Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 13
"Goodbye, Grandma"
(1924)

65 In the spring, Mildred graduated from the ninth grade. Grandma said school was just a waste of time for Mildred anyway, because she was the "marrying kind". She should have said "romantic kind", because Mildred loved everybody, and took it for granted that everybody loved her. Occasionally someone even referred to her as "the pretty one". Now I wouldn't go so far as to say that. When it came to looks, she really didn't have anything over on the rest of us.

But she had a good disposition. She never got angry, and she was good to everybody. She didn't even have fun indulging in witty sarcasm. She never said smarty things that felt good on the tongue. In fact she never said anything bad about anyone, no matter how funny it might have been. She was simply a happy person, who liked to make other people happy.

So when she went to work for Mattie Ruesch in Fredonia, she promptly made a hit with the Fredonia boys, especially Maurice Judd. When she mentioned him in her letters to home, I knew instantly that this was "love in bloom". Reading between the lines in each of her letters, I sighed with deep satisfaction.

And Rass Matheson was still dating Annie, even bringing his sister and brothers to see us. Just like I figured he should. I liked the idea of getting a lot of in-law relatives.

Kate was working for a Marsh family in Cedar City, and with Mildred away, Annie and I became close companions. My diary entry of June 11, is as follows:

Last Sunday, Annie and I gathered up a stack of old Juveniles, and went upon the hill to read. We found a shady spot in Uncle Lew's pasture just big enough for both of us. we sat down and read a continued love story. Annie can make a love story sound enthralling when she reads. We read until we were tired, then put a big rock on the magazines we had finished, and took the remaining six in our arms and hiked toward Chinatown. We walked and walked over one little gray hill after another. The top of each little hill showed another gray hill ahead. Still there was a fascination that kept us going on. I had a grand feeling all over. I supposed it is because I was off in the wilds of nature.

66 At last, at the crest of one little hill, our gaze rested upon a semi-circle of beautiful pale blue, pink and white mountains along the eastern horizon. "Look!" I said to Annie. She said "Hurrah! We have been rewarded for our long walk". We could see two white peaks of mountains that sent a thrill of joy and homesick longing through me. It was my mountain home. My Kolob!

We walked on to the Chinatown Wash and sat down and finished our love story. As we turned toward home, a lone coyote trotted in and out among the gray bushes.

"Hi there," Annie called. The gaunt, ragged animal sat upon his haunches, turned his inquisitive nose toward us, pricked up his pointed ears, gave us one inquiring glance, then trotted off, this time faster than before.

We gave a last, longing look at our mountains and turned toward home. We arrived just at chore time.

At the spring closing of Primary, I graduated from the Sea Gull class. Boys graduated from Primary at the age of twelve, because of the Scout program, but girls just grew bigger and bigger for the next two years and stayed in Primary coloring pictures of pioneers until they were fourteen. Aunt Mina Hinton was the Primary President, and had been ever since Hurricane was settled. She also led the singing. Aunt Mina was Primary, and we loved her, but I resented the fact that boys could go to Mutual two years before girls could.

Both Grandma and Papa constantly reminded me that fourteen was plenty young to start going out at nights. I lived for my fourteenth birthday, because on that day I would automatically be grown-up, and would no longer have Grandma hounding me to go to the Primary dances. She had warned me and forewarned me, that if I didn't learn to dance in Primary, I'd be a social failure. But who wanted to dance with those little kids?

Well! What a shock I was in for when I went to my first "grown-up" dance. The other girls my age were swinging about the floor with ease and grace, and I didn't have the least idea of which foot to put where. Bashfully, I sat on the sideline, fearful that someone would ask me to dance. Well, no one did, and fifteen minutes sitting there seemed forever. I remembered a wisecrack about Wall Flowers trying to look like American Beauties, and felt self conscious, so I slipped out the door and ran home.

On August 6, the day before Mama's birthday, Grandma cooked a fine spread and invited our aunts and uncles, and Mama and Papa, to dinner. When it came to cooking. Grandma was the best, and this time she did it up royally.

In the evening, when I went to her house to go to bed, the reminiscing and laughter was still going on. And then. Grandma went into one of her "heart spells". I wanted to massage the pain away, but my aunts said, "Don't worry about Ma, Alice, we'll take care of her."

The night was hot, so I lay down with my quilt and pillow on Grandma's porch, in case they should need me. Grandma always said that no one else could rub her anns and back the way I could. Her cries of distress 67 were terrible and I knew they should call me, but they didn't. Then I dozed.

Pretty soon Aunt Alice shook me. "Alice, Ma is dead," she said.

