Roger Davies 13 July 2008
Bishop Anderson asked us last week to talk. I thought; “Great, I get to tell some of my stories!” They get better every time I tell them anyway. If you think about it, stories (true stories) are what the scriptures are made of. They remind us of what is good and true and help us avoid what is not.
Now I am my Grandpa
As a child I fondly remember coming to visit Grandma and Grandpa Spencer's home here in Magrath. Isn't it great to visit your Grandparents?
One of my earliest memory flashes is of being in a car on a dark night as a very young child, parked in front of the Magrath Pharmacy (as I remember). Someone went into the store and came back with a small bag of Hawkins Cheezies for me.
One of my mothers' favorite little sayings, whenever I did something untoward, was; “I never should have dropped you on your head when you were a baby!” I am told that incident actually happened in my Grandma and Grandpa Spencer's home (where we currently reside). I was the first child and first grand-child on the Spencer side. My father was changing me on the kitchen table and I rolled off onto the floor when he glanced the other way. Apparently, no one had given him the memo that Roger was going to be a very active (bouncing) little boy. I also remember later on having to get a tetanus shot after stepping on a rusty nail sticking out of a board on the sidewalk in front of the site where the old chapel had been torn down (just west of the Trading Company building – now Roosters).
Do you remember how long summer used to last? It was months and months long! We used to pile into the old blue family car and spend all summer here in Magrath. We would arrive late in the evening, leaving after Dad got off work. Grandma would have boxes of sugar cereal, chocolate milk powder, and cookies in great supply waiting for us. I recall gorging myself and waking up in the middle of the night in pain from overeating. We would play with toys from our uncles old room – an apple crate box of wooden lego type bricks, some old style skates, and a vintage wooden hockey game, walk to the swimming pool in our bare feet each day and watch TV on one of the two available channels. Early in the morning – 6am the clock radio on top of the fridge in the kitchen would sound the top of the hour theme song (dada-dada-da dada-dada-da) for the news with Bill Matheson and the Phone Bill show. Occasionally we would 'help' Grandpa at the farm (since that was 'men's work') by driving around with him as he went about doing his farm chores.
I remember as well my Grandpa's giant irrigation boots. Big old gum boots that seemed to come up to my waist (and about to his knees). We would try to walk in them. Interestingly, we seem to be walking in some of the same footsteps.
Today we live in the same house that my mother and my grandparents lived in. My grandchildren are starting to come visit us at 'Grandma and Grandpa Davies's' house. We have four visiting from Kentucky this summer and three more recently moved back into Magrath from Montana, two that we will go visit in Idaho next week and one more just moved to Coaldale. While they are here, they play with Auntie Adrien's toys, walk everywhere in their bare feet, go swimming at the pool and watch TV on one of the four available channels. Occasionally they come 'help Grandpa' (me) while I do chores around the house.
Yesterday i was involved in planting new trees at the Magrath Lions Park playground. We had a shovel, a wheelbarrow, a new 8 foot baby tree, and fids folding chairs set up near the shade of the new tree. As I was digging and shoveling, the grand-helpers sat in the chairs in the shade and drank cool bottled water. One granddaughter explained to another onlooker; “My grandpa is a hard worker. He built this whole park!” Not completely true – I told them I had mostly just built the hole IN the park – the one I happened to be standing in. That just confused them. It will be a while before they understand Grandpa puns. I now realize that I was just as much help to my own Grandpa. Still, he took us with him most every day we were visiting.
My Grandpa was a good man, husband, father, a farmer and a bishop, among other things. Sister Rollingson told me a story about him just the other day. She remembers once my Grandpa coming to visit their family to tell them he suspected their pet dog had been getting into his chickens. After he had left, the head of her house got out the shotgun and, despite the plea's of his children to the contrary, promptly executed the accused animal. Later, she remembers my Grandpa coming back to apologize – he had found that it hadn't been their dog making trouble after all. She remembers thinking, he could have just said nothing and didn't have to come back to apologize. They got another dog soon after that so the story had a somewhat happy ending (except for dog #1).
Bumps and Bruises: Mercedes fell the other day and made contact with the corner of the desk – which required steri-strips to hold her head together. Shauna per usual took lots of pictures. These will make fun memories.
One time I was 'helping' Grandpa in the backyard. I think I was to hold the garden hose – just in case. He had made a large ten foot high pile of old lumber that he planned to burn. I recall it being strategically placed not too far from the back of the house on the west wind side. He was having trouble getting it to burn. It would just smolder, sputter and fan out in the breeze. So, he decided to go into the garage and get quart size tin of purple gas to ameliorate the situation. We proceeded over to the pile of wood and tossed it onto the smoldering lumber. A huge ball of flame exploded up into the hot summer day. I recall Grandpa, a bit shaken bu unhurt, telling me; “Roger, don't ever do that!”. Sometimes, we can learn from others mistakes. I rarely toss cans of purple gas onto smoldering fires anymore. In fact - in my later life I served a while on the Magrath Volunteer Fire Department helping to put out those kind of fires. I have occasionally lost eyebrows to an unexpected flare up, but the house, however, miraculously survived unscathed, for which I am most grateful, as this is where I lay my head today.
