Friday, August 28, 2009

One of the best nights of the year

Kulani and I experienced yet again one of our favorite nights of the year, the annual J. Reuben Clark Law School's Founder's Day Dinner. This would make it our tenth year of attending. It's a night dedicated to remembering why it was that more than 30 years ago, the LDS church authorities thought it important enough that BYU have a law school.

Seems rather strange to some that the LDS church would be encouraging "more" of its followers to become lawyers. If you are to believe as a sister-in-law of mine believes, all lawyers are going straight to hell. But at the Founder's Day Dinner, you get a glimpse into that vision, and it makes you so excited and proud to be part of it. And it always leaves me wanting to be a better person.

They always give an award to a distinguished alumni. This year they gave an award to an R. Keith Perkins, class of '93. Perkins is a lawyer in Arizona who founded the Never Again Foundation, which provides free civil representation for women, children, and senior citizens who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse in civil actions directly against their abusers. The Foundation has collected more than $170 million in verdict awards on behalf of its clients. The services are free to the victims, and 100% of all judgments that are actually collected are provided to the victims to help them rebuild their lives.

Perkins was present to accept the award that night, and he started his speech by getting choked up over his love for BYU. I, of course, also started to cry, because that's who I am. Kulani again reminded me that I was a big ball baby. In vintage Kulani speak, he says to me: "What's wrong with you, Larry Miller." This caused me to start laughing pretty hardily. Larry Miller, rest in peace, is a bit of a running joke in our family. My father, who is certifiably probably one of the biggest criers of any man I've ever known, said to Kulani once, "I don't like Larry Miller. He cries too much." Well if that isn't calling the kettle black...

The night also features a speaker with close ties to BYU law school. Last night's speaker was the Honorable Dale A. Kimball. He taught at BYU from 1974-1976. He now serves as a Federal Judge.

It was a great speech sprinkled with funny stories. One story he included was about him and his friend being fired from hoeing sugar beets on his father's farm in Draper because of his poor sugar-beet thinning skills. That hit home for me, as I saw my father fire my two oldest brothers from our family custodial business for "horsing around." He allowed them to come back, however, just as Judge Kimball's dad for him.

The part of his talk I hope to remember and infuse in my life, however, was how in his role as judge, the one character trait more LDS people and people of the world could use is honesty. I don't have the quote with me directly, but it was very powerful and made me want to make sure that honesty was very much a part of my moral fabric.

I'll share one more story, because it's a classic law school story that always makes me very fond of Rex Lee, the law school's first dean and also a huge reason why the law school is such a success today. I've heard this story before, but last night it was shared to us by Elder Bruce C. Hafen, also a past law school dean.

LDS church president Harold B. Lee died in 1978. Soon after, Spencer W. Kimball was called to be president of the church. Judge Kimball called Rex Lee on the phone and said, "The Lees are out, and the Kimballs are taking over."

Years later, after President Spencer W. Kimball died, President Ezra Taft Benson was called to be prophet. Rex Lee called up an old student and now judge, Dee Benson, and asked him to call Judge Kimball and say, "The Kimballs are out, and the Bensons are in." As soon as Dee Benson said that to Judge Kimball, Kimball said, "Benson, Rex put you up to this!"

Just a great night that I thought I would record for history sake. Oh, and this blog got quoted by the BYU Web site, so that was cool:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ed's Wedding

You can imagine that after marrying off nine children, my parents were done with the "pomp and circumstance" of weddings. The contrast between Amy's wedding reception (the oldest girl in the family) and Ed's (the last to marry) is very contrasting.

Amy's wedding had four bridesmaid's with hand-made dresses. Amy's wedding dress was also hand-made by my aunt Kathy. Mom prepared hundreds of daisy-shaped mints. There was a big wedding line popular amongst the Mormon culture, with a backdrop draped in white fabric. And tons of flowers.

This was Ed's wedding reception:

A big bouncy house in the backyard for the kids.

