LEVELS 10 to 20 1980-1990
One of the main events that drew people to the Preston area each summer was the Famous Preston Night Rodeo. For three days in a row, near the end of July, on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, there was a fantastic parade in the late afternoon through town. Filled with floats, marching bands, horses, pooper-scoopers after the horses, fire engines, cool cars, and lots of taffy thrown from the floats to the thousands gathered. After the parade, the carnival rides at one of the city parks began to breathe to life, and next door to the sounds of squeals and thrills of carnival riders was the rodeo arena with its lights that illuminated the night. There was something for everyone to enjoy: food, rides, animals, socialization. It was a fun time. (Unless you just wanted peace and quite.)
The Kiwanis and Lions Clubs sold concessions at each rodeo as fund raisers. Grandpa was a member of the Kiwanis, and when I was old enough, he asked if I wanted to help. That first night, a major rainstorm began drenching the area half way through the rodeo. Most of the crowd left. Only a smattering of die-hard fans stayed in the stands covered with umbrellas or blankets. The rodeo didn’t stop. Two vivid memories I have of this are…. One was of the steer wrestling. When the cowboys jumped off their horses, grabbed the horns of the steer and planted their feet, usual they gained traction on the dirt and could flip the steer over. In the deep mud, their boots became skis on the shallow lake of mud and the steer pushed them along with a spray of mud. Second was the bull riding competition. Vividly, I recall a cowboy getting bucked off the bull, the beast stepped on him, and his whole body nearly disappeared in the sludge. The soft, brown muck actually saved him from very serious injury. But, I bet he was sore. Yet, soreness is familiar territory for a cowboy.
I started my first paid job at age eleven. I would feed calves in the morning and after school for Reed McEntire’s farm. Once summer came, my duties were expanded to moving pipe, cleaning the barn after milking, and helping with the yard work around their home. My employment came to an end there when mom felt like he was not increasing my wages fairly. I might have been young, but I know I a was diligent and conscientious worker, and she felt like I was being taken advantage of. Being my first job, I had no idea what was considered fair.
Being a good sized and strong young man, I also was frequently asked to help “buck hay” for farmers. Which meant helping to gather the 50 to 70 pound bales from the field and stack them in covered hay sheds. It was hard work, but, in retrospect, I liked it. Now, in the twenty-first century, most bales are one to two tons and only moved by tractors and other equipment. Moving bales by hand is considered archaic and inefficient farming. However, it is sad to see that character building opportunity go away for country raised kids.
At about age 14, Dad helped me get a job at Parker Brothers, the John Deere dealership, where he worked. I remember my first assignment was to wax several used combines so they “sparkled” for resale. Combines have A LOT of surface area. Daniel, in The Karate Kid movie (1984), had nothing on me for experience in “wax on” and “wax off”. Later, my duties expanded there too. During the school year I would go in to vacuum, sweep, and mop the sales floor and parts area. In the summer I was running parts around (I received my driver’s license at age 14), delivering combines that couldn’t fit on the semi they had, washing tractors before the mechanics worked on them, and I even began to learn to do body and paint work on used equipment that was being refurbished for resale. I enjoyed the job. Cleaning out the drain on the cement pad where the tractors were washed off was the least desirable. It was filled with grains, tractor lubricants, and manure, a “toxic” combination in sight and smell. I wore a protective, filtered breathing mask to do that job as I did for painting equipment.
During my senior year a fire took out the sales area of the dealership. My dad bought what was left of the building, basically the shop area only, and started his own repair shop, Reed’s Farm Repair, but he did not do any sales of used or new equipment. One other short term, but in retrospect, awesome job I had was working on a Navajo Sheep Ranch. (It wasn’t run by Navajos, that was the breed of long-haired sheep that was raised on it.) It was owned by a wealthy man from California, but Mark Anderson was hired as the live-on-site manager. I moved pipe, built pole and rail fences, repaired barbed wire fences, sprayed weeds, and cleaned the shop. It was hard but rewarding work. A particular fond memory was how Mark and his family treated me so much like family. I didn’t have to bring my own lunch each day. Near noon Mark came and found me where ever I was working, we went to his house, washed up, and I sat with his family for a delicious meal. Afterwards, we would go downstairs into the cool basement, lay on the carpeted floor and fall asleep for about thirty minutes before going back out and tackling the afternoon work.
Once I reached seventh grade I was able to play running back and defensive end on the school football team. Again, I was a big kid. Only one other kid in the middle school compared with me in size at that time. I played football for three years. I decided to stop my sophomore year for two reasons…One, I was getting hit harder than I could hit back (that wasn’t fun), and the coach was an arrogant jerk. (I don’t use that term often, but that term seems most accurate based upon how he treated me, and how I saw him treat many others not within his favor.) I did play a little basketball, but only on the church ward team. I was okay in skill level, but not great.
I continued to play soccer all through high school. At that time Idaho had not officially recognized it as a sanctioned sport. We competed against AYSO club teams in Idaho and played against school sponsored teams in Utah. We weren’t a great team, but we had fun and broke ground for an expanded program for years to come. I don’t know how coach Jerry Moore pulled it off without it being an official sport, but he gave us athletic “letters” for playing.
