With the coming of the ninth grade in the fall, school started to become more exciting. I was involved in athletics such as there was, in shop and I truly working in the shop, and in Future Farmers or the Ag. Class as it was and still is called. Book learning was not generally as interesting but something that just had to be done. Even then I began accepting the things that had to be done along with the more exciting parts of life.
The athletic program consisted of a little interclass competition in basketball and in Horseshoes. I was on the winning team in both. My class won the basketball championship again and a friend, Darrel Butler and I, won the horseshoes team championship. However, he beat me in the singles championship. In the spring of the year, the coach, Mr. Reed Jones, arranged basketball exchange games with the other ninth grades in the school district. We won the games against Santaquin, and the home game against Goshen. However, when we played at Goshen, the roof collapsed. We were leading 28 to zip, going into the last inning when all of a sudden, we couldn’t do anything right and lost the game 29-28. Tight defensive battle.
The agriculture class found considerable interest for me also, although I had vowed not to be a farmer. Mr. Bunnel was a good teacher and being an old farm boy, I had lots of common interest. Since my project was dairy farming, I learned to test for butterfat and considerable about blood lines and some judging helps. We made several field trips about the area to successful farming of feeding operations. When we went, we all went in a four-wheeled trailer towed behind Mr. Bunnel’s car. One day as we were driving home from Benjamin, a car came reeling down the road in the opposite direction. I was standing up in the front left corner of the trailer and saw the car coming, weaving from side to side. Mr. Bunnel also saw the car coming and pulled over as he could without dumping us in the barrowpit and the car, driven by a woman, just missed us and went off the road right behind us and hit a telephone pole. We all jumped out and ran to help her out of the car. She was, of course, very inebriated and just missed killing the whole of the Payson ninth grade Ag class.
That summer Mr. Bunnel organized a trip to Yellowstone National Park for the Ag class. We went by school bus and carried all our food, bedding and luggage in the bus along with about 30 boys from ninth to twelfth grade. We went through Salt Lake City and then Ogden, and then Logan. It was the first time I had been in Salt Lake City or Ogden. We stopped for lunch in Malad, Idaho. After lunch, there was the usual horseplay and a little ball playing, etc. During this I lost my wallet. We were in a park and never left but my wallet disappeared and we couldn’t find it. Even this didn’t dampen the fun of the trip. We camped the first night in Grand Teton National Park on the edge of beautiful Jenny Lake. Next morning was available for climbing but I stayed at the Lake while some of the boys climbed the near-by peaks. Then on to Yellowstone to camp near Yellowstone Lake. There, many of the boys went fishing and the success was great and we had plenty of fish for breakfast. We tied the fish to the end of small rope and hung them from a branch of a tall tree about 12-15 feet above the ground. During the night, the bears came and we all charged out to scare the bears away. I had a club and took after one big bear that was reaching for our cache. She took off down the road with me right behind, paddling her seat and her cub following close behind. But she kept running and so did her cub. But I sure caught what-for from Mr. Bunnel. You don’t get between a bear and her cub. I learned, not from the bear, but from Mr. Bunnel. Most of the other fish were lost before morning, but ours remained safe. During the next week we toured the park taking in all the sights of that beautiful part of Wyoming. We saw the Grand Canyon and the Geysers and the animals were numerous and everywhere. My biggest disappointment when I returned years later was the loss of the animals.
On evening near Canyon camp site, we witnessed the feeding of the bears. A ceremony long since discontinued but one of the most spectacular scenes I’ve ever seen. All of the cars and our bus were driven to the feeding grounds and locked in a cage. A high chain-linked fence that kept the people in and the bears out. A large dump truck backed up in front of a set of bleachers, where we sat, and dumped a load of edible garbage from the nearby lodge. There for two hours we sat and watched the wild bears come and fight over the food. Many of the first bears to arrive or that were there when we arrived were blacks, but soon the Grizzlies came and chased the blacks away. The Grizzlies then proceeded to squabble and quarrel over the choice morsels from the pile. Very suddenly all of the bears pulled back and watched a big old bear come to the feeding grounds. This bear was the Boss, the King bear, and everyone got out of his way. The ranger who told us about the bears said that just a few days before, this bear had come into the area and challenged the previous king bear and then had fought for an hour right in front of the stands where we sat. Old Scarface, the previous bear had finally been beaten and had disappeared. The ranger supposed that he had died of the injuries received in the fight. This new king was a beautiful silver-tip with long hair tipped with silver as only a grizzly can be. Many of the other grizzlies wrestled and chased each other about but none got close to the king. A truly respected patriarch. After all the food was all consumed, the rangers unlocked the gates and everyone drove back to the lodge. The feeding of the bears has been discontinued, not because the park service couldn’t keep the bears out of the grandstand area, but because they couldn’t keep the people in.
The group of boys that I camped and slept with had our food stored in a heavy wooden box. The box was made of one inch pine board and was about one foot by one foot by four feet long. We used the box at night to hold the bottom edge of the quilts down for our bed. Four of us slept in the bed. Since I was one of the younger boys, I had to sleep in the middle. The last night we were in the park, our box disappeared from the foot of our bed without waking one of us. We found the box about 50 feet way at the top of our bed. A close look at the tracks showed a very large bear had picked the box up in its mouth and carried it right over our bed walking between the two middle boys, carried it away and broke it open and ate what of our food it liked, the honey and bacon. Nothing else was disturbed.
The last day a trip was scheduled to the top of Mt. Washburn. The bus went about half way up and couldn’t go any further. So all the boys started climbing as boys will. It developed into a race to the top. Eventually it reduced to a two man race between myself and a high school senior cousin of mine. Var had been an outstanding athlete and never did I expect to keep up with him. As we got near the top, he had to give up for rest and I went on ahead to win. I was so surprised, I didn’t know I could win. This was on the first steps in realizing I could be a winner, although it took considerably longer time before I gained faith in myself.
After the trip was over, it was back to farming all summer. By now we had gained considerable experience in the art of dirt farming and because of our work and a strong fertilizer program, our crops were improving. By now, I had learned to thin sugar beets with a jap hoe, a small hoe with a handle about one foot long. This meant the worker would bend over the row and chop the spaces between the sugar beets with hoe in his right hand so that the beets were about a foot apart. With his left hand he would thin the beets so there were only a single beet and the biggest, strongest one in each location. The object was to keep both hands working. Along with the thinning the actual sugar beets, you also had to cut out or pull all the weeds. For this, the thinner got $5.00 an acre, but since I was family, I got board and keep. Later on, I developed my speed and endurance so I could thin an acre a day. But oh, how your back ached. You never looked up for the length of the row but at the end of each row or maybe two short rows, you would lay flat on your back and stretch as hard as you could until the ache stopped, then, down the next row to get it all back again.