Apostolic Brush

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rose and John Byrom

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom

I stumbled upon this picture the other day and thought maybe it was time to share it.  This picture has an interesting story behind it.

On the far right are John and Rosie Byrom.  Rosie is mostly in the shadow so it is difficult to make her out.  I served in the Runcord Ward from around December 1999 to around August 2000.  John served as Ward Mission Leader and Rosie as a Ward Missionary.  (The Byroms have since separated and divorced).  I served in the ward for a long time and they remained in their callings for the entire time, so we built a friendship which, I feign to believe, still exists to this day.

I returned home from my mission in December 2000.  It was not long into 2001 that I learned the Byroms were planning on visiting Utah.  Of course, I invited them to spend some time in Idaho.

During the majority of time I served in Runcorn I had a companion by the name of Brad Hales.  Also in our district was a senior sister companionship of Meriel Peterson and Patricia Kleinkopf.  We were all native Idahoans and were in close proximity of each other.  It was natural that the Byroms also wanted to visit each of them while they were in Idaho.

This particular day we drove to Oakley, Idaho to visit Sister Peterson.  We had an enjoyable breakfast and conversation.  Sister Peterson decided she wanted to give us the tour of Oakley because there were some architectural gems that she thought the Byroms would enjoy.  I grew up near Oakley so I was familiar with many of these local landmarks.

We all piled into my little Camry and away we drove.  We had not made it very far driving down some of the streets of Oakley when Sister Peterson announced, “Wait, David is home, he will want to meet you!”  She had me turn around and we pulled into a little home in Oakley.

I had no clue who David was and I was not familiar with the home we were now pulling into the driveway.  We all exited the car.  In the yard there was a man trimming his hedges with a large straw hat and a large set of sunglasses that you only see old people wear.

Since Sister Peterson indicated that David would want to meet the Byroms because they were from England, I remained at the front of my car in the driveway and leaned back against it in the hot, summer, morning sun.

I have to give a little bit of background on the month prior.  We are in the latter half of July 2001 at the point of this picture (I recollect it was the 21st, but may be wrong).  I had just spent considerable time in Hawaii with family at the beginning of the month.  During that time I picked myself up a shirt and a shell necklace among other items.  As you can see in the picture, I am wearing my red shirt (not the blatant Hawaiian design you regularly see).  For years I thought I was in a pair of board shorts too, but this picture corrects my memory on that tidbit.  But I had continuously wore my new puka shell necklace since the trip to Hawaii.

Back to the story, I am leaning on the front of my car watching the Byroms enter the back yard through the hedge and approach this old man in a large straw hat and holding an electric hedge trimmer.  The man stopped trimming and turned to greet his trespassers.  Curiously, after what was a short couple of moments, probably no more than 20 seconds of conversation, this man leaves the Byroms and Sister Peterson and headed my direction.

My first reaction was that I was doing something wrong so I looked around to see my misstep.  Alas, not seeing I had done anything wrong I approached the man and met him near his hedge.  He had set down his trimmer before arriving to me and he pulled his hand out of his glove to shake my hand.  I shook hands with him and he with his free hand reached up and took of his hat and glasses and asked me my name.

My first thought was something along these lines, “Boy, this David fellow sure looks familiar.”  He asked my name and I gave it.  He asked about my Ross name and whether or not it was Scottish.  I informed him it was my name but not the name of which my ancestors carried.  He then informed me that Ross was a common name in Scotland where he had served as a Mission President.

He then grew quiet and he sidled up closer to me and put the hand with the hat and glasses in the small of my back while still holding my other hand in a handshake.  He was now close enough that his face was in my shadow (and he was considerably shorter than me).  He then broke the handshake and with that hand reached up and touched my puka shell necklace.

“What is this?”

“My necklace?”

“I am disappointed that you have fallen from the principles of the gospel that we teach as missionaries.  We teach than men and women have separate and distinct roles and this is confusing the two.”

My first impression was, “How did you know I served a mission?”

This man then turned to walk away back to the Byroms and Sister Peterson.  As he walked away, the thought occurred, “You have just been rebuked by an Apostle.”

Then it dawned.  David was David B Haight, one of the twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This was an individual I recognized as a Priesthood Leader and on my first meeting with him, I had been rebuked.

I stood there reeling from what had just happened.  It stung.  David went to the back door of his house and summoned his wife Ruby.  Ruby appeared and they all stood 25 feet away from me chit chatting about England, Scotland, and whatever else they were talking about.

What seemed like an eternity was likely only a minute or so, if that.  I remember reaching up and taking the puka shell necklace off and holding it in my hand.  I dwelt on what was really an unintended and probably unwanted visit that was a bother to me and this old man.  Sister Peterson just commented he was home and a few lines of dialogue just ended up potentially effected my eternities.  According to him I was already on the path, so I guess it did not matter what he said except to correct my backsliding ways.

Next thing I knew, the distant conversation between the Haights and Byroms had stopped and this Apostle was returning to me.  He again held out his hand as if to invite another handshake. I held out my hand with the necklace in it and he cupped his hand to receive whatever I was offering.  I dropped the necklace into his hand and once he realized what it was he let it drop to the ground.

