In our Valley, we were big on celebrations. For months we saved our money (which sometimes reached 75 cents) for the 4th of July. About dawn someone would shoot off a gun, since we had no cannon, to signal the great morning had arrived. This was the time we had our new outfits. I have never had a new Easter outfit in my life because when I was a child, it was too cold at Easter for spring clothes, so July 4th was our time to be decked out from head to foot; Mary Jane black patent shoes, a new dress, sometimes a hat, and always a child’s umbrella. Our money was spent sparingly during the day’s celebration.

Best of all: HOMEMADE ICE CREAM! in front of my grandparent’s house, near the corrals, was the ’ice house,’ filled with blocks of ice cut from the reservoir in mid-winter, hauled to the ice house and covered with sawdust. On the morning of the Fourth, someone went out and uncovered a large block of ice and we all took turns in turning the freezer. The result: the most heavenly dessert imaginable.

The activities usually began with a parade down the dirt road in front of the church, with flatbed hay wagons decorated with crepe paper and carrying various people of the community in costumes. We had no band, but I seem to remember people going along singing. After the parade came a patriotic program in the Meetinghouse. There we heard orations about the greatness of our country and there was singing and recitations, etc. This program was usually followed by a community lunch out under the ‘bower,’ this consisted of poles in the ground at the corners, more poles across the top and shrubbery boughs hung on the top so there was shade underneath. There were tables and each family brought lunch.

After lunch came a baseball game which pitted our ward against another from some surrounding town. This was a very exciting time. Besides this, there were balloons for sale, firecrackers, fireworks, and ice cream.

I never knew my great-grandmother on the Barker side (Emma’s). But I have heard over and over the story that she lived in England in a beautiful manor house. At one time she was downtown and passed a building where she heard the people singing one of our hymns. She was impressed to go inside and met the missionaries and joined the Church. Her story is one of great tribulation as she crossed the ocean and came with the pioneers to the West. Her story and my Mother’s are in another history. The story is also told us how she would get homesick for England and thing of the view from her upstairs window of the beautiful trees and green countryside. And now, knowing how dry the West is and having seen the green of England I can sympathize with her.

At this point I’m going to relate a little about some of my rather distant relatives. Some of them were named Smith and were part of the company who went through the ‘Hole in the Rock’ across the Colorado River near Moab, in order to go to Colorado and colonize it. My great-grandmother Dunton was one of the six Barker sisters of whom my Grandmother Willden was one. The first I know about them, they lived in Parowan, Utah. Grandfather Barker drove a freight wagon to Pioche, Nevada and other places to bring in freight to Utah. At one point my great-grandfather began gambling. At times he took his girls with him on the freighting trips so that he wouldn’t gamble. But, on one trip when he was alone, he gambled and lost his wagon and horses. The story goes that he wrote for my Great-grandmother to come to Pioche and live because he didn’t want to face everyone in Parowan. My great-grandmother is supposed to have consulted with the bishop and he advised against it in huge ten gallon pails from Durango, and many other places where we could spend our money. Seventy-five cents bought us most everything we wanted–at lease enough to make us sick to our stomachs. At many of these celebrations there was a dance in the Meetinghouse or a play. At many such celebrations my Mother would put on a ‘drill’. This consisted of all the girls from about 10 to 14 years, carrying flags and marching around a pattern drawn with a stick in the dirt. At first we went singly, but later separated into couples, crossed over ‘katy-cornered’ and so on. These were about as corny as you could get, but a great time was had by all. Usually these July 4th celebrations were repeated on the 24th, but we sometimes traded with the Kline Ward nine miles to the North. We also looked forward to these celebrations with great anticipation and while they were surely ‘cornball unlimited’, they were the best we could do and we did honor our country.

Another activity of my childhood was hiding eggs before Easter. Vera and I, and Wanda when she was old enough, as I remember, even Ernest, Ethel, Vernon and Jay joined in. We hid eggs by the dozen under bushes, trees, fences–anywhere we felt was a place where no one would find them. Then we spent much time trying to find the hiding places of the others. If we found a nest of their eggs we re-hid them. Often we went to look at our nest only to find the eggs gone–found by a luck member of the family. This activity began about two weeks before Easter and it was great fun. We must have had lots of eggs because sometimes we had three or four nests of eggs hidden here and there, and, of course, they were bad by the time Easter came and had to be thrown away. Since we had our own chickens, I guess we didn’t feel a great loss. (Mother: did you boil them first and color them to be recognizable as Easter Eggs?)

On Easter morning we always tried to see how many eggs (Ah the cholesterol!) we could eat. We ate them scrambled, boiled, fried or whatever. As I said before, it was always cold in Redmesa on Easter since our summers were short, but after Church a group of young people usually took a hike even though the ground might be frozen or sort of muddy. Sometimes the snow was barely gone, but if Easter was late and the spring early, we searched for Salt and Pepper Flowers. They really weren’t pretty–growing close to the ground and being a sort of non-descript lavender color, but they were the first flowers after our hard winters, we cherished them. To find them meant that spring was really on its way. (Today as I sit at my computer on February 4, 1989, I can look out the window and see the mounds of snow that had fallen for about 48 hours steady. This is the most snow recorded at BYU since statistics were started, at least 40 years ago, and I’m back in Redmesa with our 30 below zero weather.)

One Thanksgiving when my Dad was working in Durango, and had a small apartment, we didn’t think he was coming home for Thanksgiving, so we decided to surprise him. We packed the turkey and all the trimmings into the wagon along with ourselves and spent most of the day driving the 25 miles or so to Durango. When we reached Dad’s little apartment, we found that he had decided to surprise us and had walked to Redmesa. He was great on walking (from his days in Wales, where everyone still walks a great deal) and he turned around and walked back the 25 miles. Well, the next morning (Thanksgiving Day) I woke up with the mumps. Couldn’t eat a bite of Thanksgiving dinner, and my Mother and the other kids had to stay there for about a week before we could go back to the farm.