Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas is More Than Gifts

When Clarence was 13 years old, he lived in a little frame house on a rented farm west of McCammon, Idaho.  He was the 3rd child out of 8.  His bedroom was originally the wash room and was attached to the house. His room didn't have a door, but a canvas to keep out the wind.  The snow would drift in through the cracks in the wall.  He slept on a cot with a straw mattress and put hot irons in the foot of the bed to stay warm.

The family didn't make enough money from their farm to get through the winter.  So his father and older brother (age 15) took a job feeding cattle and milking cows near Pocatello, 22 miles away.

He was left to care for his mother and siblings.  Their fuel was wood they got from a nearby canyon, they didn't have money for coal.  When the sleigh came by to pick up children for school, he was still cutting wood.

He was lucky if he got to school by recess time.  After school he went back to chopping wood and other chores.

That Christmas was small in the way of gifts.  But he did get a flannel shirt made by his mother.

He considered this a very precious gift.  

Despite the meager gifts, the Pack family had love and happiness in their home.  They owned an organ which his older sister, Connie, could play beautifully.  They had a family program on Christmas Eve with songs, poems, games, apples, and popcorn.  His mother told the children faith-promoting stories.  

The next morning, Clarence left their home with burlap wrapped around his feet.  On horseback he rode 22 miles where his father and brother were working.  He brought them a Christmas dinner and greetings from the family.  Many tears of joy were shed at that family reunion.

He ends his story by saying, 

"It does not take expensive gifts to have a Christlike Christmas."

If you are feeling the financial pressure of providing a "good" Christmas for your loved ones.  Remember, that the greatest gift we can give is to share with others the first Christmas gift ever given.

This story comes from a talk titled "Christmas is More Than Gifts" that Clarence William Pack gave in the 1950s in Blackfoot, Idaho to his church congregation.    

Clarence William Pack (1908-1993)

my husband's grandfather

Bradford William Pack -->Clarence William Pack II-->Clarence William Pack

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Birth of Sparky

Bradford William Pack

my husband

I think the word "miracle" gets used so often to describe events that it can lose it's true meaning which is

an extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all human or natural powers and is ascribed to be an act of God.  

While I'm willing to acknowledge that a beautiful sunset is an act of God, I wouldn't necessarily call it extraordinary, especially if it's in New Mexico where all sunsets are beautiful.
Plus, we can't really say sunsets surpass natural powers because "Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere change the direction of light rays, causing them to scatter and resulting in colorful sunsets."

But that doesn't keep us from enjoying them.

Fortunately, my husband is a bona fide miracle.  When my husband was 11, he died. Obviously he came back to life or else I never would have become a certain Englishman's wife.  Here's the story.


Bradford was living in Salt Lake City with his brothers and sisters.  His younger brother, David, was outside flying his kite practicing for a Cub Scout kite-flying contest.  Suddenly his kite got stuck in a tree.  Dave ran inside the house to ask Bradford to help him get it down.

Bradford saw that the kite was way up high near some power lines.  So he grabbed an aluminum ladder and found a long metal pole to knock the kite free from the trees.  As an 11-year old, he knew that power lines could be dangerous so he was careful not to touch them.  What he didn't know was that  electricity could actually jump from the lines over to the pole.  Which it did.

The electricity went through the pole, entered Bradford through his hands, and then exited out Bradford's right shin which was leaning against a step on the ladder.  The shock stopped Bradford's heart, and he fell off the ladder.

What happened next is what makes this event so extraordinary.

David, seeing the entire event, began to scream.  Luckily, his scream was a very high-pitched scream that could be heard by...

a neighbor who was outside doing yard work who the night before...

had taken a CPR refresher course and who also...

happened to be married to a doctor.

She rushed over to find Bradford lying on the ground and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived.  They continued to work on him and took him to the hospital.  Fortunately, they were finally able to get his heart beating again.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to do any more than that.  Bradford wasn't conscious and wasn't responding.

What happened next is what makes this event something that surpasses human powers and be an act of God.

