excerpt – Sanpete Tales: Humorous Folklore from Central Utah
Edgar M. Jenson, my maternal grandfather, passed away in 1958 in Provo, Utah, leaving behind three typed, hand-illustrated volumes which were combined to produce this collection. They represent over eighty years of folk humor, the so-called “droll stories” from Sanpete County, Utah. The oldest of the stories date from the Mormons’ trek west, all the way back to the 1850s, while the last stories come mainly from the 1920s and 1930s. The newest story, one concerning Brigham Young University and football, is a mere baby from the late 1940s. From the first Scandinavian settlers until the Great Depression, these tales, poking fun at society and each other, were one of the main forms of entertainment and social interaction in central Utah. They softened the hardships of pioneer life—of adjusting to a new country, a new language, and a new church. They are also credited with helping to overcome the old prejudices that existed among Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians, binding them into one community.
Exactly when each story was first told is impossible to pinpoint, as the tales found here—like folklore everywhere—were repeated over and over for many years. The stories concerning the legal system, for example, divide roughly into those originating before 1880 (dealing with the law as maintained through local Mormon bishops’ courts) and those after 1880 (dealing with the federal legal system). The origins of other tales can be judged only by the situation, but the majority come from between 1880 and 1916 when Great-grandfather Jenson passed away.
My great-grandfather, Hans Christian Jensen, was born in Kjolbye, Denmark, in 1834, the fourth of six children. At age fourteen, he was apprenticed to a miller, the trade which gave him his nickname of Hans Miller. In 1862 four of his brothers and sisters joined the Mormon church and immigrated to Utah. In 1864 Hans, not a Mormon, also immigrated with his mother and settled with the rest of the family in Ephraim in central Utah. The local Mormon bishop soon sent him and his brother to build a flour mill in Circle Valley (later Circleville), Beaver County. When the mill was burned during the Indian wars, he returned to Ephraim where he ran the Willardsen mill and farmed. In 1871 he joined the Mormon church and married Nellie Lundstein, fifteen years his junior. Her family had come to America one or two at a time from 1864 to 1870. Nellie, one of the last to arrive, had originally settled in Gunnison. My grandfather, Edgar, their ninth child, was born in 1888; Nellie died three years later giving birth to her tenth child. My grandfather was thus part of the second generation, even though by the time he came along, many of the townspeople were well into producing a third generation.
Great-grandmother Nellie was Swedish, Great-grandfather Hans was Danish, and both were proud of it. Hans spelled his name Jensen, but Grandpa Ed changed that. He explained: “My first teacher had the same last name but spelled it Jenson [the Swedish spelling]. I reasoned that my teacher was educated and Papa was not. Right there and then I changed the spelling and, being as stubborn as any Dane, I’ve never fixed it.”
As Grandpa notes in the foreword that follows, he began collecting these stories in the 1930s when the pioneer generation in Utah’s Sanpete Valley was dead, when the second generation (to which he belonged by birth if not by age) was growing old, and when the third generation was of two minds about its folktales. On the one hand, these stories were indubitably hilarious—earthy, sly, and dry—but on the other hand, the dialect was demeaning, old-fashioned. Didn’t people in Sanpete have enough problems rising above the label of “hicks” without deliberately cultivating a backwoods image? The strong “Americanization” movement after World War I was a powerful impetus to abandoning foreign ways as unpatriotic. Besides, the new entertainments like movies and the radio had made story-telling passé.
I m glad to say that the forty-plus years since Grandpa’s death have settled the matter decisively. Descendants of Sanpete residents claim these stories as their ethnic heritage, with love and laughter and fierce loyalty. While Grandpa freely gave “readings” and tale swappings throughout the area, as a result of his sensitivity to the ambivalence of the younger generation and the self-consciousness of their elders, he would not make copies of his collection, explaining that the individuals involved and their descendants deserved their privacy. Instead, he restricted his collection to three copies, one for each of his daughters. Each succeeding book got bigger, as he included all of the original stories, plus new ones he had gathered. The third book was not finished at the time of his death and included many notes and different versions of stories on which he was still working.
My mother and her two sisters, respecting Grandpa’s wishes, also refused numerous requests to copy the collection. But with the fourth generation now rapidly passing from the scene, the issues of exposure and possible ridicule have simply evaporated. Also, the nature of the requests for copies has changed, coming mainly from descendants of the original pioneers who created the tales. These stories belong to all people as much as they do to Sanpete’s residents or to my own family, and the decision to release the collection, though made carefully and thoughtfully, seems like the right one.
