The agony and ecstasy of athletics

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

My school sports career was a mixed bag. I won every race in grade school until the fourth grade. Then Calvin Gleaves, a lanky boy from West Mountain whipped us all even in his farming shoes. I have never again from hundred yard dashes to four marathons felt the thrill of breaking the tape first in a race. My present goal is to keep up my daily running and exercise program, outlive my peers and win my age group in something.

In high school I joined my friend Dick Davis to make a doubles tennis team against our rival Spanish Fork. Dick was a good tennis player. With my contribution we were not exactly a doubles team, more like one and three eighths. I found I was good at doubles. I doubled them up with hysterics when I accidentally clubbed the ball with the handle instead of the strings. It wobbled over the net and won us a point. We may have also got another one during the match. Mercifully I can’t remember.

I had more success in football and basketball. I was captain of the football team and made the all district team. But basketball was my true love. I was co-captain of the basketball team my junior and senior years, and second team all state. We won our region and went to the state tournament. This was big stuff for us. It didn’t happen often at Payson. But we lost the first two games and came home disappointed. In sports I have found as they say the ecstasy of victory does not compensate for the agony of defeat, but I loved to play anyway.

Like every other red blooded American boy with a basketball in his hands, I dreamed of someday being in the NBA. I would have made it too, except that reality set in. I was pretty good, but not that good. I played on the freshman team for BYU. My best game was 22 points against Snow College. I got cut the next year then went on my mission to the Tonga Islands. I tried out when I got back. Didn’t get cut that time, but looked ahead and decided to spend my scarce extracurricular hours performing with the BYU program bureau instead of the basketball team. It was the right choice.

But athletics has taught me some valuable life lessons, including these.

“He said it seemed like a good idea at the time.” (Steve McQueen in the movie The Magnificent Seven, explaining why his flakey uncle jumped into a big tangle of cactus naked.)

I was considered, at least by myself, an all around athlete in my youth. I believed that all the way through fall and winter of the seventh grade. On the football field I was tall enough to catch passes over the defense. On the basketball court I was in my native habitat. For years my favorite pass time had been shooting hoops by myself or joining pick up games wherever I found them. I had some fairly good moves for a twelve year old.

Then spring came and with it a stunning shock to my all-American-athlete self image. The phys ed teacher introduced us to gymnastics. My long, smooth graceful (in my mind) body was now supposed to tuck into a tight ball and roll across the mat or fly through the air. Tucking for me was like trying to turn a grass hopper into a roll up potato bug. My tight tuck was a bent spine with elbows and knees sticking out in several directions.

Jay Brown, Mr. Cool in our class, was not built for football or basketball, but he was Bolshoi Ballet material on the tumbling mat.

Track and field, tennis, and other field events were more of the same for me. Even baseball where I had sometimes had modest success in the sand lot leagues despite my skinny arms and wide strike zone. These challenges convinced me I could succeed in any sport, as long as it included bouncing a big round ball and throwing it through a hoop on the wall. I longed for autumn, winter and what I considered the real big time sports.

My new hard won humility brought with it a small shaft of insight. People have different gifts and talents. The key to happy relationships is to notice what others do well, encourage them in it, and find joy in their success as well as your own. Nobody is good at everything, but everybody is good at something. I believe that if you could design your own Olympics competition, you could capture the gold. In my case it would be a cross country race up the mountain behind our house where I jog most mornings, and know the trails well. In my Olympic run you would get additional points for each year of your age, how many children and grand children you had, if you took size 14 shoes and your left foot was longer than your right. If I needed to I would award more points if you could write left handed, and flip your left thumb out of joint. I think I would have a good chance of taking home the trophy in that race.

“That’s a stupid race,” you might legitimately say. True, but is it more stupid than hitting a boxing glove with a broom, throwing a ball into a fruit basket, or madly sweeping a broom ahead of a rock sliding on the ice? (The beginnings of baseball, basketball and present procedure in the sport of curling.)

But back to the point of this diatribe if there is one. Sports can be entertaining, participating can be healthful, but contrary to my seventh grade perspective they are no measure of the importance of one person over another.

Beyond the enjoyment and the health benefits of sports, are the skills one learns of any practical value? What is the real life usefulness of throwing a ball into a net nailed up on a wall when the net has a hole in the bottom? How about running with an inflated pigskin across grass while being pursued, then pummeled by a stampede of panting gorillas hungry for your head. How about hitting various kinds and sizes of balls with various shapes of bats, clubs, or rackets, only to have to retrieve the balls or have someone else hurl or swat them back to or at you? Except for fighting through a Black Friday Christmas shopping crowd like a fullback driving for yardage, or sweeping your house clean in 23 seconds if you are a champion curler, most athletic skills don’t seem that practical.

But there is one sport that can be very useful in certain situations. The sport is gymnastics. The situation is when a car with a total idiot at the wheel (a.k.a. an 18 year old male driver) is accelerating like a drag racer down the straight away so the people hanging on to the side of the car will be afraid to jump off.

