106106 Across the room from me in English class sat the most collegiate looking boy on campus. The name that fit him most was "BAC". From the corner of my eye, I often saw him looking at me. When I returned his glance, he smiled.
"What's the lettering on your pep sweater?" he asked one day.
He knew it was my initials, but I made the most of it. "It's A-1. I am an A-1 Co-ed."
Grinning, he said, "I've been noticing you for a long time, and that's exactly what I've decided you are."
That was the beginning of a romance that made me forget Winferd. "BAC" and I went to the college functions and movies together. I little realized a fellow could be so considerate and nice and still be so much fun.
Cedar City had been blanketed with snow and ice all winter, and when Mama's letter came saying the peach trees were in bloom, I persuaded "BAC" to go with me and see. His sister and her girl friend came with us. After we dropped down from the Black Ridge into Utah's Dixie, we were in another world. Toquerville, LaVerkin and Hurricane were mostly orchards, enveloping the little towns. What a garden of Paradise they were! My college friends, who had never seen springtime in Dixie, marveled at the beauty of it, and I felt so proud of my "homeland".
We visited with the family and enjoyed their hospitality and Mama's good dinner, then went to Papa's field into the pink world of peach blossoms. Bees hummed in every tree, and meadowlarks filled the air with their melody. The sun was golden and warm. If ever I loved Hurricane, it was that day. We gathered arm loads of flowers to take back to Cedar. Looking back across the years, that day still stands out as the most blossom-filled, music-filled, sunshine-filled, "I love life" day that I can recall.
That day, "BAC" made a date with me for the prom. My feet almost skipped to campus and back in the days that followed. And then the college students went to the LaVerkin Hot Springs on a swimming party. The manager 107107 of the resort was the last thing on my mind. As I entered the building with "BAC", Winferd Gubler saw me—really saw me for the first time.
Managing to get me aside, he asked, "How about a date for the college prom?"
What an exasperating moment. A year ago, if he had asked me for a date, I would have accepted so eagerly that it would have frightened him away. But now, I was simply annoyed. "I'm sorry," I answered. "I already have a date."
Unabashed, he asked, "If I come to the prom, will you get me a date?"
"Sure," I replied.
Mary was just his type—intellectual, and pretty too. They'd make a perfect match. Mary was thrilled, and bought an expensive formal, and arrangements were made for Winferd to call at her home.
I got my first floor-length formal, and "BAC" gave me the first corsage I ever wore—pink rose buds. (I pressed the roses in "The Last Days of Pompeii" where they remained for years.) The dance was dreamy, until I saw Mary make a late entrance, accompanied by her parents.
"Where is Winferd?" I asked.
"He didn't come," she answered. Her eyes were red from weeping.
I was furious! That bounder! Here I had played him up to Mary for a big hero, and he had let her down.
Much later, he arrived, full of apologies and explanations about car trouble. Mary danced with him, but refused to let him take her home.
My college romance lasted through the summer, even though "BAC's" visits were infrequent. Papa set his heart on him the same as he had done with Maurice Judd. So far as Papa was concerned, I had arrived. Winferd looked at it differently.
I was back in the store clerking for Mr. Graff, and Winferd made more ticky trips for laundry soap than he'd ever done before. He knew I was dating someone else, and this sparked his interest in me.
One afternoon, it took him an hour to buy four bars of Fels Naptha. To keep busy after I had bagged the soap, I dusted a pencil display rack over and over, taking every one of the one-hundred and fourty-four pencils out of the little holes individually, and polishing around them. Finally after Winferd left, Mr. Graff appeared.
"Well, did you get a date?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied.
"I have a vacant lot between my store in LaVerkin and Gubler's house. It is a fine building spot," he grinned.
It was the enchanted hour between daylight and dark when Winferd's green Chevrolet drove away from our gate. I was the girl sitting beside him. Once, I would have felt as breathless as though riding on a magic carpet, but things were different now. Winferd was no longer the great, unreachable prince.
