Tag Archives: Family History

Courage at Twilight: Spider Face-Off

While Dad was reading late one night, a spider emerged from under the sofa, walked slowly toward him, stopped, and stood tall on its front legs, looking up at him, as if challenging, Here I am. What are you going to do about it?   Dad knew there was nothing he could do about it—he could never heave himself out of his recliner and catch the spider before it dodged away.  Victorious, the spider sauntered nonchalantly back to its hideout under the sofa.  A couple of weeks later, another spider scampered across the kitchen floor, near where Dad was standing at the sink scrubbing a pot.  This spider, too, looked up at him with a challenge, but Dad simply stomped on it.  Dad felt bad, preferring to let these fascinating creatures live—but not in the house.  When Dad was a teenager, his father Owen staked out a 40-acre mining claim in the Nevada desert, and occasionally took his two sons to camp in the desert and work the claim.  They imagined striking it rich with gold as they dug their holes in the hill.  Owen had welded steel plates to the old truck’s undercarriage, allowing him to bowl through sage brush undamaged.  After making camp one afternoon on a low flat sandy arroyo, with blue skies overhead, they began to hear a strange rumbling, and looked up to see a wall of muddy water rushing down the dry stream bed.  They lurched from their bed rolls and made it with the donkey to higher ground just in time to see their camp entirely washed away.  The torrent ended as quickly as it began, and the boys set off down the muddy channel to recover what gear they could find.  Here was the stove, and the aluminum plates.  And there was the pistol barrel sticking up from the mud and sand.  Dad came to a narrow gorge across which a stout plank had once been placed.  He was halfway across when an enormous tarantula climbed on the other end of the plank and started to walk toward him.  They both stopped and looked at each other for a moment.  “I think the tarantula was asking me, Are you going to let me cross, or what?  Dad back up and off the plank, and the tarantula recommenced its slow crossing.  He watched the tarantula amble off into the desert, and then crossed the gully in the other direction.  Since the two recent faceoffs in the house, Mom brought in pest control to spray for spiders—they simply do not belong in the house.  But that tarantula was king of the dessert.

 

(I encountered this migrating tarantula while mountain biking in Settlement Canyon, Tooele, Utah.)

Courage at Twilight: A Drive Down Memory Lane

We took two drives in two days, Mom, Dad, and me—I drove the faithful Suburban.  The first day we drove into the hills, into the gated neighborhoods with the big houses, which grew bigger and fancier with altitude.  Several houses were enormous, of the 20,000 square-foot variety, with turrets and weather vanes and wrought iron fences and security cameras.  One resembled an English country mansion estate.  We felt distinctly uncomfortable at the thought of all the money poured into these lavish houses.  We are not wealthy people, and did not know how to relate to such wealth.  The next day we drove across the valley to find Mom’s maternal grandparents’ house.  We found it in a rundown part of town, with century-old match-box houses, tiny, unkempt, honest, 20 little houses crammed into a single mansion lot.  I remember visiting great-grandpa James Evans—I was four.  He scooped Neapolitan ice cream into cones from his top-loaded deep freeze.  He walked stooped with age, humble but dignified, showing me his little cherry orchard with the concrete ditches ladling irrigation water to each dwarf tree.  More than 50 years after that visit, I snapped a photo of his little old house.  Around the corner was the Pleasant Green church where my grandfather Wallace first met my grandmother Dorothy.  He was a guest minister, and she played the organ.  After church, Wally asked Dorothy if he could drive her home, and she accepted.  After he dropped her off, she got a ride back to the church so she could take her car home.  I snapped a photo of the church, and we drove away from history and memory back into our comfortable present, far across the valley.

Above: the Church where Wally met Dorothy.

 

Monument to the Pleasant Green church.

 

Grandpa Evans’ little old house.