Fortunately the sport of car hanging has attracted only a small following. To participate you need fingernails of steel, white knuckles, skill in judging speed, and the intelligence of a retarded mealworm. Who would do this and why? Who? Jay Brown and me. Why? See Steve McQueen observation above.

This is gymnastics on steroids. Procrastinating your jump a nanosecond too late as we did incurs a penalty. Jay hit the ground, took two giant steps across a field, snapped into a tight front roll, spun like a tumbleweed in the wind, and jumped up dusty with only a scratch on his nose. I flew off the driver’s side, took one launching leap, made a five point landing on the pavement and skidded to a stop. I picked gravel and tar out of my hands, elbows and one hip bone for weeks.

As every athlete knows, it’s hard to win on the road.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: The saga of the gooseberry

Pining for the Boy Scouts

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Pine: A species of evergreen tree. Wood: cellular material for building things. Derby: A style of hat, also a race, as in Kentucky Derby.  Combined, Pine, Wood, Derby is a Cub Scout activity wherein boys watch their fathers race cars they (5%) and their fathers (95%) have built. Many things can be made from wood, including, arguments, high blood pressure, and peptic ulcers.

Unless you are Duane Hiatt’s son. In which case, according to our son Sam’s recollection, written for me as a birthday present, the race goes like this.

“I remember having a hard time making my pinewood derby racer for Cub Scouts. I didn’t want one that looked like everyone else’s and I was worried about winning because all the other boys talked about winning and what their cars looked like, and why their designs were going to guarantee a win. Incidentally many of the “cars” resembled nothing like a “car” in the end. But mine did, because Dad wasn’t concerned about winning. Anyway, Dad helped guide me to the coolest and worst design in Tenth Ward history.

“We bought the square block of wood and decided to pretty much leave it as a block of wood. Since we didn’t want our people to get wet driving in the derby in the rain, we decided to add more wood and put a cab on the block. Now it started to look like a real car: an old fashioned Lincoln to be exact. We made running boards and wheel wells out of Popsicle sticks, and then painted the whole thing black. Lastly since the kit came with an extra wheel we decided to give the car a spare tire on the back. It was awesome. Little did I know how anticlimactic the whole effort would seem come race day.

“You see we may have neglected some minor specifications. I was disqualified before the racing began for being slightly overweight. This stung a little at the time, but I got over it probably because Dad didn’t react. After all the legitimate racers were off the track, they let those who can’t read the instructions have a go at some “exhibition” races. So I lined up my car which by its massive weight should’ve smoked the competition, count off 3, 2, 1 then down went the start gate, and in cartoonish fashion there stood my car in a categorically un-zoomy fashion sitting in the starting blocks as if asleep and unaware that the race had begun.

“It turns out that spare tire was just low enough to sit right on the guide rail down the center of the track. Well, we couldn’t end it like that so we pulled off the spare and prepared for round two. This time the car took off properly. It zoomed down the track and with a “thwack” rammed right into the overhead timer bar at the bottom of the track. It couldn’t even finish the race although it might have at least stuck its nose out enough to clock a finish time. It was an amazingly and utterly unsuccessful racer indeed. Well, short of cutting the top off (I hear that dad is experienced in that particular operation on his custom car) we were done for the night.

“As consolation, our car did win an award for “best design” Yes, we were winners!

“I’ve reflected on this experience over the years to remind myself to have fun with things and don’t always let others dictate how to accomplish stuff; also, some contests and challenges can be a lot more fun going outside rules.”

Sam later graduated from college with an engineering degree; perhaps so that his own son might have a better chance in his Pinewood Derby.

Besides being the father of a “best design” pine wood racer, I am privileged to be the father of three Eagle Scouts, Dan, Sam, and Tom. I am also an Eagle Scout. I take no credit for this. It goes to Loren Partridge my scoutmaster. Loren pumped an incredible number of Eagle Scouts out of troop 91 Payson First Ward. I couldn’t today answer all the questions on the rank advancement and merit badge requirements. But once in the far off land of the Tonga Islands I remembered how to draw out infection by putting a lemon slice on the wound. I helped a woman injured in a car wreck one dark night when The Three D’s came upon her on a highway in the Midwest. I have tied down hay bales, tied up goats and horses and lashed together corrals and animal shelters using the knots I learned in scouts. And I have had the privilege of standing in Scout courts of honor with some of the finest men in the world. That has made it worth the effort. I hope it was worth the life blood Loren Partridge put into his work with us.

It has also been my honor to speak to and perform for scouts from troops and dens to a national council meeting in Atlanta, and a national jamboree at Valley Forge.

I headed the LDS scouting operation in Tonga when I was there as a missionary. I have presided over Pine Wood Derbies and model airplane fly-ins and Cub Scout carnivals as a Cub Master. I think scouting is a very effective program for helping turn boys into real men. That is one reason the program has come under fire from those with twisted values who resent the good work the scouts do.

Among my favorite scout jokes is the story of six bright eyed, bushy tailed Tenderfoot scouts who reported to their leader their good turn for the day. “We helped a little old lady cross the street.”