"Oh," I groaned, relieved for Grandma, but ashamed of being thankful that it was all over. I had been alone with her in her agony for so long, for so excruciatingly, terribly long, and had pictured myself running at 2:00 a.m. through the dark to our house, to wake Mama and Papa to tell them Grandma was dead.

But it didn't happen that way. She passed away at 10:00 p.m., surrounded by her children, at the age of seventy-six. Grandpa had been gone for thirty-nine years, and now Grandma, who had loved him so dearly, was with him again.

Throughout the years, her children had come to see her as often as possible. Aunt Ellen came daily. Grandma often said, "Oh Ellen, you shouldn't traipse across town just to see me," and Aunt Ellen would kiss her and say, "I had to see that you were well, Ma." Aunt Mary and Aunt Alice also came often, but not every day. And Papa was an absolute Mother- worshipper.

Once, when I complained that I did not like my name because it was too common, Papa's eyes filled with tears and he said, "We gave you the most beautiful name on earth—the name of my mother."

And now Grandma was gone, but her name would live on. Besides Aunt Alice, Grandma had had six grand-daughters named Alice. But I was the only Alice Isom.

Grandma's burial clothes were neatly pressed and folded in a dresser drawer. She had shown them to me, explaining what to do, and she had her funeral planned, too. She said, "I want Kate Spendlove to sing, because she has such a beautiful voice." Kate was Aunt Ellen's daughter. Grandma wanted no speakers—only a testimony meeting, and her wish was granted. She was buried beside Grandpa in the Virgin cemetery. As they lowered her into the grave, the people sang "Nearer My God to Thee".

Grandma had willed her house to Mama and its contents to her daughters. After the funeral, the family stayed to divide her belongings. This shocked me. It was hard to realize that she was really gone.

In the years that followed, I heard Grandma cry out in my dreams and I got up to rub her back. Papa shouted at me until I awoke and went back to bed. Night after night I saw the hurt look on Grandma's face as I dreamed she returned to find her house empty. The emotional strain of taking care of her through these painful "heart spells" had left a scar that only time could erase.

But time can never erase the influence she had upon the lives of all of us. Memories of her will always come crowding back to warm my heart. She was a great lady, and did her best to make a lady out of me.

"Every girl should leam to sew a fine seam by hand," she used to say. "When I was a girl, every stitch I had on, but my shoes, I made myself."

Grandma was skilled at knitting, crocheting, tatting and macrame, and was a one-woman production line. But her big thing was to see that every grand-daughter learned to sew by hand before she touched a sewing machine. So she organized a sewing class, teaching her grand-daughters to make doll dresses. The class stopped when it got to me. I was her private struggle.

68 Because I slept at her house, my evenings were spent piecing quilt blocks. I hated the sewing, but loved the lamp. The shade was a smooth glass bowl, milk-white underneath and robin-egg blue on the outside. My stitches were crooked and ugly. I filled a cardboard box with miserable blocks, not one of them fit to go into a quilt top. The box, blocks and all were probably burned when Grandma's things were divided, since no one ever confronted me with them.

Grandma either read, or reminisced to me as I struggled with my needle. She loved to remember her courting days. She was the "Belle of the Ball", and in demand for her beautiful singing voice. As she talked, I could see her spinning and weaving and pouring tallow candles, or swirling through a square dance, showing the lace on her many petticoats. Ah, no doubt she was a proud beauty. She boasted that her bosom was so high and firm, that she could set a match-box on top and it would not fall off. I don't doubt it, for she still wore starched ruffles under her dresses that gave her the same high curve. Wasp waists were popular when she was a girl. If the young man who came courting could span the young lady's waist with both hands, hers was a beautiful figure. To her dying day, Grandma was still so tightly laced her waist couldn't expand. She would have fallen apart without her corsets.

Grandma admonished us to never kiss a boy until becoming his wife. "The first time I ever kissed your Grandfather was over the altar," she said, and this was no doubt true. Still, I admired the story the master of ceremonies told on Grandma at an "Old Folks's" party one night.

When Grandpa was courting her, so the story goes, he kissed her goodnight at the gate.

"George! You shouldn't have done that!" she said in exasperation. "No boy has ever kissed me before!"

Just then Albert Stratton and James Jepson jumped out from behind the bushes where they had been hiding.

"Never mind, George," Albert said, "that's what she told us when we kissed her goodnight."

The story impressed me and I regarded Grandma with new interest.

Grandma saved everything. In her upstairs were white flour sacks filled with bits of silk, ribbon and lace. Everything that could possibly be worked into a quilt or a rag rug or made over into dresses, was already done up. These tiny scraps were for making a rose bud for a hat or a bow on a dress. She always tacked a lace medallion or a bow here or there, on the dresses she made for us.

