Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

Lew Hopkins always rode a motorcycle. I knew nothing about them and am a little fearful of them even to this day, probably because of hanging around with Lew.

Lew lived up the Canyon on a nice little farm nestled against the Dry Fork of Omner Creek. The creek ran in the spring and early summer, but most of the year was just a strip of cobble rocks. His dad rarely got a third crop of hay because the water petered out. Funds were tight for the Hopkins’ and 12 miles to school didn’t help. Mostly Lew rode the bus. After his sophomore year though, he got a job at a Winslow’s Auto Parts and bought a Honda 350 to ride to school and work. Even then he didn’t have a lot of pocket change.

School lunch was 25 cents and often Lew would offer to do loony stunts for a quarter so he could eat with us. One time he said, “If I lay down in the middle of the crosswalk to the Seminary building and using my shoulder as a pivot, spin a full 360 in the road with all the girls watching, would that be worth a quarter?” “Sure.” Or, “If I jump off the folded up bleachers in the gym, onto the, six foot in diameter, push ball, would that be worth a quarter?” “Sure.”

Heck, now I’m going to have to tell you about that one. Lew was a big kid even then. The top of the bleachers had to be 12 feet off the floor. That’s a six foot drop to the ball. I feared the huge canvas covered ball might pop. Or what if he missed? He stood there calculating a moment and leapt. He did a seat drop and landed slightly forward of top dead center. He sank deep into the ball and then shot at a 90 degree angle out across the gym floor, where he gracefully slid to a stop against the bleachers on the other side of the gym. I gave him a dollar.

Often, after work on a Saturday, Lew would pick me up on his Honda and we’d head up the canyon for some exploring. One evening we were coming down the canyon and we spotted a doe running beside us on the opposite side of the fence that paralleled the road. Lew decided to race her. We’d nearly caught her when she decided to jump the fence and cross the road in front of us. She landed right on the front fender and was gone, as quick as that. We stopped and shook it off. Examining the bike we found deer fur jammed between the fender and the front shocks.

Early one summer Lew got word that his friend and hero Billy Wainwright had been killed in Viet Nam. They were neighbors and Billy had been the big brother Lew never had. Lew was devastated. After the funeral Billy’s mom took Lew aside. She assured him that Billy loved him. Then she explained that she wanted Lew to have Billy’s old 1938 Harley Davidson motorcycle. “Billy would have wanted it that way.” Lew was thrilled.

He worked on the old worn-out beast for a month. One afternoon I was up there helping him try to get it started. Nothing seemed to work. The Hopkins’ lane had a nice downhill slope to it. It ran along an alfalfa field to the bottom of the slope then made a hard right and went out to the main road. We decided to try to push start it. The Harley had a foot clutch on the left side and a hand shifter on the side of the fuel tank. Lew put it in second gear and depressed the clutch pedal. I started pushing him down the road. The first couple of clutch pops had no results. We still had some momentum though so we kept going. On the third attempt she fired up and the old hind wheel started churning. Lew was way too close to the corner though, and was forced to cross through the hay. Flames were shooting six feet out of the exhaust pipe and a 20 foot rooster tail of green alfalfa was spraying into the air. I laughed so hard I had to step into the bushes.

Now she was running, we had to go to town and show her off. We put our ball caps on backwards and headed down the canyon. There was no second seat so I had to sit on the back fender. We got down to the intersection of Himni Avenue and Main Street and stopped at the light. We were in the left turn lane. While we waited for the light to change Mitch Warner pulled up next to us in his rod. He rumbled the engine. Lew responded by wrapping up the Harley. Just then his foot slipped off the clutch and the bike pulled a wheelie, through the red light, right out into the intersection where it dumped me smack dab on top of the manhole cover in the middle of the street! Lew went on to careen over the curb where he finally got control in the parking lot of Hanley’s Department Store. Aside from a sore rear end and singed eyebrows I was no worse for wear, just a little smarter.

I rode home with Mitch.