“It took six of you to help one little old lady cross a street?” he replied.

“Yes sir. She didn’t want to go.”

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: The agony and ecstasy of athletics

Learning how to not dance

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

“Watch this,” Mr. Olson beamed. He opened the wide little wooden door of the new table top record player. He slipped in one of the 33 1/3 r.p.m. long playing records which were just appearing on the market. Music poured from the box, but not for long. Mr. Olson stopped the record, opened the door, and slid the record out to show us again how it worked. School had not yet taken up, and he soon had a gathering of teachers and a few students admiring the handsome mahogany box.

Mr. Olson was the suave, handsome heartthrob of the girls in his sixth grade class. He was a fine teacher, and also the principal of our school. This demonstration was to demonstrate this amazing and mysterious new record player he had purchased for the school. The cutting edge music technology could stack several records on a thin .spindle, from which they would drop one by one on to a pile on to the turntable. This record player didn’t do that, but it had another amazing trick of the modern age.

“It only plays one at a time, but look.” Mr. Olson pulled out the record, slipped another one into wide dark hole and shut the door. It immediately began playing.

“I’ll be darned. You don’t even have to put it on the hole,” someone said. Surrounding teachers joined in similar murmerings of approval.

I still think it was a good trick. Despite numerous peerings in, we sixth grade boys could never figure out how the record got centered on the turntable. We would try to confuse the machine and slide the record over to one side. But when you shut the little door the music came out with no wobbles. This was a deep disappointment to us. Part of the problem in figuring it out was the same one we faced trying to check out if the light in the refrigerator really did go out. It didn’t happen until you shut the door, and then you couldn’t see. We talked about drilling a hole in the record player’s door, but Mr. Olson kept it locked in the closet by his desk.

It was the right purchase for Peteetneet School. The multi disk players might be all right safe on the top shelf of somebody’s fancy home, but not in the hands of the sixth grade boys. The skinny spindle in the middle with its trick release lever for dropping records would have been a lightening rod to our curiosity. A crystal goblet in an elephant corral had a better chance of surviving. Besides we didn’t have the patience to sit through one long playing record. We’d be graduated before the thing worked through a stack of them.

The trick door caught our attention, and the music coming out held it for a few moments of interested silence. Then the youthful energy kicked in.

“Can I have this dance?” Monte Montegue said to me in his most courtly manner.

Usually we boys misused that grammar rule. We always said “can” when we were supposed to say “may.” As our English teachers unsuccessfully reminded us, “May means ‘do I have permission. Can means, ‘Am I able.’”

But may was so prissy to our ears. You say, “May I have a glass of water” in our crowd you’d probably get it—smack  in the face. So we settled for can. As the saying goes, sometimes even a blind pig roots up an acorn. And this time my grammatically blind pig friend Monte got it right. “Can I have this dance?” was the correct question. The right answer was no he couldn’t; any more than a herd of wild horses in hobbles could dance. Actually Monte wasn’t the most club footed among us. He had even taken some tap dance lessons as a little boy. I remember, because I asked my mom if I could take with him. She assured me that tap dancing was for girls. I lost track of the tap part, but buried the rest of her message deep into my subconscious. “Dancing is for girls.” It would rise from there at inappropriate occasions and haunt me the rest of my life.

But just because we couldn’t dance didn’t mean we wouldn’t dance. That lunch hour the baseball field was empty and the back of Mr. Olson’s room was pumping with sweaty boy bodies “dancing” in the style of an Old West saloon brawl.

“What a wonderful educational moment to teach the beauties and grace of ballroom dancing,” Mr. Olson and the lady teachers decided. In a day or two they had moved the magic record player into the little commons area and set up a dance class. Two problems; First we were supposed to learn the proper steps, and second we were supposed to do it with girls. Fortunately I found I was a natural born graceful creative dancer. Unfortunately I was the only one who thought so.

Among those who didn’t think so, and strongly, was Mr. Olson. He tailed me and my unfortunate partner around and around the room chanting, “One, two, three, one two, three.” He claimed he was trying to help me keep the beat, but I suspected ulterior motives. Maybe it was because I beat him in one-on-one recess basketball games one too many times. Or could it be when he had the distasteful task of announcing to the class, “The highest score on the I.Q. test we recently took was earned by one of the silliest acting boys in our class, Duane Hiatt.” Since I certainly never got the highest grades in any class, this was a bitter pill for the educational establishment I’m thinking. Maybe the I.Q. test wasn’t measuring intelligence at all. Maybe it was measuring silliness. Mr. Olson’s revenge also might have been for that awkward moment in a previous class when he was explaining the functions of parts of the human body; always a potential land mine with students moving into maturity. He said, “The brain is the center of our intelligence. No person can live without a brain.” Monte Montegue’s hand shot up. He asked, “How come Duane is alive?” The embarrassing part for Mr. Olson was he couldn’t come up with a convincing explanation.

