An Anxious Ride

An Anxious Ride


The blazing afternoon sun sucked what little moisture was left out of the air.  The blast of highway wind did the same to my skin. I knew if my puckered lips straightened, they would crack and bleed.  My dry throat ached for a drink, but I didn’t care.  I had four hundred miles to go before I wanted to stop for anything.  Only common sense held me back as I straddled my motorcycle which was capable of so much more speed than I had ever dared to try.

I thought of Frederick, who a few generations earlier, was also traveling in the hot summer weather.  He was on a train.  It was the fastest mode of transportation available in 1914.  I imagine back in 1914, he got a telegram that started his journey.

For me, it was a phone call.  A few hours earlier, I had been sitting in church with my family.  When my cell phone buzzed in silent mode, I thought it would be another problem at my work.  I looked down at the display expecting to see “DEF”, the work abbreviation.  Instead “LAURIE” flashed at me.  This can’t be good.  My dad was back in the hospital.  I bolted from the meeting so I could answer the phone. 

 “Mom wanted me to call and let you know what was going on.”  With that, my sister started right into the report.  The news was not encouraging.  In Dad’s condition, any infection or virus could be life threatening.  After the call, pieces of the report still rang in my head.

“Throat swelling up… A new lump… hard to breath… he can’t talk… they will do an x-ray looking for pneumonia.” 

Now my Beautiful Wife was standing next to me and I tried to relay the information.  As she asked, “Don’t you think you should go?”  I was already trying to figure out the logistics.  I had brought my company pickup truck home that weekend.  But I couldn’t take it to Idaho.  My work was a hundred miles in the wrong direction.  I decided to take the truck back to work trade for my motorcycle.  By comparison, I was lucky.  I was only a half a day away. 

I thought again of Frederick.  Living in Chicago, for him it was a three days journey to Southeastern Idaho.  He must have left almost immediately when he heard that his father, John Everett, had suddenly taken ill.  The frequent stops the steam locomotive must have made to take on water, fuel, and passengers would have been frustrating for Frederick.  Since his siblings knew when he would arrive, it is likely he had left several telegrams informing them of his progress along the way.     

            As I rolled from side to side, taking the hilly curves a little faster than usual, I added it up in my head.  “It would be about 6:00pm when I arrived at Rexburg.”  I wondered if there were any more updates.  There was no cell service through these hills.  When I stopped for gas, I checked my phone for missed calls.  Nothing.  That was good I think.  I didn’t take the time to make any of my own calls. 

Back on the road, my mind raced from one thought to another.  I thought of my dad.  He’d had set backs like this before.  He had always pleasantly surprised family and the medical people alike at his resilience.  However, in the two days since he’d been admitted to the hospital, new developments and complications seems to combine against him.  It was now starting to sound like the worst case scenario.     

Then another image came back into my mind.  I thought of my Great-Great Grandpa, John Everett.  In 1914, he was 93 years old.  The summer heat of the day gave way to night time.  John saw the reflection of the setting sun on his bedroom wall for the last time.  He was on his death bed, and he knew it.  He had been sick for three days.  Seven of his eight living children were at his bedside with him.  The only one missing was Frederick, a doctor who lived and worked in Chicago.  He was traveling back home as fast as the steam locomotive would carry him.  John Everett had lived a full life.  In 1835, at the age of 14, he left his Prussian home as he became a cabin boy on a sailing ship.  At age 28, sailor John Everett claimed to have visited every major sea port in the world except the American West Coast.  This was the year he gave up the sea for another love.  The love of his life was Hellen Tanser.  They pioneered west by ox team and covered wagon.  Now the sailor was a farmer.  John and Hellen had ten children and raised eight of them.  Hellen had died in 1900, fourteen years earlier.  So with seven of his children at his bedside, John had only one thing left in this life to wait for.  He knew that he had asked before, but time had lost it’s relevance to him. So he asked again.  “Where is Frederick?”  “Papa, Frederick is still coming.  He just hasn’t arrived yet.  He’s coming as fast as he can.”   

The thought sent me spurring my motorcycle like Pony Express rider, as I leaned a little more forward and twisted the throttle a little bit more.  Rexburg was close now.  I slowed as I took the exit and started up Main Street.  Madison Memorial Hospital is up on a hill on the other end of Main. 

As I impatiently waited for a red light to change, I thought again of John Everett’s final words.  It was now between midnight and 2:00 am.  John asked one last time, “Is Frederick here yet?”  “No Papa, he’s not.  But he will be here tonight.”  John let the unwelcomed answer settle for a moment and then he said, “Well it is too bad.”  After that, John Everett lost consciousness and soon past from this life.

I now had tears in my eyes when the light finally changed to green and sent me the final few blocks to the hospital.  I was kicking myself now, “Why didn’t I leave earlier, when I first heard Dad was in the hospital?”

When I arrived, I found Dad gravely ill, but alive and surrounded by family.  I spent the night with him, as well as the next day.  His condition continued to worsen for a time and I was very thankful that I had made it when I did.

Numerous doctors, nurses and other medical people have admitted since that they thought we were going to lose Dad that time.  But he pulled through and is doing very well these six months later.  Maybe it’s a throw back to his egg farm days but Dad is now known as “A Tough Old Bird”. 

I’ve been back to visit my parents once since that time, and I look forward to all my visits back home.  In fact, I’ll be headed back this weekend for another short visit.  I thank modern communication, modern transportation, modern medicine, and the God who gave them all to us that I can still visit with my parents as I do.  I am truly blessed that my outcome that day was vastly different than Frederick Everett’s was almost a hundred years ago.    


The Reason I Love You

It’s my space and I can do what I want with it, right?  Well today, I want to use it to send a message to my Beautiful Wife.  So please pardon me, everyone else, while I get a little bit personal. 