He held out his hand again inviting mine in a handshake and I clasped his.  He sidled up close to me again, put his other hand in the small of my back, and was close enough to be in my shadow and that I could smell the salt in his old man sweat, and he continued…

“Where did you serve your mission?”  (I remember thinking that was an ironic question since the Byroms were from England, Sister Peterson served in England, and he asked where the fourth member of the party served his mission?)

“England Manchester Mission”

“How long have you been home?”

(After a quick mental tally) “Nine months”

“Elder, you hold the Priesthood.  You have a duty to uphold that Priesthood.  You should have been married by now.”

He released my hand, pulled his hand from the small of my back, turned, and walked away.  Maybe 4 steps later he turned around and said, “When it happens, I want to know about it.”

He returned to a conversation with Ruby, Sister Peterson, and the Byroms.

I stood there while they chatted for a few more minutes.  I do not recall hearing anything of the conversation between them, even if I was close enough to have heard.

Rosie had a picture taken of the occasion.  Sister Peterson sacrificed herself in the moment to take the photo that now memorializes this occasion.

I shook hands again with Elder David Haight and Sister Ruby Haight and we headed on down the road to see some other homes.  I ended up driving many more hours that day to Boise, Idaho City, Stanley, and elsewhere chauffeuring the Byroms through some of the sights of Idaho.  Rosie Byrom teased me about the moment the rest of the time I was with them.  After all, it is not every day that you get rebuked by an Apostle.  I cannot recall if they overheard the conversation or if I told them about it.  I cannot imagine that they overheard the conversation due to the close proximity in which David and I spoke that day.

Oddly enough, it weighed on me for a long time.  It became the butt of jokes as time went on, especially as David continued to age.  He was already over 95 at the time of my meeting him.  Roommates and friends would indicate that I better hurry or else I would not fulfill the rest of my duty to let David know when it happened.  I will not lie, it became a great story to tell people.  People loved to hear about my rebuke by an Apostle.

I regularly tell the story to individuals I am close to and that wear a necklace.  Missionaries I worked with I regularly told the story, especially if they wore a necklace.  I admit, I never wore a necklace or bracelet of any type since that date.  I know a number of missionaries who have “fallen from the principles we teach as missionaries” and forsaken their evil ways.  Honestly, I do not know that the story is one that should be heeded by others.  But for the deep effect it had upon me at the time and the power in which he spoke to me, I recognize it was for me.  Others should be careful about applying revelation of others to themselves.  But I do believe there is a principle here that we can learn, I just don’t know that I can very clearly articulate it.  I know the principle clearly for me, but don’t know how narrow or general to make it in application to others.

I remember Rosie reminding me that if I properly repent, I would be married within another 9 months.  Boy if that did not apply a little pressure!

As a side, I did pick up my little puka shell necklace and ended up giving it to a friend when I returned to Missouri later in August.  I don’t believe she has any clue what that little necklace meant to me.

There is more to the story.

On the following Monday, I believe 23 July 2001, I was in Salt Lake City with the Byroms.  After an endowment session, Rosie announced we were to go to the Church Administration Building.  She did not tell us why and I thought she just wanted to see the sights from the Church Office Building.  We walked in the Church Office Building and after Rosie talked to the man at the desk, she said we were in the wrong building and we needed to go to the Church Administration Building.  I informed her that the Church Administration Building was not really open to the public.  Rosie announced that we had an appointment.

In light of my experience a few days before, I was not really thrilled about our appointment in the Church Administration Building.  We walked around to the front door of the Church Administration Building and walked in.  As we approached the man at the security desk he asked,

“Are you the Byroms?”

Rosie responded, “Yes.”

“We have been waiting for you.”  (Never a very heartwarming phrase, whether the morgue, jail, CIA, bank, or Church Administration Building)

The man then responded, “You will need to leave your bags here, take the elevator to the fourth floor, take a right, and it is the last door on the left.  I will let them know you are coming up.”

We entered the elevator and headed to the fourth floor.  Rosie then turned and commented to me, “John helped provide security and drive for Elder Ballard while he (Elder Ballard) was in England for the Preston Temple Dedication.  He told us that if we were ever in Utah to stop and pay him a visit.”

Suddenly the realization came to me that I was going to visit with my second Apostle in less than a week.  I am a fairly laid back guy but felt some apprehension after the experience just days before.  We turned the corner and there stood M Russell Ballard in the doorway.  He invited us in to his office, introduced us to his secretary, and then ushered us into his office.  Across from his desk, I think, there were two nice wing-backed chairs.  Another chair was already there for me, or we pulled up a chair.  Elder Ballard left the office for a moment and then reappeared pushing a little chair toward me.  We were already all seated and he asked,

“Where is your wife?”

“I am not married.”

“Oh, that is something you will have to fix.”

He turned to push the little chair back out the door.  I heard Rosie chuckle and comment, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses…”

Elder Ballard returned and took his seat and we had a nice conversation that probably did not take more than 15 minutes.  Once again, Rosie had a picture taken.