This book draws on the three volumes, Grandpa’s notes, and his speeches. While all of the stories are taken from Grandpa’s collection, in the case of the notes and when more than one version of a story existed (something we have come to expect with folklore), I have taken it upon myself (for better or worse) to complete the tale as I think he would have written it. In some cases, I must confess that I just took the version I liked best.
The tales are given straightforwardly and simply, just as they were passed on to me. To make the transition from an oral form—Grandpa Ed basically gave his written tales the form they took in his “readings,” complete with editorial comments and transitions—I have streamlined the commentary, removed the titles he assigned to each story, standardized punctuation, and standardized the spellings of some dialect words. To simplify the narrative layers, I have also borrowed Grandpa’s hat when narrative comment is called for, so that I am the only “I” in the text. Grandpa, when he appears as a character in a story, is identified by name.
The book also contains the so-called “Philosopher Pete sayings.” While they are not actually tales, they are an intrinsic part of the Sanpete heritage. Philosopher Pete was Ephraim’s postmaster and public notary. He got his name from his ability to reduce virtually every situation or argument to a couple of lines that seem to hit the nail on the head. Indeed, Grandpa was very proud of the stamp Philosopher Pete put on the collection when, in his official capacity as notary, he swore that the second volume was “de truth, de whole truth, und yoost a little bit more dan de truth.”
Grandfather also did the illustrations; he taught art at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and headed its placement center. The drawings were done in typical Danish style and were liberally scattered throughout his daughters’ books. I picked a few of my favorites to include here. Is this a complete collection, or even a scholarly presentation, of Sanpete tales? No, but I think it is a good representation of the stories that came out of Sanpete County from its earliest days until the practice faded away in the 1930s, collected by a man who loved hearing and telling them. I hope you will enjoy them as much as my family has.
William Jenson Adams
In May 1850, LDS apostle Erastus Snow opened a remarkably successful mission in Scandinavia. On December 20, 1852, the Forsgren Company, with 300 converts, sailed from Copenhagen aboard the steamship Oberit, bound for Kiel in Holstein, then in Prussia. The company was named for brothers John, the first missionary to Sweden, and Peter, the first convert in Sweden. (See Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City, 1901-301, 370-71, 393-94.) They were mostly Danish with a sprinkling of Swedish and Norwegian converts. They traveled by train from Kiel to Hamburg, then sailed to Hull, England, where, on December 31, they boarded the Forest Monarch. The weather was so bad that they did not set sail to their new Zion until January 16, 1853. It is with the ocean voyage and the trek west that Sanpete stories begin.
To say that the Snow mission was successful is an understatement. According to Roger Daniels, Snow’s work and that of his two companions resulted in almost 50,000 converts (Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life [New York, 1990]). The majority were Danish; and while the exact breakdown is hard to determine (all were listed as “Scandinavian”), early Sanpete records show that there were four Danes for every Swede and two Swedes for each Norwegian. Over half of these Mormon converts came to Utah between 1853 and 1887, a pattern Daniels attributes to the LDS church’s Perpetual Emigration Fund. He records stories of early members gathering each year for the missionaries’ announcements of how many families would be allowed to migrate. However, according to Grace Johnson and the Sanpete County Commission, most Scandinavians were responsible for funding their own migration as the ocean travel part of the fund was mainly reserved for English-speaking converts (The Other 49ers: A Topical History of Sanpete County, Utah [Salt Lake City, 1982], chap. 4.; see also William Mulder, Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia [Minneapolis, 1957] and his “Scandinavian Saga,” in The People of Utah, ed. Helen Z. Papanikolas [Salt Lake City, 1976]). After they arrived, the Mormon church stepped in to help with church-run wagon trains leaving mainly from St. Louis. In 1887 the federal government confiscated the Perpetual Emigration Fund and claimed that Mormons were undesirable migrants, a two-pronged action that ended the most important period of Scandinavian LDS immigration.
After a long and tedious journey, the Forsgren Company reached Salt Lake City on September 30, 1853. In October LDS church president Brigham Young sent forty-eight of them to Sanpete in central Utah to assist in making a success of the settlement already started at Manti. The newcomers arrived with virtually nothing but were taken in by families already there who shared their provisions. Isaac Behunnin, who had arrived in Utah with the original Mormon pioneer company in 1847, had already attempted a settlement on Pine Creek, the present site of Ephraim, in 1851, but Indian problems forced him to return to Manti.