Probably his tailgating me around the dance floor was for none of the above reasons. He sincerely wanted to help me, but I freaked out when he started using numbers such as one, two, three. Math was never my strong suit. Whatever factors, the experience of being singled out and stalked around the dance floor was half the reason I still fear and dislike (those two emotions usually go together) dancing.

The other reason for my danceaphobia I blame on a church M.I.A. square dance years later. To those not acquainted with Mormon acronyms, MIA stands for Mutual Improvement Association, not Missing in Action, though when referring to my dancing either definition is appropriate. Square dancing was different from Mr. Olson’s 1,2,3 drill; lots of jumping twirling girls around, stomping and clapping. I said to myself, “Now this is my kind of dancing.”

Suddenly, a heavy hand gripped my shoulder, and a stern woman’s voice commanded, “If you can’t act your age go home.”

I don’t remember what my age was, (more number phobia), but apparently I was mentally younger than my chronology. My dancing career ended that night. I did try “tripping the light fantastic” off and on, but always with much more tripping than fantastic. Years later at Brigham Young University I even took private dancing lessons so I wouldn’t ruin the evening of the young woman who had invited me to her social unit’s formal dance. No better. I panicked and froze. Her big night was a disaster. My dancing lessons practice partner, my little sister Diane, fared better. Her toes eventually rehabilitated.

It is possible to go through the youth and adolescent passages with little or no dancing. I know because I did. It requires that you be sometimes ingenious and sometimes embarrassed, but it is doable. It also deprives you of lots of good times I am told.

Along the way I gathered reinforcements for my anti dance campaign. This is the natural way of the unconscious mind. Once we set the sails on the direction we want it to take us, it will not only catch the winds that are headed that way, it will find winds, sometimes create winds to fill its own sails. Since I was convinced that: 1. Dancing was a primitive, exhibitionistic, effeminate art form, and 2. I was no good at it anyway; I found evidence to support my position where others might not have.

Once I was mumbling about my negative views of dancing in general, and my dancing in particular. My mother leaped up into one of her characteristic calls to action, and said, “We’ll show you how easy it is.”

She called upon my father. He was willing. In fact I think I saw his mind sail back to Arrowhead Dance Hall courting Mom, and sometimes being invited up to sing with the dance band.

Unfortunately I didn’t share the memories. Doubly unfortunately Dad said he was doing the Foxtrot. Mom insisted he was slipping into the Two Step. Trebly unfortunately, for a teen age boy, watching your parents dance is not the way to be convinced that dancing is cool. It was another dancing experience more embarrassing than inspiring. One, two, and three reasons not to do the Mr. Olson 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Pining for the Boy Scouts

School of hard rocks (and puncture weeds)

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Our school was named after Chief Peteetneet, leader of a Native American tribe who roamed the valley before the white settlers crowded them out. The teachers didn’t tell us much about the chief, or how having his name on our old three story red sandstone and yellow brick school would inspire our educational efforts. He made at least one contribution. We learned to spell a very long word very early in our academic careers. It was like spelling Mississippi in which you just keep tossing in “i’s” until it looks about right. With Peteetneet you just keep adding “e’s”, and an occasional “t” until it seems long enough.

One other thing about Chief Peteetneet I learned from my little sister Jeanie. After he was buried, his ghost took up residence in the girls’ bathroom in the basement of the school. She knew that, because the first time which was also the last time she ventured down there as a kindergartner Chief Peteetneet was lurking around somewhere banging on the steam pipes of the old radiators. People tried to trick Jeanie by telling her it was just the sound that steam radiators make when they get old. But children know some things intuitively such as where the ghosts of old chiefs like to hang out, so she never went back. Fortunately we lived just down the hill and a half a block so during her six and a half years in elementary school Jeanie could sprint down and puff back up during recess and lunch time. She got wonderful aerobic workouts, but her kidneys suffered some strain.

Our school had some playground facilities you don’t see any more. One was the hill on which it stood. If you kicked the kick ball too hard that was it for that recess. It rolled half way to the city drug store downtown and by the time you fetched it the designated bell carrier was ringing the bell. (That was a great honor incidentally to be chosen to circle the school ringing the large hand bell at the beginning of the day, and the end of recess or lunch hour. You could be the scruffiest, nerdiest, littlest kid in the school, but for a moment everybody paid attention to you although they hated your message.)

Our playground was built of rocks and gravel and landscaped in puncture weeds. Balls and bike tires didn’t survive on it, but we did somehow. We boys played a sort of football. We didn’t know much about the game except it involved a ball and kicking things including each other. Three more skills you needed were, pushing, running and arguing. We didn’t have a referee to keep the rules. That was all right we only had one rule. Whoever argued the loudest won. Unless you won too many arguments and then people got mad and left sometimes taking the ball with them. This we would learn later was a Pyrrhic victory. For those of you taking notes, in 279 BC, Pyrrhus king of Epirus defeated the Romans in a battle at Asculum. But he lost so many men he declared, “One more such victory and I am lost.” In Peteetneet football parlance that meant, won argument lost ball.

