Saturday, November 30, 2013

No prettier new-born baby

That early evening, after supper, the wonderful thing happened. The two Mrs. Barneses had been to call in the afternoon--they came right away after Gertrude was there to make her announcement--under a black cotton umbrella, with clean aprons on, bringing a milk bucket full of soup and two pies. It was all they had on hand, they said. Tomorrow they would do better. They said they never saw a prettier new-born baby. They had seen plenty, they said, but they never saw a new-born baby to equal Parley. Mr. Taylor brought a dishpanful of fresh-picked strawberries. He said the baby looked like a baby that was going to grow up and make them all sit up and take notice.
     --From The Peaceable Kingdom

Friday, November 29, 2013

". . . and vote Democrat."

. . . my stepfather Hiram Parker, who married my mother when I was twelve and to whom I owe anything good about myself such as always being punctual ("the courtesy of kings") and if I start a job finish it, get up in the morning, pay your debts, vote Democrat.
     --From Ardyth's memoir Bodies Adjacent

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The problem of holidays

In unlawful cohabitation, otherwise known as polygamy, there were many problems to work out. For instance, what about holidays? Olaf did the following: If he spent Thanksgiving with Sigrid one year, the next Thanksgiving found him at Linnea's spending the day with her. The same with Easter or New Year's eve. He spent two Pioneer Days straight hand running, however, with Linnea, Sigrid being at home in bed getting over a miscarriage, and although she didn't say boo at the time, on later occasions--even years after--and in fact starting the very next day, she threw it up to him until he wished he had never heard of Pioneer Day or Lagoon or anything else.
     --From The Peaceable Kingdom

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ardyth, laughing, in a new dress

Today I have seen her only briefly, soaped and laughing; she was working all day upstairs and came down only to take a bath and have dinner. She tried a new dress on that Mother had made for her—except the buttonholes, which she usually  buys at the Singer Sewing Machine Co., out of grass-green striped material with a bustle below the waist. She looked so sweet in it I wanted to be a baby kangaroo resting easy in the ventral pouch of her bustle while she grazed through the house.
     --From her husband Egon's journal, November 23, 1947

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

History as living semblance

History took on living semblance, the noise of life began for him in the quietened past.
     --From Variation West

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pride when he pronounced

Like at the theater, when the call came Is there a doctor in the house? How proud she had been when Doctor stood up, went up to where the man lay in the aisle, knelt down and laid his head on the man’s glassy shirt-front, then looked up and said “Moribund.”
     --From Variation West

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Four years

Young Dr. Mudd raised himself up on his elbow and listened.
     "That's somebody at the door," he said. . . .
     Lightly he stooped and gave his wife a kiss that just grazed her temple. "I'll be back in a minute, lovey."
     Four years, lovey. They will arrest him for treason and assassination, imprison him, stick his head in a padded canvas bag through the hottest days of summer, chain him and try him before a corrupt jury. Then they will sentence and ship him away to a dungeon in a fortress on the Dry Tortugas, where death grows, and disease, rich as verdure. He'll be back. But he won't be the same again, lovey. Never again.
     --From The Spur

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Not all the time

The world is a shabby fellow and uses us ill, but not all the time.
     --From Variation West

Friday, November 22, 2013

"So natural and so artless"

The novel progresses so natural and so artless as to make the tremendous emotional effort she makes appear to be completely absent. Yesterday evening at the reading of one of the best chapters, she cried so bitterly, with the tears running down her cheeks and her eyes turning red, that we had to interrupt for a while. It was all about the cow Bonnie having been sold.
     --From her husband Egon's journal, January 17, 1948

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dorney and Grandpa

“I don’t know what George [Cassidy] done except have a ripsnorting high old time like always. Went to the dances Saturday nights. George, he’s a fellow that’s very light on his feet, ain’t a dance that stumps him. One little lady up there—rancher’s daughter—she was pretty far gone on him, I guess. Very near had her heart busted. Same way with several.”
     Dorney lifted up her chin.
     “Put a claim on George yourself, huh?” he teased, eyeing her. “Got your dander up, huh?”
     She looked down.
     “Because just as well try to catch the wind, is all the advice I can give you.”
     She looked up again. (Not catch, you know. Be, you know. Somebody on the go, Grandpa. No more no, no. Nobody on the watch. Going, Grandpa. Person’s own boss. World spread out all over. Horse a-flying. Catching, Grandpa? Being.)
     “When I get big,” she began, and stopped helplessly.
     “Yes, ma’am.”
     “I’ll—” She stopped again.
     “Yes, ma’am.”
     “I’ll certainly—”
     He waited a moment. “You better not,” he said. “There may be a law agin it.” He smiled at her. “But on the other hand, there may not be.”
     --From Good Morning, Young Lady

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quoting: "Won't you sit down?"