In the spring of 1854, another attempt was made by Reuben W. Allred with fifteen other families at the request of Chief Souiette and eleven other chiefs of the Ute Nation (see Brodders and Sisters, chap. 1; and The Other 49ers, chap. 1). On reaching Pine Creek, they immediately began to erect homes and build a fort. It was in the fall of 1854 that the Scandinavian families whom Brother Brigham had sent to Manti joined the colony. This small group of homeless people remained in the fort through the long, severe winter. That first winter a small coffee mill for handgrinding wheat passed from family to family. According to Great-grandfather Hans Christian Jensen, when they had a soup bone, it was also passed from house to house to flavor the pigweed greens, caraway, and other plants from which they made a sort of broth.
In spite of the combinations of hunger, cold, and raids by Chief Walkara, who did not support the invitation of the other Ute chiefs, these early settlers enjoyed good health; and in the early spring of that first year, they began building private homes outside the fort, laid out streets, and broke ground for their farms. A second larger fort was erected in 1855; but that summer the grasshoppers came in hordes of millions and devoured practically every green plant in the area. The next year, too, was a trying one, but in 1857 a bountiful harvest crowned their efforts. Before this, the whole colony had to live on rations, but now a change came over the struggling colonists, and they rejoiced at the dawning of prosperity. Northern and central Sanpete Valley were settled first; then, beginning in 1859, the settlers turned their attention to the southern end. Its land was fertile; and with very little effort, a reservoir could capture water from the Sanpitch River. Surveyor John H. Hougaard, from Manti, was employed by the LDS church to lay out farm lands and a town-site to be named Gunnison, which figures occasionally in these folktales as Ephraim’s rival.
From that first group on, there was a continuous stream of Scandinavians directed by Brigham Young to settle the waste lands of Sanpete until, by 1880, they made up 77 percent of the population in the valley and 94 percent of the population of Ephraim, which continued to be called Fort Ephraim long after the actual fort no longer existed. The area of Sanpete is high and dry, but fertile. The settlers set out to make it a garden and were extraordinarily successful.
Life was hard and humor was one of the few defenses the people had against grimness. I marvel at how many people today love to lecture about how much better things were in the “good old days.” Some people, who worry endlessly about automobile pollution, can’t seem to imagine the effect of hundreds of horses on city streets, open sewage systems, drinking water from the irrigation ditches, and cooking over coal fires. Nor do many realize that parts of the west were vastly different 150 years ago. There were almost no trees in most valleys until they were planted. One town “progressively” replaced its open ditches with pipes, then saw within a year that the trees lining its streets had turned to dead wood. In a local paper recently, a man praised a beautiful stream running through his area, a fact he attributed to the lack of people who otherwise surely would have ruined it. I smiled because the “stream” is an irrigation channel. Some of my grandmother’s ancestors helped dig it.
Most of Ephraim’s women owned only two dresses—a work dress and one for Sunday. People worked too hard to wonder about inheriting fortunes or if their marriages were compatible. They ate “natural” foods because they had no refrigeration and little money for packaged goods. What they did preserve was either dried, sugared, or soaked in salt. My great-grandparents had ten children and adopted an eleventh; only five survived infancy. Almost a fourth of the people Grandpa started school with were no longer around when it came time to graduate. That was pretty much average for the times. Older people at that time may have been healthier than today, but this was mainly because the weaker ones died.
Scandinavians are generally not a prudish people. We choose to laugh rather than to blush. That is as it should be; it s healthier. But that also means we tend to think some things are funny which shock the heck out of more “civilized” people. Some of these folktales are on the earthy side, but they re more about what people think of as sins than about sin itself. They never attempt to shock deliberately. Rather, Ephraim’s Saints relied on innuendo. After all, sin is just too funny on its own to have to push the point. But I realize this may be dangerous ground. People take their personal views of morality very seriously and hate the idea that others may be getting a laugh out of something they figure will send us all to hell.
Prudes seem to have no sense of humor. They’re shocked by just about everything. Now for some reason the good Lord made a lot of them, almost enough to equal the people who have no morals at all. I’ve often wondered why God made so many prudes. I’ve decided maybe it’s one of his practical jokes, seeing as how their constant moral agony often gives the rest of us so much enjoyment.