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School Lunch was popular in the sixties. Oh, there were a few who sneaked off campus for a bottle of pop and a bag of potato chips (corn chips weren’t invented yet), but most of us stood in the lunch line and ate whatever the lunch ladies put on our trays.

A favorite place to socialize was in the lunch line and the lunch room. The food was pretty ordinary, but I thought it tasted great.

I remember standing in lunch line one day a few kids behind Marjorie Green and her girl friends. They were the popular girls of the Senior Class and always wore the most stylish fashions. Marjorie had on a green and orange dress that day. It was sort of a sack dress all pea soup green with a garish orange panel down the front. Separating the green from the orange panel were two large zippers, one down each side. The zipper pulls were two three inch brass rings. They were pretty predominant ornaments at her neckline. We hadn’t been standing there long when Billy Morton and Brock Hoopes walked by. Brock turned aside, walked up to Marjorie, inserted an index finger in each of those rings and pulled them clear down to her hemline where they completely disconnected. The whole orange panel fell to the floor. Bob Jensen, Marjorie’s football hero boyfriend, felled Brock with one punch.

When the pandemonium cleared up the Principal gave Marjorie the worst of it for wearing such a ridiculous outfit to school. “Seems to me,” he said, “She was begging for it.”

Lunch was pretty predictable. There were ten basic meals with few variations. These were cycled through with regularity. Then one day the cooks decided to get creative. They went Mexican. I had never eaten Mexican food. There was no Taco Bell in Himni; infact, I don’t think Utah had one anywhere. I didn’t know a burrito from a canoli. I got exposed to tacos the following summer when my aunt and uncle took me to San Diego for a couple of weeks. At this point in my life, though, this was as exotic as it gets!
As Mitch, Lew and I worked our way past the cooks at the lunch counter, Lew watched Nettie, our favorite cook, slap a large brown gooey looking glob next to the Spanish Rice on Mitch’s tray. He asked, “What is that!?”

“Refried Beans.”

Lew looked up at Nettie, then down at the glob. Then looking back at Nettie asked,”How many times?”

As Lew’s own glob now slowly slid down the front of his shirt, we walked cautiously over to our seats.

By the time we were Seniors, School Lunch was going out of vogue. My gang still ate there regularly, but fewer and fewer joined us. Along about April came National School Lunch Week. We decided in honor of our fair cooks and in order to promote School Lunch, we’d better do something special. We put our heads together and came up with a pretty good gag.

Between us we managed to gather up a complete collection of linen, china, crystal, silver and candelabra. After paying the clerk we ducked out of line and grabbed a table where we set out the whole table setting, lit candles and all. To our amazement, as we turned to go get our food, Nettie appeared at our table with all our food on a huge tray she’d conjured up somewhere. She served us with finesse befitting a king and then to our utter amazement, accepted our invitation to sit and dine with us. She was fine company, but kept picking at our poor table manners.

We had a newcomer in the gang that year. Bob Elkington was an exchange student from New Zealand and had fit right in. We loved trying to mimic his accent. Bob picked up his fork in his left hand, placed the tines, pointed down, on his plate and began stacking potatoes and peas on the back of the fork with his knife. “Mind your manners, Bob,” Nettie scolded, “One day you may eat with the Queen!” Bob replied, without even looking up, “Pahdon me mum, but this is ‘ow the Queen eats.”

Nettie stared resolutely at Bob for about a minute, then quietly switched her fork to the left hand and picked up her knife.

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Mitch Warner and I and few others were cleaning up the stage after the School Play our senior year. We just about had things tidied up when somebody (Hall of Famers won’t like the lack of a specific name.) kicked a roll of masking tape across the floor. Somebody else kicked it back and the game of Szhungaelzee was born. In seconds, four chairs were set up, as goals, at opposite ends of the bare stage and a full blown scrimmage was underway. Not entirely original, Szhungaelzee was played with the feet, like soccer, with a puck (the masking tape) like hockey, preferably on a hardwood floor. We had a ball that afternoon playing, developing rules, strategy, technique and terminology.

