**Editors Note** It has been a year and a half since I started this post. I didn’t know what to do with it, I was not sure how to finish it. Now, the direction is a bit different and the meaning is more profound for me. **
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of Utah, some 140 miles to the southeast of my house lies a quiet little town nestled in the foothills of the Book Cliffs.
Residing in a house that is 67 years old lives a woman who is only 22 years older than the house. (That’s 89 just in case you can’t do the math.) It was to this little old house that the family and I ventured to a couple of weeks ago. The city is East Carbon, but will forever be known to me as Dragerton. It is the place where my Dad was born and raised, the place where many members of my family came seeking work in the coal mines.
Now, I would love to say that this is a beautiful little oasis in the desert, but the fact is, the town is dying. Lack of jobs keeps the population low. Many of the houses there, including my Aunt’s were built before 1948 by the coal companies, so there were places for the workers to live. Workers bought the houses from the company, the company ran a store, and basically controlled everything in town. to start with. You have heard that Tennessee Ernie Ford song 16 tons? The line in there about “St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store….” Yea exactly.
Tennessee Ernie Ford
When I first started this post I intended to write about how the town was dying but people kept living there because it was their home. About how my great Aunt moved there from Indiana with her husband, her sister (my grandma), my Grandpa, and my Great Grandparents. About how they lived and scraped by, about how she buried 2 husbands there and still returns to run her own house. How we would visit her to hear stories of the old times, of my Uncle that I never met, and of my Uncle that I knew and had a special place for.
We would go down and look at pictures of the old mines, and learn about the jobs that they guys had, things they found, like dinosaur footprints on the ceiling. (No it’s true. millions of years ago dinosaurs wandered all over what is now Utah and they left footprints in the muddy stream beds and swampy areas that eventually fossilized. The plant matter below became coal and when they dug out the coal, the stone footprints were on the ceiling. There are a few of them in the Natural History Museum at the College of Eastern Utah in Price. It’s kind of cool.)
Now, the focus of this post has changed. My Aunt used to go to Arizona in the winters and live in Dragerton during the rest of the year. But she is now 91, (92 in just a few days) and she is finally getting frail. She has always been such a great example of strength and endurance but she is just getting old. This past winter she couldn’t go to Arizona any more. It was just too hard, and she is having trouble walking and getting up by her self. She is now in an assisted care center where they can help her get up and not fall. They have meals for her and make sure that she has company. She still talks about going back home to Dragerton and having us all come and visit. I would like that, but I don’t think it is going to be possible.
What hasn’t changed about this post is the main idea. I set out to write about the end of some things. My Aunt is the last of the older generation in my life on my Dad’s side of the family. My Grandparents are all gone on both sides, My wife’s grandparents are gone. The only one left is my Aunt, and I honestly don’t know how much longer that will last. I am privileged to have known my great grandparents and my grandparents as well as my aunt and uncle. The history that they have seen, the exploits, the hunting trips, the fun times, the lean times, the family times are all stories that I used to just absorb at nights on the patio, or out shooting, or hunting rabbits. Now, to think that only my Dad or his sister, or me know these stories brings about some sadness.
Life is one of those things that you always know will end, but you never want it too. I am glad that 2 of my kids knew their Great Grandfather, and they all know their Great Great Aunt. That generation has values and sensibilities that seem old fashioned and worn out now but those are important to me. I try really hard to keep some of those values alive and not let my kids become entitled little whiners that have everything given to them. I think that has helped them deal with all of the challenges we have faced as a family, from a kidney transplant to losing our home. They know what is important, Family.
None of us want to dwell on the fact that my Aunt is in the final stages of her life. She has always seemed so…permanent. But we know, that it will come eventually. All we can do now is visit and talk and recall those times when we were down there with her as well as learn all of the stories that she can tell us. It won’t be the same without her. My Dad will be the oldest one at that point, and my kids will get stories from him, but, for me, those will never be as good as the ones I heard growing up.
That big wheel just keeps on turning as Lynyrd Skynyrd says, and eventually I will be the one regaling my grandkids with stories. My mother and father will be ailing, and I hope that my kids, and their kids not only know who they are but have the respect for them that I do with my older generations.
It seems things will never end when you are young, but they do. We just have to honor the memories we have and not let the stories and history die with the people that we love.
The first sentence of this post was inspired by the lovely and talented Courtney Cantrell, who wrote this post on my buddy Aaron’s blog and just made me smile. You see I love those Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. Go read them if you haven’t. It will be worth it and someday your life may depend on your towel.
I also found this picture, it is the hospital in Dragerton. My Dad was the first one born there in 1951, and his sister was the last one born there in 1964. Go Figure.
Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: assisted living center, aunt, coal mines, dinosaurs, dragerton, east carbon, Family, utah