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, Elder Ballard

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, M Russell Ballard

That was the extent of the interaction and I felt some sting from the second witness of my duty to uphold the Priesthood.  But it was a pleasant experience.  Rosie reminded me often after that, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Well, time passed and eventually Elder David B Haight did pass from this veil of tears at the end of July 2004, three years after our encounter.  Fortunately, Elder Haight and I did have an opportunity to talk again regarding our first interaction that lessened the blow of the occasion.  Nevertheless, roommates and many friends called after Elder Haight’s passing to let me know how dire my situation was now that the revelator had passed and I had not fulfilled my duty.

Rosie commented to me that I could fulfill my duty by reporting my marriage to Elder Ballard when the time came.

Well, forward a few more years and I became enamored with a little red-headed girl from Kaysville, Utah.  She came to enjoy her time with me and after a while we would end our walks with a little dancing on the porch of the Alumni House at Utah State University.  It became a regular thing to end our walks and evenings out with a dance and closing conversation on the porch of the Alumni House.  I dare say we danced on the porch of that building more than 60 times.  It was on the porch of this little Alumni House that I made an unofficial proposal to Ms. Hemsley.  It just seemed like the right place.

Months later, Amanda and I returned to Logan under the guise of visiting some friends.  While on the campus I took her to that little porch of the Alumni House and there after midnight, now on 4 July 2005, I fell to my knee and proposed to her.  Of course she said yes and we danced and kissed there on the porch of the Alumni House.  Interestingly, before we left that night, I caught sight of a huge portrait hanging inside the doors that open to the porch that had become an important part of our courtship.  As I looked closer, I could see the familiar sight of a man whose face I knew.  As I got a little closer to see in the dark the portrait lit only by fire escape signs it dawned on me it was a portrait of David B Haight.

If that was not a little coincidental, and perhaps a little creepy, I do not know what is.  Elder Haight’s portrait had actually witnessed some of the most personal moments of my courtship.  The building I had only known as the Alumni House is properly named the David B Haight Alumni Center.  Somehow it seemed the whole experience had just came full circle.

We sent a wedding invitation to Elder M Russell Ballard with a short note explaining that due to Elder Haight’s passing I was sending the note and invitation to him to fulfill my duty.  He responded with a card thanking me for my note and invitation and suggested I consider my duty fulfilled.  He also apologized for not being able to attend our reception (which I am glad about, surely some further duty might have been laid upon me if he had!)

There is my story for the above photo with the Haights and Byroms.  Maybe some day I can tell my story about Elder Hales (the Apostle, not my missionary companion)…

Presidents Day

In honour of Presidents Day this year I thought I would post a couple of pictures I have regarding Presidents of the United States.

Brad Hales, me, Anna Badger, and Jeana Stuart

Brad Hales, me, Anna Badger, and Jeana Stuart

Bush and Cheney Inauguration in 2008

Bush and Cheney Inauguration in 2008 in front of the US Capitol

George Washington statute by the Turnbull Commission of Five.  Adams, Jefferson, Washington, all became Presidents.

George Washington statue by the Trumbull Declaration of Independence.  Adams, Jefferson, Washington, all became Presidents, in US Capitol, Washington, DC

Martha and George Washington tombs

Martha and George Washington tombs in Mt Vernon, Virginia
Washington Equestrian Statute with Jefferson standing in front

Washington Equestrian Statue with Jefferson standing in front in Richmond, Virginia

Washington as a Mason in Alexandria, Virginia

Washington as a Mason in Alexandria, Virginia

James Monroe tomb, Richmond, Virginia

James Monroe tomb, Richmond, Virginia

Plaque on James Monroe's tomb

Plaque on James Monroe’s tomb

John Tyler Grave

John Tyler Grave in Richmond, Virginia

John Quincy and Louisa Adams' tombs

John Quincy and Louisa Adams’ tombs in Quincy, Massachusetts

John and Abigail Adams' tombs

John and Abigail Adams’ tombs in Quincy, Massachusetts

Thomas Jefferson's tombstone near Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone near Charlottesville, Virginia

That is pretty much the closest I got to any of these Presidents, that I can prove.  I have also been the resting spots of William Howard Taft, Harry S Truman, John F Kennedy.

Remember, Remember

Despite also being popular for Guy Fawkes Day which recently passed, Remember, Remember also relates to Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, or as we treat it in the United States, Veterans Day.  As an American, the day is more a holiday than a solemn occasion of reflection or remembrance.  Nevertheless, I thought I would honor it this week.

Arlington National Cemetery, Nov 2005

Interestingly, we find many people signing up for secession from the United States.  I find it interesting that Guy Fawkes Day and Remembrance Day are so close on the calendar and their memorable phrases start with the same repetition of the word “Remembrance”.  We seceded from the empire of Great Britain (which used to celebrate Empire Day on 24 May) and won the battle so secession became a legal right in the new colony.  Then part of that new colony seceded and lost the battle so secession was no longer a legal right.  The battle over secession is 1-1 on our soil but the latest precedent is against it.  Our Declaration of Independence is not a legally binding document, but it certainly underlines the presumption of which the nation was founded, and overturned in the Civil War.

