The Hill

I lived from age 6 months to 6 years in Blackfoot, a small Southeastern Idaho town, named in honor of one of the local Native American tribes.  The area is still mostly agricultural, Spud country, home of the best potato in the world, the Idaho Russet.  Those lovely oblong tubers grow fabulously in the volcanic loam.  From 15,000 to 2,000 years ago, Southeastern Idaho was home to volcanic activity.  Craters of the Moon National Park and two buttes are visible reminders.  The rest of the story is in the wonderfully loose soil that grows practically anything that’s planted in it.

After we moved to Shelley, I remember many times driving through higher than our car walls of lava as we went to dentist appointments in Blackfoot.  The area was the southeast tip of a flow called “Hell’s Half Acre” and it wasn’t hard to imagine the devil sitting on top, laughing at the motorists below.  Well, somebody got the bright (actually good) idea to put a set of very nice rest stops with nature trails right there.  They needed rock for concrete and hey, there was all this lava.  So now that “Hell” has been reformed, the devil has moved elsewhere.

The Hill

September, 1960

“Whee,” I run up the hill as fast as my three-year-old legs will carry me.  At the top, I splat myself down for the twenty-seventeenth time.  Instead of rolling down, this time I flatten on my belly and kick my feet.  Slowly I feel one smooth, emerald blade of the lush yard carpet my dad so carefully waters, mows, fertilizes and treats with that long, brown, stinky weed-killer-on-a-wire block.

My golden capped baby sister laughs.  I look across the narrow side yard to where she sits with our mother.  Mom picks a small yellow flower from the color-splotched strip of garden next to the Hortin’s tall, white cinderblock fence.  She holds it up to Dorothy’s button nose to sniff.  It’s my turn to laugh as Dorothy’s chubby hand reaches for the bloom and her mouth opens wide.

“No, you don’t smell with your mouth, silly,” I say and roll down the cool slope.

Once at the bottom I sit and pick green bits out of my strawberry blond strands.  I look around and decide to watch a Daddy-long-legs climb up the pink wood siding of our two bedroom, neat-as-a-pin, one story house.  If he makes it to the white edge of the black roof, he might get eaten by the bird sitting there.

“Hey, race you,” my soon to be five big sister calls.  Her brunette bob pokes around the back corner of the house.

I bounce up, “okay.”

We run past the Snow White apple tree, red apples on one side, green on the other, over to our barbecue that looks like a monument.  I catch my breath in front of the stout, iron grill and run my hand over the rough brown brick trying unsuccessfully to reach the top.  I scan the yard for a good course to run.  We could go back to the apple, left to the purple plum and straight to the sandbox.  Then we could go left again along the Jensen’s wooden fence, past the lilac bush with its tangle of trunks to the peonies by the back fence.  I’m thinking that as long as we go that far, we might as well keep going past the gate and weave through the yellowing corn stocks in the vegetable patch.  Why, I can run so fast, I could even jump over all the bumpy dark green Hubbard squashes I can hardly pick up, fly over to the one branch of the Hortin’s apple tree that slumps over the fence, pick one of those golden beauties and still beat Diana back.

But, she wants to run to the hill.  Oh well.  She lines up with the barbecue’s stick out side with more shelves than cubby holes.  I stand in front of the other.

“On your mark, get set, go!”

I speed up the slope again with all my tired might.  I just barely come in second.

July 2009

On my way home from visiting my two youngest sisters, I find a tiny house in a small Idaho town.  It’s all peeling paint white now.  I stop in front.  It looks like no one is home.  That’s good because, “hi, I used to live here and want to roll down your hill,” seems more than lame.  There are bicycles not bushes on the front porch.  Bottles line the living room windowsill.  The curtains behind them are crooked and gaping.  The sandbox is filled with unruly grass.  I inch the car forward until I see a crumbling, nondescript, brick structure stuffed with—stuff.  I shake my head and then see a small slope in the yellow-green, dirt patched, narrow side lawn.  It is a 10 inch drop, maybe, if that much, maybe less.  I tell myself, “that hill shrunk.”

I put the car in gear again and drive home to Utah.

Bedtime Story

My mother was Miss Phillips, high school Drama, Speech, English and P.E. teacher.  Therefore, as I grew, I mucked stables with Hercules, ate pomegranate seeds with Persephone (main difference-I hate pomegranates, tough luck Hades), whitewashed fences with Tom Sawyer and chased the Cat In The Hat with Sally.