The Reason I Love You


It’s not because you’re beautiful.  Although you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. 


It’s not because you’re smart.  Although your intellect challenges me to keep up.


It’s not because you’re perfect.  Although you can do not wrong in my eyes. 


It’s not because you’re ambitious.  Although there isn’t a lazy bone in your over-worked body.


It’s not because you’re the mother of my children.  Although they, each one, all nine, are beautiful inside and out, just like you.


It’s not because you’ve stuck with me all these years, and through untold tears.


I love you because you are you.  I love the whole package that makes you, YOU. 


Albert Einstein once stated his theory of relativity in terms that even I can understand.  I read that he once said, “If you sit on a hot stove for a minute, it will seem longer than any hour.  But if you sit next to a pretty girl for an hour, it will seem shorter than any minute.  That’s relativity.” 


So I’ve known you for only a moment.  But I hope to be with you for a long, long time.


Thank-you for being YOU

It Tastes Like Puke to Me

It Tastes Like Puke to Me


Some of my more sour childhood memories seem to have sweetened with time.  Among those were the very earliest I have of being sick.  Like all large families, we learned to share and share alike. 

I think we took this “large family culture” to the extreme when we got the stomach flu.  We seemed to pass it around like the mashed potatoes and gravy at Sunday dinner. 

Mom would set up sick bay in the girl’s bedroom, downstairs where it was convenient to her “makeshift nurse’s station” and the one bathroom in the house.   My clear memories of those bouts with stomach flu included the associated stomach cramps and diarrhea, which were treated with Paragoric.  This stuff was among the nastiest stuff my 6 year old taste buds had ever experienced. 

Our family doctor had also prescribed that Mom give us Pepsi to sip.  This was intended to help settle our stomachs.  I am sure I had had a few soda pops at other times as well.  But never a cola like Coke or Pepsi.  My early youth soda pop memory had Shasta pop like orange or grape flavor as the choices.  Our very conservative family values didn’t have room for the caffeinated pops that we were told could be addictive.  So literally the only time I tasted one of those colas was when my Mom was following the doctor’s orders to give us some for our sick stomachs. 

Of course, in the height of stomach flu, after sipping on the Pepsi for awhile, I’d get that burning deep down in my stomach, followed by the watery mouth.  As soon as I realized what was happening, the heave spasms would start and it would all come up.  I think that the Pepsi tasted about the same coming back up as it did going down.  That is really the only time in my life that I intentionally drank colas.  So even now I associate the taste of them with having stomach flu and puking my guts out.  

In my ‘formative years’ of around 8, I discovered my life long love of a soda pop flavor.  In 1967 I attended the Haroldsen Family reunion.  This was a Saturday afternoon gathering for all of Christian and Anna Haroldsen’s posterity.  Although they had both been gone for decades, I believe that all nine of their children were present.  My Grandpa, George Haroldsen, was the oldest of the nine children.  Of course I saw more aunts, uncles, and cousins than I could shake a stick at.  Even with games for the children, visits for the adults and a very nice program including my dad’s cousin, LJ Cook playing a mean accordion (I couldn’t understand why a Cook was at a Haroldsen reunion), the long buffet tables of food were the highlight of our get-together. 

The absolute best part of that reunion for me was the discovery of the brew happening on the end of the long buffet table.  I watched as the sugar was splattered with some sort of dark potion.  The next thing that got my attention was all of the steam or smoke or whatever it was that was pouring out of that barrel.  I stepped in close and put my hand out to try to touch the mysterious cloud as it slipped over the edge and drifted toward the ground as it disappeared.  I could hear the full rumble of the brew boiling inside the barrel.  When I could finally get a cup of the brew, I fell in love with the best tasting pop ever.  That day the brew master kept it coming.  And I kept coming back for more.  From that time on, I kept my eye open for anything that said Root Beer on the label. 

This was also the time that I had joined the Cub Scouts.  We were out at the local lake for one of our summer time pack meetings when they passed around the bottles of soda pop to go along with the hotdogs.  My den leader asked me, “What kind do you want?”  “Do you have Root Beer?”  I was handed the chilled bottle with the name “Frostie Root Beer” in bright red and white letters.  This was years before Wendy’s Restaurants came along and named their chocolate ice cream treat “a Frosty”.   I think this was the first time I got to drink a whole bottle of pop by myself.  (Of course I’m not counting that family reunion when I drank 10 gallons of the dry-ice root beer, one paper cup at a time.)

My next favorite Root Beer experience was the occasional stops our family made at the A&W stand.  The contrast of sitting in the over squished rambler station wagon on a hot summer day, watching the car hop fasten the tray to our half open window, and then Mom or Dad handing back the frosted mug, filled to the brim of my favorite treat was dramatic to my senses.  It was so cold that the edges of the inch thick mug would stick to my lips as I took my first swig.

Those happy memories hooked me on my favorite drink more than the cola’s caffeine would have.  It is no wonder to me that all through my teenaged soda pop guzzling days, I chose whatever kind of root beer was offered over any other kind of soda pop.  My Grandpa Tillack made a mean bottled Root Beer using yeast.  And I learned how to do that dry-ice brew I first discovered at the 1967 Haroldsen reunion.  I’ve never even tasted some of the other varieties of soda pop offered.  I don’t know what Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew or any of that new stuff they call soda pop today even tastes like. 

Occasionally, when ordering a Root Beer with my meal, they mistakenly serve me a Coke or Pepsi.  I’ll take a sip and immediately think of my childhood days with stomach flu.  Yup, it tastes like puke to me.  So if they don’t have a Root Beer to offer, I’ll just settle for a cold glass of water like my Beautiful Wife does.