Grilling hot dogs and hamburgers out of the garage. No line.

But we still had a chance to visit with some of the best people in the world.

People like:

My Aunt Norma (pictured below). And Uncle Fred (pictured behind me in the picture below). Absolutely some of my greatest heroes.

Neighbor girl and long-time friend Melissa Crockett Clark.

My parents, with oldest niece Kelsie. By all calculations, Kelsie will be the next wedding, hopefully not for another six years at the least.
Not pictured are some of the old Paul 4th Ward regulars: The Andersons, Fred and Judy, and other aunts and uncles who are much loved in my heart.

My parents did finally get rid of their old couch. I think it was older than me. It was the type of couch that would have sat comfortably in Napolean Dynamite's home. Now my parents have this upscale sectional model:

Out with the old, in with the new.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mrs. Jensen the Heyburn Music Teacher

While in Idaho for my youngest brother Ed's wedding, I ran into the now-retired music teacher of Heyburn Elementary School, Mrs. Jensen. She looked EXACTLY the same as when she taught us in school. (That's a picture of me and her my cousin Jill took for me.)

We never appreciated Mrs. Jensen much back then. Music class seemed so much more boring than P.E. or even library.

And Mrs. Jensen was a stickler.

"Get up in your high-singing voices," she would sing while tapping the top of her head with her hand.

We sang songs out of these old books from the 70s. Ever heard of the gospel spiritual "Ezekial Saw the Wheel?" Well, I have. And I can still sing it to you. He saw the wheel wwaaaaay up in the middle of the air. Does mamma 'low banjo playin' 'round here? No she don't, according to another song we sang in Mrs. Jensen's class.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think children in public schools today are learning the same songs Mrs. Jensen taught us. "Where have you been, Billy Boy?," "This Land was Made for You and Me," "Candy Man/Salty Dog," and "If I had a hammer" were regulars on her song list.

After I had my first child Lilia, I noticed those old songs making a comeback in my singing-goodnight repertoire. When we were kids, our absolute favorite song to sing was "Senor Don Gato." We'd beg Mrs. Jensen to let us sing that one.

I remember holding Lilia and "Senor Don Gato's" lyrics came flooding back to me. Kulani had never heard that song before, and he laughed whenever I'd sing it to Lilia. A rush of emotion flooded me, and I was grateful for a music teacher who taught us the oldies but greaties.

Lyrics to "Senor Don Gato"
Oh Senor Don Gato was a cat
On a high red roof Don Gato sat.
He went there to read a letter,
Meow, meow, meow
Where the reading light was better
Meow, meow, meow
'Twas a love note for Don Gato.

"I adore you," wrote the lady cat
Who was fluffy, white and nice and fat
There was not a sweeter kitty,
Meow, meow, meow
In the country or the city,
Meow, meow, meow
And she said she'd wed Don Gato

Oh, Don Gato jumped so happily
He fell off the roof and broke his knee
Broke his ribs and all his whiskers,
Meow, meow, meow
And his little solar plexus,
Meow, meow, meow
"Ay, Caramba!" cried Don Gato

Then the doctors all came on the run
Just to see if something could be done
And they held a consultation,
Meow, meow, meow
About how to save their patient,
Meow, meow, meow
How to save Senor Don Gato

But in spite of everything they tried
Poor Senor Don Gato up and died
And it wasn't very merry,
Meow, meow, meow
Going to the cemetery,
Meow, meow, meow
For the ending of Don Gato

When the funeral passed the market square
Such a smell of fish was in the air
Though his burial was slated,
Meow, meow, meow
He became reanimated,
Meow, meow, meow
He came back to life, Don Gato

Friday, August 7, 2009

Smokey the Bear, I'm Sorry!

Today is Smokey the Bear's 65th birthday. Well, maybe not TODAY, but around this time 65 years ago he was created to help kids prevent forest fires. He's the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.

