Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 9
Patriarchal Blessing
(1921)

45 Usually I loved thunder because it reminded me of Kolob. Lightning, at a safe distance, was appealing to me too, but when the very air snapped and my hair prickled, I felt a mite jittery. This particular March night an electric storm was beginning to get unruly. I had gone to my room for something and as I reached to turn out the light, balls of liquid fire spilled from the ceiling down the drop cord and down my arm. Dazed, I crumpled to the floor. I had the sensation of being sucked into a deep, dark cave. From somewhere far, far away, I could hear someone screaming and screaming.

After what seemed ages, dim lights cast weird shadows in my bottomless cavern. Mama appeared, carrying a lantern. Kneeling, she held me in her arms. But that screaming, that detached, far away screaming, would not cease.

Mama brushed my hair back and rubbed my face, saying gently "There, there, you are all right."

Suddenly I realized the screaming was coming from me! How could that be? How could I be screaming and not know it? I tried to stop. Mama held me close and at last my screams turned to sobs, violent, shaking sobs. Try as I would I could not control them for a long time.

At the precice moment that I had reached for the light, lightning struck the transformer on the power pole at the comer of our lot. My sisters said balls of fire raced along the wires down our street. As the house went dark and my screams piercing he air. Papa remarked, "Well, there's one thing we know for sure, Alice is still alive."

The incident left me afraid. I was afraid of night, refusing to even go into the kitchen alone. And then the thing I feared most of all happened. Another electric storm. In the early evening too, the same as the last one!

Right during the thunder, Richard Bradshaw knocked on our door. "Sister Isom, can Alice go sleep with Hortense tonight?" he asked. "Hyrum is away and she's afraid."

Hortense was our cousin and I often slept with her when her husband was away. But this night I held my breath, waiting for Mama's reply. She knew what a coward I had turned out to be. I expected her to say Mildred would go instead, but she didn't. She told Richard I'd be glad to come and he left.

"Oh Mama, I darsen't go in the storm," I wailed.

She put her arm around me and said, "There's nothing to be afraid of. The Heavenly Father doesn't want anything to hurt you. He will protect you. "

My fear left me. As I walked to Hortense's place the lightning and thunder reminded me of Kolob once more, and I loved it. Mama could speak words of assurance that made the heart happy.

46 There was something about Sacrament Meeting that bothered me. Number one: Meetings were too long. Figeting on a bench for two hours wasn't fun. Number two: The speakers were always so gloomy. Why couldn't they ever come up with a happy talk just for kids? The doleful things they often said really made me squirm. Number three: The only screens on the windows were the coarse kind to protect the glass from basket balls. Flies flitted cheerfully through them, seeming to love to come to church. And the building was hot, extra hot, because we had to sit still.

Mama and Papa never made us go to church. They simply took us. I decided that when I was my own boss I'd quit.

One Sunday afternoon a group of youngsters decided to escape to the river. When they invited me to go along, I swallowed my guilty feelings and went. I felt shabby in my everyday clothes and there was no happiness in the hike. My feet had the worrisome feeling of wanting to turn back and my conscience nagged at me. And the river! Big deal! It wasn't as inviting as I had thought. It was only a trickle.

The Sunday sun had an abnormal glare, making my eyes feel squinty. Gnats buzzed in my ears and a pesky little fly zigged-zagged in front of my face, refusing to be brushed away. Everyone had fun wading in the water but me. I sat in the sand with my back to a boulder and suffered. I'd lots rather be sweltering and shooing flies in church. I longed to be with the rest of the family.

I expected a scolding when I got home. All Papa said was, "Well, did you enjoy the afternoon?"

Shaking my head I said, "No. It was awful. I'd lots rather go to church."1

I had made an important discovery. Sitting in church was actually quite nice. All of the folks I enjoyed most were there. And when I really listened, the speakers were right interesting.

Benjamin Franklin LeBaron lived just below the black knoll coming into Hurricane. In the fall persimmons hung like oranges along his terraced hillside. Flowers and fruits made his place a garden of Eden. He was a sweet, gentle and loving man who attracted children.

Hurricane was mostly orchards. In fact, it was the fruit in our valley that brought the LeBarons. Brother LeBaron was responsible for the Evaporator that was built by his home. It should have been one of the biggest business ventures in our area, for there were tons and tons of peaches that fell to the ground every year for want of a market. Farmers had been using lumber scaffolds on saw horses to dry fruit on, making every effort to save their crops,but it wasn't enough. The Evaparator dried the fruit and extracted juice by power. But for some reason, the business was of short duration, lasting only a season or two. The brick building still stands and is an apartment house today.

We belonged to the St. George Stake, and Brother LeBaron became the first Stake Patriarch in Hurricane. One day, as I was passing LeBaron's, on a sudden impulse I knocked on their door.

"Brother LeBaron, will you give me a patriarchal blessing?" I asked.

47"Of course," he answered, "come in."

He put his hands on my head and Sister LeBaron acted as scribe. I'll admit that I tried to dictate to the Lord as Brother LeBaron spoke. In Sacrament Meeting, a young woman who had just returned from the mission field, reported her mission. She had a radiance about her that I admired with all my heart. As I listened to her, I knew that someday I too must go on a mission. So I listened hard for our Patriarch to say I would, but he didn't.

He said that my basket would always be filled with plenty. Since we had been warned so many times by Grandma that if we wasted even a crust of bread, the day would come when we wished we had that crust, to have my basket always filled was a comforting thought. When Brother LeBaron promised me that the Tempter should never have power over me, I felt very strong. That promise has sustained me time and again throughout my life. Other things he said have been a guiding light to me as I grew up. Many times when I've been filled with anxiety, I have re-read that blessing and have been strengthened and comforted.

Annie, Kate and Mildred did housework for women who had new babies, took in washings and picked fruit. They bought all of their own clothes, never expecting a penny from Papa or Mama. I wanted to be independent too. I was agile at climbing trees, so I should have a real talent for picking fruit. But being able to swing from the skinniest or highest limb doesn't fill a bucket with fruit. To my dismay, I found out I was actually one of the slowest pickers. I honestly tried. I took every job I could get picking strawberries, cherries or apricots, and each day in the orchard I resolved to beat all of the other kids. But I never did. It gave me an inferiority complex, so much so in fact that I even developed a grudge against mourning doves. Those birds were always in the fields with the crack of dawn, mourning. Such a bleak, tired sound, when a fellow should still be home in bed!

But by my eleventh birthday I had still saved enough to send off to Chicago Mail Order for my winter's supply of long cotton stockings and a pair of shoes. Shoes! New shoes! How I loved them. The shine of new shoes on my own two feet to me was the number one richest blessing!

The fifth grade was an important milestone in my life. We had a man teacher, Kenneth Cannon. Romantic! Any love affair I had had before this was child stuff. Mr. Cannon had a happy sense of humor and school was fun. Except when Freal Stratton, who sat behind me, dipped the ends of my braids in the inkwell. Or worse still, when he removed his inkwell and tied my braids to the desk through the hole. He worked so carefully that I didn't know I was tied down until I went to get up. The yank of my braids almost broke my neck. Sometimes he tied my sashes to the bench and my dress tore when I got up. How embarrassing it must have been to the Lord for having created him.

At Christmas time, I received what was to be my last doll. Although I never played with dolls anymore, my love for them was unchanged. This doll was a beauty, with a "boughten" head, real hair, and a rag body. Mama had dressed her in pink dotted-swiss, and she looked beautiful on my dresser in my room.

Footnotes

  1. Sory "I Know He Lives" published Friend, June 1976, p. 10.