Sanpete folklore ostensibly is rooted in the problem of patronymics. Instead of one surname borne by all descendants of a particular ancestor and adopted by the women who married into that family, Scandinavian names changed with each generation, as is still the case in Iceland with its relatively small population. The descendants of a man named Mads, for instance, were known as Jens or Henrik or Peder Madson (in Sweden), or Madsen (in Denmark):
This lack of any real relationship based on surnames, combined with a few very popular first names, is often given as the reason for the habit of assigning nicknames. These nicknames are an important aspect of the stories and were a pervasive aspect of life in Sanpete. There is some truth to this perception, as lists from the 1870s indicate that just over 50 percent of the male Scandinavian immigrants bore, as their first name, Jens, Christian, Hans, Niels, Andrew, or Peter. Because of patronymics, this also resulted in a limited number of surnames, which were suddenly frozen when the immigrant crossed the borders of the United States. The patronymic situation led to the one Sanpete tale that everyone knows: The bishop calls on “Brother Petersen” to give the closing prayer in sacrament meeting. Half of the men in the congregation stand up. “Oh,” he explains, “I mean Brother Peter Peterson.” Two men sit down.
The “problem of overlapping names is the ostensible reason for Ephraim’s “solution”—ubiquitous nicknames. Grandpa Ed Jenson himself was known as Ed Miller because his father ran a gristmill. As he explained it:
Enar Petersen had a wooden leg so we called him “Peggy Petersen.” Chris Darsen lost an arm in a sawmill accident. We called him “Chris One Arm.” Then there was “False Bottom Petersen.” Now don’t jump to conclusions. He received that name when he got tangled up with the inspection officials at Ellis Island. He was well-to-do and tried to smuggle some luxury goods in without paying the tariffs by placing them in a false bottom trunk. He was caught and the officials forced all the emigrants to empty their belongings onto the floor. Right there on the spot, Brother Peterson was christened “False Bottom.” I never did know what his real name was.
Other people were named after their profession, like Flying Carpenter. Some were named for their dominant characteristic, like Grinning Billie, while Smiling Pete was named for what he lacked.
Still other names reflected our own view of what was acceptable behavior in our little society. For example, our blacksmith was a big, powerful man, as blacksmiths tended to be. But he was also a very gentle man and a lover of beauty. He always kept his house in perfect repair, helped out with the chores, and grew the most beautiful flower gardens in all of Sanpete. Naturally we dubbed him “Sissy Blacksmith.” Luckily he also had a great sense of humor, as he could have kicked all our collective behinds.
Worst of all, any embarrassing incident could immediately result in a permanent nickname. Take the case of Hans Hendricksen. He went on a hunting trip with several other men shortly after he arrived in Ephraim. One of the jokers in the crowd had hidden an old bear skin rug near the camp site. During the night, he put on the rug, sneaked up behind Brother Hendricksen, and stood up suddenly with a terrible roar. Brother Hendricksen didn’t stop running until he was locked safely behind his own door back home. Forever after he was known as Bear Hendricksen; and when his first son was born, he was immediately dubbed Henry the Cub.
… We had Big Pete, who weighed almost three hundred pounds, and Long Pete who stood six foot four. He liked to hang around with Little Pete, a man who hadn’t grown much, except around the middle, giving him the appearance of a walking globe. Then there were Shingle Pete, he ran the shingle mill, and Polky Pete, the town dance master, and Shakespeare Pete, whose favorite line was “Dars someting rotten in Denmark.” (Of course he was a Swede.) There was also that unfortunate Pete who could never grow a proper beard. He suffered the same horrible fate as Sissy Blacksmith. We always called him Purty Pete, and—well, you get the idea.
Without the nicknames, we would never know who it was we were talking about. Business would have ground to a halt, not to mention what it would have done to gossip. No, the nicknames were there to stay, so much so that I never knew most of my fellow townspeople’s real names.
Obviously there were other ways of solving the identification problem than assigning nicknames, and there were other purposes that the nicknames served. Why, for instance, are all of the examples above—every single one of them—of men? What does this say about women in Sanpete society? As the larger collection will reveal, some of the stories involve women; but these are few by comparison. These questions I will leave to others to explore. Suffice it to say that Sanpete Saints insisted that nicknaming was practical. What other reason could there be? And if the listener missed the twinkle in the eye of that sober-faced Scandinavian, then that wasn’t all the listener was missing. (For more on this point, see Hector Lee, “Nicknames of the Ephraimites,” Western Humanities Review 3 : 12-22, and “Function and Form of Utah-Danish Nicknames,” Utah Historical Quarterly 39 : 23-29.)