I participated in Boy Scouts of America and earned my Eagle Badge at age 14. My primary supporters to achieve this were my parents and Byron Kelly, a dynamic scoutmaster. I admit I was kind of a wimpy scout. I really didn’t like camping with a bunch of boys. Most boys, when out in that environment were rude and gross: belching, farting, spitting, and annoying stuff like that.
The only broken bone I have had in life (up to age 50) came from a winter camp experience. I was sledding down a hill on an inner tube, bounced off, and rolled the rest of the way down. My shoulder/neck area was in great pain. My scout leader who knew anatomy because he was a dentist, checked me out, and determined I was not injured bad enough to take home (about a 45 minute drive). I don’t blame him for thinking I was exhibiting wimpy-ness again. I spent a long, miserable night. Each time I moved in bed I felt my bone pop and grind. The next day when I got home, I was taken to the hospital by my mother, it was revealed that my collar bone was broken. In retrospect, as an adult, this is what I think happened. I cracked the collarbone on the hill, so when he inspected it, he couldn’t feel anything because nothing was out of place. It was when I tried to climb in the top bunk that the already cracked bone snapped in two. So, I don’t blame him for that. But, I think my mom still might. Whenever I visit Preston he reminds me that mine was the only broken bone he ever had in his many years as a Scoutmaster. Some others who were there and recall that event claimed I was a real tough kid. They remember it differently than I do. But, I don’t remember crying in front of anyone. I was just trying to move as slow as possible and clench my teeth with any motion because of the pain.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, I had chronic bronchitis regularly. Coughing so loud and so often became a source of embarrassment to me. It did affect my self-esteem some. I am not sure how I did sports so well. I guess my passion for them outweighed my lung discomfort. When I quit football, part of my plan was to get bigger and stronger and return to the game, so I developed my own year-round fitness routine. It wasn’t long after that my bronchitis symptoms subsided. By the time I served a full-time mission at age 19, I did not miss one day of service during those two years due to personal illness. (I never went back to football. I began to find rewards in academic and paid work achievement.)
I lost my first permanent tooth in middle school. I was chasing a boy who was making fun of me over my affections for a girl. As I chased him my body went on one side of a locker and my face went on the other, and my front left tooth greeted the corner, broke off completely, and flew out somewhere. I have had a false front tooth ever since.
Believe it or not I discovered girls were significantly different than boys during this decade of my life. Miriam Christiansen was the first girl who “chased” me. She ended up terrifying me more than anything. She liked to kiss a lot, and was very clingy. I halted our relationship on that level, I was not socially graceful, and don’t remember how I did it, but it ended. How could I be graceful, that was 8th grade maturity? We were still cordial friends. In fact, after I was married, and with children I saw her at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake and we exchanged a hug and some catch-up conversation.
Linda Gebbs, the older sister to my friend Dwayne who lived down the road, took an interest in me and I in her. We were considered boyfriend and girlfriend for two years. What happened? Well, she was a senior in high school when I was a sophomore. She went away to college and discovered men far more interesting and mature than me…well, that ended that.
During my junior year, Grandpa Byington took me on a trip to Florida, the Kennedy Space Center, Disney Epcot Center, and on a cruise to the Bahamas. (Grandma had passed away by this time.) On this trip most of the people were retired folks who had time and money to travel, but there was one family that had a girl two years younger than me, and her little brother. I can honestly say Michelle (Shelli) Phillips was my first serious crush. We spent quite a bit of time together on that large ship. I still feel bad to this day that I didn’t spend more time with grandpa during that time. (I plan on apologizing to him when I see him in heaven.) But, when grandpa and I were on land we did everything together, just not on the boat.
Once we were back in Preston and school life…I didn’t officially “date” Shelli because the LDS church has a teaching of not dating before 16 years of age, and she wasn’t that old yet. I honored that age recommendation, but I liked to hang out with her occasionally. She cut my hair several times. She actually had a boyfriend, so we were just friends spending time together. At the time, I think we were both curious as to where our relationship might go. I wasn’t impressed with the way her boyfriend treated her. What happened between us? This time I was the one who went away to college and started dating Rebecca (Becky) Head.
Becky was from Chicago, a city girl. We dated all of my first semester of college at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In fact, between the time the fall semester ended to the time I was to enter the mission field I had three months. To the dismay of my parents I chose not to stay home during that time. I asked my Aunt DeVonna if I could live with her in the Utah Valley area because I wanted to be close to Becky for those three months. Even after I entered the missionary training center, Becky would write me at least twice a week. When she went back to Chicago after the college semester ended and I was in South Africa, everything changed. She never “Dear Johned” me. She just stopped writing. I think I got one letter and one audio recording from her the whole twenty-two months I was in South Africa, and she didn’t even act like anything was wrong. I was sad and a bit ticked. Needless to say, we grew apart. We dated once or twice when I got back but nothing as far as romance there.