Another neighbor family knelt together to pray for Bradford.  Their father, Hugh Pinnock, worked in downtown Salt Lake (about 20 minutes away) as a General Authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He had just talked to his wife and said that he was on his way home.

Now when Hugh said he was "on his way home" that didn't mean he would get there in 20 minutes.  That meant he was leaving his office and would eventually come home, but sometimes that took up to 2 hours.  The reason why is because he usually would stop and visit people to see if they needed anything.  Knowing this, the family knelt in prayer and prayed that Hugh would come straight home.  (Remember this was in 1979 before cell phones.)

He was home within minutes.  His wife told Hugh what had happened and he rushed over to the hospital.  When he inquired as to Bradford's status he was told that they had been able to get his heart beating again but nothing else.  He was completely unresponsive.

Hugh laid his hands on Bradford's head and gave him what our church calls a priesthood blessing.  As he was finishing the blessing, Hugh said that Bradford let out a long sigh.  Within seconds he was moving around so much the doctors and nurses had to restrain him.

The next morning on his way into work, Hugh stopped by the hospital to see how Bradford was doing.  The nurses said, "Oh, haven't you heard?  Brad is on his way out, he's not doing well at all."  Hugh decided to administer another priesthood blessing.  Five days later Bradford was home from the hospital; a week later he was back in school.

With a new nickname.  Sparky.

To fully understand the severity of this electrocution, I think it is helpful to know what Bradford was like before and how he was different after.

Before Bradford was electrocuted, he was a whiz in school, especially at math.  His math teacher would have the kids play a competition math game.

Here's how the game was played.  Each contestant would draw four cards and lay them on the table.

Then another card was flipped over and each person using the 4 numbers on their own cards, had to create an equation so that the answer matched the number on the target card.

For example:

5  x  2  +  3  -  4  =  9 

Whoever came up with an equation first, won.  Bradford who was a straight-A student, would frequently win this game.  He was considered the student to beat.

When Bradford returned to school after the electrocution, he had difficulty winning the game.  He didn't even have interest in even playing it.  Additionally, his grades went from A's down to B's.  He never was an A student again.

But his low grades didn't stop him.

He graduated from BYU in Economics.

He graduated from University of Texas-Austin with a master's in Accounting.

Where he was awarded "Most Outstanding Student"

He passed the necessary exams and became a Certified Management Accountant.  

After years of working for small start-up technology companies, he started his own consulting business as a CFO for hire.

He's a walking miracle.  And I'm grateful he's alive.  Because he's mine.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Papa Bill vs. the Firecrackers

Bill Pack at 19 years old

When Papa Bill (“He’s this tall!)  was a teenager he worked for the  U.S. Dept. of Agriculture measuring wheat in the desert west of Blackfoot, Idaho (You’re a spud!) Papa’s (He’s this tall!) job was to walk the perimeter of the wheat fields so the surveyor could find out how big the field was.  Papa (He’s this tall!) had to wake up (Rise and Shine!) early in the morning before it got too hot to work. 
The surveyor, a nice fellow a few years older than Papa (He’s this tall!), would have him drive his jeep (Vroom! Vroom!) so he could sleep until they got out to the desert.  Naturally, being just before the 4th of July, firecrackers (Bang! Bang!) were available.  Papa (He’s this tall!) thought, “What a better way to wake up (Rise and shine!) my companion than with an early celebration with firecrackers (Bang! Bang!) going off in his jeep? (Vroom! Vroom!) 
They were traveling on the Idaho (You’re a Spud!) highway just before day break.  Giggling to himself, Papa (He’s this tall!) pulled the firecracker (Bang! Bang!) and match from his pocket. He put both knees around the steering wheel to keep the jeep (Vroom! Vroom!) straight down the highway.  Papa (He’s this tall!) looked down, concentrating on lighting the match for his friend’s “wake-up” (Rise and Shine!) call …..
Suddenly, the jeep (Vroom! Vroom!) went over and down a steep embankment of lava rock.
Driving the jeep (Vroom! Vroom!) down the embankment was not as fun as the firecracker (Bang! Bang!) would have been, but it got the job done.  The surveyor woke up (rise and shine!)
“What happened?  Did you fall asleep?” The surveyor asked Papa (He’s this tall!) 
Neither one of them were seriously hurt, but fixing the jeep (Vroom! Vroom!) cost all of Papa’s (He’s this tall!) summer earnings. 