108108 I had been warned that heart-smashing was his game. Certainly, he was different from anyone I had ever been with. He was suave and polished, with a maturity that made all other dates seem juvenile, still he had a spontaneous good humor that was as refreshing as a breeze.
We stopped to enjoy the last pink and gold that splashed the sky in the west. "I love the twilight," he said, "it is my favorite time of day."
We watched the jagged silhouette of the mountains blend into night, as the car climbed the Rockville hill. By the time we reached the summit, the stars were out. He showed me how to locate the North Star in relation to the big dipper.
"That is the North Star," he said pointing. To make sure I was seeing the right one, he put an arm across my shoulder. I felt a warm radiance at his touch.
He drove around the loop from the Rockville hill, down the Hurricane dugway, and home. Taking me to the door, he kissed me lightly on the tip of my ear, said "Goodnight," and was gone.
Something had happened to me. I thought I had lost all interest in Winferd, but I discovered it was not so. Papa sensed it too, and was concerned.
"I wish you wouldn't go with Winferd," he said. "You'll never find a better man than "BAC!"
"I know I won't. Papa. But you don't need to worry. A girl doesn't marry every fellow she goes with."
"And she never marries a fellow she doesn't go with," he replied.
My heart was troubled.
In the evenings, after the day's work was through, I sometimes wandered through the trees, and down into the lucern patch. I had so much thinking to do. Instinctively I knew that the house I had grown up in would no longer be my home after I returned to college in the fall. Perhaps it would be a career that would take me away, or perhaps—.
I thought of my visit to the dentist last week. Old Doc Gibson had taken it upon himself to counsel me.
"Oh little chick," he said, "eventually you will venture forth upon the sea of matrimony. But you will never. I repeat never have children. Remember, you must not have children."
I didn't bother to ask why. He filled my tooth, I paid him and left, thinking he was weird. And then, of all things, as I walked home from work the following evening, Sister Wood called from her porch.
"Alice, come in and visit with me for a few minutes."
As I sat with her on her porch, she gave me the same counsel. Was this some kind of conspiracy? Why shouldn't I have children? Sister Wood didn't say, but as an afterthought , she added, "Of course, the millenium could come soon. In that case, your children would be all right."
Then the thunderbolt struck, when a Santa Clara Dutchman, who had dated almost every girl in town, decided it was my turn. He relaxed in our front 109109 room, visiting my parents. Singing was his favorite pastime, and Mama and Papa were good listeners. They requested one old-time song after another, and he seemed to know them all. Finally, he asked me to go for a stroll. Walking in the summer evening was pleasant.
After visiting for awhile, he finally said, "I'd marry you, I'd marry you in a minute, if it wasn't for that Parker blood."
Well! Whatever made him think I'd marry him?
"What about that Parker blood?" I asked.
"All of your children will be crippled, like your father," he replied.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Don't you know?" he quizzed.
"No I don't."
"Well, everybody else does. That's why the boys in Hurricane don't date any of you. Their parents have all forbid them too. Your father has a hereditary disease, and no one wants to marry into it."
I simply didn't believe it!
"Thanks for telling me," I retorted. "And to think, I had planned all along on asking you to marry me!"
How strange. My father's condition had never been discussed in our home. He was crippled as far back as I could remember, and it had never occurred to me to ask why. He was just our father, and that's how he was. No one, absolutely no one, had ever said one thing about it to me before. When I asked Mama if what our Dutchman friend had said was true, she said it was, but not all of my children would be crippled, but perhaps some of them would. Wayne was the only one out of her eleven that showed any signs.
Oh my, what a lot I had to think about as I walked in the lucern patch in the twilight. But for some reason, after the first shock, I did not feel despair. The breeze, the first dim stars, the sleepy twitter in the branches overhead, all spoke peace to me. I could only be grateful that my mother and father had had me and all of my brothers and sisters, because they were my favorite people, and our home had been happy and good. I thought of all of the people I knew who were afflicted like my father, and they were highly intellectual, and they were good, and I knew the Lord loved them. Happiness was inherent. My heart could not be burdened. If other folks wanted to worry about us, let them. Then I stopped. Oh, those poor troubled people. Of course they would worry. I myself wouldn't want my children to marry into infirmities.