Grandma's world was satin, velvet, fluted crystal, hand painted china and silver—in other words, elegant. Oh, we were going to miss her a- plenty. She had been so much a part of our daily lives, so much a part of the very fiber of our souls. And now, because I was exactly her namesake, I liked the idea that I had a personal representative in Heaven.

Becoming a Bee Hive girl was my next important milestone. The Bee Hive book my teacher Lena Isom gave me, was my prize possession. Upstairs in my room, I pored over the list of things I could do to fill "cells". For the first time, I discovered that I actually enjoyed making 69 my bed, because I was earning "cells". Ideas for things I could do for my room began to take shape. How intriguing was my sunflower, crystalized in a saltpeter solution, and the hooked rug I made from burlap and worn out wool dresses, and the cushion made from new scraps.

Sometimes Lena had us come to her home for classes. On one of these evenings, a cloud burst came. With the first lull in the storm, we scurried out the door toward home. We were almost to the corner when lightning struck the transformer on the power pole there. We were scared enough at the white light that sputtered and burned, but the black cat that streaked across the sidewalk in front of us made it worse. With a hoarse squawk, Fern Ruesch clutched my arm.

"Come back, come back, don't go over that line," she cried.

And then, down came the rain again. Although it meant walking two blocks further through the downpour, we had to go home another way to avoid stepping over the path of the black cat.

It wasn't that we were superstitious—goodness no! It's just that we couldn't take a chance on a black cat bringing bad luck. Besides that, superstitions are sometimes a lot of fun, like getting a first glimpse of the new moon over your left shoulder and making a wish. Sometimes we had to chisel a little on that one, because until we knew just where the new moon was, we couldn't turn our back to it and look over our left shoulder. But when I got the new moon just right, I always made a wish quickly, before my eyes were diverted. I kept two standard wishes on hand. One was for a house full of gold, or else a golden doll. The other was that I could have every wish granted that I ever wished. I knew I'd never get either, but I wouldn't have felt right about not making them.

I was in the eighth grade now, with Will Woodbury as my teacher. Will had a rich voice, which was wonderful when he gave dramatic readings. He had his gentle and tender moments, but was fiercely stern when the situation required it.

One day, when the class got a little out of hand, he kept us all in, and made us march in the awkward squad. The embarrassing thing was that the Fredonia basketball team had just arrived for the game that night. Maurice Judd, Mildred's boyfriend, was on the team. Mildred had previously brought Maruice to meet the family, and all of us had fallen in love with him. I didn't want Maurice to see me marching in the awkward squad, but I had no choice.

Mr. Woodbury marched us down the hall and outside into lineup formation. Then we marched in again, and out again, into lineup formation, in again, and out again, over and over. He escorted us all the while stomping his left foot, clapping his hands and loudly shouting, "Left, right, left, right." At first, the whole class giggled. The Fredonia team looked on with ill-concealed amusement. Mr. Woodbury's face became a livid red and veins stood out on his forehead. Back and forth we marched until the class sobered up. Mr. Woodbury was thorough and always won his point.

Across from me in our Geography class, sat a girl that I'll call Nellie. To my Quaker standards, she was empty-headed and overpainted Her eyelashes were gobbed together with stuff like black wagon grease, her face caked with powder white as flour and her cheeks painted with round patches 70 of brilliant red. She never participated in class, but remained silent. The only important thing to me was to be able to get "A's" on my report card, so I regarded Nellie as dull.

When our Geography teacher, Eldon Larsen (Karl's brother) said, "Alice, I want you and Nellie to stay after school," I was in shock. Kids who had to stay in were in trouble.

After the class had filed out, Mr. Larsen flatly stated, "Your examination papers are identical. One of you copied."

Hotly I thought, if one of us copied, he should know which one it was. Didn't our past records speak for us? As I saw it, to cheat was the lowest, the most despicable thing a human could do, and yet I was being accused. "I have never copied anyone's papers in my life!" I spluttered.

"One of you copied," he insisted.

Contemptuously I thought, even if I wanted to cheat, I wouldn't copy from her. Angry tears splashed down my cheeks and Nellie began to bawl too, but her red eyes were hidden behind the brim of her pink felt hat that fit like a bowl over half her face. How I wished I had a hat like hers at that moment!

"You both realize that to let someone copy your paper, is also cheating," Mr. Larsen continued.

"I don't let people copy my papers," I blubbered.

"How about you?" he turned to Nellie.

Black tears streaked her face. "I didn't do it," she sniffled.

Neither of us had handkerchiefs. Mr. Larsen shook his head at our drizzling and sniffling and dismissed us. I suddenly realized that Nellie was far smarter than I had supposed, for how on earth could she copy my paper without my knowing it?