The Peteetneet school playground had many shortcomings. But it had one longgoing. It was right next door to The Cut. The Cut was a mini Grand Canyon sliced out of the hill with the Orem Train Line tracks at the bottom. They dug it out so the train could make it through the hill to Payson. It had a car bridge and a footbridge at the top. Also a pipe to carry irrigation water across it. The pipe was big enough that the truly daring, bold, and expelled could crawl through it. Only a few tried. Not because of the trip to the principal’s office when some girl told on you. It was the spiders and snakes waiting in the dark pipe that kept us out.

But the Cut and the train tracks, that was another matter. The forbidden fruit in the playground of Eden. Cowboy gunfights, great imaginary train robberies, putting a pebble or a penny on the track and turning them into dust or paper thin oblong copper souvenirs, these were worth chancing a trip to Mr. Olson’s, later Gardner’s; the principle’s office. There was a fence between the playground and the cut, of course, but it had holes big enough to shove a mastodon through.

We had a live mascot too. This was Ol’ Peteetneet the seagull. Seagulls are special in Utah. They ate the crickets and saved the pioneers from starvation. But Ol’ Peteetneet was even more special. He only had one leg. The other one was bitten off, torn off, shot off-the stories varied. But he was a hero from the days of the earliest settlers in Payson. We never figured out that would make Ol’ Peteetneet about 3,000 years old in bird years. We also never knew why he was a hero. Did he pluck some child off the tracks in The Cut in front of a speeding train, or just eat more than the average number of crickets? But we did know that if you went out at lunch time and held up a piece of white Wonder Bread© with tuna fish out of your lunch sack or one you borrowed from your friend because you only lived down the hill and a half a block away so your mother made you come home for lunch. If you offered that tidbit the seagulls would swoop down and sometimes even snatch it out of your hand. But usually not. You’d have to throw it. If you did that enough days one of you, usually Max Reese who had a knack for being at the right place at the right time would see the one legged hero seagull Ol’ Peteetneet. Then we would all run to tell anybody who would listen and believe us. This was not a large number of people.

Once Monte Montague, Max Reese and I were at the forbidden train tracks. We put our ear to the tracks like we had seen Hoot Gibson do in the Saturday matinee cowboy movies. “Train!” we shouted. As usual we didn’t have a penny among us. But we lined the track with little rocks. We hid behind a nearby sagebrush. Sagebrush was another part of the landscaping at Peteetneet.

Around the bend came, not a train but a little put, put cart with three track maintenance men aboard. They bumped over our pebbles, screeched to a stop and began at the top of their lungs to describe what they considered to be canine elements in our maternal ancestry. They spotted us behind the sagebrush. Max took off running for home-part of his gift for being in the right place. Monte and I were frozen waiting for Ol’ Peteetneet the seagull or Chief Peteetneet or any available guardian angels to save us from the wrath of the trainmen. Nobody showed up. We cleaned off the rocks, endured a spirited lecture and thanked our stars the trainmen didn’t have any rope to tie us to the tracks with.

We promised ourselves we would never do that again. Next time, somehow we would come up with a penny.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Learning how to not dance

My Mother taught me

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

I smoked my first cigarette when I was five years old. It wasn’t easy. It was wet from the rain. It took about half a box of matches Max Reese snitched from their kitchen to keep it going. We found the pack of cigarettes in a train coal car across the street from our house. I don’t know if the nicotine from the tobacco or the sulfur from the matches was worse for my lungs.

I did it for curiosity, also because Max knew where to get matches, and partly to impress my mother. She was always telling me how big I was getting, and how I could reach the kitchen faucet handle, the light switches, open the car door. I thought, “She will really think I’m grown up when I tell her this.”

Max took off for his house to put the matches back before his mother found out they were gone. I ran across the road and found Mom in the door way of the kitchen. “Momma, guess what? Me and Max found some cigarettes in a train car, and I smoked one.” I waited for her to say, “Oh you’re getting so big.” Instead I saw a look I had never seen before. I had seen love, laughter, even irritation in her face. I had never seen this deep sadness.

She pulled me close to her and said, “I hoped my little boy would never do that.”

I still remember those words. I remember her expression, and I knew I never wanted to see that again. I would have sooner had a “whippin’” (which was out of the question from her or my dad) than the disappointment I saw in her face.

I wasn’t quite sure what I had done wrong besides playing with matches. I found out later. What I did know was the day I smoked my first cigarette was also the day I smoked my last cigarette.

My mother taught me other important lessons. I was reminded of one a while back when I heard this joke from a red neck comedian.

“Had a fire in the bathroom last night. Lucky it didn’t spread to the house.” That joke minus the fire, describes our house for the first years of my growing up. But then we leaped into the twentieth century and got indoor plumbing.