Going toward the house, I met Mama coming down the walk. "Mama," I said, "I've been wondering what made you decide to marry Papa when you were young. Did you know what you were doing?"
She smiled. "Yes, I knew full well. I thought it through thoroughly. I have never regretted my choice, because I love your father, and am grateful to have such a fine, eternal companion."
110110 My summer clerking proved to be one of the most interesting assignments I had known. Mr. Graff had a small chain of stores and gas pumps, and I was his vacation-relief clerk. When Alvin Hardy, who managed his Springdale store, took his family on vacation, Mr. Graff sent me there. I stayed with my cousins, Nancy and Squire Crawford, who were precious and dear to me.
One weekend while there, Winferd came to take me to an Indian cave at Antelope. Some years before, when he was there herding sheep, he chased a rabbit, that disappeared into a hole. To Winferd's astonishment, the slanting rays of the sun penetrated the hole, revealing an underground chasm.
He eased down through the hole, and found himself in an auditorium-sized Indian storehouse. Along the rock shelves were rows of moccasins, pottery and grinding stones. Feverish with excitement, he gathered a number of specimens. Later, he took a collection to the B.A.C. and one to the B.Y.U. Both colleges gave him scholarships for the Indian artifacts.
Time had elapsed and Winferd had not returned to the spot until this particular day. Winter storms had taken their toll, and the roof of the chasm that had held for ages, had partly collapsed. Winferd was terribly disappointed. Together we walked inside. Overhead, lime had oozed in giant curlicues on the ceiling, like tooth paste out of a tube. Winferd explained that the pressure of the rain soaked earth, as it settled, had caused this. Tons of earth had covered the rock shelves, but still exposed were many Indian treasures. We brought home a man's size thirteen hemp moccasin. Caked in mud was the print of every toe, and the ball of the foot of the brave who wore it.
After Alvin Hardy returned, Mr. Graff sent me to run the store in Leeds while Walter and Jessie Eager went on vacation. One morning, just after I had unlocked the door, the town drunk staggered in and clutched on to me. Helplessly I struggled to get free. Then to my great relief, a deaf-mute by the name of Horace burst in. He grabbed the drunk by the collar and pitched him out the door. For the rest of the two weeks, Horace took up guard duty staying with me during store hours. Before Jessie and Walter left, Jessie had said, "Horace will watch out for you. Don't worry a minute about him. He is as good as gold." And he was. He swept and dusted and helped in countless ways. He was truly a guardian angel.
Dates with Winferd were different. He always had something special in mind. His portable, hand-crank phonograph and book of records rode around in the back seat of his car. The Zion Tunnel at that time was an inviting place, with its rock finish interior and unrestricted parking space in the wide, open windows. No cement-work inhibited the cars, and traffic was light. Sometimes in the early twilight, Winferd parked his Chevrolet in the biggest window of the tunnel, put waltz music on the phonograph, and we danced. When the light began to fade, we sat on the window ledge, looking down the canyon, and ate the picnic he had packed. Sometimes we went upon the hill for a dutch oven chicken fry with his little brother Donworth, and Donworth's friend Jasper Crawford. They were the comedy feature. Winferd brought them along for the fun of their uproarious wit.
Open-air dancing was the current fad, and we danced at Hidden Lake, Kanarra, New Harmony and Santa Clara. On previous summers, Winferd hauled the drums for the orchestra, along with the "extra ladies" who crowded in beside him. Since he belonged to no one, he seemed to belong to everyone. 111111 And now, even on nights when he had a date with me, the girls who had been used to inviting themselves to the open air dances still piled into the back seat of his car. Winferd was a gregarious fellow and seemed quite happy when surrounded. No doubt, this is how he had preserved his bachelorhood. Dates with "BAC" were far more proper and normal.