Arlington National Cemetery, Nov 2005

Either way, we honor the veterans on both sides of those conflicts in this nation.  It just depends on where you live for which side you might feel a little more inclination.  Here in the west, we really acceded into the United States rather than won our right to be a part of this nation.  The French and Indian, 1812, and Civil War don’t mean much to us in Idaho.

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Nov 2005

When it comes to the world wars of our century, we have a part to play.  Plus it certainly helps to have people we personally know who served and fought in these battles.  Most of us know people who lost loved ones in these two wars.  Hence these wars and accompanying veterans are more honored at present.  In these wars we fought against forced accession into whatever nation was seeking to obtain.

World War II monument, National Mall, Washington, DC, Nov 2005

Then we found ourselves during Korea and Vietnam in what is named the Cold War.  We fought against forced accession by nations we did not agree with (we ignored the rest) but also sought to help other nations secede and ultimately become free and independent.  We helped win that battle with the freedom of nations that were under the control of the United Soviet Socialist Republic.  Elsewhere in the world, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, and the United Kingdom continued to allow other nations to become independent and we supported that movement.

Anna Badger, Jeana Stuart, and Brad Hales at the Iwo Jima monument in Arlington, Virginia, Nov 2005

American policy and law is less than clear on what exactly our position is on secession.  The national mood towards our veterans does not even seem to be as clear cut as it has been in times past.  A divide continues to build.  I am not really sure over what.  Whether we are for or against secession, those who are willing to fight for that right, rightly or wrongly, deserve our honor.  After all, far too many of them gave the greatest sacrifice a person can give.  We find it much more noble when a person voluntarily gives their life (whether they live or die) than those who are not allowed to choose to do so (but not to diminish their sacrifice).  I honor our veterans because of what they give and those who give their all.  Remember, those who live beyond the conflict still have to live with it the rest of their lives.  May we honor all veterans who fight for their cause (are terrorists veterans?).

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington, VA, Nov 2005

Dentist Office #6

I don’t know why, but I thought I would share this only photo I have of the place I lived at Utah State from 2003 to 2005.  It is located on Darwin Avenue in Logan, Utah and is colloquially known as Dentist Office.  Aptly named from the dentist office that occupies the front of the building.  Anyhow, many memories here and just one, somewhat poor, photo.  Maybe someday I will return and get a better photo.

My bed was immediately below the top right window for the entire time I lived there.  I believe the address was something like 655 Darwin Avenue and we were in Apartment #6.

Dentist Office Apartments at Utah State University

A number of roommates lived there while I did.  Some of them are still close friends today.  Some of them include:

Samuel Allred

Lane Blake

Tyler Elison

Lucas Garcia

Matthew Geddes

Brad Hales

Mark Morris

Matthew Petersen

Justin Siebenhaar

Mike Staheli

Seth Warburton

Honorary Mentions:

John Catron

Matjaz Marincic

Joseph Sheppard

Ryan Werner

Taylor Willingham

Here are some pictures from the earlier groups.  I don’t have many of the later roomies, I guess we didn’t see the need to take pictures.

Back(l-r): ?, Sam Allred, Becky Nudd, Seth Warburton, Stephanie Adair, Jeana Stuart; Middle: Emily Sara, Paul Ross, Lynsi Lund, Colby ?; Front: Joe Sheppard, Matt Petersen, Mike Staheli, Brad Hales.

Starting from and working clockwise, Emily Sara, Joe Sheppard, Jeana Stuart, Mike Staheli, Colby ?, Matt Petersen, Lynsi Lund, Seth Warburton, Becky Nudd, Sam Allred, ?, John Catron, ?.

Back: Matt Petersen, Paul Ross, Mike Staheli, Jaime Nelson: Front: Sam Allred, Seth Warburton, Tina Stringham, Brad Hales. On other couch: Melissa Gregory.

Lane Blake, Matjaz Marincic, Brad Hales, Tyler Elison, Mark Morris, Sam Allred, Paul Ross

Taylor Willingham, Paul Ross, Patrick Neary, Greg ? at Bear Lake.

Patrick Neary, Greg ?, Mark Morris with buried Paul Ross at Bear Lake.

Matt Geddes, Lucas Garcia, Paul & Amanda Ross, Anna Badger, Brad Hales

Harlech, Wales

I looked through some old photos of mine that I want to write about and share.  I stumbled upon some old pictures from 2003 and some more in 2008 of visits to Harlech and thought someone might be interested to see them.

Harlech, Gwynedd, Wales is home of one of the castles built by Edward I.  It was built between 1282 and 1289 and played a part is many battles.  Wikipedia provides some quick details namely that this castle held an important place in several wars.  It withstood seige by Madog ap Llywelyn but fell to Owain Glyndwr.  Later it played a part in the War of the Roses and was the last fortification to fall in the Glorious Revolution in 1647.  Honestly, I just wanted to go there after hearing Men of Harlech sang by a choir while I lived in Hyde, Cheshire, England.

In 2003, Brad Hales, Amy Hales, and I decided to venture to Harlech castle.  Neither of us had ventured south of Porthmadog as missionaries in 1998 – 2000 and thought we would venture down to the castle.  We snapped this picture on the road approaching from the north.

