Life on grandfather farm

On our move to Idaho we moved into the black building behind the car. Please don’t ask what kind of car as I do not know. The black house or tar paper shack, which is what it was, is where we lived when we first moved to Idaho. It was a 12ft x 12ft one room shack. I don’t remember how long we lived there but I can remember us kids sleeping in the car as we had no beds.

I wrote before that grandfather had said we could have land on his farm for a house. It ended up being a quarter of acre. My parents purchased a Sears Home. I assume you don’t know what a Sear Home was. After WWII, Sears sold homes that would be shipped in stick form to your location and you would assemble them from their plans. Father, his brother Harold, and a friend built it on nights and weekends. The house was 20ft x 20ft and had a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms. There was no bathroom, no running water, and no electricity. Looking at the pictures there are no steps to the front door as we did not open it so we could have more room in the living room. This almost became fatal as we had a fire in the kitchen one night and had to scramble to get that door open to escape. Luckily there was not much damaged to the house.

I live there from age three until I was nine. My father was a truck driver and was never home. My mother worked at seasonal job, working in farm fields and the Simplots food processing plant. Us boys were left to ourselves and being out in the country we played cowboys and indians quite a bit. We also got to go to three or four vacation bible schools in the summer. They would pick us up on a bus and bring us home. One of the best things we got to do was go to the Saturday afternoon matinee movies. Every Saturday the movie theater would show cartoons and two western movies. It cost 10 cents to get in and you could get a all day sucker for a nickle. I think mother just wanted sometime for herself.

I might note my father and my grandfather new wife never got along. In the six years we lived there I can only remember being in grandfather house once. We were not allowed to go over there. Anyway grandfather wife talked him into moving to Arkansas. He sold the farm and we had to move. We lost everything concerning the house.

Where Should I Start

This project is the idea of my daughter, Rhonda Wood, and it is hard to know where to begin and what to write.

I think we should start with a little family history.

My grandparents on my father side were Dexter and Ann (Blair) Sissel. They lived in the Hurdland, Missouri and grandfather was a farmer and part time car mechanic. My grandmother died before I was born so I have no memories of her. Grandfather remarried and with his new wife, Almira, moved to Nampa, Idaho in the early forties.

My grandparents on my mother side were Zora and LaVade (Sparks) Smith. They lived in Graysville Missouri and moved to Ottumwa, Iowa in thirties for grandfather to work at the Morrell meat packing plant. This was a great improvement over working in the coal mines where he worked before.

My parents John Howard and Ola Fairl (Smith) Sissel met while they both lived in Missouri. Father was a truck driver delivering coal and ice. Mother was a waitress and they met at her job. They were married and move to Ottumwa, Iowa and he worked a Morrells for a few years, but was forced to leave because of health reasons. They decided to move to Idaho to be near grandfather Sissel. He had purchased a ten acres farm and said he would give my father a half acre to build a home. Ten acres doesn’t sound like much by today standards, but it was a nice size family farm at that time.

First Fire Fight

I was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division which was headquartered at Pleiku. Pleiku was on the Western side of Vietnam at one end of Number 4 highway near the Central Highlands, sort of a low mountain range. We flew from Cam Ram Bay on a C130 and then were bused out to the base. I remember an enlisted man who was riding the bus with us. We were packed on the bus like sardines and this GI could tell that we were all scared to death. He told us not to worry, if we started taking fire to just hit the floor. That was not very confronting since we could barely move. After we had been “in country” for a while we realized that there was very little risk of any kind of attack in that particular area in broad daylight and that he had just been playing with us.

We spent a couple of days just hanging out waiting for our assignments. I was assigned to Company C, Mechanized Infantry. My squad was headquartered on a Personnel Carrier (PC). Each personnel carrier was equipped with a 50 caliber machine gun. We were squad 23. Our squad leader was Sargent William Taylor. And our PC driver was James Walker. They were the only two left in squad 23. They had been in an area near a village called Playmoran (sp) and more than half our company had been wounded or killed in battles. We sat by our PC for a couple of hours listening to “war stories” from Sargent Taylor and James and they told us how lucky we were that we weren’t a part of that. After a couple of hours we got orders to go back to that area. You talk about scared! We set up camp right outside of the village of Playmoran. During the day we would do patrols through the jungle and then at night all of the PC’s would be parked in a circle facing out. Each squad would have one person on guard duty all the time. There was probably 16-18 PC’s in our company and 2 or 3 tanks.