Anyone familiar with frontier tall tales or American folklore in general will pick up some very familiar themes reappearing in Sanpete guise in this collection. However, in keeping with those same traditions, Scandinavian Saints subscribed to the position that they were not stretching the truth. Still, Grandpa Jenson confesses:
On many a cold night, I remember my father and the neighbors gathered in the kitchen entertaining themselves by trying to outdo one another with stories about the people they all knew and loved. However, there were times when I was led to question the truthfulness of some of the tales.
I had a great deal of respect for Dad, but one day he told a “big one” on Christian Hald, a city emigrant from Denmark who knew nothing of country life. Well, when he came to Utah, Dad took him in, and Christian paid for his board and keep by milking and choring. One morning Dad came by just as Christian was trying to force a cow to drink a pail of milk.
Dad exclaimed, “For de lof of Mike, Brodder Hald! Dat milk isn t for de cow.”
Christian answered, “Ya, Hans, I knows dat very yell, but you see, I got so doggone much dirt in de milk dat I t’ought I vill yoost run it t rough vonce more.”
When the company had left, I asked, “Dad, was that story about Brother Hald straight truth?”
Dad answered, “Ed, does you believe de story dat George Vashington neffer tell a lie?”
I said, “Of course I don’t believe it.”
“Vell, den,” said he, “you isn’t goin’ to expect an old Dane like me to be more trutful dan is the Fadder of your Country, is you?”
Were some of these maulings of English on purpose? Of course. While fully understanding the necessity of speaking English and striving dutifully to acquire the new language, Fort Ephraim’s mishandlings of syntax, grammar, pronunciation, and especially vocabulary were sly but effective ways to assert the emotional primacy of the native tongue. Our th‘s became d‘s, j became y, and w was pronounced v. As for ch, it usually came out sounding like a k. According to Grandpa, “There are just some sounds which I don’t believe the good Lord meant Scandinavians to say.” For the most part, we depended on the few educated people among us to sort out things, not always with the best results.
Edgar M. Jenson
Tucked away in old trunks, desks, and bookcases in countless homes—and in the memories of a declining number of men and women—are stories of the pioneers who made Utah what it is today. There are diaries from the pioneers scrawled with aching fingers, stories difficult to read because of the limited schooling of the men and women who wrote them. The spelling and construction are often bad, but the simple devotion and understanding of the writers makes up for any limitations. These journals are also terse and matter-of-fact: “Our son John died last night of inflammation of the bowels. Buried near Fort Bridger.” They have a kind of simple honesty which has inspired writers for years.
Such journals, and the oral versions of the same stories, were my inspiration too, but in a different way. Occasionally, often unintentionally, they also contained the seeds of pioneer humor that led to this collection. Well do I remember the guilty pleasure I felt when I first read this entry in one of those old journals: “Sharpened ax this morning. Wife died this afternoon.” A sad moment, but the kind of slip that made my people famous for their “droll stories,” a form of humor that once rivaled J. Golden Kimball tales as Utah’s most famous contribution to folk humor.
My parents were both pioneers. They did not keep diaries, but I came on the scene early enough to have gotten first-hand much of the spirit of the times. I felt directly some of their hardships, and I remember keenly much of their gentle irony and humor. This I am writing down so that it will not be lost to those who come later.
These are not the traditional stories of hardship and adventure usually associated with the western trek of the Mormon church. Rather, they are the collected tales of one group, mainly Scandinavian, who settled in the area known as Sanpete. These people refused to let insignificant things trouble them. They took each day as it came, magnified its blessings, and minimized its vexations. The tendency was not to be morbid or over-sensitive or to let the day-to-day problems of life rob them of their joy.
The stories are not heroic, or poetic, or romantic; to me they are funny. The Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes at the center of the tales were a tough-bodied, warm-hearted, sly-humored lot, who turned their ironic eyes on themselves and each other. The result was a collection of stories loaded with broad, earthy humor and topped with dry wit.