Courage at Twilight: Mom’s Rag Rugs

When Dorothy Lucille (aka Mom, b. 1939) was a child, perhaps age 6 or 7, she accompanied her mother Dorothy Erma (b. 1915) and her grandmother Dorothy Ellen (b. 1895) to visit her great-grandmother Elizabeth Esther (b. 1875).  Grandma Elizabeth was crocheting an oval rug from strips of cloth cut from old clothing.  Mom liked that Grandma was making something so beautiful from practically nothing: rags.  Mom’s matriarchs encouraged her interest with strips of cloth rolled into balls.  Grandpa James Edmond carved for her a large oak crochet hook.  Mom’s mother taught her the crochet stitch.  After marrying Dad, Mom began her serious crocheting of rag rugs—they had no carpet or rugs in their first home.  For her first project, in 1962, she sat on the floor and crocheted an enormous round area rug, one small stitch at a time.  After Dad retired and the family moved back to Utah, Mom began crocheting again in earnest.  She finds her sheets at the Deseret Industries thrift store.  She washes and irons them, cuts them into strips with a cutting wheel, and rolls the strips into balls, which she crochets while sitting in her recliner.  Her rugs can be found throughout her home and the homes of her children and grandchildren.  When I come home from work, or when we watch movies or crime shows (she loves N.C.I.S.), Mom quickly and deftly winds the crochet stitch into a growing oval with multi-colored and patterned sheets.  Each rug is unique, some understated and plain, others blaring and fun.  Mom taught my daughter Hannah and me the rug crochet stitch, and we have made several rugs.  Hannah’s rugs represent a humble work of art six generations in the making.

Here is a sampling of Mom’s rag rugs:

Courage at Twilight: Sunday Afternoon Drive

Mom asked me almost sheepishly after church, “Do you think, perhaps, we could take a drive today? I would so like to see the old Bawden home my grandparents built.”  “Of course!” I answered.  “I’m sorry the thought did not occur to me before.”  Dad’s faithful Suburban lead us by the back roads across the Salt Lake valley to historic Granger, my mother’s hometown.  We noted fondly the orange-dotted pumpkin farms and horse corrals and vegetable gardens, and commented on the architectural eras of the homes—1930s bungalow was our favorite.  Mom suggested we drive by the house where Dad lived from 15 to 26, from junior high school to his 1962 marriage to Mom.  “I moved here 70 years ago,” he observed flatly.  Many of those years were unhappy and traumatic for Dad and his siblings due to trouble at home.  But Dad was blessed by the influences of Isabelle Bangerter, Grant Bangerter, and Ella Bennion, all of whom built him up, treated him kindly and with respect, nudged him toward a path of personal fulfillment, and influenced his concepts of self-worth and the life worth living.  The tension and sadness I felt in the car evaporated as I drove away.  A few miles away, there sat the old Bawden house, strong and modest and pretty, built by the family in the late 1800s.  I met my great-grandparents there when I was a little boy as the family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner.  In the 1930s, Mom’s father Wallace built a bungalow nearby, for his new wife’s wedding gift, and there Mom grew up, in the new Bawden bungalow near the old Bawden homestead.  Granger was all farmland then, with homes separated by miles of farms.  Now it is deteriorating strip mall suburbia.  I spent many days in Mom’s childhood home, roaming the empty dusty old chicken coops, breathing the soothing old smell of the oil-and-dust garage, pumping the hand well, hunting giant night-crawler earthworms for trout fishing, and roasting hot dogs on the outdoor cinderblock grill at family parties.  When my grandma lived in a nursing home in her mid-90s, the family sold the house to the car dealer next door, who razed the prime half-acre and put in a parking lot.  I can’t help thinking of Joni Mitchell’s famous Big Yellow Taxi from 1970: “They paved paradise, Put up a parking lot.”  I feel grateful I have memories and photographs of that old paradise.

My great-grandparents’ home in Granger, Utah.

