and doctrine.  This has only happened twice before on this level when polygamy was officially denounced in 1896 as a trade-off for Utah being granted statehood and in the late 1970s when the then living prophet pronounced that African-American Mormons could finally hold priesthood positions in the church.  Up until then, blacks were considered to smitten with the Mark of Cain and not worthy for church leadership, blessings, and temple endowments according to Mormon Doctrines and Covenants.  (Gee, do you think the Civil Rights Movement had anything to do with that divine revelation?)  I can’t even imagine what event or perk would inspire a living prophet to do a 180 degree turn on acceptance of homosexuality on any level .

But we can hope, and perhaps the suicide rate will plummet and people can get on with their lives.

Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two for One: “The Chicken Chronicles”–Part XII and Pitchforks

It’s been since last August that any feathers have flown in these parts (inspiring a Chicken Chronicles installment) regarding backyard farm animals, and finally Syracuse City council has passed a new law, immediately putting poultry and rabbits back in the spotlight.  The edict has come down that if you have a quarter acre yard, you may have a grand total of 6 backyard farm animals, properly housed, for family use: 6 chickens, OR 6 rabbits, OR 5 chickens and 1 rabbit, OR 1 rabbit and 5 chickens, OR 2 chickens and 4 rabbits, OR, well you get the idea…some combination of 6.  Oh, and the chickens better be hens and not crowing roosters!  We don’t want to get the neighbors riled up.  Even though Charlie, our herding corgi, would love to keep chickens under control, we won’t be investing in a flock for egg-laying purposes.

The second topic is farm related, but inanimate.  Pitchforks was the topic for the history article for this week’s Islander.  I challenged myself to see if I could write about a really limited subject.  I tried to do some online research, and believe you me, there isn’t much on pitchforks on websites, unless I want to buy one, (pitchfork not website).  So here’s what I could spin out for my article.

Pitchforks: Just a Lowly Farm Tool

When you think of a pitchfork, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Harvesting hay?  Mucking horse stalls?  Mobs of angry peasants carrying pitch forks and scythes in an old Hollywood horror film?

Amidst all the items in the Syracuse Museum, singularly unique or collections of barbed wire, old cameras, books, and cooking equipment is a line up of pitchforks found in the farm building, adjacent to the main museum building.   Marching up a wall are pitchforks which show the variety of design and function for these basic and usually overlooked farm implements.


Most of us could describe a pitchfork: a long handle ends in long, pointy tines, or prongs, and is used to lift and pitch loose agricultural material.  But even a simple tool like a pitchfork can have interesting aspects.

A hand tool known from medieval illustrations, it has a long history.  Pitchforks started out being made from a hard wood–hickory or ash was the wood of choice when available.  One end of a thick  square length of wood was sawn into quarters and each quarter shaped down to a pointed tine and the handle end would be planed to a round shape.  The four tines would be soaked in water,  separated, secured, and strengthened by a wooden dowel, and often an iron band.

Medieval illumination showing women with a rake and pitchfork.

Later, as blacksmithing developed, metal prongs were created and fitted onto a sturdy wooden handle, replacing the more fragile all-wood versions.

Different numbers of prongs and spacings soon appeared to fit the tool to the work.  You would need fewer prongs to pitch hay versus up to six prongs to move manure efficiently.  In the Syracuse area, about fifty years ago, where sugar beets were king, a six-pronged pitchfork with the tines set closely together was the implement of choice for use with that crop.  There was less damage to the beets and it was lighter than a solid flat shovel.  When pitching heavy sugar beets, reducing the amount of weight you’re lifting each time is crucial.  Two- or three-tined pitchforks were often used for grain harvesting.  Four-tined pitchforks could be used for hay.

Modern, safety-conscious parents probably shudder at the thought, but even though these were sharp, dangerous objects, learning to use a pitchfork was a farm skill a young person was taught as soon as he or she was tall enough to handle one.  The heavier labor would be done by the adults, but a young teenager could manage to stack hay mounds in the field after harvest or clean up dung piles.  Besides the satisfaction of helping with the harvest, a secondary reward for the young ones would be slides down the hay mound: guaranteed fun at the end of a long day!