Harlech Castle on the hill

Unfortunately, we arrived after the castle had closed for the day.  We snapped this picture of the silhouette and the flags from the road below.

Here is another picture of the castle silhouette looking to the north across Afon Dwyryd estuary toward the direction of Penrhyndeudraeth.

Here is a road above Harlech looking in the same direction.  Notice the amazing, sturdy stone wall.

Brad Hales and his sister, Amy, above Harlech in 2003

This picture is at the same location but shot back towards Harlech.  You can see the outline of the castle towers as well as more of the estuary.

Amy Hales and Paul Ross and the breathtaking Afon Dwyryd estuary in the background

Amanda and I visited again in 2008.  Luckily, we got there with plenty of time to visit and spend time inside.  The day was a bit overcast, but we grabbed some great pictures.  You can also see the considerable difference between the film camera and digital camera!

Picture from below of Harlech Castle

This shot gives you a view of the eastern side with the imposing towers, the gate, the rocky chasm between and gives some impression of how formidable this castle would have been to attack.  Ignore the goober in the picture.

Harlech gate and guard towers

When Harlech was built over 720 years ago it was on the Irish Sea.  Notice how far the sea is from the castle now, about a mile away.  This was taken from one of the castle’s walls.

The Irish Sea from Harlech Castle

View of the Irish Sea from one of Harlech’s towers

Another picture, looking south along the western wall.

A shot looking up at the fireplaces of two other floors.  The majority of all woodwork is missing in this castle and the stone is all that remains.

Fireplaces

You can see the holes in the walls where beams would have been placed in times past.

Harlech Walls

Looking down into the hollow walls of Harlech castle from one of its towers.

We got quite the kick out of this sign.  Would someone really take children on a castle wall?  It looks like adults falling off walls or down the stairs, not children.

Classic Sign

These stairs were pretty steep.

Here is one of the walls.  Funny how no wood in the castle makes it 725+ years but yet a tree can grow out of a tower hundreds of feet up.

I know you are probably getting bored by this point so I should probably wrap it up.  This was the entry to the main quarters (king’s?).

The chimneys just came out at the top of the walls.  I guess at least the sentinels had somewhere to stay warm when on watch.

Inside one of the towers where the water seepage had worn away the wood and stone over the years to leave this intimidating scene.

One last picture looking out toward the Afon Dwyryd estuary.

Thanks to my cutie for traveling to Harlech with me, I love you!  (She is standing on a wall chimney, that is why she is my height.  The southern shoreline is behind us.

A dog named Navel

Today I thought I would share a humorous story about the late-night escapades of a car loaded with Utah State University students venturing down to see the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Sanpete, Utah.  Brad Hales, Mark Morris, Emily Sarà, Seth Warburton, and I made the trip in my 1998 Toyota Camry in what I believe was the spring of 2004.

The story starts with the rather unexciting drive from Logan, Utah to Manti.  We took the normal route off I-15 at Nephi to drive to Manti.  We conveniently located a parking spot only blocks away because we were plenty early.  We met our friends who drove down separately and staked out our territory with quilts on the grassy green expanse you can see in the photo above.  It is on that very same hill that the Mormon Miracle Pageant takes place.  Here is a nice photo I stole from the Deseret News to give some idea of the stage and what is going on.

The pageant ended and the four of us found our way to my little Camry to head out.  We were told by myriad friends that if we truly wanted to get back to I-15 from Manti in a speedy fashion that we should take the old highway out of Manti to the south via Gunnison and Levan.  We started to wend our way through the darkness.

We had a great, great time leaving Manti.  I do not mean to knock the pageant in any way, but we were certainly making light of it.  We hold no ill feelings towards the doctrines or ideas presented, but maybe it was just that year, but the whole thing came off as pretty hokey.  We decided only the local drill team was allowed to be the angels on the hill with their coordinated flag signals that only someone trained in shipping would have understood.  We drove the darkness really making fun and laughing ourselves silly about how poorly some parts of the pageant were done.

The conversation turned as we continued through the dark roads.  We sang along with a song and the conversation turned to Levan, Juab, Utah.  I do not know how true this is, but lore goes that Levan was named Levan because that is “navel” in reverse.  The area was named Levan because it is the very center of the state, about where a navel would be.  I do not think this is really true since I am sure the town was founded before the final boundaries of Utah were defined, but it sure made great fodder for laughing and conversation that night.  (Apparently there is a Levan, Illinois too)

Well, we made our final approach into Levan with the lights of the municipality drawing closer and closer.  Some of the members of the car were preparing the cameras so we could make a very quick stop and everyone could disembark for a photo with the Levan city sign.  We were laughing about getting a picture with Utah’s navel and then it happened.

Do you know that feeling when you see something and suddenly you do not know quite what to do because it is coming upon you so quickly?  As I drove 70 miles an hour down this road and with the blinding of the lights just as you emerge.  I suddenly had a car behind me with his lights on and that was also partly blinding me.  I made out the faint outline of something laying in the middle of my lane.  Just as I could see that, I had a car also coming my direction so I knew I could not really just dodge whatever it was in my lane so I prepared to straddle it.  I could not slam on my breaks because of the car so close behind me, the shoulder on the right, and the car approaching on the left.  I could see it was too big to straddle just as I was too close and too fast to stop.  I clenched my teeth, gripped hard on the steering wheel, and yelled over the conversation for everyone to hold on.