It is with some diffidence that I record these tales. In the whole realm of speaking, humor is the most difficult thing to achieve, and it is even more difficult when writing in dialect and for those who are unacquainted with the characters or the ways of the people concerned. But this appeared to be the last chance to gather the material before it faded, along with the people who created it.
Several earlier attempts were made to gather our old Fort Ephraim stories. The first I know of came during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and the Depression era arts program. Once the Rockefeller Foundation and a California dramatic group sent representatives to Ephraim to record the material. Following their example, many universities sent out folklorists to do the job. None were very successful. The story tellers withheld their talents or froze in silence before this cultured company.
[Editor’s note: To my knowledge, none of these early attempts was successful. The first collection of tales to appear in print was Lucille J. Butler, “Ephraim’s Humor,” M.A. thesis, University of Utah, 1950. From that time to the present, a few stories occasionally appeared in histories of the area, in newspaper articles, or as examples of Utah folk humor. An audio recording, Pete Petersen’s Stories, containing about two dozen tales based on Butler’s thesis, was produced in the late l960s. However, the best-known collection is Grace Johnson’s marvelous little book Brodders and Sisters (Manti, UT: Messenger-Enterprise Printing Company, 1973, 1979), containing about three dozen stories. Some of Johnson’s stories are also found in this collection, nearly always, however, in a different version, although the punch line is often the same. For more on this point, see J. Golden Stories, Together with the Brother Peterson Yarns (Folk-Legacy Records, Inc., FTA-25); Chris Jensen, “My Funny Home Town,” Ford Times 53 (1961); and William A. Wilson, “Folklore of Utah s Little Scandinavia,” Utah Historical Quarterly 47 (1979): 148-66.1
My attempt began in the early I 930s, when I realized changing lifestyles were ending the tradition of story telling, and my children would not have these tales which I had loved so much. As I was “one of them,” the story tellers talked to me. Indeed, as my love for the Sanpete tales became known they actually sought me out, sure that I would not use the tales to ridicule or embarrass them. Then, as time passed and the little aches and pains that come with age began to multiply, I was reminded that I too would soon be an ancestor. It was then I decided to take what I had collected and write it down. Out of respect for the wishes of the story tellers, I limited my effort to three books, a private collection for my family, and left instructions that the tales were not to be circulated as long as those involved were alive. So, if you re reading this and are not one of my descendants, then we must all be gone.
I must thank many of the old-timers for the stories they have told me. Others I have “picked up” here and there from friends who knew my fondness for Sanpete yarns. Many of the stories seeped into my mind when I was a mere child and listened to Dad and his friends as they sat beside our fire and cleared their minds of mental rheumatism by telling stories on each other. As a typical Dane would put it:
“I don’t persactly know how true dese har stories be; dey are yoost vat I hearn Hans Miller, oond Jens Sondrup, oond Jens Fiddler, oond Petey Bishop, oond many oder fellers tell me. Oond de stories are true in principle, for they is yoost vat they vould haf done under dem circumstances.” As Dad would have put it, “Sometimes ye haf to bend de trut yoost a leetle for psychology purposes.”
Time and again in later years, I have read revisions of some of these very tales from people who weren’t even in the area. It just goes to show that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and that all humor, like music, is manufactured from the same source of basic raw material and just remolded to fit the occasion.
THE TALES OF “EDDIE MILLER” AND HIS GRANDSON
Peter Mulbugger and an Englishman named Archibald Shaw went to an English sea captain to apply to work their way to America. The captain took the Englishman without question, but for some reason put the Dane through an in-depth examination concerning his honesty, his industry, etc. Eventually both men were hired.
While they were scrubbing the deck one day in mid-ocean, a huge wave appeared and washed the Englishman and his mop bucket overboard. Peter thought the matter over and finally decided to report it to the captain.
He saluted him and said, “Captain, you recollect yen Brodder Shaw oond me ask for york on dis ship how you don’t qvestion his honesty or nodding but you qvestion me about my honesty oond everyting?”
The captain remembered and asked Peter to proceed.
“Vell, Captain,” he said, “you suspected de wrong feller. Brodder Shaw left, oond he took von of de ship’s buckets vit him.”
Uncle P-Christian was a very orthodox man; whatever happened was God’s will. As they were crossing the Great Divide, a terrible storm blew up. The oxen refused to breast the blast, and the men were nearly frozen stiff. They complained bitterly and swore as could only men to whom the fires of hell would have been a relief.