As an older grandchild (the oldest) I remember actually doing some real work out at the farm. At noon, the old fire siren would sound and we would head back to Magrath for lunch. Grandpa taught us the 'power nap' principle. We ate for a half hour and then we were to nap for the rest of the noon hour. I recall not feeling overly drowsy. He explained that my body would rest if I just quietly laid there even if my mind was not sleepy. I am starting to appreciate the need for a power nap. Grandpa was born in 1899 so when I was 12 in 1969 he was 70, still out working the farm well into my teen years. Today, after standing at work 9-6 at the pharmacy, there are days I fall into a coma for a few hours. Then I can get back to work in my computer shop for the evening. Not sure how it will work for me 20 years from now when I turn 70, but I suppose the value of a nap can only increase over time.
In the Feb 2008 Worldwide Training Meeting, Elder Jeffery R Holland used a story from his mother on how she could make a shirt from just looking at it and figuring it out, but that she much preferred to have a pattern to work from. We have a pattern to follow on how the family should and can be.
President S Monson continued that thought in his concluding remarks, repeating the following: “First, let us establish a pattern of prayer. As a people, aren't we grateful that family prayer is not an out-of-date practice with us? There is not a more beautiful sight in all this world than to see a family praying together. The Lord directed that we have family prayer when He said, 'Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed' (3 Nephi 18:21). As we pray with our families each day, we will help to provide the protection we all so desperately need in today's world.”
I remember as a child kneeling for a long time while my Grandma Spencer said the family prayers. She knew who to pray. I would peek at the clock to time her, sometimes it seemed that she would continue on for over 20 minutes! I now pray longer than I did as a child. I used to pray for my parents and siblings and a few more items and then I was done. Now I have to also pray for all my own children and grandchildren, their families and friends and nieces and nephews and cousins, missionaries, difficult family situations and trials and on and on. The point is, it was so standard and common a practice that, I don't recall any specific time other than when the prayer was extraordinarily drawn out.
President Monson continues: “Second, may our homes be a library of learning. An essential part of our learning library will be good books. Reading is one of the true pleasures of life. In our age of mass culture, when so much that we encounter is abridged, adapted, adulterated, shredded and boiled down, it is mind-easing and mind-inspiring to sit down privately with a congenial book.”
At my grandparents house, my Grandma had saved years and years of Readers Digest magazines. We loved to flip through the pages and look at the old advertisements – cars from years past, many products no longer for sale. Grandpa loved to re-tell jokes and the Readers Digest was one of his favourite sources. We did learn to read real books too. A library card was 10 cents for the summer when I was a youth and we spent much of our summer reading books from the tiny Magrath Library.
The Lord counselled, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Cleaning out our basement, I remember coming across my Grandma Spencer's missionary bible and standard works. She had served her mission in the Eastern United States and had made notes in cursive handwriting throughout. Those are the sort of things that are important.
The third thing President Monson teaches: “A Legacy of Love .. may our families and homes be filled with love: love of each other, love of the gospel, love of our fellow man, and love of our Saviour. As a result, heaven will be a little closer here on earth. May we make of our homes sanctuaries to which our family members will ever want to return.”
Moving back here to Magrath was always a dream of mine, because of childhood memories here with the town and with my family here. When anyone asks where I want to go on holiday, I think to myself; “.. to Magrath!”. Thankfully, I am already here!
We are not perfect. I remember fighting with my brothers and sisters occasionally – when needed (their fault of course). I sometimes see my children and grandchildren with similar struggles. However, I am proud of the choices they are making. Getting married in the Temple. Choosing to start and raise their own children despite difficult financial situations. Serving in the church. I have a testimony of the truth of this church and the blessings that come when we strive to follow it's principles.
If I had time, I would tell you more stories ..
The story of Grandpa Spencer driving down to Utah in his old farm truck to help us move back to Canada from our two years in Provo (Dad had been attending BYU for two years for his masters in French) in the summer of 1964. How we piled up all our many belongings onto the truck to overfull, well up over the stock racks and on top of the cab, and how we limped home despite many blown tires needing to be repaired on the trip home. Meanwhile in our old Plymouth, we had Grandpa Davies, a cat, five kids and Mom driving behind the overloaded truck over hill and dale and mountain pass. Near the end, Grandpa's brother Uncle Art drove down to Montana to meet us with 4 new tires to get us safely home. We were not able to make it in one day, so we spent the night in an old motel somewhere along the highway. We were somewhat dismayed to find the cat had bolted away (not really used to living in a metal box) that night. Grandpa Davies got up early and searched and found her for us the next morning, in time to continue on our journey.
The story of Grandma Spencer, who discovered Pic-a-Pop for us. She stored it in the scary basement under the shelves between the Cold Room and the Laundry area. How Uncle Cam was scolded for trying to just have a drink of good old 'Magrath' water .. “Cam, don't drink water! We have pop ..” and earlier, a story of how my father choked on the sacrament water visiting my Mom before they were married (his first taste of “good old 'Magrath' water – it was quite hard, a bit cloudy and had it's own distinctive flavor back then).
And the story of Grandma and Grandpa Spencer coming to visit us way up north in Calgary. They made the long journey on gravel and narrow highway roads to visit us. I recall the fudge rolls and all the frozen lamb chops, etc they brought us. They set an example to us in taking the time to come and serve us.
I suppose you all have stories of your own to remember and retell. These stories reflect the love and service we have enjoyed in our upbringing, for which I for one am most grateful.