That is when we heard it.  This massive animal went under the car and we heard and felt him rolling under the car and at one point a serious thump right under the feet of the people in the back seat.  The sickening smell of scalded hair filled the car.  Cries rang out, “What was that?”  I watched for the car behind to dodge whatever it was I hit but he didn’t even flinch.  The individuals in the back of my car were trying to see if they could tell what we hit.  I could see no sign of the roadkill in any of my mirrors (beyond the headlight glare from the car behind).  I continued to let the car coast and finally started to breath realizing that massive thing went under the car and did not appear to do any damage at all.  I continued to coast down the now four lane highway until I hit city limits cruising speed.  I think I should point out at this point that this creature was already laying in my lane.  Although because it was so large and lumped, I assume it was a fresh hit and I was just fortunate enough to be the next person to hit it.

Nobody seemed quite as chipper anymore.  Nobody wanted to stop at the Levan city sign.  It was just silence as we drove through town.  As we left town somebody asked if it was a body we hit.  I told them I did not know what we hit but that it looked like a really big dog.  I thought he was a fresh kill and fortunately he rolled right under the car without relatively little incident.  The way he was clumped up in the road though, I was sure the car would jump or he would be lodged there.  The rolling of the thing under the car was clear so no need to get out and take a look underneath.  The others in the car were sure that I killed the dog.  Then more silence; dead silence.

After another 10 or 15 minutes or so with just the faint strains of the radio in the background, conversation started to pick up again.  We named the poor beast “Navel” after Levan.  I did not know what he was, but we were laughing again and having fun conversation again.

We climbed on I-15 and started heading north at full freeway speeds.  I seem to remember that Seth was sitting behind me and he commented on the fact that cars driving by us were looking at us.  Sure enough, we could not figure out why in the world everybody was looking at us.  It surely could not be some coordinated effort to stare us down.  It became a game of sorts to make faces back at the people as they drove by.  This elicited some hilarious expressions back at us.  One lady looked at us in complete and total disgust.  I was the one driving and could see expressions of the individuals.

Finally after probably 20 minutes of this, a car pulled beside us on the freeway and rolled down his window and motioned for me to do the same.  He then yelled, “Hey, you’re dragging a coyote!”  In that split second to conjure and give a response, I yelled back, “It’s okay, we picked him up in Levan!”  The total disgust in his face was quickly manifest and they sped off.  All the occupants of my car erupted into laughter at my complete nonsense reply.  Even now I realize how disconnected it must have sounded motoring down the freeway at 80 miles per hour.  It took me a minute or two to realize what I just said and even I was laughing so hard I was in tears.

Then the thought came, “Now what?”  I am not going to just pull to the side of the freeway in the middle of the dark.  We all decided we would get off at the next exit and see what damage was done.  We had just passed the Nephi exit, so we had at least another 10-20 miles to go before the next exit.  In that meantime driving down the freeway, let me assure you we thoroughly enjoyed those who passed us by.  I deliberately slowed down a little bit to maybe not cause as much damage to Navel.

Here is the question; how do you via some form of charades inform those in other cars that you know you have a coyote dragging behind you?  A thumb up and a big smile just never gets the impression across the 3-4 feet to the passenger in the other vehicle.  They would insist on pointing to the rear portion of the car.  We just smiled bigger and give them two thumbs up.  Of course, we were laughing so hard I don’t know how we stayed on the road.  Every person trying to convey the message must have thought we were a group of sick, psycho individuals who could only laugh.  They must have assumed we did not know, which means they tried all the harder.  As we attempted to confirm we knew, we would all break down in heavier laughter.  I cannot tell you how hilarious this was!

The Santaquin exit fortunately arrived and we left the interstate.  Navel was probably pretty excited about the ending of his trip.  We pulled to the end of the off-ramp and into the gravel of the road.  We all piled out to see our first view of Navel.  This is what we saw!

I know this will be a bit gruesome for some of the viewers out there.  I need to describe this a bit more to you though.  This dog is half worn away by this point!  I think you can tell that half of his head is also ground away.  If you click on the picture and get closer, you can see tiny chunks of hamburger all over the back of my car (Which we did not discover until the next morning because it was so dark.  The picture is only lit from the camera flash).  I cannot tell you the smell that was present, but my expression and covering my nose should give you some hint.  It was flat-out disgusting.  Also, I point out to you that Navel’s leg was jammed between the body of the car and part of my undercarriage right in the middle of the car near the axle.  That means Navel is at this point stretched out probably 5 feet in length from the axle to the end of his leg you can see in the picture.  He was mangled, stretched, and partly disintegrated.