Uncle P-Christian listened patiently for some time, then said:
“Brodders, I don’t like dis vedder any better dan does you fellers. But effen you only stop to tink, you vill know dat dis vedder, bad as it is, is much better dan effen ye don’t haf any vedder at all.”
On the last leg of the trek, Lars Peter had a lot of trouble with his wagon. The wheels squeaked and cut the axles and the wagon pulled so hard that his oxen were practically exhausted. He took the matter to the Lord in prayer and was inspired to use rancid bacon to grease the axles. The squeaking stopped, the wheels moved smoothly, and all went well. Lars Peter gave God full credit.
In testimony meeting he said, “De veels squeaked, de oxen dey von’t go, oond it vas a very sad time for me. Veil, I go to de Lord oond He say to grease de veels vid bacon. Oond dis is my testimony dat de Gospel is true.”
When John Hougaard was surveying the farm lands and town-site of Gunnison, he chose Wise Pete Petersen as his chainman. The work progressed nicely until one autumn afternoon when word came that the Indians were on the warpath. Hougaard and Wise Pete placed a post at the last corner surveyed and Hougaard admonished his helper, “Vise Pete, ye must not under any circumstances lose dat post or der vill be hell to pay.” Then they rushed back to their homes and safety.
It was not until the next spring that Hougaard and Wise Pete could continue their survey, but they soon began to suspect that something had gone wrong. The settlers were breaking ground for their farms on land that should have been the Gunnison townsite. Hougaard consulted Wise Pete: “Pete, some von has been tamperin’ vit dat stake ye put down las fall. De whole damn survey from dar is out of keiter, oond half of Gunnison is yoost plain damn farm land. How do you account for dat?”
Pete answered, “Hougaard, I yoost can’t understand how it can happen, but I can tell you von ting. No body han’t tampered vit dat stake. Dat I know. I got to tinkin’ how foolish it va to leave a government stake out dar all vinter ven any damn fool might come along oond dig it up oond maybe use it for firewood. So von day I vent out oond got de stake oond put it in my granary until spring comin’ on again yen I put it back so near as I can recollect ver I digged it up. So you see, I know for sure dat is de same government post vat ye put down las fall.”
So that’s why Gunnison had to be content with only half a townsite.
When Brother Brigham decided to make his first official visit, you can imagine the excitement. Every detail of the visit was a major argument. Where would he stay? Who would get to provide meals? Most important, who would be on the program with him? It was finally decided to have a town dinner, with the bishops from Ephraim and Manti and our leading citizens sharing space in the program. Still the town elders were not satisfied. They wanted something to set Ephraim apart from all the other towns Brigham visited, but what could they offer? Finally they hit on an idea. Old Joe.
One of Ephraim’s original settlers was an Indian our town fathers called Joseph, since they couldn’t pronounce his real name. Joseph spoke English better than most of us, and learned some Danish and a little Swedish as well. Chief Souiette had originally sent him in to report on our doings; however, Joseph soon discovered he liked town life, he liked the people of Ephraim, and, most of all, he liked Scandinavian cooking. So from then on he came to town every day and did odd jobs in return for meals. When he wasn’t working, he would tell us kids stories about the old times.
It would be just like the first Thanksgiving, the planners dreamed, with Joseph right at the head table with the president and the other church leaders. However, Faithful Andrew objected. “Old Joe can’t yoost set there. Dat vill look like ye is showing off. He has to do someding.”
It was decided that Joe should offer the blessing on the food. Joe wasn’t at all sure he wanted to do that, but they reassured him that they would all coach him on what to say. Well, come the day of the big event and people from all around arrived in Ephraim to meet the president of the church. There was old Joe, looking very uncomfortable in the best borrowed suit in town, Bishop Dorius on one side and President Young, beaming proudly, on the other. All went perfect until it came time for the blessing on the food. Joseph stood up and forgot everything people had told him to say. There was a long embarrassed silence, then Bishop Nielsen leaned over and whispered, “Yoseph, you yoost forget vhat all de people haf been telling you. De Lord don t care about none of dat. You yoost say vhat you really feel.”
Old Joe’s face brightened and in a loud voice he proclaimed something he had often heard at mealtime: “Glory, Hallelujah! Pass de spuds and don’t hog de gravy!”
NOTE: The tales continue, of course. We hope you liked this sampling of just the first four pages as an indication of the overall content.