The third night we were there, the Montagnard men came over to our camp with rice wine. I didn’t drink any because I was new in country and had been warned not to accept anything from the Vietnamese. When it started getting dark the village men left our camp and went back to their village. We had guard duty throughout the night and would take turns sitting behind the 50 caliber machine gun. My duty began at 4 AM. Of course we slept in our clothes but I had taken my boots off. When it was time for me to go on guard duty I just slipped my boots on and didn’t bother to lace them up.

Some Summaries: Education, Work, Living Locations

EDUCATION (Formal and Informal) SUMMARY
Oakwood Elementary 1975 -1981
Jefferson Middle School 1981 – 1984
Preston High School 1984 -1988
Brigham Young University 1988 – 1989 and 1989 – 1990
Lift Truck Driver Certification Course
Commercial Driver’s License Multilevel Test (knowledge and skill)
Toastmasters 2016 – Past 50 years of age
John Maxwell Certification 2018
U.H.K. (University of Hard Knocks…aka life.) 1969 to Death
Formal schooling is but a small portion of what life has to teach. Regardless if a person has chosen a path of a great deal of education, or a path of learning by experience, this truth is constant: True learning is achieved when a person takes responsibility for their own learning, and feeds learning by curiosity, study, and application.



Birth to age 18 1969 to 1988
687 North 8th West
Preston, Idaho 83263

Age 18 to 19 1988 to 1989
Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University, on campus Hinckley Dorm
Pleasant Grove, Utah. Lived with my Aunt DeVonna Hansen before serving a full-time religious mission.

Age 19 to 21 1989 to 1991
South Africa: Pretoria, Witbank (two separate times), Roodeport (9 months) Welkom

Age 21 to 26 1991 to 1996
Provo and Orem, Utah
Orem, Utah. Lived with Aunt DeVonna Hansen in Orem until I married Marya Durtschi.
Provo, Utah. Lived in a single-wide, two bedroom trailer close to work for about 18 months.
Orem, Utah. Lived in s single-wide trailer that an extra room and garage had been built onto. Only live there for 6 months. Probably would not have bought it had we known a work transfer was in the near future.

Age 26 to 29 1996 to 1999
Idaho Falls, Idaho. Lived in an apartment for a few months until our home in Rigby was built and ready to occupy.
Rigby, Idaho. Lived in a three-bedroom, two bathroom home on an acre of farm ground
4257 East 100 North
Rigby, Idaho 83442

Age 29 to 50+?
Driggs, Idaho. Live in the home Marya was raised in. The total square footage is near 5000. The original structure was built in 1947. A three story cinderblock house with 2 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms, and some smaller rooms that changed purposes. The basement is unfinished.
An addition was put on in the late 1980s of log which had a basement woodshop, one extra bathroom, and two large main level, and upstairs rooms.

We didn’t move, but our address changed due to county alterations
8 South 275 East 2195 South Stateline Road
Driggs, Idaho 83422 Driggs Idaho, 834222


When young, Dad and Mom would most often take family vacations to Portland, Oregon and the Oregon coast because three of mom’s siblings lived there. I grew to love the Oregon coast line. All up and down it.

In fact, I liked it so much that, at age fifty, I am making plans to make southwest Oregon home for at least a few months of the year. A few of the snowiest months: January to March and possibly April. As of the writing of this personal history, Marya and I have made arrangements to stay in Sutherlin, Oregon during part of winter.

Ballon Ride

As I’ve gotten older, it is so fun to celebrate birthdays with my sisters. The fall of 2018 we decided to do something on Nadine’s bucket list. Nadine asks for so few things. I contacted a balloon guy in Topeka. Since Nadine’s birthday is in November we knew we were going to be early but wanted to do it whenever the time worked out. We started planning for our ride in August. We had many Saturday mornings that didn’t work out. I was beginning to think it would never happen. Lo and behold October 28 (Sunday evening) we (Pam, Nadine, Rob and I) took off from the Industrial Park in Minneapolis and had a beautiful balloon ride. Rob loved it and we loved watching his experience. It was so fun!

Level 40 to 50 – 2010 to 2020

I realized as I was creating this personal history that I talked quite a bit about work related subject, and not a lot about family. Why? Well, I think t is because work filled a lot of my time and energy, but also because those work experiences were unique to me. Not even my family new what I did on a day to day basis.

But, I feel we had a good balance in much of our family activities. We work together, we play together, we learn together, we take vacations together. One tradition we have kept that is easy to overlook the significance of is that we almost always ate one meal together around the kitchen table each day. Sometimes we talked about nothing in particular. At other times we had some involved conversations. The point being, we valued the time communicating with each other face to face, and meal time gave us that opportunity.