Now the issue became, how to get him out from under the car?  We tried backing up hoping he would become unattached.  We tried poking at him with a tire iron.  Brad even had the idea to stand on him when I drove off, but we then became afraid of Navel coming apart.  You know how you should avoid injured dogs?  None of us really wanted to lay down next this stinky dog, slide under the car in the dark, and try to get him unattached.  What options are left?  We decided to drive to a gas station for assistance.

We hopped back on I-15 and began another episode of being stared down by every car passing us.  It was not quite as funny anymore.  Levity did finally arrive as we would deliberately not look at the cars trying to get our attention and then we would break down laughing to the horror of those trying to inform of us our dire situation.  The 10 miles or so to the next exit with a gas station went exceedingly slow.

Now we were parked on the sanitary and clean concrete of the Payson Maverik.  We all stood around the car again trying to figure out what we were going to do.  At least now we had sufficient lighting to really tell what was going on.  We stood around talking and figuring a plan of attack.  Emily and Seth figured out they would not have to do the dirty deed so they went in the store and returned passing out donuts!  Emily remembers that I made some comment like, “What do you think this is, some sort of Relief Society meeting?”  The comments from individuals as they came up to our circle and realized what we were all standing around looking at, WHILE eating donuts.  I remember one lady was very disgusted.

I tried climbing under the car but it was so low to the ground that I could not reach the spot where Navel had his leg lodged.  Nobody wanted to have to get out a jack so we could climb under the car.  I walked into the Maverik and asked for ideas or thoughts.  The attendant suggested I go grab a rod for turning valves down in the ground (about 3 feet long with a “T” at the top) and try using it to get him dislodged.  We poked and prodded at him for a while.  The broken leg and all the tissue just wasn’t helping me pull out his leg.  I cannot emphasize how terribly disgusting of a sight that Navel was.  This is roadkill that we had to deal with in an intimate fashion.

Finally our hero arrived with a couple of rednecks in a red Dodge minivan.  The dad walked up and asked us what the problem was.  Upon seeing Navel and then looking at my Missouri license plate he asked, “You from Mississippi?”  I responded, “No, Missouri” and he walked back to his minivan and his son quickly appeared with a plastic bag in his hand.  That little 7 or 8 year old climbed under my car without any fear and with his plastic covered hand pulled Navel’s limb out of its wedged location.  (I warned him of the hot exhaust which he still hit with his little arm!)  The kid then and went and hopped back in the little van (and did not go inside to wash!).

I walked in and told the attendant I wanted to buy that red minivan’s fuel.  He let me do it.  The man was appreciative, and so was I!

Now, what to do with the remains of Navel?  The Maverik attendant suggested we just throw him in the dumpster at the side of the building.  No small task for a bag of bones that must have still weighed 50 pounds.  Nobody wanted to touch him so we used the valve rod to pick him up and walked him to the dumpster.  We could not get the rod up over the top of that dumpster without Navel sliding down the rod.  It clearly was not working.  I finally had to reach out and touch Navel to hold him in place and keep him from sliding down the rod while Seth and I put him in the dumpster.

We returned the bloody rod to its location and later, unfortunate user.  We both washed our hands multiple times in the bathroom before heading to the attendant to let him know we were leaving.  He gave us both a Mt. Dew for the road!  We thanked him and headed on our way.  We arrived in Logan, Utah about 1:00 or so in the morning and all collapsed into our beds.  But whenever I hear of Manti, Levan, or the Mormon Miracle Pageant; I now think of Navel the dog from Levan.  May he forgive me for dragging him over 40 miles!  May he forgive us for the endless laughs that night and many since then at his expense.  I feel bad about his owners who wondered where their dog ran off to, I guess at least they did not see his terrible state.

A duck story and the Gores

Here is a picture of our latest visitors here in Oklahoma City.  Kevin and Jean Gore from Walkden, Greater Manchester, England.  They visited and stayed with us for two evenings and about two days.

I first come to know the Gores in 1998 as I was preparing to leave for my mission to the UK.  The Bishop from the Hazelton Ward, Paul Tateoka, sent word through his brother in my ward, Ted Tateoka, that I needed to call this couple from the UK.

The Gores were staying with one of the missionaries who had brought them into the church, who lived 5 miles or so down the road from me.  I called the Meacham home and had a nice visit with Kevin for about 30 minutes or so.  I obviously had my mission call, but I do not recall knowing that they lived in my mission.  Kevin knew I was in the mission so he told me a few interesting things and we hung up the phone.

I admit I completely forgot about this conversation with Kevin Gore until my first Sunday serving in the Eccles Ward (now Swinton) of the Manchester England Stake.  I stood there shaking hands with members and introducing myself when a man asked if I was Elder Ross from Hazelton, Idaho.  I apparently looked dumbfounded so he informed me that I had spoken with him on the phone before my mission.  Granted, this was the first time I laid eyes on him.  Well, that started a relationship that has now come down through the years.  I served in the Eccles Ward for about 6 months, although since there were two sets of missionaries, me and my companion had the other half of the ward.

The Gores were probably one of the closest families I had in that ward, although there were a couple.  Before we left late in 1999, Kevin and Jean Gore treated all four of the missionaries to a very nice roasted duck dinner.