Papa's anxiety mounted. "It isn't right for a girl to be dating first one fellow, and then another," he lamented.
"But Papa, what is a girl to do? Blindly make up her mind who she is in love with? How can she make a right choice, if she only dates one person?"
"I think I know your heart far better than you do. This Gubler man is not the marrying kind. You're wasting your time on him. He's been around too much. Besides that, he's too old for you."
Winferd was twelve and one-half years older than I. And he had been around, spending two years in Ohio on a mission for the Church, then attending the B.Y.U., and working in the Eureka mines. He and his missionary companion, Dell Fairboune, had done a lot of double dating, managing to keep themselves quite unentangled.
Winferd's Aunt Josephine, who was our neighbor, warned my parents. "Winferd will only break Alice's heart. He goes with a girl until she falls in love with him, then he drops her. He will never marry."
This caused even Mama, who had let Papa do all of the fretting, to voice her concern. Here I was, past my twentieth birthday, but feeling helplessly confused as a child. When Winferd asked if I could spend Sunday with him at Kanab with his Bowman relatives, I took my parent's counsel, and turned him down. My heart felt like a blob of lead.
I went with Ervil Sanders instead on a Stake Sunday School visit to the Short-Creek, Canebeds Branch. I was the newest board member.
Throughout the week, my not-so-happy heart concerned Mama, so when Winferd asked the following week if I could go to Bryce Canyon with him, she helped pack the sandwiches, handed me my class sweater and said, "Have a happy day." How I loved her for that.
Time passed swiftly, and soon I was back registering for school, and back to my college romance. Obedient to Papa's counsel, I had asked Winferd not to see me anymore. He wept. The test was terrible.
As he said goodbye, he handed me a phonograph record. "I bought this for you. Will you accept it please?"
Shaking my head I said, "I can't."
"Please," he urged. "It's the last thing I can do for you."
I took it and shoved it on the back of a shelf.
The secret of forgetting is to be busy. Back at school, I was caught up in the honor roll scramble, working with the year book staff, and clerking in the bookstore. The fall quarter was over and my college romance had left for the sheep herd. Then one afternoon, I found myself alone at our bachelor quarters. Thoughts of Winferd overpowered me, so I dug out the record he had given me, and played it.
112112 Tenderly the strains of "Moonlight on the River Colorado" filled the room. To me, the voice was Winferd's. Once more I saw the light of the August moon shimmering on the rippling waters of the Virgin River. Together we stood on the bridge that spanned the narrows as he sang this song. Tears coursed down my cheeks. I knew in that moment that the dearest sound on earth was his voice. Hastily I scribbled a note, "Please come back," and mailed it.
The family told me that he had been moping around for weeks, and that no one could cheer him, that when he got my note he ran all the way home from the post office. (One-half block.) Within two hours after he got my letter, he was knocking at our door.
He registered for the winter quarter at the B.A.C. When Ruby Ruesch and Roland Webb sent us an announcement that they were being married on December seventeenth, Winferd said, "Why don't we surprise them and make it a double?"
So Winferd Gubler, the heart-smasher, the confirmed bachelor, was actually proposing marriage!
"How come you didn't get married years ago?" I asked.
"You were too young," he replied. "I had to wait for you to grow up."
Monday and Tuesday we had tests to take at school. It's odd that we were so conscientious we couldn't take time out to prepare for our wedding day. We didn't even warn the folks. Tuesday, after our last class, we came home and broke the news that we were going through the temple the next day.
Exasperated, Mama said, "Don't you ever do a thing like that again!"
Poor mama. She hurried among the relatives, borrowing temple clothing, and pressing them for me, while I went for an interview with Biship Johnson. We went to the Wednesday night temple session and were married in the east sealing room, Ruby and Roland first, and then Winferd and I. I wore Kate Allen's dress. The room was packed with friends and relatives.
After the ceremony, Mama said, "I have but one piece of advice to give you. Don't ever let the sun go down on your wrath."