And yes, for those who couldn’t afford or had no access to costly weapons like swords or, later on, guns, farm implements such as pitchforks and scythes could be formidable objects in the hands of desperate farmers or frontiersmen.  So that’s not just a Hollywood myth.

Stop by and see all our collections.  The pitchforks await in the farm building; we even have an eight-pronger on display!  The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Prom Season in Utah

Ah, spring and a young man’s fancy turns to…proms?  If not a young man’s, then surely a young woman’s dreams do.  Come April and May if you’re a high schooler, the prom looms large and expensively on the horizon.

In my minimal experience with proms (only went to the junior prom at my high school) I recall it was held in the school gym, which had been transformed into some sort of underwater seascape fantasy, complete with dangling green crepe paper streamers meant to mimic seaweed hanging from above and hand crayoned fish cut-outs “swimming” on the walls.

While still in Pennsylvania, I became increasingly aware of the elaborate events springing up around proms which had turned them into prom weekends.  The dance event–the actual prom, often held at an up-scale venue–seemed to become overshadowed by arriving in limos, the after-prom casino parties put on by parents of the prom-goers in a futile attempt to curb drinking and driving, out-of-control partying, and early getaways to the Jersey shore for more alcohol-fueled bingeing.  I’m sure there were instances of more sedate prom events, but they rarely made the news.

So it was with old-fashioned amazement that in Monday’s newspaper I read an article by one of the local teen correspondents on prom etiquette to guarantee the “best night of your life.”  It was a list of do’s and don’t arranged by gender.  Even in what seems to be ultra-polite Utah society, it’s interesting to see suggestions that are mostly common sense (at least for the older generation), but may be lost on the younger set.  Some examples offered by Jessica H. who wrote the article:

Do’s for Girls

  • Do buy a dress that will make your date feel comfortable; nothing revealing or sexy.
  • Be yourself.  Your date asked you to the prom, not a fake you.
  • Do dance.  You didn’t come to sit around and just look pretty.
  • Do say thank you at the end of the evening.
  • Do eat your dinner.  Your date paid for the meal and “he won’t think you are a pig if you eat it all.”

Don’ts for Girls

  • Don’t overdo your make-up.  Your date doesn’t want to be seen with a “circus clown.”
  • Don’t primp in public.  Use the restroom and don’t stay in there a long time with girlfriends.
  • Don’t leave your date to dance with your friends, take him along.
  • Don’t be dramatic; no fights.  Make happy memories.

Do’s for Guys

  • Do be on time to pick up your date.
  • Do open doors for her.
  • Do enter with your date, not before or behind her.
  • Do wear nice smelling cologne, but not a lot.
  • Do have fun and do dance, even slow dances.
  • Do let “loose and be crazy dancing to fast songs.  Your date will think it’s funny and cute.”
  • Do make a dinner reservation or you might get caught in a crowded restaurant.  (I guess dinner and the prom are separate events.  In my day they used to be one and the same.)

Dont’s for Guys

  • Don’t forget her corsage or the dance tickets.
  • Don’t lock your keys inside the car (kids out here don’t do the limo thing).
  • Don’t forget to compliment your date.  She went to a lot of trouble to look good for you!
  • Don’t ask to see her dress before the prom night.  You can ask what the color is, but let the dress be a surprise.  (I guess this is a big issue out here.  Training for a wedding?)

It seems that the proms in Utah are still stuck in the 1960’s.  Some prom committees will arrange for off-school venues, but that really increases the cost of tickets and most families out here are very frugal.  So many proms are still held in gyms decorated by the student prom committee.  Most proms start at 7:30, after the dinner at a restaurant, and end promptly at 10:30.  Yes, you read that correctly: 10:30.  After three hours, you go home to your family, as church is the next morning, and if you’re LDS, you’ll have to attend, no excuses of a late night.