We were on a mission! Before we went to bed that night the game had been named, the puck had been renamed the Raquephrat, the rules had been committed to memory and two teams had been formed. It was commonly agreed that most sports had been buried so deep in rules that they had become stodgy and mechanical. Szhungaelzee’s rules were bare bones at best. We considered Sunday shoes as required equipment. A slightly rebelious way to thumb our noses at the school coaches, who were constantly whining about the gym floor during dances. We threw it out though, knowing we’d never find a place to play if we did. The number one rule was: All comers are welcome! We didn’t ever want Szhungaelzee to become elitist and political like High School sports had become.

Can you sense a tone of bitterness here? You should. There were a lot of us who were bitter about showing up every Friday night to worship the chosen few. In fact that’s how Szhungaelzee got it’s name. We used to sit in the stands at the ball games and make up our own cheers. Stuff like, “Lean to the Left, Lean to the Left, Lean to the Left again, rah (or was it raw?)!” At which point the one farthest on the left made like he’d been shoved off the end of the bleachers. Good fun. One day Mitch showed up with a new one. He’d heard it in a movie or read it in a book somewhere. It was a cheer from some college named Shelgamy. It went, “”S” Stands for Shelgamy, “H” stants for Hit. Shelgamy, Shelgamy, (clap) (clap) (clap).” Anyway, Mitch couldn’t, for the life of him, remember Shelgamy so in order to render it for us he came up with an invented college named “Szhungaelzee!” It was irreverent I know. That was the point. There were no intramural sports. There was no E in PE. Only the elite got a real shot at playing ball of any kind. We were synical about the whole athlete thing and this was our subtle statement about it all. Anyway, when we played Szhungaelzee, the cheer was implied and the whole thing represented a sneer at the establishment. This was the late sixties after all.

The next day the stage was locked, the gym was occupied and we were dying for a quick game during the lunch hour. The new Himni High had a hall just for the Arts department. It dead ended at the band room. It wasn’t all that wide, but it had little traffic, so it worked. Douglas Winger sneaked one past Pee Wee Lundquist, our goalie, and the Raquephrat slid out into the main hall. Douglas, who was Himni’s pre-eminent scholar and kept a pretty low profile at school, was in hot pursuit. He was already developing his famous sliding swoop and attempted to use it to bring the masking tape back into play. He slid on his side out into the main hall intending to hook the Raquephrat with is right foot and swoop it back the other direction. Just as he made the hook though, Mrs. Celestia Hopewell’s right foot stepped right on the tape. Douglas was already looking back in our direction. I guess there wasn’t time for him to see the horror in our faces. In what seemed like slow motion (which hadn’t been invented yet), Douglas swooped. Celestia went one way and the puck went the other. After we gathered Mrs. Hopewell up from the floor, she marched us all the to office. She was kind enough to acknowledge it was an accident, but we were forever banned from playing Szhungaelzee in the hall.

Pee Wee attended the Grant Ward and his Dad had a key to the building. We got permission to use the gym at the church and scheduled our first game for the following Thursday. The Raquephrat Kickers defeated the Anti-Jocks by a score of 12 to 7! Each team consisted of six players. Pee Wee was our goalie. The spread of his two size 12 feet left exactly the width of a roll of masking tape between the pop bottles we used as goal posts. It was hard to get one past him. The most exciting part was the turn out! There were probably 80 spectators. Three more teams were organized by night’s end. Another signed up the following afternoon. We had a league!

Lew Hopkins was Student Body President that year. I don’t think he ever joined a team, but he showed up every Thursday to cheer us on. On Friday mornings, when he did the announcements over the intercom at school, Lew would read the Szhungaelzee scores. This drew more excitement and before long we had huge crowds showing up Thursday evenings at the Grant Ward Cultural Hall.

Then problems began, especially at my house. (Mom and Dad were both on the faculty.) The establishment was not pleased. It began with the coaches and my dad. I guess they felt threatened. I guess they thought we were encroaching on their turf. Maybe they feared economic repercussions. Like Communism this cancer had to be erradicated. Initially, they tried to “talk sense” into us. It was quickly obvious that wasn’t going to work. Threats followed. Still we played on. Then one night we showed up at the church to find the key no longer worked and a note on the door indicating the “brethren” had determined that they could no longer permit our activity. Liability and law suits were not a concern. Those were the days when the troop rode to camp in the back of the Scoutmaster’s pickup truck. We checked the other meeting houses with the same results. We had been black balled!