I guess you could say his great idea backfired!

This story was told at the 2013 Pack Family Christmas Party.  The audience shouted the words in parentheses whenever they were spoken.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Left Behind

After Maria was widowed, her second cousin Joshua Holton and his wife, Betsy wanted to adopt one of her children.  They were wealthy and couldn't have children of their own.  Her third daughter, Frances, consented to live with them.  Maria never gave them permission to adopt her, but she took on the name of Holton and was never Frances Packe again.

Frances Packe (Holton) Barratt
As payment for letting Frances live with them, Joshua and Betsy set up a store for Maria so that she could sell second-hand and new items to make a small living.

By the time Maria and her children met the Mormon missionaries and joined the LDS church, Frances had become attached to her surrogate parents and didn't want to go to America.  Against Maria's better judgment, she let Frances stay behind in England.  

Eventually the letters became farther and farther and apart.  Until finally, she never heard from Frances again.

In 1891, George Godfrey, Eliza Pack's husband and Frances' brother-in-law was called to serve a mission in Great Britain. He traveled to Northampton and tried three times before the Holtons would permit him to see Frances.  

She was very afraid of him because he was a Mormon.  He was the last person in the family from America to see her alive.

Years later my husband's great grandfather wrote an ad in the Northampton local newspaper, The Chronicle & Echo, looking for Frances.  

She saw the ad and answered it.

She revealed that all letters from America had been kept from her and she had been forbidden to write them.  She began to correspond with her older sister Eliza.

She married Thomas William Barratt from the Channel Islands, had four children, and was widowed nine years later in 1908.  She died at the age of 87 in 1957.

Her obituary says that she was living at 162 Lutterworth Road, Northampton with her daughter Dorothy.

Picture captured from Google Maps

In 1965, Fred's daughter Letha and her husband were touring Europe and stopped by to see Dorothy.   Dorothy was startled to meet her cousins from America.  She let them in but was cool and aloof indicating that she was about to have tea with her friends.  She refused to have her picture taken and wouldn't show them any pictures of her family.  She said that it was her mother's wish not to give any information to family in America. 

As they were about to leave, Dorothy said that they could write her and she would respond.

Two years later, Fred's son Clarence (my husband's grandpa) went to England to visit Dorothy.  They learned she had died of a stroke the year before. 

Frances may have been left behind in England, but she is not forgotten.

This story was adapted from a story written by Eliza's granddaughter Florence G. Munson found in the book Descendants of Samuel Benjamin Pack and Maria Holton.

Frances Packe (Holton) Barratt (1870-1957)

My husband's second great aunt

Bradford William Pack --> Clarence (Bill) William Pack II --> Clarence William Pack --> Frederick John Samuel Pack --> brother to Frances Pack(e) Barratt