Time has a way of marching on, and so it has done with this friendship.  Brad Hales, Amy Hales, and I visited the Gores again in the summer of 2003 when we went to England for a convert baptism of a lady who Elder Hales and I had once taught (in Runcorn Ward).  I think we spent two evenings with them at that time, although our time was limited because they were working and we had other people in the area we also visited, but Jean made us a roasted duck dinner again!  We did not request it, but she made it, and it was fabulous.  We again enjoyed our time with them, although limited.

The Gores were kind enough to invite us to the wedding of their son, Ian, in Springville, Utah in 2004.  Brad Hales and I visited, partook of the food (no roasted duck!), and enjoyed a good evening with our British friends.  The Gores came to visit Utah in 2008 again, but we were only able to enjoy a light dinner at Olive Garden together (again, no duck, only in England!).

Amanda and I made the trek over the water again in 2008.  This time we again spent 2 nights with the Gores in their home on Trinity Crescent.  Both in 2003 and 2008 I knew the neighborhood well enough I could still drive to the home without much difficulty.  Jean once again made her now famous roasted duck dinner!  I honestly think this is the only times I have ever eaten duck in the past decade, if ever in my life (other than what they call duck at the Chinese buffet).  The Gores were more than kind in allowing us to stay with them, use their computers, talk family history, and even hosted a little get together of other members of the Swinton Ward I still knew and asked about.

Here we are in 2011, 13 years later after the phone conversation, and the Gores have come to visit us!  Sorry, we did not treat them to a roasted duck dinner.  It would have been an insult to Jean’s cooking.  Their son, Ian, had moved from Springville, Utah to Bentonville, Arkansas.  Kevin and Jean wanted to come down to visit the Oklahoma City Temple and, we feign to believe, us.  We drove out to Pops Soda Shop in Arcadia.  We also ate out at our favorite little Mexican joint and then we treated them to capers and artichoke pasta the night we made them dinner.  We played a couple of games of Ticket to Ride and just enjoyed our time together.  Thanks for being such great friends and keeping in contact through the years!

When is the next time we will see the Gores?  And, the question you all want to know, will there by duck involved?

Favorite Script

It is a common thing.  We are supposed to have our favorites.  I am not sure why.  With such a large body of material, why do we have to pick out a few favorites, or even a ‘most favorite’?  In some senses, it doesn’t seem quite right.  Do we have a favorite child?  Do we have a favorite cousin?  Do we have a favorite anything?  I guess the question is more, ‘should we’?

Perhaps it is the world or a weakness tendency in the human race.  Another one of those great weaknesses like pride.  Really, I guess it just is a manifestation of pride.  Usually favorites seem to indicate those things that are most kin to us.  They are those things which somehow seem to reflect or speak of us.

When in the whole, aren’t we supposed to take the whole?  Take into consideration all?  Preferences seem okay, but they are the easy route.  Is this another reason we don’t like missionary work?  We are forced to work with those people who are not our favorites?  Or we are afraid we won’t be a favorite anymore?  Who knows.

Through the years, I have had one scripture which seems to reflect my feelings and passion of life.

One night as I spent the evening in the home of Terry McCombs, he gave me a scripture to think about before I retired for the evening.

“Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessings which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.”  (D&C 67:3)

As I laid there in the old comfortable bed, I read this scripture.  There happened to be a set of scriptures on the bedside and I did not have my own.  I could read it and think about it.  It really hit me pretty hard.  A whole host of blessings which I wanted to receive, but due to fears I was not receiving.  Terry had given this scripture to me for a particular reason and fear with which I was faced.  I just could not seem to let go of it.

Somehow I felt there must be an answer to this scripture.  I did not know how to overcome fear.  I did not know how to receive.  I did not know a whole lot of things.  I still don’t.

Then somewhere around 2 or 3 AM I stumbled upon this scripture.  Somehow in nearly all instances, it still speaks to me.  When asked my favorite scripture, I almost just as quickly give the reference.  In the mission field, the scripture took a whole new meaning.  It applied to others and the work with which I was employed.  Just a couple of weeks ago Brad Hales asked me my favorite scripture.  I gave it to him just as quickly.  While I am sure he must have heard it dozens of times, it meant nothing to him, no recollection whatsoever.  Yet it has somehow always been a bedrock for me.  It is somewhat out of context, but still very applicable.

“Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.  But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.  Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.”  (Alma 26:6-8)

In the mission it was not to get baptisms or converts, but to put them in connection with and into the hands of the Lord of the harvest.  All people.  Member or not.  To help them make that connection.

In my personal life, despite all the storms and whirlwinds that may come, God will uphold and protect those who are faithful.  I thought of this scripture numerous times with the episode with Mom.  I thought of it with adversaries in all things.  Those who are truly converted will not be beaten or harrowed.  They are gathered to their place and singing to God.  Reminds me of “Guide us, O Thou Great Jehovah.”

“When the earth begins to tremble, bid our fearful hearts be still.  When thy judgments spread destruction, keep us safe on Zion’s hill.  Singing praises, singing praises, songs of glory unto thee, unto thee.  Songs of glory unto thee.”

May we all be more like this.  Less worrying, less fearful, more buoyant and pressing forward despite all odds.