Courage at Twilight: Gathering for the Sunset

In July, just before I moved, Mom told me about how she and Dad sat in picnic chairs in the driveway every evening at 8:45 to watch the sun set, enjoying the colorful clouds.  I texted her one night that I would go stand by the apartment complex fence at 8:45 to see the sun set over the Tooele valley, in solidarity with her.  While she gazed toward the Oquirrh mountains to her west, I looked toward the Stansbury mountains to my west, each with peaks over 11,000 feet.  As July moved into August, our sunset time came earlier and earlier, today already at 7:45.  Sitting there in the driveway, the three of us, on our picnic chairs, we waved at neighbors driving or walking by, talked about the day’s work and news, and admired the brilliant colors.  With the worst California fires in history, Utah’s sun became an orange-poppy sphere that we could stare at without discomfort for the thick smoke.  As the sun dipped behind the mountains one evening, Dad announced, “I can see Venus!”  I looked and looked for several minutes, but could not see the “first star.”  His cataract removal and lens implants seem to have given him telescopic eyes at age 85, while my 20-20 eyes (thank you Lasik) still searched for the pin point.  As the sky darkened, Mom told of when she was six years old and sang at a neighborhood talent show, in the church building, and for the occasion her mother made a dress for her out of rolls of white crepe paper stitched together, with red paper trim and pink paper hearts.  Then Dad led us in a round of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and told me how wonderful my mother is (which he tells me every day, and she is).  Soon the automatic sprinklers popped up, and the quarter moon shone a rich orange through the smoky sky.

Rag Rugs

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(Large rag rug crocheted by my mother for my kitchen–October 2015.)

When my mother, Dorothy Lucille Bawden Baker, was a child, perhaps age 6 or 7, she accompanied her mother, Dorothy Erma Evans Bawden (born 1915), and her grandmother, Dorothy Ellen Beagly Evans (born 1895), to visit her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Esther Pierce Beagly (born 1875).  Grandmother Elizabeth was crocheting an oval rug from strips of cloth cut from old clothing.  My mother noticed it and told them she liked it.  Looking back, what caught her attention most was the notion of making something so beautiful from practically nothing: rags. My mother’s matriarchs encouraged her interest and offered to give her a crochet hook and strips of cloth.  Grandfather James Edmund Evans (born 1889) carved for her an oak crochet hook.  Her mother cut some cloth strips from old clothing for my mother, and taught her the crochet stitch.  After my mother’s marriage in 1962, she began her serious crocheting of rag rugs, for she and her new husband, Owen Nelson Baker, Jr., had no carpet or rugs in their home.  For her first project, she sat on the floor and crocheted an enormous round area rug.  After retiring and moving to Utah in 1998, she began crocheting again in earnest.  She found her sheets at the Deseret Industries thrift store, and bought a cutting board and cutting wheel.  Her rugs can be found throughout her home and the homes of her children.  She has given away many rugs as gifts to family and friends.  I recently asked her to teach me to crochet.  These small rugs, intended as prayer mats, are my first efforts to crochet something from nothing.  I made them for my three daughters and my daughter-in-law for Christmas (2015).  I hope that my girls find enjoyment in them, and in knowing that they hold a humble work of art six generations in the making.

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The beginnings of Hannah’s rug, with a sun at the center.

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Ringed with a light sky, ready for a darker ring of sky.

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The sky is complete.

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Ready to be circled with dark, rich earth.

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Hannah’s rug completed.

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Laura’s rug: blue evening sky trending toward sunset and night.

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Erin’s rug: sun, sky, and atoll surrounded by ocean.

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Avery’s rug.

Chapter 16: Around the Fire Pit

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–I’ll help you learn to walk.–
(Erin-10 to Hyrum)

One Monday evening after dinner, the whole family walked on Rabbit Lane.  The sun was setting large and red, and the chilly Spring air settled upon us as we returned home.  We gathered around our new fire pit to tell stories, sing songs, and roast apples and marshmallows, sitting on camp chairs and logs. Continue reading