Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 17
Daughter, Beware!
(1928)

87 Papa counseled us more often than Mama did, simply because he was usually there, especially in the mornings and evenings, and Mama was always busy. Since Sam Pollock had repeatedly warned about the devil paying our parents off in sons-in-laws. Papa did his part to see that the devil had nothing to do with it. He didn't take my dating with Orval Judd seriously, because Orval was Maurice's brother, and more like a relative. But when other dates came on the scene, I was lectured about the dangers of going with strangers.

I tolerated the lectures and Papa's anxious counseling, realizing I was also included in his prayers. It was Papa who always called to us from his bed upstairs when we came in at nights. No matter how late we were, he never slept until we were safely home.

One of my girl friends worked at the Bradshaw Hotel, and on Sunday evenings, when she was off-duty, our gang collected there. At the Hotel, we naturally met strangers.

One evening, three of the hotel guests invited three of us to go for a little spin. I had a queer feeling as I got in the front seat of the car with the driver. The other two couples took the back seat. Because I didn't want to be a "wet blanket" I ignored the prompting to not go. I knew Papa would never approve of the stranger at my side.

For awhile, we cruised about town. Pilled with apprehension, I sat speechless, and the other girls seemed tongue-tied too. The driver slowly turned down "lover's lane", a road leading into a thick grove of fig trees, and parked. I was scared.

When he slid toward me, I quickly opened the car door and said, "Shall we walk?"

He was agreeable, and we strolled out from the dark cover of the trees and down the lane. Oh, how I wanted the Lord's protection, but I felt embarrassed to ask him. But in the starlight, opportunity for escape loomed before me. It was the gate to my cousins Burr and Evadna Bradshaw's place.

"Well, it has been nice knowing you," I said, "and now I'll say goodnight. Thanks for walking me home."

Flabbergasted, he said, "This isn't your house is it?"

88 "Sure," I fibbed.

"Well, I'll be—. Say, you can't go in now. We just got together."

"Sorry, but I've got to go in. The folks will wonder what happened to me."

"Goodnight then." He reached for me, but I sped up the walk.

The house was dark, but I knew I had to go in, so I opened the door and stepped inside. Peering through the screen, I watched as he reluctantly started back up the lane. I was afraid my pounding heart and shaking frame would wake Burr and Evadna.

Would that man ever get far enough away so I could slip back outside? At last, I could see him no more. Flattening myself against the wall, I slid out the screen door and along the porch to the rear of the house. I banged into an old wash tub in the back yard, which almost gave me a heart attack. Crouching, I listened, but could hear no one coming. I knew I had to make time, because when the man got back to the car, he would learn that I had pulled a fast one on him, and the others would come looking for me.

Running through the trees, I scratched myself on the branches. When I came to the big ditch, half the canal, it seemed, was tumbling through its rocky banks. I would be seen if I crossed the foot bridge, so I stepped gingerly from rock to rock. The beam of a spot light bobbed up and down through the orchard. Slipping, I stumbled. Drenched to my knees, I crouched behind a clump of poplar saplings on the bank, just as the car turned its beam on the spot where I had been. I huddled, panting, as the spot light lingered on the saplings, but the thick clump concealed me, and they went on by.

On reaching the street, I ran like a deer. Now the car was coming back toward me. Winded and beat, I dropped to the ground and rolled under a barbed wire fence into the grass. The spot light criss-crossed the road, playing along the fence and lingering on every bush. Secure in the grass, I could get my breath. Back and forth they went, searching the grass where I lay. Knowing I couldn't be far away, they persisted. A bent, dry grass-head gouged my ear, but I didn't dare move. Insects crawled on me, still I lay motionless. At last, the car turned the corner and took off in another direction. They must have supposed I had taken another way home.

I crawled from under the fence, and my feet flew. I just got to Ether Wood's corner when I saw them coming again. Our house was kitty-corner through the block, so I darted through Wood's gate, around their house and through the trees. The spot light played up and down the sidewalk.

I cut through Uncle Marion Stout's corral. The horses snorted and a big red bull came toward me. Caught between a maze of fences and that rumbling bull was more frightening even than the spot light. Terrified, I scrambled through, and at last was on home soil. Panting, I sped up the pathway from the barn, and through the kitchen door.

From upstairs. Papa called,"Is that you Alice?"

"Yes," I answered gratefully.

"This is more like it," he said. "I'm glad you're getting home early."

89 The spot light played on the front of the house, and I knew in that moment how Peter Rabbit felt when he stumbled gratefully into the rabbit hole after the farmer had chased him.

This episode livened up the party for the others, for the "fox chase" definitely beat parking. My friends realized the folly of our going for a spin in the first place.

Annie and Rass ran the Flatnose Ranch in Nevada for Uncle John Hopkins. Kate and I took the train from Cedar to Lund, where Rass met us. This was my first train ride. Rass, Annie, and little baby Keith, dressed in his bib overalls and big straw hat, took us in their rattling pickup sight seeing. Kate and I sat in the back and sang, and raised sun blisters on our noses as we jounced along. We visited igloo-shaped lime kilns, mining towns, ranchers and Mexicans.

Back at the ranch was an out-door shower made of a barrel mounted on a platform. We carried water from the creek, and climbing the ladder, poured it into the barrel. Standing beneath it in our bathing suits, we turned on the shower. We had to soap and scrub fast to get clean before the water was all gone.