I thought I would just share with you a little about each family member and where they are now, or what they are doing now…

Marya. She loves to bird watch. This love of birds gave rise to another hobby. She purchased a quality camera to take pictures with, and started taking pictures of landscapes, and our children’s events. This secondary hobby has given her opportunity to create books and slide shows to share place, memories, and events with others. I tell people, “I am not much of a bird watcher, but I can be a good bird watcher-watcher.”

Taylor. Taylor is very creative. He is good with his hands. When he sets his mind to creating something or doing a particular task, he does it with lots of energy and focus. As of this writing he lives at home and works for his aunt Beth helping to clean her AirBnB rental spaces.

Caleb. Caleb graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington with a degree in Studio Arts. He is also living at home. Caleb loves running. He had such a positive experience with running from middle school, high school, and college that he has now accepted the position as our high school’s head cross country coach. A position he shares with another Teton High alumi. He also works for the school district, right now as a physical education teacher and paraprofessional at the Tetonia elementary school

Sapphire. She graduated from Brigham Young University – Idaho in Early Childhood Development. As of this writing she still has one “wrap up” class to do and her internship to receive the degree, but for all intents and purposes, she is done. She is very talented in working with children, and was before she received her degree. She has moved to Preston, Idaho, and is living with my parents to help them, and working in Cache Valley area.

Crystal. Crystal is in her third year at Grinnell College in Iowa. She is studying Biology with the intent of working for a places like the National Park Service, National Forest, Fish and Game Management, or some place like that. She has already worked for the National Park Service for 3 summers. She loves playing soccer and was able to walk on to the intercollegiate women’s soccer team at college.

Jade. Jade is now in her first year at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. She is taking general credits at the moment, but she is leaning toward a career in creative writing or editing…something along those lines.

Crystal (Big Crystal). Her and her husband live in Teton Valley. She manages the local US Bank branch and loves spending time with her husband Scott and son Cooper, and are expecting their second child this winter.

My work is going very well. I help take care of the state and federal compliance work for some guys that own trucks in the oil fields of North Dakota, and make sure the pay for the work is right. I spend a lot of time working on the computer, texting, emails, and phone calls. My clients are happy if I can keep them from having to sit in front of a computer because they are “hands on” type of men that like to build houses, fix things with an engine, etc.

I attend Toastmasters meetings regularly. Toastmasters has helped me to overcome my fear of public speaking. I have even been paid to speak for business and professional organizations. I have one a few speech contests. This organization helped me stopped worrying about what was going on in my head…the nervousness, the anxiety….and focus on the message, and eliminate things that distract rather than compliment a message.

Chris Harris is my best bud. We do things on a regular basis. We worked together at the construction supply store, and now we try to have a meal together regularly, and attend a few events. If I could choose one word that described Chris best it would be congenial.

Marya and I went out of the country for the first time in over 20 years this last summer. After taking Jade to college we went over to the Vancouver area in British Columbia, Canada. We went to a botanical garden, a bird conservatory, and the Vancouver temple. We then went to visit a friend, Cherie Scarpino, who lives way up north. We were able to help her insulate the skirting around her home, and we visited an old gold mining town called Barkerville.

How to I feel at fifty? Very good. My health is good. I enjoy my work. We have a loving family. We live in a beautiful area. I enjoy serving in the church. I am striving to live a life that positively contributes to those around me. My personal and business motto comes from a quote by Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”


Level 30 to 40 – 2000 to 2010

This was an eventful decade. On the home front we added a new soul. Jade was born in 2001. Bringing our clan up to seven, plus daddy and momma under the same roof. Living in this new location, we certainly had living space for Jade’s arrival as opposed to the Rigby house. The kids played with cousins that lived close by. They roamed in the barn and in the pasture. We chose not to have a television in our home most of the years, and our kids learned to read a lot, use their imaginations, and explore the outdoors.

The unexpected happened. Momma Durtschi passed away unexpectedly, and we were left to care for daddy. We did have some help occasionally from nearby family. But, day in and day out, the responsibility was mostly on us. We did it for as long as we could before his condition became so bad that a nursing home was needed. He was in a nursing home for about a year when he passed away.

Us moving to Driggs was actually the only reason a nursing home was not used before. The doctor had been recommending it even before we arrived, but Joan wanted to prevent that. Before Joan passed she had made the decision to give us the house for being willing to move in and help. Why us? Momma liked me, and she knew Marya would like to be back in the valley. Plus, other Durtschi family who already lived in the area had their own families to tend too.