World War II was a contributing factor. Because of the war the government built a new steel plant on the shores of Utah Lake. My father who was turned down by the draft for eyesight problems got a well paying job at Geneva. This provided the money to build the new accommodation. On the other hand, the war effort rationed many things including toilet bowls. I’m still not sure how toilet bowls are used in a war. I’m not even sure I want to ask. We had a fair wait with uncertainty until we finally were able to purchase this home improvement. In addition to not being available at the whim of a shopping spree, the gleaming white porcelain bowl was not cheap in terms of our home improvement budget. Being porcelain it was also potentially breakable.

My mother gave us careful instruction, demonstration, and testing on how to open and close the lid without letting it fall possibly putting us out of the indoor bathroom business, and crippling the Allied war effort to some extent. My brother Gordon and I watched carefully, then successfully passed our skill test.

The great moment came. We experienced the first flush of success (sorry, couldn’t resist.) Life was better, especially in the winter.

Then one day we were at the city dump. My memory grows foggy at this point, but I assume we were there taking trash to the dump not from the dump. Things were tight financially, but not dumpster diving tight.

Gordon and I were off inspecting the interesting offerings cast from our little town. Mother called authoritatively, “Come here.” We came. She pointed to a ghastly scene, a white porcelain toilet with part of one side broken out. We stood solemn and stunned.

Secretly I hoped it was wounded in the war by a howitzer shell and not the result of some kid dropping the lid. The poor prodigal now stabbed with guilt every time a family member leaves the house in winter to visit the “facility” out back. Whatever the cause of the catastrophe, Mom reminded us again how important it was to set the lid down gently.

Though she rarely mentioned it, I’m sure I often fell short of Mom’s expectations. At my request we got a correspondence course on playing the piano. It is moldering somewhere in its original mail wrappings I think. “Move quickly,” she admonished me. My quick was her stopped.

“We’ve packed enough socks for you to wear a fresh pair every day. Then at the end of the week wash them all for the coming week.” Her parting words to Gordon and me as we left on our great summer adventure working in the Kaniksu forest in the Idaho panhandle. We meant well, but there were always so many things to do after work that were much more fun than washing socks. At the end of the summer, I suppose we hiked out of camp for the last time and left the socks lined up standing stiffly at attention in front of the tent.

But with a clear conscience on the day of judgment I will report that never, from the men’s room of the New York Waldorf Astoria Hotel to a thousand truck stops as a traveling troubadour, to the latrine tent of a Boy Scout Jamboree, never did I on purpose drop a lid on a toilet bowl. And I am sure I never shall. The lesson is engraved on my DNA.

I think my mother would not be necessarily proud to hear this, more like puzzled. I’m sure she has forgotten the whole thing. As a parent I identify although I don’t understand either. Why is it that we can drum great words of wisdom into our children, and the pearls will, in the words of my mother’s generation, “Go in one ear and out the other?”

And yet our children take some off handed comment or action we do and make it an article of faith. More sobering to me is, how healthy was the smorgasbord of words and actions that I presented to them to pick from. They have turned out to be pretty respectable citizens, so I hope that reflects our parenting.

And I’m glad I followed my mother’s counsel to be gentle with toilet lids. In part it has made me who I am. In the interest of full disclosure though, I must add, I worked summers during my college years in a service station. Once while cleaning the ladies rest room, the top of the water closet slipped out of my hands, fell and smashed a hole in the bottom of the unit on the back of the toilet. Water ran everywhere and we had to replace the fixture. The station manager was a good hearted guy who took my clumsiness in stride. But he did say, “You only have to shine up the outside of the water closet. Why did you take the lid off in the first place?”

I said, “Mom never mentioned that.”

He looked puzzled.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: School of hard rocks (and puncture weeds)

I want to do that someday

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

We made it to Bryce and Zion Canyons. We were going on to Grand Canyon, but Dad had had enough travel, and we headed home. Even so the trip stoked the fire in my bones.

I enjoyed the views of the canyons, but the highlight of the trip to me was a variety stage show the staff put on at our motel at Bryce Canyon. They were talented college kids on their summer break working at the motel by day, and performing for the tourists by night. The MC was funnier than his lines, i.e. “We had a guest come running in from the swimming pool shouting there was a seal in the water. We thought He’d been out in the sun to long. But we checked and sure enough; turns out we take such good care to keep the pool clean and tidy, it was the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

“Many of you will be returning home from here after traveling all around the country. We hope you don’t remember us as the last resort.”

Dad said, “He was good. It takes talent to deliver corny jokes like he did.”

I said, “Really! I wonder how he did it?”

Why do I remember an mc’s punch lines after more than 60 years? Because I was mesmerized. The canyons were spectacular scenery. The trip was almost once in a lifetime for us growing up. But this scene, this experience dwarfed them all. Here were kids not too much older than I was singing, cracking jokes, generating applause and having a great time on stage.

The experience burned itself into my brain, and kept echoing through my youthful years, “I want to do that some day.”

I knew it would take desire, practice, and talent. The big question was the other two.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: What and how my mother taught me

Traveling Light

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

“Faster Ferron, faster,” my mother encouraged.

Dad tightened his jaw muscle and bore down a little on the accelerator pedal.