However, because I wanted to be near Becky for those few short months I worked at the Deseret Industries Humanitarian Aid Center located in Provo at that time. I made such a positive impression on the manager, Garret Davis, that he made a special effort to get me back when I returned from serving a mission. It was while at that work place that I met Marya. So, indirectly, my relationship with Becky led me to the place for meeting Marya. (I will share more on that story in the chapter covering Levels 20 to 30.)
I liked music and followed the pop music billboard charts, and liked the big-hair, music groups and break dancers. I started trying to dress like the music stars. Let me put it this way, at one time my hair was buzzed short on the sides and back of my head. My hair was longer on top and I bleached it a light brown using hydrogen peroxide. I also had a tuft of longer hair on the back of my neck called a “rats tail”. I bleached it lighter too. One of my favorite outfits to wear to school was camouflage high top shoes, camouflage pants, a camo vest, a British flag bandanna around my knee, a blue polo shirt and a silver-colored necklace choker around my neck. This personal dress fad stopped sometime during my sophomore year of high school. My parents didn’t fight me on this, but I am confident they were glad when this fashion fad of mine ended. (In retrospect this is what I think happened inside me. I was no longer getting attention for being one of the large boys in school, so I created a new way to get attention. During my sophomore year academics and my work became important to me, and I began to feel recognition for that.)
Mrs. Adair and Mr. Johnson. There are times in life when people cross our paths that seem to be heaven sent. I was somewhat of a school brat. I wasn’t rude to teachers, but at the beginning of my freshmen year I was not taking school seriously, and my grades proved it. I was more concerned with trying to fit in with peers than school. The skilled teaching of Marta Adair made me realize learning can be fun, and challenging, and rewarding, all at the same time. I credit her skills for much of my turn around in my perspective of school. Later in her career, she went on to instruct university students on how to be teachers, how to master and create a learning atmosphere in their classrooms.
Another impacting teacher was Mr. Johnson, the art teacher. I had been talented with drawing for many years. Mr. Johnson helped to magnify my knowledge and skill in that area greatly. I even considered majoring at college in art. He was an energetic soul. He knew how to connect with kids and have fun, but also gain their respect.
During high school, through the scouting program, there was a medical explorer post I took part in. With my love of sports, fitness, science, and participating in this medical “club” I decided I wanted to major in physical therapy in college. That is what I started my collegiate studies in, but changed to exercise physiology when I learned that physical therapists have to work on cadavers as part of the major requirements. (I didn’t do well with “gross” things. I usually threw up.) I chose to go to college at Brigham Young University in Utah because that is the only place I ever wanted to go.
Dad and Mom were kind enough to let me use their cars most of my growing up years. Most of the time it was a little white Toyota hatchback Corolla. At that time, as noted before, in Idaho you could get a driver’s license at age 14. The theory was that a lot of kids worked on farms and were driving equipment and trucks anyway, so why not let them drive legally so they could work and have responsible citizen building experiences. Yes, I had my driver’s license before I entered high school. I didn’t buy myself a car until after graduating high school. It was a 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo dust blue in color. It almost looked white unless it was parked next to a white car, then you could tell it was very, very, very light blue. It had a big engine, went fast, and burned lots of fuel. (I wouldn’t want it today.)
I was quite shy and didn’t participate in a lot besides soccer. I focused on academics. I ended up getting my grades up enough to get into the top 10% of my graduating class despite that terrible freshman year. I was asked to participate in the National Honor Society, I was part of the art club. Because of the level of academics I did achieve, I was asked to give the welcoming remarks at high school graduation.
My senior year I received three awards. Awards that I was not trying to earn, but did earn just because of my academic commitments and character traits. At the last assembly I attended at the end of the school year, I was awarded with being the second fastest typer in the school (This was before computers so it wasn’t called keyboarding. There were manual and electric typewriters. Computers were just barely starting to gain a foothold as far as a standard in educational priority. Let’s put it this way, computers were so new that the less-than-fully-qualified football coach taught the computer class. Black screens with yellow dot characters was the norm.)
I was also presented with the award for achieving the highest science and math grades for all four years of high school. I have no clue how I did this. I didn’t consider myself that intelligent or that good of a student….but that is what the teachers claim who analyzed the records and declared I had the highest accumulative grade point average in those types of classes for my time in high school.
The final award had no academic importance, but to this day I still consider it the best award I have ever received. The senior class voted on personality types. They were, to some degree, a bit of tongue-in-cheek awards. Things like best smile, most likely to succeed, shyest, biggest flirt, and so forth. My peers voted me as the “most polite” graduating boy with Tonya Winn the “most polite” graduating girl. Yes, that is the award I cherish. Even though it had no official importance except to the 147 members of my graduating class.
I was very active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I served in the Aaronic Priesthood as Deacon, Teacher, and Priest. I did my duties well and consistently. During my senior year I was the only young man my age who attended church in our ward frequently enough to be dependable for doing priesthood duties. I held church youth leadership positions. Also, my senior year I was asked to be the main youth leader for the summer youth conference. I received the ordinances of the temple a few weeks before entering the mission field.