Even though he is steeped into the psyche of every American boy and girl encouraging us that "only YOU can prevent wildfires," I didn't help prevent an almost-wildfire. But in my defense, it wasn't really me: it was my cousin who begged me to go on a double-date with two bozos.

My cousin Monica grew up a couple miles from me. She's the same age as me, and we attended the same schools. For about four years, her family moved to Illinois, only to return when we hit junior high.

About our junior or senior year in high school, Monica fell head-over-heels in love with this attractive, older guy from Burley, our cross-town rival school. I think he was graduated and waiting for his mission call. Monica was gaga for him. Complete nutso over him. I didn't get the appeal, but when do friends ever understand the beatings of another friend's heart? He was attractive, I'll give him that, but I got the sense that he KNEW he was attractive. I can never trust people who KNOW they're attractive.

Monica wanted me to tag along on date with her and this dreamboat guy. The dreamboat guy even invited his best friend to obligingly go on a date with me. A double date, as they call it. Only my date was much more interested in Monica's date, if you get my meaning. He didn't seem so much as a best friend as much as he did as a closeted admirer of Mr. I-Know-I'm-Good-Looking-Cousin-Monica's-Dreamboat Guy.

We need to assign names. This is getting too complicated if I keep referring to these people with these long names. Let's say Monica's man's name was Jason, and his friend was Freddy. We need good horror sounding named for this story.

Jason and Freddy owned a Jeep and loved to take the Jeep offroading. If you didn't know, Jeeping is a whole, blood-pumping sport adored by pockets of people all over the United States. They take it seriously, and they like challenging their Jeeps to go up and down mountains and hills, willing their Jeeps to beat common sense and scientifically based "theories" such as "gravity."

Since it was Freddy's Jeep, I got a front, right-side view of all the Jeeping activity. Freddy drove the Jeep up a steep mountain to a little place in the mountains where we were going to have dinner. There were moments that I was sure the front wheels would lose the grip of the mountains, and we'd tumble backwards, end over end. Monica seemed oblivious to our impending doom, as I think she was playing grab and giggle in the back with Jason.

We miraculously made it to our dinner destination in the mountains. It looked like an old homestead home. I think the plan was to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire. It had been a rainy summer, and I didn't see any firewood in the back of Freddy's Jeep.

On the drive up the mountain of death, Freddy was bragging about his exploits as a summer intern with the Forest Service. I wouldn't repeat it in a court if pressed, because my memory is getting fuzzy, but I think he told us of guys in the Forest Service who would start small, manageable fires, so they could get overttime pay. The problem, however, is when the small, manageable fires get out of hand and become huge, sweeping wildfires. He said that happens from time to time, but not that summer. Too wet, he said.

Let me pause here a second and evaluate my conscience. I'm not sure the statute of limitations has passed. I'm 33 and this happened when I was about 17. Yeah, I think it will be okay to continue. (Maybe I should consult Kulani. What about civil repercussions? Ah heck. Caution into the wind and all that.)

Freddy brought out a gas container and started pouring gasoline all over this old homestead house. Then he brought out a match. The boys encouraged us to stand back. Then Freddy lit the house on fire!

I asked, "Isn't this someone's home?"

There answer seemed true enough, "Nah. It's been abandoned for over 50 years."

We watched it burn for a while. I don't remember roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. I wanted to get the heck out of there, even if it was in that blasted deathtrap Jeep. We left while the fire was still burning, but it started to rain very soon afterwards. I'm pretty sure the fire didn't spread, or it would have made the papers.

We made it back to Jason's house, where they showed us home-video footage of them making homemade bombs.

The worst part about this whole story: I actually went on a second double-date with these yahoos. We went spelunking where I rammed my nose against a rock because the guys wondered what crawling around in a completely pitch-dark cave would be like. I still have the scar. That scar is like Karma's way of getting after me for not trying to stop those guys from burning down the house. Sorry, Smokey.