To this day, because of the sentimental attachments to the house, and the subjective opinions of whether we did daddy-care enough to earn it being given to us, there still is an undertone of discontent among some of the siblings. I was asked once, if given the choice to move up and help, would I do it again. Yes. Moving in to help Walter and Joan was the right thing to do. The other stuff is just human nature at play. You never know what life is going to present, and you don’t have any control about how others might feel about it. We “rolled with” the circumstances that came along the best we felt we could. We did rent our home in Rigby for a few years and then we sold it. We came to realize that with another family member added, and the circumstances being what they were, we couldn’t go back to that house very easily even if we did move again.

During this decade I also served as 1st counselor in the Driggs 2nd ward bishopric with Wayne Egbert as bishop, and Meredith Wilson as 2nd counselor. Just like serving in the mission field, this was a challenging and rewarding time. Here is a story connected with this time. Of course I was on the stand each week, and Marya bravely brought the kids to church. A sister moved into the ward and noticed Marya coming in with all the kids. She didn’t know us. She was disgusted that Marya’s husband would send all those kids to church with her each week while he was relaxing or off recreating. It wasn’t until several months went by, and she saw us together at a ward party that she finally realized I was Marya’s husband. Even though this sister had never told Marya about her feelings about her “slacking” husband, she felt a need to come an apologize to Marya for drawing unfounded conclusions.

Work wise…well, I kind of experienced an identity crisis during this decade. At Anderson Lumber I was promoted to Receiving Clerk before too long. In that job I was responsible for checking in all shipments and making sure the proper quantity was there and there was no damage. The work was good. Then some corporate changes occurred. Anderson Lumber was a small regional chain of stores, and they were bought out by national corporation. A new manager came on board. I could tell right away that we were going to clash. He was cocky and arrogant. He didn’t treat his team like equals. I was the first one to leave after he took command. He actually offered me a generous raise if I stayed. A raise that would have put my income above that of my supervisor. (I didn’t think that was a wise leadership move on his part either.) I left and went to work for Suburban propane delivering propane and training as a technician.

With each of these companies I worked for, in my mind, I was sincerely striving to make it a career. I think this attitude came from the example of my father and mother. My dad had worked in the same building all my life (he did have different promotions, but same career) Mom too, she was a librarian all her life. I thought that is the way it should be. Find a career, a company, work with dedication, earn promotions, and stick with THAT company. You take care of them, and they will take care of you. Well, I was learning that this wasn’t how the world was working anymore.

I was not with Suburban long. I received an unsolicited phone call and an offer from the owner of R&R Landscape. He wanted me to come on board as an office manager, and potential buy him out of the company along with some of the crew chiefs that managed the landscaping crews. I could not let that potential opportunity go without trying. It seemed much too good to pass up.

To make it short, it didn’t work. The old adage was verified, if it seems to good to be true it probably is. Again, I liked the work; what I was learning and with what I was able to contribute. But, it didn’t end up being full time during the winter as promised. I hated drawing unemployment when I had been taught you work for what you get. The price he wanted for the company was more than any bank or private lender was comfortable with. And his method of financing was…well, let’s just say creative…and didn’t sit well with me. I was asked by local small supplies and large corporations all the time when R&R Landscape was going to pay them on the past due amounts. I was not given control of the business checking account. He and his wife only saw those numbers.

What to do? Anderson Lumber’s name had officially changed to Stock Building Supply and the community was not fond of the new manager. He was not fired, but his position was changed, and he was transferred to another locatoin. After he left as manager, I approached the guy who accepted the manager position who knew me from before, and he welcomed me back. Again, changing jobs so much was really uncomfortable to me because I want to “settle in” and stay with one company like I had seen my parents do.

At Stock Building Supply I started from entry level again as forklift and truck driver, to inventory control specialist, to Operations manager relatively quickly. I was responsible for the smooth running of the retail portion of the store. The manager kept the office staff and outside sales team leadership as part of his duties. The yard foreman took care of fork-lift and truck drivers. This looked like the right track…then…This nationally-owned corporation started dictating changes that were not good for a small town lumber store. They wanted to let large stores like Home Depot and Lowes take care of the everyday-home-owner’s building and project needs. They wanted to focus on professional-contractors-only market; those companies who built homes for a living. They began dictating things such as closing on Saturdays because most contractors don’t work on Saturday. They wanted to get rid of some of our inventory because it was home owner needed items and not professional contractor items. Both I and the manager fought them on this. We repeatedly told them that being the only lumber yard in a small town that their picture just wouldn’t work. They didn’t like the answer. We were not fitting their envisioned mold.