My brother on the front fender gripped the small sailing ship medallion on the hood that signified we were driving a Plymouth. The breeze began to blow his hair as we moved a bit faster into the darkness; black night penetrated feebly by the wavering beam of a flashlight, and the receding headlights of the car in front of us.

I hunkered down in the back seat, glad I was only the kid brother and hoping mom wouldn’t think of something adventurous for me in this project.

One of the unsung miracles of this world is how a man and a woman of different backgrounds, tastes, opinions, and perspectives can bond together in love so strong that their differences unite instead of divide them

My mother enjoyed traveling. My father broke out in a cold sweat when we passed the city limits.

My mother liked to see what was over the next hill. My father was convinced our car would collapse before we got to the top of the present hill. He had case histories to substantiate his forebodings.

But this time would be different Mom assured us all. We would go see the famous natural wonders of Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and even Grand Canyon. The biggest wonder of it all for us children was that Dad agreed to take us.

Part of his boldness came from our fairly new sedan. It just might make the trip without breaking down.

We got a late start, but at least we started. We sang songs, watched for out of state license plates, and memorized the immortal poetry on the little red Burma Shave signs along the highway. Each sign carried a line of the poem. We even read them backwards from the opposite side of the road. We would assign each person to look back and catch the line on the receding sign. Then we would recombine them to put the poem together. Great American literature such as,

“Don’t stick your elbow (next sign)

Out too far (next sign)

It might go off (next sign)

With another car (last sign) Burma Shave.”

The car purred all afternoon and into the night. Darkness closed in on us in the southern Utah sagebrush prairie. Suddenly the road went black. Dad jammed on the brakes, felt his way over to the shoulder of the road, and fulfilled his duty as a prophet. “I knew it,” he pronounced.

Mom characteristically saw this as at worst a problem to be solved, and maybe an adventure to be had. “Gordon, take this flashlight and sit on the front fender and shine it on the road so your dad can drive.” Apparently it never occurred to her that with no tail lights some speeding semi might not see us in the darkness and launch us to an aerial view of The Grand Canyon.

Gordon was more obedient than enthusiastic. We started slowly. Mom said, “You can go a little faster Ferron.” Dad eased the accelerator down. The speedometer needle lifted slowly off the bottom and crept upward. Gordon gripped the flashlight with one hand, and the sailing ship with his other tight fist.

Car headlights appeared far back on the straight road behind us.

“Whiplash coming up,” Dad said.

“He’ll help us,” Mom said. She rolled down the window and shouted, “Gordon, shine the flashlight back so the driver coming up can see us.”

Gordon did.

“I can’t see the road,” Dad hollered.

The flashlight beam vacillated between the road in front and the car behind.

As the car approached he slowed down, either to help or suspicious of a dark car sneaking down the road by flashlight.

He passed us and began slowly pulling away.

“Ferron he’s going slowly so we can see by his headlights. Stay with him,” Mom exclaimed.

“I don’t think so,” Dad said, but he increased his speed anyway.

The car in front did the same.

Dad did the same.

“Go faster Ferron. He just wants to help us get to a town sooner,” Mom shouted.

“He thinks we’re a bunch of smugglers or worse,” Dad answered.

Despite Mom’s cheerleading the gap was widening. He sped up, and we stuck on his tail. Fear overcame his Good Sameritanism. He slammed the accelerator to the floor. A black space appeared between us..

“I can’t see,” Dad shouted and instinctively jammed on the brakes. In the darkness we watched a flashlight beam turning summersaults across the sagebrush plain.

Gordon staggered back dizzy but unscathed.

Mom said, “Quite an adventure.”

Dad said ,”Just what I expected.”.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment: I want to do that someday

My Father’s footsteps

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

I remember walking with Dad past Chase Lumber and Hardware store when I was about five years old. We were on important business. I knew it was important because Dad was striding out. I was trying to match him stride for stride, but I kept falling behind, and would have to toss in a couple of gallops every third step or so. Stretch as I might, I couldn’t make the strides he did

About this same age I tried to laugh like Dad laughed because I thought that was cool. Mother told me in private I should use my own laugh. I wanted to take the B29 bomber plane Dad had just made me to show my friends. He talked me out of it. He said they would probably laugh at it. I thought he was kidding. Surely they would envy me and the masterpiece of scrap lumber my Dad had created. He, my brother Gordon and I liked to listen to “The Hit Parade” on the radio and guess which song was top of the charts for that week. We listened to Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Red Skelton comedy shows every week, and we all tried their jokes out on our friends the next day. If I could make Dad laugh with a joke of my own I figured that was a solid piece of material.