At the head of the alfalfa field was a reservoir of warm water. Kate was a good swimmer, but that dark, mossy water scared me. As I walked gingerly into the edge of it, fluffy mud swirled about my feet and the icky stuff oozed between my toes. I felt like the water was inhabitated by goggle-eyed, stinger-tailed creatures tangled in the long strings of water weed. I'd rather sit on the bank and watch the overhanging branches of the black willow dip and dimple the water.

With notebook and pencil, I leaned against the tree and scribbled my random thoughts. Mama had requested that I keep a diary during my seventeenth year—and that year was almost over. She said to keep it for a birthday gift to my oldest daughter when she turned seventeen. 1

Vaguely I recall the essense of my scribbling under the willow tree at Flatnose. Seventeen is on the edge of some great thing. At seventeen the grass is taller, the moon bigger, and the world glides in a grander sweep. Seventeen is melodramatic, comic and frivolous, and some of the creepiest boys look like heroes!

On August 26, 1928, the Hurricane Ward was divided into the North and the South. Frank Johnson was put in as our new bishop (of the North ward). Ether Wood was put in as Sunday School Superintendent, and I was called to be Sunday School Secretary, with Freda Fullmer as my asstant. This was my first church calling. How happy I was to be considered worthy!

Kate taught school at Iron Springs until Thanksgiving, then the Iron County School Board closed the school down, and transferred her to Parowan.

I was given the job of cleaning the sewing room and library in the east end of the old Relief Society building, to pay my tuition for my senior year in High School. Anthony Isom had the job of keeping the rest of the building clean. We were both to make our own fires, but Anthony was to carry the fuel. I always ran out of kindlings, so day after day, I groveled for chips behind the school house where little kids played on the teeter totters and swings, and the big boys tossed basket balls at the backboard by the 90 woodpile. I tried to make myself small and inconspicuous. Picking up chips was humiliating to me. If I had it to do over, I think I would skip and sing as I toted the black coal scuttle after kindlings. I took no joy in pushing the heavy broom over the splintering, oiled wood floor, nor in dusting the shelves and tables with the waxy rags that should have been burned. Attitude makes the difference between Heaven and Hell. My attitude made this job Hades, especially on the dreadful December day when Hurricane shivered in a sixty-mile gale.

I struck half a box of matches that morning, trying to get the fire started. I had only slick magazine pages and damp chips. My teeth chattered and my fingers were numb by the time the fire took hold. The room was bitter cold, so as the fire flamed up, I fed it more and more wood and coal, until the pot-bellied stove glowed red.

Then the twenty-foot stove-pipe collapsed across the sewing tables and over the book shelves. The stove was located on the opposite side of the room from the flue, so more heat would be given off by the long, black pipe wired to the ceiling. Generations of soot, which had collected in the pipe, billowed into the room, blinding and suffocating me. Flames and smoke shot up from the roaring, red hot stove. Anthony, who was working in the next room, came running. I was both angry and terrified. Through the choking, black confusion, he remained calm. Summoning help from the street, he put out the fire, then cleaned up the pipes, anchoring them back in place. We had no vacuum, and the feathery soot swirled like a flurry of mischievous spirits in front of my broom. For days, whisps of soot puffed out to plague me from between the books on the library shelves, until I had been able to deep clean every crevice. Sewing classes were suspended for one day.

Our sewing teacher, Cleone Smith, dispelled the gloom of winter in the sewing room, by ushering in Spring in December. She had her students start on their spring dresses. The room became cheerful with voiles, chiffons and georgette in rainbow colors. Cleone was the beautiful daughter of the Church Patriarch, Hyrum Smith. We were honored to have her as a teacher, and even more honored when she married Alma Isom from Hurricane.

Stella Willis, the world's champion typist, presented a lyceum assembly at Hurricane. She could carry on a normal conversation, and type one hundred and twenty-five words a minute accurately, at the same time. I was dumfounded when she called me to the stage to give me a concentration test. Dazed, I sat down to the spanking new Underwood, with my copy material before me. At the signal to start, the typewriter purred. It was a good machine. As the questions were fired at me, I managed to briefly say "sure", "yes", "no", "of course", and "I don't know". Miss Willis checked my finished sheet and announced that I had accurately typed ninety words a minute. The assembly applauded. I was glad to get off the staoe and melt in with the crowd. I felt certain Miss Willis had exaggerated my ability.

Our first year type teacher, Laura Lund, had married the elementary music teacher, Elvis Bird Terry. June Bunker was the second year teacher. She took a group of us to Cedar to the High School Days at the BAC. There I won a typing scholarship. At the same time, Mrs. Ruesch, our English teacher, had entered my "Polliwog Pond" poem in the lyric poetry contest, and it won. I had to choose between two scholarships, so I accepted the Marlow Spilsbury Memorial Poetry one. I remembered how handsome Marlow was when he dashed on his horse past our place, driving his herd of cattle. He was young and attractive. Not long after that, he died of a sudden illness.

Footnotes

  1. I kept the diary, and re-read it to myself when Marilyn was just fifteen. Embarrassed at my outpouring of sentimental feelings, I burned it. Now I am sorry I did.