The highlight of the day was climbing with my sisters on Mom and Dad’s bed for a story.  Some stories came from her Elementary School readers.  Now these did not say, “See Dick run.”  In fact, when I compared the two, I decided that children “way back then” were taught to read by total immersion.  No one word upon another tales, no, these were stories.  Full stories with plots, characters and big words.  Sink or swim.

My favorite stories were “Potato, potato,” “Dark Pony,” “Away-she-go” and “Dawn Boy.”  Now, before all you Cultural Purists get your noses twisted, I need to say, if I had not met the two aforementioned fakes, I would have never wanted to meet Old Man Coyote, Ananzi the Spider, Rainbow Crow or Turkey Girl.  And I wouldn’t have wanted to know why Shinob the younger god put death on the earth or how the leopard changed his spots.  But I met, I learned and I smiled (especially about Coyote, he’s cool).

I will share “Dark Pony,” at least the way Mom used to tell it, which was a little different than the book.  So, curl up with your blankey, and your favorite child.  The folk tale was originally published in 1912 by Scott, Foresman and Company from The New Basic Readers.

Every night and every night Dark Pony went galloping, galloping off to the gates of Sleepy Town.  Every night and every night Dark Pony gathered up all the good little children with him.  One night as Dark Pony was galloping, galloping he saw (Nola) (favorite child).  She said “wait Dark Pony, stop, take me with you.”  So, Dark Pony stopped, (Nola) climbed on and they went galloping, galloping off to the gates of Sleepy Town.

By and by they saw (Dorothy and Patricia) (sibling and/or friend).  They said, “wait Dark Pony, stop, take us too.”  So, Dark Pony stopped and (Dorothy) climbed on behind (Nola) and (Patricia) climbed on behind (Dorothy) and they went galloping, galloping off to the gates of Sleepy Town.

By and by they saw a (black and white stripped cat named Tiger) (or whoever your friend is).  He said, “wait Dark Pony, stop, take me too.”  So Dark Pony stopped and (Tiger) climbed on behind (Patricia) who was on behind (Dorothy) who was on behind (Nola) and all together they went galloping, galloping off to the gates of Sleepy Town.

By and by they saw (Wadups’s rooster) (your friendly neighborhood animal).  He said “wait Dark Pony, stop, take me too.”  So, Dark Pony stopped and (the rooster) climbed on behind (Tiger) who was on behind (Patricia) who was on behind (Dorothy) who was on behind (Nola) and all together they went galloping, galloping off to the gates of Sleepy Town.

Soon they could see Sleepy Town.  (Nola) yawned.  Then (Dorothy and Patricia) yawned.  Then (Tiger) curled up and yawned.  Then (the rooster) sat down and tucked his head under his wing.  They could see the gates of Sleepy Town and Dark Pony went slower and slower.  (Nola) bowed her head and closed her eyes.  (Dorothy and Patricia) bowed their heads and closed their eyes.  (Tiger and the rooster) closed their eyes.  Dark Pony went slower and slower.  Now they were at the gates of Sleepy Town.  Slowly the gates opened and Dark Pony went in.

(Nola) was asleep.  (Dorothy) was asleep.  (Patricia) was asleep.  (Tiger and the rooster were asleep).  Even Dark Pony was asleep.  Good Night.

I’m not the only person inspired by that wonderful story.  Robin N. Fator was inspired to create Dark Pony Designs to showcase her line of clothing and accessories.  Darkponydesigns.com is a fun site and who knows, you might find something you’d like to buy.

Fun Books to check out:

“Coyote Stories” By Mourning Dove (Humishuma), Edited by Heister Dean Guie with notes by L.V. McWhorter (Old Wolf), 1990 Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press

“Druids, Gods & Heroes from Celtic Mythology”  1986, “Heroes, Monsters and Other Worlds from Russian Mythology” 1985, “Dragons, Gods & Spirits from Chinese Mythology” 1980   All from Peter Bedrick Books 156 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10010.

“Truth is a Bright Star” By Joan Price, Tricycle Press PO Box 7123 Berkely, CA  94707

 

 

First Story

                       First Story

The first chapter in the story of a person’s life is usually thought of as starting at birth.  But I say it is before that, with parents, grandparents and all the way back to the first set who sent those genes down the line to become said person.  One of the pages in my first chapter is my father, Herbert Newel Morris.

Dad grew up on a small farm outside of Lewisville, Idaho that was originally settled by his grandparents, George and Zenobia Jane Harper where he saw the beauty of nature:

Tease
A pudgy headed squirrel
With a long and busy tail
Was trying to roll a snowball in July
When a fresh and playful breeze
With a tendency to tease
Blew apart the snowball in the sky.