Dad wanted to play baseball well, but his faulty vision couldn’t track a fast pitch or gauge a high fly ball or a hot grounder. Tossing the ball up and smacking flyballs and sizzling grounders for Gordon and me was another ball game. He could hit it a country mile with accuracy. My problem then was to get the ball back to him. Gordon had a throwing arm like a 105 Howitzer cannon. My arm was a small bore side arm by comparison. If I snagged one of Dad’s flies out of the stratosphere I would toss it to Gordon to send it back. I would later be reminded of Gordon when I read encouragement Dale Murphy’s father gave his son. Murphy was an all star with the Atlanta Braves. As a catcher part of his job was to pick off runners trying to steal second base. His rifle shot to the second baseman often did this. The only problem was if “Murph” aimed a little high. It blew over the second baseman seemingly headed into orbit. His father told him, “Dale, one thing’s for sure. They’re never going to steal center field on you.” They later moved Murphy to center field where he could pick off runners headed for home.

Dad finally found his groove as an athlete. Only to discover as all the great ones do that fame is fleeting. At a big family reunion the first time he ever rolled a bowling ball, he scattered pins like an All American. All night he stunned the veteran rollers among his cousins and their families. Unfortunately he went back the second night and was king of the gutter.

Dad claimed to have few vocational skills, but he had something better, the will to work, and an ability to make friends. In the midst of the depression he got a job hauling and stacking 100 pound sacks of grain. The family of Mr. Hermanson who owned the mill complained that he should have hired one of his relatives who needed a job. He answered them, “They won’t work like Ferron Hiatt does.”

Dad kept food on our table, and a roof over our heads. And his back was never the same after the grain sacks got through with him.

Many years later he retired from Geneva Steel plant, and then found that the life of ease didn’t suit him. He got a job digging ditches for the city, and outworked men a third his age.

Dad had almost no religious training growing up, but set a different course for us. He and Mom decided we would go to church. He had our family sealed together forever in the temple.  He served in numerous church callings including ward clerk, and counselor to the bishop. By love, patience, example and encouragement, he helped one of our neighbors find his way from daily trips to the booze and pool hall to weekly and more trips to church with his family. Dad stopped by the man’s home every Sunday on his way to church to invite his friend and neighbor to join him. The man always said no for years. Then one day when Dad called by, the neighbor was sitting in his home in a suit and tie, and said, “I’ll go with you. Thanks for the invitation.” The man continued faithful for the rest of his life. Several other men near us made their pilgrimage from inactivity to church service and the temple as Dad lead and encouraged them.

Later in life Dad and Mom served in the temple, and then on a mission to Sylvania Georgia. Their friendships with the folks there lasted for the rest of their lives.

. I couldn’t match Dad’s stride when I was five years old, and after more than that many decades, I haven’t yet made the strides he did. I may have accomplished some things he didn’t, but only because I got the head start he never had. His example still marks the trail for me.

Like most children, the lessons I learned from Dad were most often observed and extracted from watching what he did. Those lessons also return to me at odd times.

The other day I was observing the annual leaking water line ceremony that our roof top swamp cooler puts me through. No matter how carefully I drain the line in the autumn, every summer when I turn the line on, it spits at me from a crack (or several). I think I could roll it up in the fall and take it to bed with me every night to keep it cozy and warm, and as surely as the summer solstice rolls across the mountains east of us, the line will spray the side of the house and me again. And I will be splicing in a repair section, again, tightening the fittings, and muttering to myself, “Surely a nation that could put a man on the moon could….”

Plumbing is my favorite activity next to do-it-yourself root canals. It is in some ways like surgery. You never really know if the operation is successful until the job is sewn up. If the pipe or the patient leaks, it’s back to square one.

This time, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, I turned on the water and my repair connection held tight and dry. “But just to make sure,” I thought, “I’ll just give it one more turn for good measure.”  Then my father’s spirit whispered to me from heaven where, among other blessings, the plumbing never leaks, “Remember the basement water line.”

The memory came flooding back (pun intended.) Late Saturday night, winter, cold, basement dark and clammy, all the plumbing supply stores closed, the plumbers asleep in their beds–not that we likely would have laid out precious cash for either parts or labor when there was a snowball’s chance in Hades we could fix it ourselves with left over stuff cannibalized from previous patch jobs.

With few and ancient tools, and a novice knowledge of the dark arts of plumbing, we yanked, jerked, and pried the leaking joint apart.  Dad did the surgery.  I managed the yellow glimmer from the flashlight sucking the last dregs of energy from its batteries. We cobbled together a splint for the house main water line. Dad warily approached the incoming water valve and gently coaxed it open. I aimed the bucket to catch the inevitable.

But no; the gods of plumbing smiled upon us. The connection held. It was not even moist. We were astounded, amazed, and gratified. In his delirium of victory my father said, “Ill just give it one more little….”

Threads stripped, pipes slipped, joint snapped, a new geyser was born in the world. Dad ran for the valve enlarging my vocabulary as he went.  I started my Saturday night shower early.

I learned a lesson that night without realizing it. When plumbing and/or people are under pressure, don’t cinch down. Back off. That truth has helped me in sports, personal and business relations, parenting, church counseling, and many other ways I could think of if I weren’t under the stress of trying to write something profound here.

Observing my work on the swamp cooler, I smothered the urge to tighten the water line. I zipped up my tool bag and tiptoed away. The last time I looked the repair was still holding. Thanks Dad.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Traveling Light