Mr. Larsen never did apologize to me, although I felt that he should. All he did was grade my Geography paper with an "A".

One day, I got a letter from a girl in Cape Town, South Africa. She had found my address in the Instructor. I could hardly contain my excitement, and replied by return mail. The girl's name was Olive, and she sent me pictures and news clippings about Cape Town and told me about the Mormon Church there. Her father was a branch president.

Africa seemed as remote to me as the planet Jupiter, and I cherished everything she sent. And I felt certain that she too would be happy for any little thing from America, so for Christmas, I sent her a little celluloid kewpie doll, that I had dressed with red satin ribbon. The doll was something I personally would have loved to receive. In the meantime. Olive had asked me for a boy pen pal, and I had sent her my cousin's name, Edwin Stout. Little did I dream that she imagined herself deeply in love with him, and that she was making plans to come to the United States to marry him. She laughed at my doll, and wrote Edwin saying that I was a ninny. Many other things she said that should never have been written. Aunt Mary saw the letter and brought it to Mama. They were both upset, and Edwin and I immediately lost our pen pal.

71 Papa owned the first Holstein animals in Hurricane. He had a registered bull and cow shipped from New York, which he proudly displayed to anyone who would look over our corral fence. Marion, the cow, was a wonderful producer, and people came from all quarters of town with their bottles to buy baby milk. One afternoon, when Wilson Imlay's big red bull heard Papa's Holstein bellowing, he broke out of his corral. Both bulls rumbled back and forth at each other all the while the Imlay animal ambled across town. By the time it reached our place, our bull had broken out into the street where they both met head on, pawing dirt. My sisters and I were in the yard watching. The bulls thundered around the comer to our front fence, where their massive hulks smashed through the pickets as though they were match sticks. We ran into the grainery and peeked out the door.

Hearing the rumbling and bellowing. Uncle Lew came running. "Here here now," he called, waving a spindly little stick.

I expected to see Uncle Lew flattened and trampled, but the animals paid no attention to him. Finally, men on horses came, breaking up the fighta, which seemed a pity, for seldom did we get to see such a spectacle. Mama was relieved. She confessed that she was afraid the bulls would bump into the grainery and it would collapse with us in it.

Papa took a pride in his animals. He subscribed to "The Holstein Frisian World," and eventually bought other Holsteins from New York. Later, of course, he raised his own.

Our cows were trained to be milked from either side. When Edith sat on one side of the cow and I on the other, she made me feel inferior, because she squirted the milk in a steady stream raising a two inch foam on her bucket. Laboriously, I squeezed out thin little squirts so slowly that it cooled and the cream almost raised in my bucket. But I tried. One thing in my favor was that the cows were usually patient. All but old Agnes. She'd stand just so long, then she'd give me a bat on the head with a tail that felt weighted with lead, then she'd either step in the bucket, or kick it over.

Agnes usually worked up to a climax and had to be thrashed once a month. Eacn day she'd gradually get ornier and ornier until she became impossible, then Mama would take a whip to her. The whipping made her contrite for a couple of weeks, then gradually she'd start getting fidgety again.

Once when Kate was helping me milk, Agnes pressed her head against the stable gate.

"Oh, look at the poor thing," Kate bewailed. "She must have a headache."

Old Agnes heaved a sigh and rubbed her head sadly against the top board.

"Poor, poor cow," Kate soothed, "don't you feel good?"

Just then Agnes swatted, wrapping the long hair of her tail around Kate's head. At the same time, she sent the bucket of milk flying. Then she darted for her usual race around the corral, but this time something was different. During the night the water trough had run over, and low temperatures had made a skating rink out of part of the corral. Agnes bolted onto the ice and her feet sprawled out. Wild eyed she stood, unable to move.

72 My, what a joyful gleam Mama got in her eyes when she surveyed the situation. Always before, when Agnes got her monthly tune up. Mama had had to chase her around inside the corral. This time the cow was trapped. Triumphantly, Mama picked up the whip and gave Agnes her just dues, then left her to think it over until the sunshine softened the ice. Agnes was a contrite cow for a long, long time after that.

When I was younger, it was hard to decide which was the most perfect Christmas gift, new shoes or a doll. New shoes thrilled me clear through, and dolls were a lasting love that could never diminish. But, at the age of fourteen, I discovered a Christmas gift that was greater than either of these when Kate gave me a book. In books one can travel far and meet such interesting people. Kate gave me the book, "Keeper of the Bees" by Gene Stratton Porter. Each afternoon during the holidays, when the sun streamed into my upstairs bedroom, I curled up and read. Ah, such rapture!