Dusk Storm
Mountains near the valley loom
In ominous array;
Assassins plotting furtively
To kill the light of day

In clouds and shadows they submerge
Their ill distinguished form,
Together shroud the dying day
With mantle of the storm.

Sunset
How does one describe a sunset?
Capture color with a word?
Paint a picture with a pencil?

Still, one can feel a sense of grandeur
Sparked by crimson shafts of light;
One can sense an awesome something
When the day blends into night.

When grown, with a journalism degree to his credit, he served a mission in Brazil for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where he found beauty of a different kind:

Bypass
Brazilian lips were made to be kissed,
But not by me;
Those rouge rosined cheeks are hard to resist,
Except by me;
Those swarthy complexions look warm to the eye,
As though no promiscuous kiss they’d deny,
But though it may be, I do not want to try,
For I left my love far behind me.

Brazilian breasts were formed to be pressed,
But not against me;
Their come-hither eyes say they must be caressed,
But never by me.
A curvaceous bodice might heavenly be,
But I have a goddess home waiting for me
And they never need to remind me.

There are waists in Brazil just right for an arm,
But never for mine;
These hot-blooded Latins are oozing with charm,
But none will be mine;
Their winks and their glances will get a blank stare
I can’t have romances, my heart isn’t there.
My love at home will still bind me.

The Samba was made for the hips in Brazil,
But it’s not for me;
The tango and rhumba are danced with a thrill,
By others, not me;
The clinch on the dance floor that thrills and elates,
Will not come to me ‘til I’m back in the States,
Then, that’s where you’ll find me!

After he got back to the States, he learned about women from five daughters:
Women
I’ll never understand ‘em
Much less hope to command ‘em
Pick any one at random
She’s a mystery!

Though you’d like to reprimand ‘em
Or thoroughly back-hand ‘em
You soon learn God planned ‘em
For man’s mastery.

All through it all, he kept his faith:
Creed
To step to the front when the Lord should call me,
Step out of my way for a friend in need,
To step never back whate’er may befall me,
To walk with men of a nobler breed.

To pace a father’s ideal sublime;
Keep step with a mother’s trust and hope;
To sustain life’s journey one step at a time;
Keep a pace ahead of each task in my scope.

To walk the path of learning, understanding, the arts,
Live tuned to nature for beauty she imparts.
May such guiding aims take my, I pray
One step nearer to God, each day.

Thanks Dad, for your page in my story.

First steps in the fog

Starting this blog is like stepping onto a rickety bridge in a fog.  You know there’s a safe way across the river, but there are also broken and loose planks.  Can you make it?  I decided to write when I realized all the stories I had flying around in my mind were bumping into each other and had to leave.  So I learned and wrote and rewrote and rewrote and then some more.  Finally I collected rejection e-mails.  Then come the rejection that wasn’t.  Suddenly, instead of seeing a bridge across that rejection river, all I could see was fog.  The same imagination that spun the yarns, poked holes in the bridge.

“This is stupid, I’ve never done this before, (duh) I’ll make mistakes, (really?) I’ll botch the whole thing and everybody will hate me (nah, not everybody, just love story readers).”  Of course you’ve never thought anything like that, right?

Then I pulled out the fog-lights and even a couple of fans.  First, I signed up for this how-to-write-a-blog class so I could learn and all I did was accumulate each day’s lessons.  So, I got my “round-tuit” fog light and clicked on day one.  Then my “you can read” light illuminated the tools and tips section.  Finally, my writer’s block curing fans of “put seat in seat” and “move fingers” showed me more intact planks than holey ones.

So, besides a ‘fraidy cat who prefers dry feet, who am I?  My name is Nola Stam, I am a Special Duty Nurse working with medically fragile children who need nursing care at school.  I grew up in a small farming town in Southeastern Idaho where there are plenty of bridges, sound and rickety, spanning the Snake River.  I live in Kearns, Utah with my husband Ron, daughter Evelyn and Jack Russel Terrier mix Spud.  (Well, when he was a puppy, he resembled an Idaho potato, fuzzy with legs, yeah, and he loved potato salad.)

Standing on the other side of the river is my kid sis, Norma Jean Morris, who shared the “not a rejection” for our short story collection, “Aspects of Love”.  She’s likely been there for a while patiently waiting for me to clear my foggy brain and come across.

Starting this was like stepping onto the bridge, so I guess finishing it is like stepping off.  Ahead is a new country, new paths to hike, new hills to view the landscape from the tops and yes, new pits to fall in.  But, everywhere are new stories, flying around, perching on limbs and rocks, waiting to be caught.  Guess I better kick a couple more out of my mind so there’s room.