I could see the writing on the wall. I could see this was not going to end well. As much as I hated to do it, I started looking for work AGAIN. A few years prior, Larry Juarez, owner of Grand Interiors, who dealt specifically with cabinets, appliances, flooring and interior hardware such as door knobs and lighting fixtures in new homes and remodels had approached me, and asked if I would come work for him. Even though that had been a few years before, I approached him to see if he still had a need. He did. For him I did all kinds of things. My main job was appliance sales, ordering, and installation. But is was such a small company I also helped install cabinets, drive truck, and performed office management duties.

Incidentally, a year after I left, Stock Building announced they were closing the Driggs location and many other locations that were not fitting their mold throughout the country. I am so glad I got out when I did. This valley being small in population, it was a bit of a challenge for all the employees there to find a place to go for work.

In 2008, due to unwise housing and real estate loan practices in the country, the real estate market took a financial nose dive nationwide. Construction slowed drastically. This ushered in a recession that had global effects. Grand Interiors was connected with the construction industry and things became troublingly slow there. I was able to do some part time work on short term projects for people in the valley when I was only working part-time at my regular job.

During this time my appendix needed removed. We did not have health insurance. Some very generous soul stepped in to pay the $10,000 hospital bill. I have an idea of who it was, but no way of telling for sure without directly asking, and most anonymous, good-hearted souls like that don’t want to be known.

So, yes, this was a challenging decade on many levels. Yes, it can be argued that life always has challenges, and that would be true, but this decade left me wondering what path I was suppose to take in life especially as a provider to my family.

Larry was relieved when I found a job in Jackson, Wyoming with Hyko. They sold cleaning and paper products to businesses, primarily hotels and restaurants. It was a good temporary job. I knew it would not be a long commitment there.

This is going into the next decade, but since I am on the “job changing” theme….The next job was with Coca Cola at their Jackson Hole warehouse as warehouse manager. Again, a leadership position. I was in charge of everything that went on inside the warehouse. The manager had responsibility for the outside sales team and drink machine technicians. During this job I was in the best physical condition I had been in since high school soccer and riding my bike in the mission field so much. My mornings were spent taking inventory, ordering product, or unloading a shipment of products that came from the bottling plant. Near noon, the orders started coming in from the traveling sales staff. These orders needed to be pulled from stock, staged on mobile carts ready to load that night to go out to stores the next day. The cases of canned and bottled pop were not heavy, about 15 to 20 pounds each, but we were moving hundreds and hundreds of cases each day. Bend down, pick up, lift, swing onto the wheeled cart, repeat. I left for work before the family was up in the morning, and arrived home about six in the evening. I was getting worn out.

Even with all that was going on in our family’s life during this decade, we added yet another family member. Marya’s sister Beth would visit during the summer months from Texas to avoid the heat. One summer, she brought a 17-year-old young lady with her to help out with her four children. The alternate motive was to get Crystal (We call her Big Crystal to distinguish from our younger daughter Crystal) was to get her away from an unhealthy home environment. At the end of the summer she did not want to go back. However, her grandparents, who had legal guardianship over her would not let her stay in Idaho. We told Crystal that when she turned 18, if she wanted to come live with us that she was welcome to.

Her birthday is at the end of December. She hopped on a plane just a few days after, came to live with us, graduated from Teton Valley High School. She worked at Burger King, and then a clothing store. She chose to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She had fallen in love with Marya’s nephew and married him. So, she was semi-adopted by us, but then married into the family also. She is a lively, energetic person we love dearly.

Different line of thought…..As I was growing up in Preston we camped regularly in tents during the summer. I enjoyed those times out in nature with my family. I thought I liked camping, but after moving to Teton Valley I realized I like being in nature, but not necessarily camping. Because Teton Valley is right next to the mountains, I found that I liked going hiking and enjoying time in a campground around a fire and so forth. But, my own bed was usually only 15 to 20 minutes away from many camping areas. I preferred to go home and sleep, and come back in the morning to resume activities. I really enjoy hiking. One of my favorite hikes is up to Table Mountain, or Table Rock. I have done that so many times I lost track.

While working at the lumber yard I was impressed with the character and work ethic of a man by the name of Chris Harris. We did not do much together outside of work while we worked there, but afterwards we started trying to go out to eat, play games, or watch a sporting event together. Chris became my best friend. It is a joy to spend time with him.