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Wonderful Willow

Patsy (Pat) Marilyn Fresh Pack

My husband's mother

Bradford William Pack --> Patsy (Pat) Marilyn Fresh Pack

The Fresh Family - Patsy is the youngest in pigtails


“Ouch!” said five-year-old Patsy pulling the worn, black and white oxford off her foot. “Holes’s gone straight through,” she said sticking her long finger through the bottom of the shoe.
She shook out a tiny pebble then struggled to squish her heel into the broken shoe. She wiggled her toes and pumped her heel onto the collapsed back of her shoe. “Mmm, this could be a long
walk to the willows. Kinda be like wearing a fat flipflop if I can‘t get my foot in.”
“Mama warned me this would happen if I wouldn’t unlace my shoes.” she said lifting her index finger out as she pulled the back up and into place. “Whew. Success.” Her foot slipped into the shoe. She flipped her straw-blonde braids onto her back, and began to slowly trot towards the willows on the ditch bank next to the gravel road.
“I”m going to make a stick horse,” she said to a sparrow perched on a willow. She climbed the grassy ditch bank and began searching the willows for the perfect branch.
“Too short. Too thin. Perfect. . . that’s if I can break it off. Rex makes it look so easy. Big brother, where are you when I need you?”
Patsy twisted, pulled, yanked, and finally put all her weight on the branch as she bent it back.
C r r r a c k. Her fingers plowed into the dirt and grass. She jumped up, wiped the dirt on
her faded blue denims, and with a triumphant smile held the leaf covered stick high above her head. “I hereby name you Champion after my favorite cowboy’s horse. I love you Gene Autry.” she swooned, giggled then studied her new horse.

“Every horse I ever saw had hair, not leaves. Off with you, green leaves.” She tugged and pulled, stripping every leaf from the stick until she came to the very top of the branch.

“A horse does need a tail. I guess you’ve got a green one, Champion.” she said.
“Don’t buck,” she said lifting her leg high over the stick in an exaggerated move like she was mounting a real horse. Her blue eyes twinkled as her blond braids bounced up and down in perfect rhythm to the clip clop she pretended to hear as she galloped towards home, the fourth house on the lane.
She wanted to show Champion to Barbara Seefried whose driveway was the first one on the lane, the only child Patsy’s age near enough to play.

Patsy with Barbara Seefried

Too bad she’s not on the bridge. I’d ask her to come play cowboys and Indians. Her mom scared me yesterday when she got the razor strap from behind their kitchen door. Thank goodness she sent me home before she spanked Barbara. I was afraid she was going to spank me too.
Wonder what Barbara did to make her mom mad. Mmm think I’ll go home and play by myself. She heard the creaking of the few decaying boards still attached to the top of the Nichol’s old,
weathered, two-story barn as a soft breeze swirled through them. The second floor was Patsy’s lookout tower before racing across the pasture between the barn and her own property when she sneaked over to Barbara’s to play.
Next to the barn, almost leaning against it, was a small, narrow building with boards as grey and weathered as the barn, the outhouse, the outside toilet also known as the privy.
Was that Mr. Nichol’s or one of his boys who just darted into their outhouse? How
embarrassing to be seen by the whole neighborhood when good ole Mother Nature calls. I see
Tilly Sulzley, and Mrs. Martindale making frequent trips to theirs too. At least Barbara’s is tucked
out of site. I’m so glad we have a bathroom in our house with a toilet and bathtub.
Dad is so clever. He made our privy a tool shed with a concrete floor and painted it white to match our other out buildings.
Fresh Home in 1949

Crossing the plank bridge that spanned the irrigation ditch in front of her home, she dismounted her stick horse and walked it across the lawn. “You can graze. I’ll watch you while I rest on the new green steps Dad just finished. They are concrete, not grass, so don’t try to eat them.”
She heard the loud ring of the telephone inside the house by the front door. “One, two, three rings.
“Wonder who called the McBrides. Five rings and I could have answered. Maybe I’ll sneak
in and listen to her conversation.
“Patsy, what are you doing? Hang up the phone,” Mama whispered entering the living room from the kitchen to shoo Patsy away. Her frown was enough. Patsy carefully replaced the heavy black receiver onto a cradle base.
“I would hate to think our neighbors listened to my conversations. ” said Mama shaking her head as she pushed her glasses into place. “I almost forgot, Rex is looking for you.”
“I sure am.” A boy with curly, chestnut, hair, and a mischievous smile bounced into the room. “Hey, Squirt, where ya been?” Rex was six years older than Patsy and the closest in age of her two brothers and two sisters. He was only a little taller than Patsy. Maybe that was why she loved him so much. He was her big brother, but just her size. Well, almost her size.
“I decided to do something for you now, even if it isn’t your birthday. I know birthdays get lost when there are three the first week of January. I want you to know you’re the best, even if you bug me sometimes following me around like my shadow. Come see,” he said grabbing her hand and pulling her into the kitchen.
“I didn’t wrap it. Too big anyway. You’re always talking about going fishing. Well. now you can.” He snatched an object from behind the kitchen table. “Here.”
“Oh, Rex, my very own fishing pole.” Smiles covered both their faces. “Yippee! Look Mama.” She handed the homemade pole to her mother, then turned to face Rex.
“Do you think it will work?”
“You questioning my workmanship?” he said rolling his eyes.
“How’d you make it?” Patsy asked.
“ I took a branch from the willows where we get yer stick horses and the wiener sticks. I got

