Although I may roam through the wide, unpaved streets of the country town of Logan, Utah, the hay fields of Benson Ward, and the calm up Logan Canyon, the central figure of this trip along memory lane will be my Grandpa Benson.
In the summer of 1927 I spent a month and a half at the two-story, white home at 141 West First South in which the beautiful, happy, eight Benson daughters and the three conscientious sons were raised. It was an exciting summer with many activities with Louis and Keith Kjar, Aunt Eva, Uncle Karl, Uncle George and my Grandpa Benson.
Grandpa was only about 5 feet 6 inches tall, but he always stood straight and seemed tall in my eyes. His handsome face with fine features was adorned with a well-trimmed black and gray mustache and a Van Dyke Goatee which gave him a distinguished look. He had a sparkle in his eye, and a cheerful sense of humor which lightened up his countenance.
I enjoyed walking with him up-town to the main street of Logan where everyone seemed to know him, and he always had a cheerful yet an attentive personal greeting for each of them. Many of them called him Uncle Frank, most of whom, I know, were not related to him. It was one of the first times that I realized that all people radiate an aura or influence from their being that is sometimes good and many times bad. His “aura” seemed almost always good!
Grandpa Benson would buy us kids an “Eskimo pie” from the Bluebird. What a treat! On the way home in the streams of water that flowed swiftly on the edges of both sides of the streets we would sail boats and try to keep up with them. Grandpa Benson enjoyed it as much as the rest of us.
We always got up at daylight at Grandpa Benson’s. Before we kids were up, Grandpa and Uncle Karl had already milked the two or three jersey cows they owned at that time. Aunt Eva used to cook delicious breakfasts of eggs, fried potatoes, meat, toasted home-backed bread and cooked much if we wanted it. Everyone was full of happy spirits as well as good food.
I remember it was the morning job for us boys to herd the cows and drive them south down the wide streets, over the Logan river, down a quiet peaceful, winding country land to a lush pasture surrounded by clumps of willows. It seemed like there was always plenty of grass, but on the way to and from the pasture we would let the cattle graze on the neighbors lots and lawns. Nobody seemed to care.
Haying season was an exciting time. After packing our lunches, we got in Uncle Karl’s “Oakland” two-seated car and headed about six miles out into the country to an area called “Benson Ward” where the hay ranch was located. We used horses and slips to haul hay. Grandpa Benson said I could be the one to lead the derrick horse back and forth to pull-up the large Jackson Fork full of hay to the top of the hay stack. The derrick horse was a big draft horse with huge hooves, and I was a nine year old boy. I asked Grandpa in a serious tone, “What if he steps on my foot?” Grandpa replied with a twinkle in his eye, “In that case we will have to get another derrick boy! We can’t hold up the work”
It was also my job to gather up any hay that fell off the slip or didn’t get picked up by the hay pitchers. Grandpa used to say, “You have to be neat and pick up the crumbs.” Uncle George used to laugh and laugh when they used to holler at this Idaho kid to pick up the crumbs.
In the evening in the middle of the summer we sometimes would drive up the Logan Canyon to the Frank Benson Cabin which was on the edge of the tumbling, cascading waters of the Logan River. I remember how quickly it got dark and chilly, but Grandpa would soon have a campfire going brightly and would then tell us stories. One I have always remembers was about the time he was deer hunting. He was all alone on a quiet trail half-way up a tall mountain, and had sat down on a boulder and laid his rifle against a pine tree. While thus catching his second wind, he noticed a big mountain lion coming around a bend in the trail toward him. He kept coming toward Grandpa sniffing the air and twisting his head back and forth. Grandpa reached in his pocket and pulled out his small pocket knife. He had forgotten about his rifle, but he said, “If that mountain lion had attacked me, I would have put up a fierce battle with my pocket knife.” After staring at Grandpa for awhile the puma headed off the trail down through the pines.
Grandpa told us stories about the Indians, about being true to your word and loving all people. He said, “All people have good in them if a person would look for it.” Grandpa was about 75 that wonderful memorable summer.
I returned to Logan to go to college at Utah State in 1936. Grandpa Benson was almost 84 years old at that time, but every morning he would do some exercises, chin himself on the bar ten times, and go with Uncle Karl and Uncle George to do a day’s work. Karl Ward and I had a sleeping room upstairs in Uncle Karl and Aunt Margaret’s apartment. Aunt Eva fed us a big breakfast in the morning and a delicious dinner at night with all the trimmings. For our board and room we paid $20.00 a month. We walked two miles to the college in the morning, all up hill. Thank heavens it was all down hill in the P.M.
Grandpa, Uncle Karl, Uncle George and Aunt Eva made it a fun household with much kidding and joking. Everyone seemed to be very interested in each other and in the every day happenings.
That fall it turned off cold early and snow came the first part of November. It looked as if the sugar beets were going to be frozen in the ground so Karl Ward and I took a couple of days off from classes to help harvest them. They were cold, cloudy, dismal days filled with much grunting and groaning. Uncle Karl would plow the beets out of the ground into furrows, and then he would help Karl Ward and I top the beets. We each had a beet knife which looked like a machete’ with a sharp hook on the end. We would hook the beets, lay them on our leg above the knee, and cut the green tops off the beets. That was much, back-breaking work, but Uncle Karl would do two to three times as many beets as Karl Ward and I. After de-topping the beets we would throw them into the piles and then throw them by beet forks into a large wagon with high sides on it.
We would have to drag the wagon out of the wet, muddy fields with two teams of horses. That was Grandpa Benson’s job. He had a special way with horses and seemed to get the maximum effort out of them. There would be five to seven tons of muddy beets on the wagon and sometimes I wondered if the horses could possibly pull the loaded wagon and make it out of the fields to the road which led to the beet dump. However, Grandpa had a tone of voice and a way of holding the reins that seemed to continually rejuvenate the horses. Eighty-four years of age and he was in the fields from down until dusk.
The last part of my freshman school year Grandpa became seriously ill with cancer of the stomach. It started with an upset stomach, then vomiting of blood and stomach contents. For six months he kept very little of his food down.
At first he would still go to church with us, but when he started to have continuous pain some members of the Priesthood would come to the house, bless the sacrament, and let him partake of it. Several times girls’ chorus from the ward and also the high school stopped by to sing for him.
Before I go any further about Grandpa’s final sickness, I want to give deserving commendation to a true angel of mercy, my Aunt Eva. For several months she spoon-fed Grandpa and cleaned up after him when he was continually ill day and night.
I have noticed that the good habits of patience, love, consideration for others, and a positive attitude that a person has cultivated throughout his life really shows up when his body is deteriorating and sick. Grandpa arose every morning and dressed himself (sometimes with our help) until the last ten days. He had many visitors, nieces, nephews, friends from all over Cache Valley. He was always up-beat and encouraging in his visits with them.
Grandpa was impeccable in manner, dress and eating habits. He strived to be pleasant and appreciative to all that helped him and to try to continually be that way to the end. Loving Aunt Eva was always there attending to every need. No man suffered more physical and mental pain from cancer, which filled his entire abdominal cavity, than Grandpa Benson.
The Elders came one Spring evening and sealed him for the eternities. The next morning both Karl Ward and I knew before leaving our room to go to breakfast that Grandpa had died during the night. He was and is a great man. I hope to see him someday, healed and made perfect in body, mind and spirit through the eternal atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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