When I got home that night my father and mother we not speaking to one another. Dad, who’d seemed pretty puffed up for about a week, looked pretty humble. I’d heard a heated rumble in their bedroom the night before. All I could make out was Mom saying, “…it’s good clean fun!” and something about “…a bunch of self agrandizing bullies!” Nothing was ever said to me, but I’m sure Mom didn’t approve of his strong arming us kids into submission. It helped to know Mom stuck up for us.

And so, Szhungaelzee died. Perhaps it’s just as well. I might have gone pro and ruined my whole life with fame and lavish excess. Since then, while the jocks waste countless hours couched in front of ball games on TV, I enjoy days and days hiking on the mountain. While they hobble around the golf course on aching knees, I backpack in the Grand Canyon. While they relive their youth by yelling at their kids on the little leage field, I fly kites with mine. They got what they wanted and, in the end, so did I.

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There were three Baritonists in the Himni High School Band. LeGrand Morris (Grandy), Michael Simper and myself. In the band room we sat on the back row, but in front of Rob Hanke, who played the Sousaphone and needed a bit of elbo room in the back corner opposite the drummers. Mitch Warner played the tenor sax and sat right in front of us.

Mr. Hess, our band teacher, had listed the student’s names in alphabetical order. He then assigned each a consecutive number, in that order. When it was time for roll call, he just called on us to count off in the appropriate sequence. As luck would have it, Morris, Parker, Simper and Warner stacked up right in a row. Our numbers were 27, 28, 29 and 30. We soon took to calling out our numbers in four part harmony. Grandy would sing his number and hold the note, then in succession, the others would add their number and harmonious note. Rob, not wanting to be left out, often added a deep bass sousaphone drone as foundation for our performance.

We were a “harmonious” group in more ways than one. We saw eye to eye on most things and were pretty much inseparable even when not in the band room. The previous summer, all of us except Michael had gone to Boy’s State together. Michael’s big brother Ronald had gone with us. Michael was a year younger. We talked often of Boy’s State, of the fun we’d had. Mitch and I were still corresponding with Rhonda and Wanda, twin girls we’d met while up there in Logan. Michael was desperate to have the same experience. It’s hard to say this about Michael, we liked him a lot, but he was a bit odd. I know what you’re thinking, but I mean even odder than the rest of us. He was even awkward around us, his best buddies. He always treated us with a kind of awe and respect, like he couldn’t believe we liked him and that our friendship was somehow tenuous.

Michael invented the “blip boid.” I think he intended it to be sort of a combination sign somewhere between “the bird” and a salute. To correctly execute the blip boid you had to hold your right arm out in front of yourself with the forearm in a vertical position. The hand was held in a relaxed posture with the index finger and thumb extended, but also somewhat relaxed. Once in this position you slowly elevated the hand while twisting it back and forth in a jerky, syncopated motion until you got it about half as high as you could reach, where you stopped until all responding blip boids had been completed. Michael insisted this be our club high sign. Trouble is, we didn’t have a club.

Maybe Michael thought going to Boy’s State was the final initiation that would make his membership in our club complete. It must not have occurred to him that we’d all be gone next year. Or, maybe he thought that he’d fall in with other Boy’s State alumni in our absence. Anyway, he mused about it a lot and was constantly seeking the mysterious key that would insure his invitation. One day, off the cuff, I mentioned that never in the history of Himni High had the newly elected Student Body President failed to be invited to Boy’s State. His insecurity prevailing, Michael asked, “So I run for Student Body President, but what if I lose?”

That was no problem, because never in the history of Himni High had the loser of the election for Student Body President not been elected Senior Class President…and never in history had the Senior Class President failed to be invited to Boy’s State either. It was a sure thing! Michael was elated!

“Would you guys be my Campaign Committee?”

Now Mitch and I, in particular, were into politics. We’d gone to Boy’s State after all, plus we’d gone to Model United Nations twice and were steeped in Mr. Parker’s (my dad) American Problems class. We were the quintessential campaign committee! We didn’t tell him that neither one of us got elected to anything more important than Dog Catcher at Boy’s State.

The next few weeks were spent developing strategy, painting posters and overcoming Michael’s Pip Squeak image. The latter was a challenge. We decided the jocks were out. Michael’s challenger was Ricky Hanley, a jock – who had money. Our attention turned to the shops. If we could turn out the vote in the Auto, Wood and Ag shops we could kick Ricky’s butt. There was a reasonable population in that end of the school. That group was typically disinterested in such things as school elections. The academics were already pretty much in the bag on account of the persistent rivalry between academics and sports. Yup, the shops were the key.

In those days there was a common phrase used by the greasers down in the shops. As an insult cum challenge they would often offer a surly “Eat My Shorts!” Quite often that, or more commonly, “EMS” was scrawled on the restroom walls. We appropriated “EMS” for ourselves – Elect Michael Simper!

It was a good strategy and it might have worked. We’ll never know, though, because Mitch and I panicked and stuffed the ballot box – and got caught.

Ricky Hanley was declared the winner and Mitch and I were hauled in on the carpet. The Disciplinary Council consisted of the Principal, Mr. Steckler, Coach Harker and Mrs. Celestia Hopewell. We were doomed. Mr. Steckler informed us of the charges and explained that if found guilty, we’d be suspended for a week and our diplomas would be held until we’d completed 100 hours of community service. The biggest implication, I thought, was that it took Mitch out of the running for Valedictorian. He and Emily Allen were in hot contention for the honor and I couldn’t bear to have him lose it this way.

The witness, Marci Merriwether was called and before she was even halfway through her deposition, Coach Harker declared, “I move we convict ‘em. It’s clear they done it!”

“Did,” Mrs. Hopewell sharply replied.

“Did what?” Coach Harker queried.

“The correct English is “did it”, sir, not “done it.”

There was ice between them.

Mitch offered a subtle blip boid in my direction. I responded.

Coach Harker raged on at the vile act we’d committed. He always hated Mitch. Mitch could have been an All State Quarterback. He was smart enough, athletic enough, tall enough, and charismatic enough to have done the whole thing. He just had no interest in sports and that killed Coach Harker. His bitterness was showing like a girl’s slip.

Mr. Steckler finally got him settled down and turned the attention back to Marci. Meanwhile, I observed Mrs. Hopewell scratch a quick note which she passed to Coach Harker. When he held it up to read it, the light was such that, I could see the name Ted Traynor was scrawled on it. Ted was next year’s hope for a successful football season. I still can’t believe what came next. The coach mouthed the words, “You wouldn’t!” She responded with a most resolute glare.

The exchange was interrupted by Mr. Steckler, who dismissed Marci. She gave us a nasty little sniff, letting us know she was getting her revenge for the Golden Emerods incident. The Principal called for a vote. “By a show of hands, who finds the defendants guilty?” All three hands went up. He was about to declare our sentence when Mrs. Hopewell interrupted, “Due to extenuating circumstances, I propose that we ease up on these boys a bit. They’ve been assets to our school. This is the first time they’ve appeared before this council. May I respectfully suggest that we limit their punishment to community service and leave this little affair off their academic records?”

Mr. Steckler smugly suggested her proposal be put to a vote. “All in favor of the lightened sentence, suggested by Mrs. Hopewell, please signify by raising your hand.” Mrs. Hopewell’s hand went right up and not so swiftly, so did Coach Harker’s!

Mr. Steckler’s jaw hit his chest. Mitch and I were pretty shocked too. We came away shaking our heads. After all, who’d have thought that the greatest lesson in politics of our high school career would have been taught by an English teacher!

You might be interested to know that, though Ricky Hanley was the new Student Body President, he didn’t get invited to Boy’s State. Neither did Wes Whickham, the Senior Class President. Michael Simper, however, was invited and was elected Senator, his campaign slogan – EMS!

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On the North side of Cogburn’s Knob, facing away from Town is a rather steep hillside that has been cleared of brush and rocks. It was well worn by a few Jeeps and dozens of motorcycles. Four Wheelers hadn’t been invented yet. My gang had none of that, but we loved Suicide Hill anyway. In the summer we’d roll flaming tires from the top and watch them boil as they rolled into the large canal at the bottom.

In the winter we’d tube. We’d build a big bonfire, then haul our tubes to the top and ride them down for half the night. We rarely made it anywhere near the depths of the empty canal, some distance across the flat, but we tried. As each night wore on, the run would get slicker and faster and scarier. Few ever thought of going shy of the summit. We were immortal and the faster the better!

One winter it had been bitter cold for several weeks and we stayed off the hill. When the weather finally broke though, we planned a big party up on Suicide. We invited everyone who dared. About an hour after we got started Ronnie Mayhew showed up. We’d been too busy to wonder where he was. He’d been to OK Tire looking for a used tube he could afford, but we’d already cleaned them out. Out in his barn yard he’d found a huge tractor tire and decided to use that. He spent most of the evening dragging the monster to the summit. As we passed by we kept telling him it wouldn’t slide, but Ronnie was determined. Finally, we all pitched in and helped him up the steep last stretch.

When we finally reached the top, Ronnie laid the tire down, stepped back several feet, ran for all he was worth (to get momentum) and leapt on top of his tire.
It didn’t move an inch! He tried and tried, but the beast was not going to slide. We teased him. We offered him rides on our tubes. We tried to help him get it started. All to no avail. Ronniejust sat there on his tire with his chin in his hands while we made several more runs. We couldn’t get him or the tire to budge.

On our last run of the evening we all climbed to the top planning a giant chain to go down all together. As we were getting ready, Ronnie was cooking up plans of his own. He called our attention and requested we hold the tire up while he climbed inside so we could roll him down the hill.

Now we were not physicists, or physicians, but any dern fool knew such a ride would be suicide. Suicide Hill is not small and it begins with a very steep slope for 100 yards before it even begins to level out. We all chimed some version of, “No Way!” “Besides,” we told him, “if the ride doesn’t kill you the smash into the dry canal bed at the bottom surely will!”

“Naw,” said Ronnie. “Jinx and Pee Wee can launch me and the rest of you toughs can get down there and catch me before I crash.”

We were scared, but also excited! If he survived it’d be the greatest stunt ever pulled!

The guys all slid down to the bottom and got ready. They stood in two parellel lines on either side of the run. They braced themselves and hollered, “Ready!”

It took all three of us to get the thing standing in an upright position. Pee Wee and I couldn’t believe Ronnie had actually got the oversided pile of rubber up there. Ronnie crawled in and got tucked nicely down in the belly of the behemouth. After several are you sure you wanna do this‘s, we shoved him over the edge.

Pee Wee and I had intended to follow Ronnie down on our tubes, but he took off so fast! We just stood there amazed and in shock. Meanwhile, 16 or so tough guys were standing there waiting to catch him. They each had their arms stretched eagerly in our direction. It was two rows of hands and faces gazing intently at 400 pounds of hurtling flesh and rubber. As the tire ran that braced guntlet nothing moved but their heads as their astonished eyes followed it’s path. 16 pea-brains were at least smart enough to conclude that it wasn’t wise to step in front of a locomotive.

The Leviathan completely cleared the canal! Then, it rolled 100 yards up the opposite slope and headed back! The crew, at least, tumbled pell mell through the canal bed and up the other side before Ronnie could crash back into it. When I got there, I had to muscle my way through the circle. There, in the snow, lay Ronnie, half in and half out of the tire. Vomit was everywhere. 360 degrees of corn, carrots, peas and other less distinguishable stuff. We carried him to a car and drove our sick pal home. We didn’t see hide nor hair of him for a week.

All Ronnie got for his efforts was bragging rights and standing ovation in the school cafeteria a week later. Oh, and perhaps a little smarter.

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