Monday, April 7, 2014

My Life Story/Memories/One Cousin at a time - Cousin Laura


My memories of my cousin Laura are great ones. It was fun having the cousins come to visit during the summer. My cousins from both sides of my family would come at the same time, so even though they weren't actually related, they became great friends. The boy cousins would be in the basement and the girl cousins on the second floor with my parents in the middle. Talk about a whole lot of fun. I remember countless nights of watching the older cousins play fun games like Yahtzee and Pit. I was too young to understand the games but I do remember thinking they must be the most fun games ever invented because the laughter and joy that was always around while playing them showed how much fun a group could have. When Laura really needed to advance in Yahtzee, she would have us kids blow on the dice for good luck. Then when she got a good roll, she would praise us and thank us as if we had just won the game for her. She always boosted our self worth by her kind words and actions.

Laura’s family lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. It seemed like a world away from Aberdeen, Idaho. On the farm we always had lots of farm animals, a large garden, and a lot of wide open spaces. We didn't have to worry about being too loud because there was no one around to hear us. I remember we had chickens that usually spent their lives in a chicken coop, mainly for their own safety from skunks, and other wild animals that would love to eat them for dinner. We did however have one nuisance of a rooster that always seemed to be able to escape the coop. This rooster was a mean old bugger. It would chase you around and just at the right moment fly up into your face and scare the daylights out of you. Laura was particularly spooked by this crazy bird. I decided at a very young age to take matters into my own hands. I was not much taller than the rooster when I started to charge after him and bonk him on the head whenever he was wreaking havoc. I became the hero of the hour. After I showed that old rooster who was boss, Laura would ask me to accompany her when she was outside to keep her safe. I loved my new job.

We also had a lot of pigs, and for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with pigs when they get out, it was a lot like chasing feathers. It seems like every Sunday when we would get home from church, we would find the pigs out and feasting on the garden. Dad would stay longer at church than the rest of us because he usually had other meetings, so the pig chasing ended up being a bunch of women and children running around in long flowing dresses with brooms in our hands. We always got a kick out of Laura in particular. She wanted so much to be helpful, but pig chasing just wasn't her thing. I think the pigs could sense a kind timid heart so they saw it as a weak link and that is where they would charge to get out of the circle we would form around them trying to chase them in. Sometimes this would go on for hours. When we finally got to go inside the house for lunch we were hot, hair flowing wildly and usually a bit of straw tucked in our stockings and manure in our shoes. Oh, Laura, you are not in Vegas anymore.

Speaking of hair, Laura had the most beautiful hair. This was the early 70’s and long straight hair was the thing. Laura and Lisa had the most awesome hair. My mom didn't let me have my hair very long because I was such a tom boy and my hair was so thick it would be impossible to brush and take care of, but oh how I loved to look at Laura’s hair.

But of all the beauties Laura had, her best one of all was her musical talent. She had a voice that sounded like an angel and her piano playing ability was the best I had ever heard. Every night after dinner, or as we called it back in the day, “Super” we would all join around the piano and listen to Laura play and sing along. It never got old. The entire house would almost lift into heaven from the wonderful sounds coming from it. I know there was one song in particular that mom and Laura played together and it felt like the entire piano was on fire dancing and playing along. I wish I had a video of them playing, I did find a duet on you tube that sounds a lot like what they sounded like from our small little farm house all those years ago. Tell me if this does not change your life forever. It sure did me.

Laura also was able to talk my dad into singing solos for us. He had a beautiful voice, but didn't like to be the center of attention when it came to music so it wasn't easy to get him to sing for us. His voice range was crazy. He could get very low and high and had perfect pitch. Even though he didn't read music, his voice made up for it a thousand times over. It would pierce you to the heart. Our favorites were, “Old Man River, Sixteen Tons ( and “He”. In honor of my father, Laura sang “He” at my father’s funeral and to this day it brings tears to my eyes to remember how wonderful it was.

I found a link on youtube of the song sung by some random person. The voice doesn't even come close to the beauty of Laura’s but at least you will know what I am talking about. I also included the words below.

He can turn the tide or calm the angry sea,
He alone decides who writes a symphony.
He lights ev'ry star that makes our darkness bright
He keeps watch all through each long and lonely night.
He still finds the time to hear a child's first prayer,
Saint or sinner call and always find him there.

Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live, He'll always say, "I forgive."

He can grant a wish or make a dream come true,
He can paint the clouds and turn the gray to blue.
He alone knows where to find the rainbow's end,
He alone can see what lies beyond the bend.
He can touch a tree and turn the leaves to gold
He knows ev'ry lie that you and I have told.

Though it makes him sad to see the way we live, He'll always say, "I forgive."
Melody by Jack Richards; Lyrics by Richard Mullen

My next goal when I go to Idaho, is to go through my mom’s photo albums and get all the pictures I can of the things I have been writing about and I will post them at a later date. Then you can see for yourself how beautiful Laura is.

In the summer of 1976, my uncle Melvin had been in Idaho visiting. I will tell about that visit when I talk about my cousin Laurie. Anyway, two weeks after Melvin’s trip, Laura was going to Utah to attend BYU. We figured out my two older sisters and I could ride back to Vegas with Uncle Melvin, stay for two weeks with Laura and her family, then ride back as far as Utah with them when they were taking Laura to college and my mom could pick us up in Provo.

We drove all day and by the time we were almost to Vegas, Uncle Melvin started getting very tired. He decided to have Pollyanna, Christie and I stay at his house for the night and he would take us across town to the Henderson’s in the morning. I remember being a second grader at this time and knowing I was a big girl, I agreed to be the one to call and let the Henderson’s know the new plan. When I called, Laura answered the phone. She was so excited to hear my voice and so excited to see us, and disappointed to have to wait one more night before she saw us. As I think back on that now, it is amazing to me, that an 18 year old girl in the prime of her life would even care one bit about three little girls ages 8, 9, and 10 years old. That is just an example of how much she loved us.

While we were in Vegas for our trip she took us all over. We went to Lake Mead and swam on the beach. To this day whenever I smell coconut suntan oil, I think of Laura. She took us swimming at her friend’s house and I had my very first rice crispy treat on that trip. Oh, the deliciousness of the tasty morsel. Then, the unthinkable happened. The news started broadcasting a major catastrophe in Idaho. The Teton Dam broke and left devastation in its wake everywhere it went. We were unable to get a hold of any of the family in Idaho and for the first time in my life I found out what true fear was. The unknown was playing crazy tricks on my mind and I immediately became so afraid I couldn't get a hold of myself. I remember Laura put on a record from “The Carpenters” and taught us some ballet. It really helped get our minds off the stress and we were instantly calm. Later that night Aunt Loa finally got a hold of mom and found out the floods had not made it to Aberdeen at all. Everything would be just as we left it when we got home.

I found a youtube video detailing the events around the Teton Dam destruction. 

Even though we were seeing tragic images on the news surrounding the devastation taking place in Idaho, I was comforted by my cousin, and became completely calm.

Thank you Laura for your great example!

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