The biggest concerns for a young lady (and, by extension, her mother) are: is my dress modest enough and will my date try to kiss me on the front porch?  Tuxedos are available for young men, but a Sunday best suit is also acceptable (and cheaper).  Girls often rent their prom gowns and modesty is the byword.  Rarely do you see a strapless gown, most young women (especially if they’re Mormon, and most are) will opt for dresses that cover their shoulders and sometimes upper arms.  They’ll even add a short jacket, like a bolero or shrug, and keep it on!  There’s nothing wrong with modesty, but it’s an obsession out here.  And a little peck on the cheek under a bright porch light is all that “Hyram” better attempt.

I can’t see prom weekend getaways happening out here where the kids head south to Moab, St. George, or even to Las Vegas.  That’s not in the cards.  So a prom is just that: a prom where squeaky-clean fun in a controlled environment can be had by all, even the chaperones!

Published in: on April 11, 2012 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tonsorial Treasures

Well, it’s Easter week and I have the house to myself as the Finley Family is on spring break in California visiting Ethan’s Uncle Ben and Aunt April in Hollywood and Legoland, plus other San Diego attractions.  Their safe arrival home will be my Easter gift.  Meantime, I’m weeding the garden and getting it ready for early vegetables (gotta get the peas and lettuce in!) and doing other odd jobs on the list while it’s just Charlie (the corgi) and me.  This Thursday will also see the appearance of the next history article I wrote on the former barbershop in Syracuse.  It’s not Easter oriented at all, but I’m still sharing it as it might take you back in time to when men actually patronized the bastion of maleness: the barbershop.

Tonsorial Treasures

Time was when men got their hair cut and paid for close shaves at the masculine domain of the town barbershop.  Here, in the company of other men the world’s problems were solved, as well as local issues that might revolve around local politics, farming, business, or school board decisions.  Those days are pretty much gone; barber shops are becoming a vestige of the past and are all but disappearing.

In distant memory, Syracuse had at least two barber shops and one was even a combination barber shop and ice cream parlor!  Up until about two decades ago, the other barber shop, a town fixture for about 50 years, was owned and operated by Max Waite.  Born and raised in Syracuse, Max stayed put and found ways to serve his community.  After serving in the Korean conflict from 1951 to 1953, he returned home to being a farmer and the town barber.  In addition to that, he drove a school bus for the Davis School District for nearly three decades, was a volunteer firefighter and a Justice of the Peace.  He and his wife sank their roots deeper by raising three children in Syracuse.

Waite's Barbershop

By the 1990s when Max put down his clippers for the last time, a shave and a haircut were no longer “2 bits” or 20 cents.  Adult haircuts had risen to $6.00, but his single rocking chair in the small waiting area of the one-room shop hasn’t changed much.  Neither has the rest of the decor: two mounted deer heads still look down at non-existent customers, old magazines and comics are stacked on the small table, the single wall mirror awaits a reflection and exotic bottles and tins with mysterious contents line the shelves: coconut oil shampoo, osage rub, sandalwood shaving cream, Pinaud-Clubman after shave and talc.

A booster board to place across the arms of the Max’s barber chair stands silently in the corner awaiting a small child coming in with his father so he can get “his ears lowered.”  Hanging from the chair arm is the worn leather razor strop used to sharpen the straight razor for men’s shaves.  As the barbershop was the meeting place for men and good conversation, a neatly hung wall sign offers this philosophical thought: “Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving buses and cutting hair.”

In the heyday of men’s tonsorial patronage, no self-respecting male would be seen in a woman’s beauty salon and vice versa.  Hair grooming was segregated along gender lines.  Today, as we all know, men using the services of a female hair stylist are common and have spelled the death knell for barber shops.  Yet there’s something to be said for male barbers: a man’s haircut is quite different from the technique used for a woman’s.  With the return from the longer hair of the 1980s, perhaps there will be a nostalgic resurgence for barber shops, with their wonderful smells, conversation possibilities, and male aura.  We’d all hate to see the end of those colorful barber shop poles, a hold-over from the days that barbers did far more surgery than just cutting hair and shaving beards.

Max Waite’s modest barber shop still exists and you can see a preserved window onto life if you stop by the museum, as it’s relocated outside behind the farm building, complete with red, white and blue barber pole.  We’ll grab a key and unlock another world for you!  The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on April 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment