Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton

Chapter 59
The Western States Mission

499499 (Our Mission Journal is a separate book in itself. We shall touch on it at random here.)

Dell and Corinne had a baby boy today. (Laron Kim Stout).

Shirley and Helen made me a new wardrobe, and we've been in a whirl of parties, and preparation to leave. Big tears slid down Lolene's cheeks when she learned our time of departure would be at the same time her first baby was to be born. We have put our hand to the plow and cannot turn back.

Our testimonial was yesterday. Ermal's daughters sang, "The Lord is Calling You." My children, with their husbands and wives, sang "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You," and also, the rousing Western States Mission song. Gaye Lynne Gubler was their accompanist. She's very special.

500500 How nice it was to have my sisters and brothers in attendance. Even Donworth and Clark came.

Ermal and I were set apart at our home at six in the evening. What a powerful lot of the hands of the priesthood was laid upon my head. My neck had a lot to sustain. Because the thrill of it raced through me so much, I must enumerate the priesthood holders who helped. First was Pres. Leo Reeve, and his counselor Flint Wright, then our bishop Reed Wilson and his counselors Sheldon DeMill and Dick Prince. Then my husband Ermal and his brother Cummon, then my sons, Norman, DeMar and Terry, and our sons-in-law, Darwin Gifford and Dell Stout. So great it was, I wonder how I stood it

President Reeve promised me that our children would be blessed and protected during our absence, and that we could go with peace of mind and give all our strength to the mission. He told me to go and be a peace maker. My soul was filled.

Here we are, setting up housekeeping at 1424 12th Avenue, Sidney, Nebraska. Because of a typing error on our schedule, we're in the field earlier than expected. We had packed our camper with a two year's supply of canned goods, etc., turned off the power, stifled our tears, kissed everyone goodbye, and left home on the 22nd. We were to e nter the mission home on January 25. Well! When we got to Salt Lake, the mission home was closed—not to open until February 7. The man at the church offices said we should co home for a couple of weeks!

After going through all we'd gone through? To me that would be as awful as digging up a casket! We couldn't go back. We'd rolled up the road behind us. Besides that, nobody wanted us back now, not after all of that hugging and kissing and crying. A repeat performance world be impossible. Outside in the dark I bawled and blubbered in Ermal's arms.

Monday morning we laid our papers on Ned Winder's desk in the Church Offices. He took one look, then buried his face in his hands embarrassed, remorseful and upset. Calling Phillip Redd in Denver, he asked if he would receive us immediately. Wheels hummed. We went down elevators, and up elevators like we were being processed for doom's day. After a multitude of handshakes and blessings, we left Salt Lake. The time: 3:00 p.m. The day: January 26.

At the mission home in Denver we were armed with books, pamphlets, recorder, projector, and given a crammed, condensed orientation and dispatched off across the prairie, with the address of the branch president at Sidney, Nebraska. That was all of our missionary training!

And wouldn't you know it! When we called at our one and only address, we learned that the branch president had moved away three months ago. Like lost children, we had no where to go. Ermal stopped a police car and asked if there were any Mormons in Sidney. The officer scowled, rubbed his nose, then guessed that an old fellow named Chandler might be one, and he pointed the way to his house. Sure enough, he was. He called Brother NeVille, who tucked us in for our first night in the mission field—Jan. 28.

501501 Our first word from home came by telephone. Lolene's baby is a boy! (Aaron). Now ain't that sumpin! What a thrilled man Darwin is.

There are 100 members in the Sidney branch. About 30 of them show up on Sunday. The Sunday School Superintendent is a fifteen year old boy from Julesburg, Colorado. The branch president lives thirty miles away.

We spend as high as eleven hours a day studying and memorizing. Our eyes are set in a glaze. I'm scared of tracting. I think of the Jehovah's Witnesses. I can't stand to think of being regarded as such a pest. Ermal says he's going to get a kick out of tracting.

Today we got our first mail from • home—letters from Shirley, Corinne, and Norman. Eagerly we read them, wiped our eyes and hugged each other.

We did our home teaching today. We visited one family in Lodgepole, one somewhere out in a wheat field, one in Julesbure, Colo., and the last one in Brule, Nebraska. Round trip: 155 miles. One woman said she had home teachers a year ago, and she wondered why they came, because she joined the Methodists a year ago. "It ain't as hard to be a Methodist. They didn't even have to baptize me because the Mormons had already done that."

Our D. L. Elder White, and five other missionaries spent Friday and Saturday with us and tracted out Sidney. Elder White tracted with Elder Stratton, and I went with Elder Keith Harper. At our first house, a gorilla of a man with a hairy chest came to the door. Introducing us, Elder Harper asked if we could come in.

Puffing a cloud of smoke at us, the man said, "git down off the porch."

"You mean you don't have a minute to talk about our Savior?" Elder Harper asked.

"Go on, git out of here," the half-naked man bellowed.

Scared, I looked up at Elder Harper, and he grinned. "He is typical."

The next day we traveled together to Cheyenne to quarterly conference. The young elders guided us through the city, darting up one street and down another in their little Hornets. In Exodus 24:28 the Lord said, "And I will send hornets before thee…" Believe me, we were glad he did.

We visited Father Flynn today. He spends his vacation time each year with Mormon friends in Utah. When we bore our testimony to him, he said he knew what we said was true, "but," he added, "it would be hypocritical for me to profess to believe in anything but Catholicism, since that is how I make my living."

This is our "boondocking" day, and we've plonned to check out the oil wells with Clarence and Vada Gheen. Oil pumps dot the wheat fields, their heads bobbing up and down like little donkies browsing stubble.

Part of missionary work is finding the lambs who have strayed. Endlessly we drive, with a pack of pink slips, trying to locate 502502 missing people. So far, we've located five. who have deliberately tried to get lost. They're apostates, and weren't a bit glad to see us.

Yesterday we located the last of the Dalton Gang. She joined the Lutheran Church thirteen years ago, but her name is still on our record. She's big boned, and so strong looking I almost want to hide behind Elder Stratton when she looks at me. Her voice is powerful, and she knows she's right. Elder Stratton is big and powerful and knows he's right too. He doesn't argue. He testifies.

"I joined the Lutheran Church because they don't care whether change my dress or not," the Dalton woman said. "My husband can come to church with mud on his overalls too, and the minister doesn't care. I got rid of one minister because he thought we ought to clean up. I couldn't have done that in the Mormon Church."

"Do you want your name taken off the records of the Mormon Church?" Elder Stratton asked.

"You don't mean they would excommunicate me?" she asked with horror.

"Yes," he answered.

"Oh, no! Don't do that! It would break my dead grandmother's heart. I'd rather be a Lutheran than a Mormon, but don't excommunicate me," she exclaimed.

Our district conference is to be in Scotts Bluff tomorrow. Elder White asked us to write a dramatization of the exodus of the saints from Nauvoo to be acted out by the missionaries at this conference. I borrowed church history books from Brother Chandler and dug in, while Elder Stratton did all of the cooking, dish washing and housework. We got the manuscript in the mail two days ago. Now we're back to tracting.

Elder Stratton honestly does enjoy tracting. I have to confess that even I find it thrilling to bear my testimony on doorsteps. Elder Stratton became so enthusiastic in testifying to a member of the Chursh of Christ, that he had the poor man begging us to please go see his minister so we could be straightened out. I laughed all the way home.

I adore missionaries. The elders were oreat in the Exodus play. Elder Harper was Brigham Young, and had the whole thing memorized to perfection. Elder Weber played the dual role of William Pitts and William Clayton because he's our music man. My! What a brass band! All of the elders played instruments, including Elder Stratton, who was on the drums—pantomime, of course, except vocal sound effects. They played, "Stars and Stripes Forever." Each instrument was so clever that I sat captivated.

After a scrumptious dinner served by the Relief Society, we hiked above the bluffs. The air was crisp and sunny, and we were as happy as the pigeons flying along the face of the cliffs. The wagon ruts of the old Oregon trail are still plain to see.

The first day of spring—six below zero, and eight inches of snow.

503503 After our study period today, I noticed a dangerous look on Elder Stratton's face—a glassy-eyed, hypnotized look. To break the spell we went for a hike in Roland Bigg's pasture. We found a swallow's colony under the ledges, and saw two grasshoppers. Spring will come.

Marvin Ashton toured the mission last week. We met the Scotts Bluff elders at Kimball, and put them in the back of the camper for a four hour bounce to Denver. When I've ridden in the back, all that kept me from going through the top, as the pickup bucked over the railroad tracks, was the stack of blankets over me. The camper is a deep freeze, so we never have to tell the elders to burrow in.

Missionaries stay with members when they go to conferences. We stay with different ones every time. Wow! Such mansions as they live in! Beautiful homes, beautiful children, and furry dogs and cats. Elder Stratton emits bad vibes to dogs and cats. I've seen poodles and cats and pug nosed bull dogs sit at the top of the stairs just outside our door, and I know the way they ogled us, that what they were thinking wasn't good. Elder Stratton has some sleight-of-foot performance, some quicker-than-the-eye gesture that I've never figured out, and the dogs and cats vanish swiftly and silently. I give Elder Stratton a quizzical and disapproving look, and he returns it with an impish grin.

We were in a nine hour fast and testimony meeting in Denver. This included talks by Elder Ashton and President Redd, and a film. Nothing but the power of the priesthood could have alleviated the misery of hard seats and hunger for that many hours. But the Spirit of the Lord was there. The conference the was, "The Sound of Rejoicing." God lives! This is the greatest truth on the face of the earth. God is our Father. We are His children. He is interested in us. We can become like Him.

We were reminded of the meaning of being "set apart." It is to be above and beyond—on a higher plateau. BE HAPPY. Satan has no power over us when we are with our companion. The two of us have more power than Satan. We are not to go off on our own.

We were cautioned not to get up and make a fuss about the good things bestowed upon us in testimony meeting. Appropriate appreciation to the Lord should be in the privacy of our own closets, not in public where it may cause someone else to feel inferior. We are to build one another up, and strengthen each other with our testimonies.

After the Denver conference, we had lunch and took the elders back to Scotts Bluff via Cheyenne, getting back to Sidney at 1:30 a.m. When we awoke it was time to prepare to return to Cheyenne to a youth conference. Elder Stratton went ahead with one of the boys to haul equipment. This was the Friday Wyoming got her great snow blizzard. (April 17). I followed in Bruce Cumming's little sports car with Wes Mueller and Randy Van Cleve. Snow was piling on the ice-glazed highway, and visibility was ten feet. We hadn't gone thirty miles before Bruce's little car spun off into a wheat field. The boys pushed it across the field to a dirt road that led us back to the highway. About five miles further on the car skidded over an embankment into a narrow barrow pit. By now, daylight was obliterated by the storm. Passing cars overhead could not have helped but see our lights, still, no one dared stop.

Before we slid off, a discussion had been going on about human nature. "Everyone has some good in him," Randy said.

"What good is a hippie?" Wes asked.

504504 "Even hippies have some good in them," Randy insisted.

Then skid, spin, slide, and there we sat, helplessly below the crawling traffic that chose to ignore us.

"I hope a bishop is praying for us," Randy said.

"We'll get out all right, because of our prayers before we left," Wes assured him.

Then, a panel wagon and an old beat up car behind it, x?stopped. A giant of a man with hair peroxided and frizzed like a newly hatched yellow chicken stood above us. "Looks like you got troubles," he shouted. "Don't worry. We'll get you out."

Seven other burly, shaggy, disheveled, dirty, wonderful hippies bailed out of the two cars. Big shoulders got under and with a heave and a ho, our little car was literally boosted back onto the highway. Above our shouted thanks, the hippies waved and disappeared into the storm.

"That's what I like about hippies," Randy said.

It took us five and one-half hours to go ninety miles. The crowd at conference had been praying for us, and the girls wept with relief when we arrived. Cheyenne was marooned by the blizzard, so we had to stay two nights, instead of one.

The trees are still bare in Sidney, but the birds and squirrels chatter and sing. Tulips are blooming, and little kids are fishing for bluegills in the city park.

At stake conference in Cheyenne yesterday, one of the speakers was a young girl convert. She said the message of eternal progression thrilled her, but she couldn't swallow the Joseph Smith story. "If Joseph Smith can have a manifestation, so can I," she boasted to the missionaries. So she went out into an overgrown tennis court and kneeled' down. She was sure she would get the manifestation. As she kneeled, an overpowering feeling came over her, and she raised her hands to heaven, and cried out, "Oh Lord, I don't need a manifestation. Please don't! I KNOW it is true," and she fled. She walked five miles to find the missionaries, who raised the floor of a stage, filled the font and baptized her.

A happy phone call from Norman tells us that he and Ann have a new little baby boy. (Scott).

Shirley and Perry walked in on us the other day. How good they looked can never be explained. For two days we took them to every point of interest, Chimney Rock, to the Sidney city park, and of course to Bigg's pasture to see the swallows. After they left I cried, then we dug into our missionary work doubly hard.

Roland Bigg's pasture is our only recreation spot. Once a week, since the swallows returned, we've kept track, watching the hod-carriers deliver mud to the two little masons sitting inside each shell. Hundreds of little beaks, spreading mud, and polishing at the same time, make a squeaking hum. The birds have been oblivious to us as we've watched in fascination. But now that the eggs are laid, and little ones are hatching, they dart at us, chasing us away.

Two downy baby eagles, cream-colored and speckled, cuddle 505505 in the nest on a ledge. They're as big as full grown chickens, but they're still just fuzz balls. Baby mourning doves wobble and flutter in their nests In the buffalo grass. Killdeer eggs lay in open nests in the stubble. Ground squirrels stand tall, gaping, then disappear down their holes as we approach. Lizzards streak over rocks. Cows, gently mooing, call their calves. Wild flowers dot the greening earth. Spring has come to Nebraska.

The wheatland is a sea of waving green. Clouds come up suddenly from the ground, and blue skies become thundering and purple within minutes. Lilacs and yellow roses spill over garden walls. Poppies, iris, foxgloves and painted daisies bloom abundantly. Red squirrels frisk in the tall elms, and wild rabbits graze on people's lawns.

At the missionary conference in P. Collins Friday, Pres. Redd said, "How long will it take you to tie up loose ends in Sidney?"

The question shook us . We thought we were needed forever in Sidney. "The road show is July 17th," I replied.

"Your transfer will come the day after. Train a Sunday School teacher immediately to take your place. We sent you to TRAIN LEADERS, NOT TO DO THEIR WORK!"

Great day! If only we could find someone willing to be trained. We literally beg to get into the homes of the inactive members. "After we finish painting our kitchen we'll call you," or, "I can't see you until the dentist finishes my bridgework," or, "we don't feel like having company now." Tonight, we finally got in to see one couple who has been waiting for good health to set in.

Now that the grain is in the head, farmers will be running their equipment the clock around. No one will have time for the Gospel.

Yesterday at church, we told the members we were being transferred. They regarded us with new interest, and invitations into the homes were heaped upon us. We spent the evening with a spunky little old lady who lives in the middle of an expansive wheatfield. She has a tart tongue, and is wiry and quick.

"I tell you I've suffered," she said. "I moved into the middle of this wheatfield over sixty years ago as a bride—right into this very house with my mother-in-law. I was the only Zormon in a hundred miles. All of my inlaws were pig-headed, hard shelled Baptists. Mean as rattlesnakes, heckling me all the days of their lives. But I got even with every one of them. I outlived them all. Do you know what I did? I took their names to the Salt Lake Temple and had their work done for them. I guess they'll be thinking differently about the Gospel by now."

The day the combines rolled into Nebraska, all else ceased. Rumbling like army tanks they came across the prairie, combining their way from Texas to Canada. Wheat dust fills the sky. Each evening the sun becomes a red ball as it settles into the stubble. Nebraskans love the wheat harvest. "It is so beautiful to stand in the middle of a waving field of gold. It makes the heart sing," Trish Mueller said. Combines work day and night. Church services are run by a skeleton crew. Missionaries : Who has time for them during the wheat harvest?

So we pack our belongings into the camper along with a bundle of mem-ories—the intense struggle to master the discussions—our knocking on doors, our plea to be heard- -and of those who became dear to us. Brother and Sister 506506 Chandler, old and feeble, but deeply entrenched in the gospel, President and Sister Peterson, so beautiful and devoted, the NeVilies, who took us in and helped us find a place to live, Vada and Clarence Gheen, who became our closest and most frequently visited friends—who were totally inactive, but always showered us with their love, and our foursome cookouts, our recreational friends. There are others. Deep in my heart is a spot reserved especially for two non-member families. The Roland Bicgs family were devoted to their own church, but gave us of their friendship, and their pasture. The Hank Bauer family on 1745 Linden, is the one non-member family that invited us back again and again, and always gave full attention to our films and discussions. Sister Bauer set her good fried fish before us, and their little boy followed us to the car, kissed my arm and said, "I love you." Someday perhaps?

Nebraska skies were our delight. Often we drove away from the city lights to watch electric storms. The outstanding heavenly display of my sixty years was seen in Nebraska's sky, when we drove out the airport road in the night to see the great naked-eye Comet Bennett, with its brilliant head and long, luminous tail. This was the biggest heavenly body I've ever seen. I had supposed a comet would streak like a meteorite through the sky, but it was not so. This comet was suspended in the sky, not traveling any faster than the stars. What a leisurely, beautiful surprise.

And now, the rolling terrain of cool Nebraska is three-hundred and fifty miles behind us, and we're in the sticky, sweltering Corn Belt of Kansas. Kansas, where the North and South Winds met, and Dorothy's house which was in the exact center of the cyclone, was whirled away to the Land of Oz.

Hays is a far cry from Sidney. This is a college town. We almost had to enroll in college to get an apartment. We are under the roof of Edgar and Mary Brummit on 505 Ash. Their daughter Emma Lou is LDS , and the rest of the family are Baptists.

When we first saw where the LDS branch meets in Hays , I said, "I don't believe it! It's nothing but a dinky, little chicken coop in a junk yard."

Then the branch president, Harry Barrett and his wife Marilyn came from Paradise to meet us. (They live in Paradise. So do some families of Angels). They took us inside the little church house. It was shiny clean and a sweet spirit permeated it. When we met the branch members on Sunday we were delighted. Actually, the Hays branch is made up of complete families ! In Sidney it was mostly made up of mothers and children. Here we find enough Melchizedek priesthood holders to make things hum.

Perry telephoned that he and Shirley have a baby girl! After four sons, this little girl is an event. (Annie).

Following is part of a letter from Shirley, dated September 28.

Dearest Mother, because you gave me life, because you so dearly love me, only you can understand how I feel as I look at my brand new, fresh from the presence of God, baby daughter. The happiness, joy, peace, love—everything I'm feeling just now has no boundaries. I'm overcome by the goodness of God, the great love he has for His children to also send them children. At one bleak point on the delivery table, I said, "The Lord doesn't love women as much as men. If he did, he wouldn't make them go through this." Now I'm very ashamed of having said that. 507507 It's a privilege to go through that—to be there when that new spirit enters the world—to give it the opportunity to live and breathe. There is no sound as beautiful as the shriek when a baby takes life. Oh, Mother, I'm so thankful I can have babies. I wish I could have you here for a while so I could share with you all I'm feeling just now. I'm nothing but a big throat lump and unshed tear of joy.

Oh, baby daughters. I can see what you meant when you'd try to describe how it was to hold your own tiny daughters. I'm overcome by the wonder and the miracle of the whole thing.

And you should see her. (Her, She, Girl, Daughter, Female. … Strange to hear and say those words in my world of little men). She's just the cutest, red, wrinkled, dark eyed, dainty thing you ever saw. She has the cutest rose bud mouth and snip nose. You'd love her. Ermal would think she just looked red and wrinkled without even too much hair to redeem her. But she is beautiful!

She was born at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 27th. She weighed in at 7 lbs. 13½ oz. … I was given a wonderful blessing by Uncle Ovando and Uncle Horatio just an hour before I went into labor and I attribute all my ease in getting her here to the Lord, and am so grateful for the priesthood blessings. … And I think my little girl is so lucky to have four adorable brothers to love her and help spoil her. …

Ricky is a little sad about her sex. He says he wants 13 brothers. He doesn't want any ol' girls around the house. John and Kelly just can't quit grinning and giggling though. I dare say Clayton's nose will be put a little out of joint for a while, but even he will recover. Perry brings me this word.

Norman called Perry at Las Vegas yesterday to tell him the news, and Perry jumped in the jeep and rushed here to the hospital just as fast as he could to see if she really was a she. He really thought Norman was joking. Perry giggled and grinned just like John and Kelly. And he hugged me and kissed me and brought me candy. We're just all beside ourselves with joy. Wish you were here. …

Ann called the hospital before Sunday School and found out about the baby. She passed a note to Aunt Edna in Sunday School telling her the news and before church was out everybody knew. During both visiting hours yesterday my room was packed with LaVerkinite well-wishers. My little gal is a most popular miss. And I'm gobbling it up. Lolene and Noma both cried with the sheer joy of it. Aunt Kate says she knows that this child is one of the Lord's most Choice spirits. I feel that way about her too. But then I feel that way about all my children. …

Lolene just came and brought the most adorable red lacy little outfit. It's covered with little flowers and ribbons. Oh this is fun. She also brought me goodies to eat. She's a fun, sweet sister. I'm so glad you had seven of us. Norman and DeMar and wives have been here too. Love all of them.

Mother, I'm going to quit writing so I can mail you my news. I hope I have brightened your day. I hope everything is as wonderful for you as it is for me here. Thank you for having me, and for being such a wonderful mother ever after. I hope my daughter can love me someday the way I love you. Shirley.

508508 With Hays as the hub, our missionary travels fan out north, 109 miles to Lebanon, south 62 miles to Lammed, east 64 miles to Lucus, and west 73 miles to Grinnell. We are road runners. The corn, wheat and maize are harvested, and the prairie slumbers beneath the rusty, raspy stubble. The bluebird of happiness is our companion.

Yesterday we held our first Sunday School in Phillipsburg. It's amazing how this all came about. Elder Stratton was called to Phillipsburg to conduct the funeral services of Andrew Wayne Edwards , infant son of John and Bonnie Jean Edwards. The flight of this little spirit brought to light 29 inactive LDS members, who felt that Hays was too far away to go to church. Keith Hansen at the Kirwin game preserve holds the Melchizedek priesthood. He and his family supplied excellent leadership, and Roberta Staker donated her home, as well as helping with the music and teaching a class. The Phillipsburg Sunday School is a happy reality!

Next, in our search for a missing convert family, we were led to Leonora, and now we're giving the discussions to Vera Hazlett and her son Ricky. We were looking for Vera's son Ronald and his wife Virginia, who are living in Quintar. They were a precious find. Now we're holding family home evening with them every Monday, and having gospel discussions with their friends and neighbors.

One day at Quintar, we stopped to eat our peanut butter sandwich in the shade of some elm trees. A flock of peacocks attracted us, so we got out to admire them. A quaint little Quaker man, wearing suspenders, and a flat, wide brimmed hat strolled across the grass to visit.

"We have Mormon neighbors on a farm a couple of miles from here," he said.

"Really? Our records show no Mormons here."

And so, because of a peanut butter sandwich and the peacocks, we found Eric and Mary Enstrom. Eric is not a member. Now, on our weekly visits to Quintar, we give the discussions to him. Mary was born in the church and grew up in Wyoming. The Enstroms are like home folks to us.

On one of our trips to Quintar, we detoured into Ellis and left a conference leaflet at a door where no one was at home. After the October conference, we checked back, and a tall, brown-eyed lady accused us of having been put up to that trick by her ?crmon sisters in Denver.

"We know nothing about your sisters," we assured her. "We were simply impressed to leave this at your door."

So she invited us in. She wept when we showed her the film, "Man's Search for Happiness." "`thy didn't you come years ago?" she asked.

So now, we giving the discussions to the Norman Smith family.

In the Hays branch is the Sloan family from Norton, 90 miles away. Howard filled a mission in the Samoan Islands. He and his mother and grandmother are so dedicated to the gospel that they make the 180 mile round trip to church every Sunday. Grandma was 90 years old when she was baptized. The morning she was to make the long trip to the font in Larned, she slipped and broke her arm. That did not stop her. She had the doctor put her arm, cast and all, in a plastic bag, and the baptism was completed. Now we're giving the discussions to a friend of the family in Norton. We 509509 travel far and return home late, stopping at interesting places along the way, like the home of our organic gardening friends, Les and Elsie Prout in Lenora. (They are neighbors to Vera Hazlett).

Les insists there is no personal God, that God is in each handful of loam in his garden, and in the light in his dog's eyes. They crow such beautiful things , and Elsie can set the very most exquisite table. They serve us their good food, load us down with garden stuff, and play their violins and sing to us. We have long gospel discussions with them, and are becoming fast friends , but they don't seriously consider becoming members of the Mormon church.

We love our home at Brummits. Mary and Edgar are as comfortable to be around as a pair of soft slippers. They usually join us for family home evening.

We love the Hays branch. The Barrett and the Somers families from Paradise are enthusiastic and keep things happening. George and Becky and little Mandy Warzeniak, who live in the college dorm, are also part of our family, and are with us every week. George is branch clerk. We have cookouts in the city park where the buffalo herd grazes, or potluck socials at the church house with the members. We feel like we've known these people always. They're keeping us supplied with referrals, and we've never been busier or happier.

We received word that a baby girl was born to Helen and DeMar yesterday. (Rebecca).

On Friday, the 18th, we drove back towards the mountains, excited about seeing something higher than a grain elevator. This was the missionaries Christmas conference in Denver. Friday afternoon and evening was activity-packed with 100 young elders and sisters there. They played volley ball, put on skits (original and very funny) and we had a picture show. Saturday was conference. The families of the Denver West Stake Presidency gave a Christmas dinner for the entire conference. Also, an enlarged Family Home Evening. They had Christmas gifts of popcorn balls , homemade cookies and candies done up in clear plastic, decorated with ribbons and candy canes for every one of us.

Coming home, our necks twisted like owls, admiring the Christmas lights. Each prairie town carries out its own unique theme. They decorate whatever sticks highest up in the sky—grain elevators, water tanks, or oil derricks.

We found an "attempt to deliver" notice hanging on our door, when we aot home, from the Hays florist. When we checked it out, the shop was full of flowers, but there was only one pink azalea. Elder Stratton said, "This is the prettiest of them all." The clerk said, "This is for you." The card said, "To Alice and Ermal from Mother and Wayne." We put the beautiful thing on the table, and surrounded it with packages of candy, cookies and cakes from the branch members.

Christmas morning I opened our one most mysterious package. It was from Kathy, with a flower pin she had made for me to wear—an enamel looking one of lavendar on soft, curled art paper, glittered with gold. She had lovingly created it herself, and my heart was warmed with the gift. Then we listened to the "guaranteed to make you homesick" tape from the Giffords, and heard Aaron's voice for the first time. Phone calls 510510 came from all of our Children. Corinne told us to watch for the converging of Jupiter, Venus, and Mars the day after Christmas. Yesterday morning at 5:30 a.m. we drove outside of Hays, beyond the city lights to see the three morning stars. What an absolutely thrilling sight! They looked like one giant stmr. Excitedly we called the radio station KHAYS. They told us they were watching those stars too, and that we were on "First Call" on the air and would be broadcasted.

On the last day of 1970 we had our first baptisms. Nena Mae and Lisa Lee Staker, members of an LDS family from Phillipsburg, were our first two, and Vera and Ricky Hazlett were convert baptisms.

Sister Hazlett was put to the test before baptism. She has been the custodian for the one and only church house in Lenora for years. Lenora is a tiny town in the middle of wheat fields. It has a post office, a cafe, a little store, and a church house. All other employment is from farming.

When the board of directors of the little church learned that Sister Hazlett was being taught by Mormon missionaries,they issued the ultimatum, "If you join the Mormon church, your job here is finished."

Sister Hazlett is a widow, and her son Ricky is in a wheelchair.

All she owns in the world is her little home in Lenora. This job is her only income. "What shall I do?" she asked. All we could do was lend our faith to hers that she would make a right choice. Finally, she said, "I simply have to be baptized."

Branch members traveled miles to be to the baptism. An inspirational program preceded the baptism. After the confirmation, the tables were spread and our hearts were very happy as we ate together. And now, two weeks later, good news comes from Sister Hazlett. The church board of directors met and decided she would be hard to replace, so she still has her job.

Two months ago, a navy recruiter who was living with his family in Alaska, received orders to transfer to Japan. As they prepared to leave, his orders were suddenly changed, and they were sent to Hays. They are a newly activated Mormon family, Howard and LaRay Spencer, and their two daughters, Sherri and Tammy. They live just around the corner from us, and have become part of our Hays family home evening group.

This morning we received a letter which read, "Bitte senden Sie Nissionare zu: Bitte die moglichst genau Anschrift angeben."


Accompanying the note was a referral card directing us to Hill City, and a letter from Ron Hatfield. "Kay and Robert Stephens are dear friends of mine. We've been in the military in Germany together, and now I'm back, serving a mission for the church. They have written wanting to know about my church. They have a dear little girl named Heather. Please contact them at once and send me the results quickly." The letter was relayed from headquarters at Denver, with a note saying, "This just came in the mail. Looks golden. Good luck."

Jumping In the car, we sped to the address given, and announced that Ron Hatfield had sent us. With squeals of delight and a flood of tears, Kay Stephens hugged us. With an outpouring of love they told us of the 511511 boy from Utah who anticipated being released from the service. "We knew how much it meant to Ron to go home. We couldn't believe it when we got his letter telling us that he was back in Germany filling a two year mission for his church. If Ron would go back, when he was so homesick, We knew his church must have something. And it wasn't salary, because he was there at his own expense. So we decided to investigate," Robert said.

Golden? Why this is the answer to every missionary's prayer!

Terry telephoned that he and Susan have another son. (Sheldon [Shelden]). He said he'd hang up, so Jim could call us, because they're expecting a baby.

Jim called. He and Dana have a baby boy! Ermal 's first grandchild to carry on the Stratton name. (Scott).

Yesterday we baptized the Adams family from Phillipsburg. Pat, the mother, was already LDS. It was sort of like watching a heavenly host, to see a big, husky father like Bill Adams come up out of the water to stand in his dripping white suit above the font as each of his four sons were baptized, taking their places beside him. Then finally Wilma, their one daughter came out of the water. They were all wreathed in smiles.

Teaching this family was a happy experience. Bill was an Oral Roberts fan, and had written, asking him for a blessing. Bill had just opened Roberts' reply when we walked in one day. He was promised that a great blessing would come to him as he received the letter. As he read the letter to us, a said, "How nice. The message we are bringing you today is that blessing."

So, the singing Adams family are members now. They were baptized on Bill's and Pat's thirteenth wedding anniversary. Emma Lou McDaniel, a branch member from LaCrosse who runs a bakery, decorated a wedding cake for them. Such a lovely dinner it was that the branch members brought to the Lamed church house in honor of the occasion.

Satan tried his wily ways to block this baptism. After the day was set, the city police served a subpoena, requesting that Ermal return to Utah as a witness in a murder trial. Well, we decided the baptism would not be delayed. We'd do it without Elder Stratton. Then we got notice that the court date had been changed. So the next trick the adversary played was to have us come down with the flu, both of us and also Pat Adams. The morning we were to fill the font at Lamed, our heads were bursting, but we knew the source of our misery, so we carried on. The font was filled, our sniffles and headaches left, the Adams family arrived, and everyone was well.

We're giving the discussions to Eric Enstrom, the Stephen family, and the Smith family. Again old Nick strudk a blow. Teddy Smith wrote to Billy Graham, asking him what he thought of the Mormons. I fel sorry for Billy to think he'd send such an uninformed reply. Seems he should be smarter than that. Generously he sent a packet of anti-Mormon literature compiled by other blinded souls. Teddy was on the point of withdrawal . We borrowed the literature and phoned President Redd about it. "Vie have so much truth to teach we can't waste time on this kind of stuff," he said. As simple as that. Teddy shoved the literature aside, so again Satan lost that round.

512512 But we don't always score the way we'd like to. We've had an investigator family with us for family nights that has looked promising. The father promised his wife and son he'd bring them to our church on Sundays, but instead, he has driven on by to the Assembly of God church. Finally, he told us he had to stay with the other church a little longer, because he was beginning to make contact with the spirit world. Week after week he held his hands above his head, waving his fingers. There was no air circulation in the building, but little breezes began to waft through his fingers. He couldn't come to the Mormon church until he learned what it was all about. Then one Sunday, after returning home, he suddenly dropped to all fours in his bedroom and began to speak in tongues. For three hours he babbled without ceasing.

"What did you say?" I asked.

"I do not know. I only know I could not quit—that spirits were speaking through me," he replied. "I have finally received the Holy Ghost."

Well, his Holy Ghost is quite a different one from the one we know. He now beats and bruises his wife every time she talks with us. She knows the Book of Mormon is true, and yearns for baptism.

President Redd said, "You can take comfort in the fact that the Father has heard and accepted her testimony, and eventually she will be blessed by becoming a member of the church."

Mary Brumitt took Elder Stratton to the airport at 7:30 this morning. He is returning to Utah to be a witness at a court trial.

When Ermal clerked at Graff's store, he sold a pair of binoculars to a man from Cedar. The man was divorced, and his wife was living with her mother on a little hill outside of town. The man hid himself among the junipers and spied upon them through the binoculars. When his wife came outside, he shot her. Because Ermal had written up the sales slip on the binoculars , he was summoned back to Utah. Attorney Orvil Isom had to go through the general authorities to pull him out of the mission field. (They found the binoculars hanging on a fence amonc the trees).

Raining. Much thunder. No missionary companion. played Christmas tapes from the children and knitted. I played "Blue Heaven" over and over, and sang with Lolene, letting my tears drizzle with the rain. When I called the airport, they reported tornado warnings, saying there would be no flights today. WHERE IS ELDER STRATTON:

Still raining. The tornado watch is over. Elder Stratton is flying back. Brother Spencer drove his car alongside the retaining wall by our door so I could step over the water, and took me to Relief Society. The Brumitts went to the airport to wait.

When I got home I had a missionary companion again. Here he was, EATING MOLASSES CANDY, nonchalant as if he'd never been away. When he opened his suitcase, right on top was a big, beautiful branch of almond blossoms! I swooped them up in my arms and nuzzled my face in them. They were fresh, and fragrant. Almond blossoms! Home! I wanted to run all over storm. ridden Hays and show them to everyone.

At that moment, Marilyn called. She said, "Oh Mother, you should see our place right now. All of the trees are in bloom, and our radishes are almost ready to eat too."

513513 Now wasn't that something for the district court to pay Ermal for five minutes of his time on the witness stand, so he could see the kids at home and bring back some of our bottled fruit that we were starving for? (He took two empty suitcases home with him, with the fruit in mind. He brought back 22 quarts).

We visited all night. Ermal glowed with the memory of our children at the airport in Cedar to meet him.

Chuckling, he said, "1 git a kick out of them little gals smothering me with kisses, and wetting my face with their tears." The little gals were his daughters and mine. Norman, Perry, Dell, Russell and Darwin were all there with their wives. DeMar and Helen came up from Las Vegas to see him the next day. Ermal told me about all of the grandkids.

This morning we spread the bottles of fruit on the floor admiring them like jewels—satsuma plums, heath clings, apricots, elbertas, pears, colorful and gleaming!

We're in the midst of the worst blizzard of the century, so says the news. Schools and stores are closed. The police have asked the people to stay inside. Tornados have touched down in many places.

Hays is in a deadlock. No trains, no planes, no trucks. Mountains of snow.

Elder Stratton got the hiccups. In fact he got them so bad I was afraid it might tear his upholstery apart. "Put your head down between your knees and drink upside down," I said. He did. Red faced, he came up and hiccuped again. And again.

"I think I'll jist git in the shower," he said.

Above the sound of the running water I could hear his jerking hiccups. "Dear me," I thought, "I'd better do something while he is still in one piece."

I drew a pitcher of cold water from the kitchen tap and went into the bathroom. I pulled back the shower curtain, where Ermal was shrouded in a cloud of steam, and threw the water on him. I had no idea a Mormon missionary could yelp like that! With a terrible war whoop, he stormed out of the shower, charging toward me with doubled up fists. In all of the time since I have known him I have never seen such fury. I ran in the kitchen, because suddenly I was afraid of the pink, steaming monster.

"What did you do that for," he roared.

"To cure your hiccups," I said timidly. "See, you're not doing it an

"My #¢@%*&@ woman! Don't ever do that again." Without so much as a single hiccup, he finished his shower.

The roaring overhead has ceased. Like ground squirrels we crawled out of our burrow and walked down town to see the sights. Abandoned cars were buried in the middle of Stop lights flashed red, then green, but there was no traffic. Porch roofs on store fronts had collapsed. Snow drifts completely buried plate glass windows. One supermarket in our area had shoveled out, so we walked inside. The shelves were empty. Realization struck home. These stores depend upon truck and trains running daily. Newsmen are pleading over TV for people to volunteer milk for babies. We see the wisdom of a year's food storage.

514514 A week after the Adams family baptism, a card came from George Huntley in Osborne. "Come and get me and baptize me," it said. When we checked George out, he said, "I watched Bill Adams and his family being baptized, and a voice said to me, 'This is the truth,' so I need to be baptized." We're set up to give him the discussions.

Teddy and Debbie Smith are to be baptized this coming Saturday. They are both down with the flu.

The long rays of the setting sun are slanting across the muddy moat that surrounds our apartment. Elder Stratton has sloshed through it to mail our report to Denver. With a happy "ho hum" I view the past week with satisfaction.

The Smith family had been sick for nine days. Friday, Teddy tried to sit up. "I just can't go to Lamed tomorrow," she said, "I couldn't stand to ride that far."

"We promise you you will be better as soon as you are baptized," Elder Stratton said.

"But I almost faint every time I sit up," Teddy replied.

Then her sisters, Bobby Jean and Jerry, called us from Denver. "Don't tell Teddy," Bobby Jean said, "but we're coming to the baptism. We want to surprise her."

We phoned Norman Smith. "What shall we do? Teddy says she isn't well enough to ride?"

"Let them come. It will do Teddy a world of good," he replied.

Bobby Jean and Jerry left Denver during a snow flurry. Six inches of snow lay on the ground, and more was coming down.

"We knew we HAD to come," Jerry said. 'We knew if Teddy did not get baptized now she never would."

They had a terrible time coming through the snow. When their car stalled almost no one stopped to help. One guy stopped, looked under the hood, and said, "It's probably your carburetor, but it's too cold out here for me." So he got back into his car and drove off.

Bobby Jean buried her face in her arms across the steering wheel and cried, "Oh Heavenly Father, please send help. Just anybody will do."

Presently a car pulled alongside, and a man staggered out. Surveying the situation, he said, "You need help, dontcha? Well, I'm too drunk to do anything except hook onto you and pull you into the next town." And that's what he did.

Twenty-three hours after leaving Denver, they arrived at Ellis. They had just arrived when we phoned Saturday morning. Teddy was still too weak to get out of bed, but her sisters said, "Go to Lamed and fill the font. We'll see that she gets there."

The baptismal was set for 2:00 p.m. At 1:50 the Smith family arrived. I almost wept when I saw Teddy, she was so white and weak. Norman walked with his arm around her.

Trembling and unsteady, Teddy, in her white dress, stepped into the font. Howard Spencer took her hand and led her into the water. When he baptized her, she reeled, and didn't go under. I almost had a heart attack 515515 watching her. Brother Spencer tried again, and this time it was good. I wrapped a wool blanket around her as she came up the steps, and led her to the dressing room as Debbie was being baptized.

After they were dressed, and confirmed, Teddy's strength returned. Color came. into her cheeks, and she was able to laugh, and enjoy the crowd, and the dinner that was prepared. Twenty-seven of the family and branch members were there. That was yesterday. Today she is her normal self again. She came to church with her family from Denver, and from Hastings, Nebraska. The Lord is good.

Last Wednesday we invited a couple to our house for dinner. Five-thirty, the dinner hour, came. No guests. Six-thirty. No guests. Ermal went out in the street to see if they might be searching for our house. No sign of them. WE WERE STOOD UP!

"Let's eat," Elder Stratton said.

"Go to their house first," I suggested.

An hour later he returned.

"They were just sitting watching TV. They said they were not coming. Let's eat."

I thought of all that good food. Enough for a week for us two. "Do like the man in the bible. When his guests wouldn't come to the feast, he sent his servants out onto the streets to bring in the poor people. Go, bring someone in."

Grinning, Elder Stratton went out the door. In a minute he came back with two college girls. We all laughed. The girls said, "We went to the refrigerator to get something to eat, and we realized we hadn't shopped for groceries. There was only a little rice left, so we decided not to eat tonight."

Dinner was fun. We enjoyed telling the girls about the happiness of being Mormons. They want to learn more.

Clinton's wife Lillian, called today. She said Mom fell and hurt herself and is very weak. They're calling all of the family home. I called President Redd. He said we would be blessed for not going home, that my mother would feel honored for us to remain in the field and teach the gospel.

Wayne called at 11:00 a.m. Mom just passed away. She would have been ninety years old in August. Tears course down my cheeks. I cannot imagine home without our mother. In all my life, even as far back as I can remember, she has always been there when I wanted to talk to her

This is the hour of my mother's funeral. Elder Stratton is in Osborne with our district leader interviewing George Huntly for baptism.

Later: The baptismal date for George has been set. When Ermal came from Osborne, he had me telephone home. Mama's house was filled with her children and grandchildren, all except me. A hubbub came over the phone, and I took turns saying hello to a host of them.

After we baptized George Huntly and Vicky Henry we were through. Everyone we had been teaching was either baptized, or phased out. Couldn't quit smoking, or had heard enough. I slumped. It had been two 516516 weeks since we had given a discussion. Then yesterday we made a grand sweep through central Kansas to Plainsville, and Falco, checking out temple referrals, and getting told "no." On our way back through Hill City we visited Kay and Robert. Kay announced she had passed the crisis. She has quit smoking. "Continue to pray for us. Your prayers are being answered," she said.

I read a fascinating magazine article on yoga, and tried the illustrated exercises, especially the one to increase my brain power by standing on my shoulders for ten minutes.

Elder Stratton said, "Don't stand upside down. You'll hurt yourself."

"But it feels so good," I replied, looking at my graceful, nylon-covered legs waving above me.

"You shouldn't do that," he protested.

Suddenly, something in the small of my back came uncoupled. YECXi I hurt something dreadful!

My back is driving me loco. I can't sit. I can't lie down. All I can do is stand up, and walk. But who wants to walk all night?

Later: Elder Stratton called Bro. Howard Spencer to help administer to me. I knew I would be healed instantly, and I was. The agonizing pain was gone by the time they took their hands off my head. Greatful tears filled my eyes. But do you know what . Bro. Spencer said in his blessing? He said I would be blessed according to my obedience to my missionary companion. Oh dear, dear. (Obedience is better than hurting).

Our district leader, Elder Ison, and Elder Fertch had dinner with us, then we went to Hill City to interview Kay Stephens for baptism. Robert is still hung up on a word of wisdom problem, so he has given written consent for Kay to be baptized without him.

When we arrived, Kay ran into the house crying. Bob looked alarmed. "Maybe you can talk to her, Sister Stratton," he said.

I went into the house, and Kay wept on my shoulder. "I can't be baptized without Bob," she sobbed. "If I do, he will never come into the church, and a gap will grow between us. I've got to wait for him." She was right. We went on to Norton to interview Sharyn Van DeWege.

We baptized Sharyn today. Also little Christine Conrad, who just turned eight.

As I sat in the Larned chapel daring the confirmation, I looked through the open door at the lilacs, and tears filled my eyes. The folks sang, "Nearer My God to Thee," and I realized our mission was about over.

Then, as we walked out of the chapel, Nancy Somers said, "Sister Stratton, we want you to come and teach the gospel to our three foster daughters. We have the mother's written consent." We still have work to do.

The Hays branch was reorganized today. Howard Spencer was put in as branch president with Kay Somers and Howard Sloan as counselors. President Spencer and his wife LaRay are planning to be sealed in the temple In July. Our release will come just in time to accompany them.

Tonight we give the first discussion to Kathy, Charlene and Rebecca Anderson in the Somers home in Paradise.

517517 Following is a Mother's Day poem composed by Lolene.


She's got a few wrinkles, a few rolls of fat — (yuk yuk)
And as for her tummy's no longer flat!
There's grey in her hair now. Oh, dear! More than ever!
(But those rinses by Clairol are terribly clever).

She looks in the mirror. Each day brings new changes.
What nature hasn't done to her man re-arranges!
But fret not, my dear mother, there is hope for you yet.
There are marvels of science you've not heard of, I'll bet.

There are steps to be taken. There are things you can do.
So don't settle back with your boo and your hoo!
So tighten that bra strap—struggle into that girdle.
See? Youth has not flown—you're not over the hurdle!

Besides ! We all love you just like you are.
You're comfy. You're cozy! And I'll tell you some more—
You're such a cood sport, such great fun to tease,
Tho' Ermal, I'm sure would much rather squeeze!

If I wrote you a poem of what's in my heart
I'd blubber, I'd bawl—so I'd better not start!
Just know that we love you. We think you're REAL NEAT!
(And out of this trash, believe only the sweet!)

Happy Mother's Day! Darwin, Lolene, Aaron, and little unknown Gifford.

WARNING: Be it known that this is not the kind of poem one reads aloud proudly to friends. It is strictly trashy!

Among some assorted scraps of paper left at the church house by former missionaries, we found a name, "Melba Schwitzer, Osborne," so we checked it out today. What a find! Although she is a member of the Church of Christ, and teaches a bible class, she has more LDS books in her library than anyone we know in Kansas. She doesn't want to hurt her 99 year old mother-in-law by changing churches now.

Stopping at Paradise, we gave the second discussion to the Anderson children. Since they are welfare children, we may never be permitted to baptize them, but we're instructed to teach them.

Back to Osborne. Showed "Plan of Life and Exaltation" to Melba Schwitzer. Will start discussions next week.

Went with Brummits to the "picnic tree" today. The tree is under a creek bank that's overgrown with wild grapes and currants. Edgar mowed a trail through the wild flowers and tall grass, from the farm house to the tree. He cooked thick steaks over charcoal there.

Gave 6th discussion to the Anderson children, then went on to Osborne and gave the first discussion to Melba Schwitzer. She already knows the gospel is true, but is the organist in her church.

President Redd called. "Go ahead and baptize the Anderson children." Then he said, "I seem to be missing some information about them. 518518 Tell me about the family."

"The father has disappeared, and the mother had a nervous breakdown and is in rehabilitation in the Lamed hospital."

"Go teach her too," he said. "May the Lord bless you in this."

Went to Larned and gave the first discussion to Ardith Anderson. We came by appointment with the supervisors at the hospital. They took us to a cell-like room that had only three chairs and a tiny table. But the Spirit of the Lord can penetrate any place. I felt a tingling sensation all during the discussion.

Our district leaders have interviewed the Anderson girls and we're scheduled to baptize them Saturday the 28th.

The baptism is off. The children's grandmother learned what was going on, and went on a rampage. Since the children are charges of the welfare, she stormed into their office and told them the Somers had brainwashed the children. She hotly denounced the Prophet Joseph Smith, saying he was a hoax and a fraud. She denounced us too, because we had brainwashed the little girls. The welfare officials stopped the baptism.

We went to Larned today and gave the second discussion to Ardith and told her the children are not to be baptized.

"After I are baptized, there is nothing the welfare or my mother can do to prohibit my daughters from becoming members of the church," she said.

We discussed the Word of Wisdom and Ardith took a pack of cigarettes from her purse and gave them to Elder Stratton.

Fourth discussion to Ardith. Nothing sweeter. It was a beautiful night for driving back home. Fireflies sparkling.

Elder Stratton turned some fireflies loose in our apartment. They flew around the room, sparkling all night.

We gave the last discussion today to Ardith, then the baptismal font was filled and the three little girls and their mother were baptized. A shaft of light came through the west window, and the water sparkled and danced. The dinner, after the confirmations, and the picture-taking seemed like a missionary farwell.

Our replacement came early—Sidney and Amy Hurst. For our last family home evening, Elder Stratton gave the lessons, and we showed slides of Utah, accompanied by a tape of Lolene singing, "Red Hills of Utah." The Smiths, Warzeniaks, Spencers, Robertson and Hursts were there. Little Tammy and Sherri Spencer sprawled on the floor making goodbye cards for us.

The branch had a "farewell Strattons—welcome Hursts" party in the park tonight. Members came from Phillipsburg, Osborne, Waldo, Paradise, LaCrosse, Ellis and Hays. We have such a deep love for these people it is hard to leave—but, the red hills of Utah are calling us.

Mary and Edgar Brummit got back fromtheir trip to Chicago, and we visited half the night.

519519 Went to conference at Garden City with Hursts. Ardith Anderson and Debbie Smith went with us. They were the "convert" speakers at conference.

Missionary conference until noon. Pres. Redd said our work had been pleasing to the Lord.

Night time, and a phone call from home. A baby boy was born to Lolene and Darwin on my birthday. (Andrew).

We talked in church today. Our farewell and Hursts welcome. Tammy and Sherri sang, "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You." We had dinner with the Somers and Barret is at Paradise.

Bid Hursts goodbye. Left Hays at 10:30 a.m. Our mileage reads 49,547. Visited Norman, Teddy and Debbie Smith at Ellis. Had dinner at Quintar with Eric and Mary Enstrom. Got into Burlington, Colo. at 6 p.m.

At our final interview at the mission home in Denver, President Redd made us feel very happy, and also very humble. The final dinner was magnificant. As we sat around the table after dinner , the elders all bore their testimonies, and then there was a tie cutting ceremony. Elder Donald Weber said, "President Redd, can I be the one to cut off Elder Stratton's tie?" Instead of just whacking the tie off, he petnstakincly snipped out the initials of "Colorado-New Mexico Mission, 1971, Stratton." Love shone on the faces of Elder Stratton and Elder Weber as they stood together for this ceremony.

Leaving Denver at 7 p.m. we drove over Brotherhood pass and camped on a river bank below Grandby.

Jim's and Dana's home in Salt Lake. What an inexpressible feeling to actually be with part of our family again. Ermal visited for the first time his marvelous grandson Scott, the first grandchild to carry on the Stratton name.

Up and off by 5:00 a.m. for the Logan temple to be with our dear ones from Kansas, President and Sister Spencer, and Sherri and Tammy. Also Sister Oma Whitson came with them to get her endowments.

The most celestial thing on earth is to be in the sealing room where parents and children are sealed for all eternity. What a privilege to see our branch president and his family receive this ordinance.

We stayed in Salt Lake to watch the Pioneer Day parade, then headed south, stopping at Orem to visit Emma Lou Brummit and Edith and Gene in Provo, arriving home at 10:00 p.m.

When we first left for our mission our mileage was 15,789. When we arrived home it was 50,807. We traveled 35,018 while on our mission.

Ah home! Sweet, sweet home! How peaceful and beautiful!

Our troops came—our precious troops! For eighteen months they've been so good to write, phone, send flowers, and to present us with grandchildren—1seven new ones to be exact.

Oma Whitson took the Greyhound back to Kansas, and the Spencer family came to LaVerkin. We took them sightseeing to Zion, Kolob, and Bryce Canyon, camping at Duck Creek. We bid them goodbyyesterday and reported our mission to the stake presidency and high council today.

520520 The Barrett family arrived from Kansas this afternoon, and we all went sightseeing to Short Creek.

After spending the day with Barretts on Kolob, Harry and Marilyn, and Jim and LaPriel Cornelius went dancing with us to the music of Perry Asay's orchestra. Cur guests really liked the music for dancing. Harry said, "Elder Stratton has a proud bearing. Dances like a stallion."

We showed Barretts around in Zion, then went through the tunnel, stopping at the pullout viewpoint at Checkerboard Mountain. Barretts thought the mountains were impressive—colorful and spectacular, but Marilyn said, "I feel closed in. I like to see out."

Flatlanders don't realize how much farther one can see from the top of a mountain than from a raise in the plains. I felt unprotected in the plains—no hill for a house to snuggle up to. But I did learn to appreciate the serenity of the vast expanse of earth and sky. Sometimes it was funny to realize, as we drove across the prairie, that a little old fence post was actually the highest thing on that part of the earth. If I am to be the highest thing on earth, I want to be on top of a pinnacle—not by a fence post. (All of this I mulled over in my mind. We did not debate mountains vs. plains).

We had a picnic in the shade of a pine tree, then said goodbye to our delightful Kansas family. Barretts are full of wit and humor, and our heart strings twanged as they drove east and we turned our car west.

Ermal has gone into captivity stocking shelves at Graff's Grocery, and I am bottling peaches. We're civilians again. Tonight we had home evening with Perry's and Shirley's family. Shirley made ice cream.

President Andrew McArthur called us back to the temple as ordinance workers. Also, Bishop Wilson asked us to teach the primary scouts. "You'll have endless fun taking the boys on 5 mile hikes, and teaching them outdoor cooking," he promised. I chuckled to myself, wondering if he had noticed how white my hair was. (I quit using a color rinse while in the mission field. I was a shock to the folks when we got home). Gray hair or not, we've eight lively Blazer B boys to teach.

My grandson Edwin was almost killed in a motorcycle accident. I took the Greyhound to Las Vegas to be with Marilyn until Edwin regained consciousness. He's terribly battered.

As I rode along on the bus, I happened to slip my hand in one of my coat pockets. There I found two notes from Ermal. One of them said, "I miss you." The other one said, "I want you to come home,"

The night of the deer hunter's ball, Maxine and Helen called from the ward hall. "Tell Daddy we'll give him fifteen minutes to get up here. We want to dance with him." Ermal groaned as he pulled himself out of his easy chair, and muttered all the way to the church house. The minute he got inside, and saw the decorations of autumn leaves and bales of hay, and saw all of the men decked out in their red caps, he started kicking up his heels. He stayed until the very last dance.

And now the hunting season is almost over, and all of our men got their deer. I sigh with relief. Deer season is a pain in the neck. There's the bloody business of cleaning up the meat. But worse still is the liver. Everyone plays pass-the-button with the liver, and eventually all of the 521521 livers end up at the most dishonest person's house—the one who won't confess that he's had enough! Namely, Ermal. I have cooked liver and onions day after day—even tasted it a couple of times—and shook my head in disbelief as Ermal has chomped it down. The only reason I hang in there and keep cooking it is because I think of all the starving people in India. Today, Ermal finally pushed back the last piece and said, "You won't need to cook anymore liver this season."

"Oh, you darling," I cried, almost going into a sentimental fit.

"You can say the sweetest things."

Yesterday we took our troop on a five mile hike, and passed them off on their cooking-without-utensils test. We had so much fun we've decided to spend the rest of our lives hiking.

The day before the hike was cold, and a storm threatened. "We'll pray for a good hiking day tomorrow," the boys said. Their prayers were answered. The day was perfect. We hiked from the Berry Springs road, along the Harrisburg creek to the Red Cliff Canyon. The boys examined everything from coyote tracks to tarantulas. They chased a couple of mule deer out of ambush and caught their shirts full of suckers. The cooking was something to raise an eyebrow over, but to pass the test they had to eat what they cooked, be it gritty or raw.

Ermal is no longer shelf-stocker in the grocery store. He decided he wanted to do other things, so he just up and quit.

Yesterday we went on a temple trek, celebrating the centennial for the ground breaking of the St. George Temple. There were 100 cars in the caravan, going up over the Hurricane hill, and over 85 miles of dirt road to Mt. Trumbull, where the big timbers for the temple were cut. Visibility was zero. Talcum fine dust blanketed us, piling so thick on the windshield that it slid down in sheets. The day was hot for November—ideal for the program that was held out on the mountain.

An airplane flew over the mountain during the program, laying a jet streak. Leon, who is just four, asked, "What is that airplane dragging that cloud around for?"

We came back by Bundyville. 'Where is Bundyville?" I asked as we came down the mountain.

"That's it," Ermal said, waving his arm in a grand sweep at the thousands of acres of barren waste below us.

We were awakened last night by the terrifying wail, "Mother―!"

"What's the matter?" I called.

Helen ran into our bedroom, and throwing the baby into my arms, she said, "Take the kids. Our house is on fire!" Ivy and Leon jumped into the middle of our bed. They had all run barefooted, in their nightgowns through the rain. Helen ran back, and Ermal dressed and followed her.

The pear tree outside our bedroom door reflected flashing red light. "The roof is in flames," I thought, leaping up. It was the red flasher from the fire engine. Our lane had filled with cars. Men were all over. The fire had started in the basement in the floor joists underneath the fireplace. The house had filled with smoke, and the little ones began to cough, which woke DeNar just in time to save themselves and the house.

522522 It's almost like lightning striking twice in the same place! Terry's trailer home in Las Vegas was completely destroyed by fire Saturday. He had renters in it. The guy had gone to sleep with his lighted cigarette.

A beautiful Thanksgiving day. We had dinner under the big trees on Shirley's front lawn. This evening my brothers and sisters joined us in our living room, and Clinton showed us his wildflower shots.

I passed my backpacking test today. Clinton took a group of us over in the park boundary at Coal Pitts to show us an ancient oil well. (My guess is that it is well No. 19 mentioned in Grandma Isom's account of the Virgin oil boom days). Clinton showed us an overhanging ledge of dripping ferns. He chipped off pieces of gold flecked chips from a petrified log. In the damp sand along the creek we saw fresh cougar tracks.

Shirley, and her little boys, John and Rick, were with us. Ermal kept up a running commentary about the "beautiful posts." In fancy, he cut down every well- formed juniper in sight. It got so bad that every time John or Rick climbed a tree, Shirley shouted, "Hey vou guys, get down out of Grandpa's posts."

Ermal suffered to see me trudging along with my backpack. Time and again he offered to carry it for me, but I didn't want to flunk the test. Our trail took us almost to the base of Steamboat Mountain. There, we came to big iron wheels and cables that must have been there for 70 years.

Hiking back was fine until the last two miles. Ermal urged me to sit down while he went after the car. Very funny. He would have had to bring the car in by helicopter. The only way out of there was one step at a time. And now I feel a glow of happiness. I hiked the entire eight miles. (I'll settle for five miles from now on).

Online Footnotes

  1. Alice mentions seven grandchildren born while she and Ermal were serving on a mission for 18 months during the years 1970 and 1971. Eight total grandchildren were born during the two years this chapter spans, one (Laron Stout) before Alice & Ermal departed to serve, and the rest throughout the 18-month span while they were serving.

    The grandchildren born in 1970 and 1971 mentioned in this chapter are, in order of birth:

    1. Laron Kim Stout, son of Dell & Corrine Stout, born January, 4, 1970, just before the mission.
    2. Aaron Darwin Gifford, son of Darwin & Lolene Gifford, born on February 6, 1970, shortly after the mission began.
    3. Scott Gubler, son of Norman & Ann Gubler, born May 16, 1970.
    4. Annie Shirley Houston, daughter of Perry & Shirley Houston, born September 27, 1970.
    5. Rebecca Gubler, daughter of DeMar & Helen Gubler, born December 1, 1970.
    6. Shelden Gubler, son of Terry & Susan Gubler, born January 18, 1971.
    7. Scott Stratton, son of Jim & Dana Stratton, born January 28, 1971.
    8. Andrew Gerald Gifford, son of Darwin & Lolene Gifford, born July 17, 1971, on Alice's birtday, not long before the end of their mission.