the longest and thickest I could find. See. I stripped off all the bark and whittled some of the bumps out? Isn’t it just the prettiest color you’ve ever seen? Can’t find a pole this color in a store.” Admiring his work he ran his finger over the smooth cream colored wood.
“It isn’t the straightest fishing pole, but that makes it different in a good way,” he said. “I used some of Mama’s big quilting safety pins for the eyes to hold the line. That was tricky. I had to snip them all the same size, then bend them and use some quilting thread to wrap them on the pole. She only had black quilting thread. That adds color. Then I glued on the thread and let it dry real good before I lacquered everything to waterproof it and make it shiny,” he said. “The reel is off one of my poles.”
“Do ya like it?” His eyes held an expectant glint.
“If you don’t like it,” he paused and smiled mischievously, “I’ll keep it.”
“Like it. I love it. It’s the best gift I have ever received. Thank you, Rex” she said hugging

him.. “Do you think we could catch a fish in the ditch?” “No.”
“Could we go fishing in the Blackfoot River?” she asked.

“Sure, if Mom and Dad say it’s O.K. But, YOU have to bait your own hook, and take the fish off too. . . if you catch one. And, most important of all, YOU have to clean any fish you do catch.”
“Oh. . . I guess you can keep the pole.”
Footnote: The story is true except for the ending, and it even has some truth. Rex did give me the fishing pole made from a willow as described. It was one of the most precious gifts I received as a child.
When I went to college, Rex called to see if I still had the pole he had given me so many years before. He was married and had two small boys. I told him it was still at our parent’s home. I felt my heart sink. He asked if he could have it back to give to his boys. A big part of me was sad to give it up, but I said, “Yes.” It was truly a wonderful willow from a brother I adored.
Times have changed life dramatically, but an uncomplicated life where a child could be a child is a wonderful memory. And a child with a brother who loved her is wealth beyond compare. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Practice What You Preach

Parley Parker Pratt Prophet (1842-1903)

My husband's third great-grandmother's sister's husband.

Bradford William Pack --> Clarence William Pack II --> Lucille Mary Ann West Pack --> Alice Eliza James West --> Elizabeth Alice Unsworth James --> Alice Brooks Unsworth (sister to) Ann Brooks Prophet (married to) Parley Parker Pratt Prophet

Mrs. Watts died on Christmas Day in her 88th year.  

Parley Parker Pratt Prophet was asked to speak at her funeral held the following Monday in the South Weber meetinghouse in Utah. 

 He lived a short distance away and walked to the funeral to give the eulogy.

The Deseret News article reports that he spoke with the eloquence of a trained orator and not like the rough farmer that he was.  

He warned the audience to be prepared to meet their Maker at any moment because one never knows what hour they will be called upon to cross to the other shore.

He said that few will be able to live as long as Grandma Watts.  All will have to render an account of their life on the morning of the resurrection.  

Over and over he expressed his confidence that there is a life after this one and that we will be judged for the deeds we do in this world.

His last sentence was, 

"Surely the dead shall rise again.  Amen."

Then he sat down back in his chair and died.

That's right he died.  A blood vessel had burst in his brain.  Only no one really noticed at first.  Once the audience realized he was dead, they were overcome with grief and his body was carried out of the meetinghouse and back to his home where he was laid out for burial.

I wonder who was daring enough to speak at his funeral?