Winferd's mother said, "He has been raised on bread and milk for supper. Don't spoil him."
It was 3:00 a.m. before we got back to Winferd's dinky apartment in Cedar, but we both reported for our 8:00 classes on Thursday. We had missed just one day of school.
School let out for the holidays Friday night, and I had promised Mr. Graff I'd clerk for him during the Christmas rush, so we hustled back to LaVerkin. We needed the money. Winferd only had fifty dollars when we were married, and he spent eleven of that to buy a dress for me, because he decided we were going to have a wedding reception as soon as Christmas was over.
The dress was a black crepe with a pleated skirt, with white lace collar and cuffs. Kate remarked that it looked like I was going into mourning to wear black to my own wedding receiption. Since street dresses were the vogue (thank goodness) I let her remark pass. The depression of the thirties was setting in, and this in itself produced some practical people.
113113 I clerked for Mr. Graff for five days, while our harrassed parents pooled their efforts to prepare for our reception. They made rows of pumpkin pies and gallons of hand-cranked ice cream. Winferd bought a keg of fresh pressed concord juice from Clyde DeMille, and his orchestra friends furnished the dance music as a gift to us. The recreation hall in the Hurricane school house was packed. The one thing that got the most comment of all was the Concord juice. Although it was fresh and sweet, it had developed a tantalizing zing, and even years afterward, we were occasionally confronted with a grinning question such as, "Do you remember who served wine at their reception?"
Finally with Christmas and the reception over, we found an hour of our own to be together. In my mother's kitchen, I packed a lunch, then we went picnicking in Grassy Valley, south of Hurricane. Winferd ate and ate. After he had slicked up the last crumb of Mama's fruitcake, he said, "The sample was good. When do we eat?"
"We just did," I said.
"We did? I thought that was the appetizer. I mean, when do we really eat?"
Oh no, I thought. The guys were right! Bill Sanders had asked, "How are you going to feed the monster?" and Roland Webb had said, "He eats like a horse." Even his own mother remarked that Winferd really enjoyed food. I eyed him over with astonishment.
Finally he burst into a peal of laughter. "Don't worry. I'm fuller than a hop-toad. I couldn't eat another bite."
It didn't take long to learn that during his bachelor years, Winferd had courted the favor of every woman in town by bragging about her cooking. At ward parties, they heaped extra goodies on his plate, just to see his enthusiasm. He had built a reputation for himself. He was the ward recreation director, and he was the one who made the parties fun.
We strolled through the lengthening shadows of the afternoon, this actually being our first chance to talk since we had conceived the madcap cap idea of trying to beat Ruby and Roland to the altar.
"Winferd, since you knew my family well, why did you marry into it?" I asked.
"Because we were mated in Heaven. If it had not been so, I would have married someone else years ago. It's like I told you, I had to wait for you to grow up."
Thoughtfully, I shook my head. He was evading my question. "Winferd, why did you marry into our family?" I repeated.
Taking my hand in his as we hiked through the chaparrels, he said, "Alice, I thought a great deal about the problem. I tried to ignore you, but couldn't. When I asked Mother about marrying you, she said, 'If you love her, marry her. We do not marry for this life only, but for eternity.'"
Oh, my precious mother-in-law!
114114 We talked of many things, of ideals, hopes and plans, but one thing special remains in my memory. Winferd said, "During my bachelor years, I've noticed one thing in particular about my married friends. Too often a husband makes his wife the butt of his jokes, especially at parties. Or he refers to her as 'the old battle axe', or 'the ball-and-chain', or perhaps they will call one another 'the old man', or 'the old woman'. It sounds disrespectful, and someone always ends up being hurt."
I knew what he meant. More than once I had seen a friend of mine bristle, or sit silently on the verge of tears, while her husband roared with laughter at her idiosyncrasies.
"Let's promise that we'll never belittle one another in front of anyone," Winferd continued.
This promise was easy for both of us to make, and we found it just as easy to keep.