What is education? Lafcadio Hearn said it is what is left after everything you have learned has dissipated into air. But say it never does dissipate, never does fuse or melt so the gold is never extracted? What shall you do then? The next best thing is to quote, my dear, like sitting down when you are tired. Once in Altman's department store Emily Post, fatigued by shopping and unable to find a chair, sat down on the floor with her legs stretched out in front of her and her packages to either side, and sat there, too imperious to be challenged, till she was ready to get up again. Quoting is like that. A chair trundled up. Won't you sit down? Thank you, I think I shall, just here on a remark by William James to the effect that "Experience is the state of having been occupied in the intercourse of life."
     --From Ardyth's memoir Bodies Adjacent

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What the bon ton was doing then

The Salt Lake Tribune printed the story of the housewarming on the front page. Twenty-eight rooms, area for a ballroom on the third floor, twenty-two-foot ceilings, corner towers, satinwood, rosewood, two dining rooms, kitchen of solid slate, ten-foot-wide airtight cookstove, built-in safes, one for the family silver made out of a ton of Ophir ore, one for Napoleon brandy and other fine liquors, one for valuables such as the Russian necklace of sapphires and a diamond bracelet that goes around the arm above the elbow five times and has three hundred diamonds running along it . . . Hot water flows through the towel racks to keep the towels warm. A carriage house, a stable, blooded horses, six house flunkies, two yard men, a stableman, coachman and man of all work. Only one other set of china like it in the world! Peacock-blue satin draperies, four hundred and two and three-fourths yards at three English pounds per yard (fifteen dollars), figure it out for yourself. Drawing room carpet alone cost five thousand dollars . . . orchestra . . . roses . . . champagne corks popping like the Battle of Antietam . . .
                The Tribune said it would like to be able to turn the clock back, to twenty or thirty years ago, and see what the bon ton, the elegantly clad company at the party, was doing then. Bent over pick, shovel and sluice box some of the haughtiest now, sweat running down their bare backs, or keeping a saloon or working in a boarding house or freighting over the mountains or hammering up a shack. Sleeping at night on a rough board bedstead with poles across for slats and a mattress and pillow stuffed with dried bulrushes; old blankets, bedbugs, lice; a filled-up private place of ease out back; soap made out of soup-fat and clay. Eating pork and beans, greasy steak, spuds, pickles, dried-apple sauce. No swans then of spun sugar and isinglass, no consommé de volaille, galantine of turkey, pheasant, bécasses et bécassines, and twenty-seven kinds of cake and candy.
                But such are the opportunities in this great land of ours if people are willing to roll up their sleeves! Or, as Minerva said when she read the account, in some cases roll up their skirts at the right moment.
     --From Variation West

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reading the Good Book--or not

In a land like ours, where Protestant principles long severed from the Roman communion hold sway, to cast off the Bible would be like repudiating soap or the Winchester carbine. So where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dwell the Good Book dwells also, large and with a Concordance, as a parlor embellishment and place to press a flower and keep family records. But as to reading it, that, the Saints of the Last Dispensation leave to the Gentiles, while the Saints themselves draw from the clanking Book found hidden like fairy gold in the Hill Cumorah that which, uncreated and eternal, subsists more in the essence of the Deity than all the other evangels in the world put together!
     --From Variation West

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Norwegian in her

I returned home to get some books and found Ardyth dressed in my GI pants, huge black socks and one of my T-shirts drinking coffee. She was going to scrub the floor in the kitchen, much to my dismay, because whenever she does I feel utterly distressed. But, she says, it's the Norwegian in her that makes her do it.
     --From her husband Egon's journal, November 25, 1947

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The dangerous future

Young men look forward, they back the future, whose business it is to be dangerous.
     --From Variation West

Friday, November 15, 2013

The blessing of polygamy

Mrs. Fay Hatch and Mrs. Pearl of Great Price Hatch said if they had it to do over, they wouldn’t (in secret and against the teachings of the church) tip a table to make contact with their husband Douglas and bring him back from the dead. Because now, of his own accord, what had he done but went back to the same schedule he used to hew to when he was alive? Monday Fay, Tuesday Pearl, Wednesday Fay, Thursday Pearl, Friday Fay, Saturday Pearl, Sunday at his mother’s house, Monday again with Fay and so on through the week. But now, of course, as a spirit or ghost, all he could do was, as you might say, haunt, make knocking noises, mischief or a nuisance out of his self. “But that is the blessing of polygamy,” Fay said when she told Hindle about it. “Only three days a week.”
     --From Variation West

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"The harmony within"

He is but a young man of twenty-two, a wandering cowpuncher, rancher and miner, nobody, nothing, but eyes light up when he walks in, the heart feels lighter. He smiles like a beam of sun, but it is not that. The curious, honoring, improvident eyes shine with good intent, but it is not that. What, then? Why is one man loved and another scorned? For what he gives or withholds? What he thinks or thinks not? Is it not rather "the harmony within" that steadies like the sight of the Pole Star?
     --From Good Morning, Young Lady

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Butch Cassidy lived, all right

Author's note: One of the characters in this book is a man who really lived: Butch Cassidy. He was a cowboy, rustler, robber and the leader of a gang that would have made Jesse James's outfit look sick: The Wild Bunch. He was a great fellow and pulled off some great stunts.
     He lived, all right. Still does, maybe.
     You are told this so that should his image amid the feigned and fictive here (like the actor Grossmith at Madame Tussaud's one day fooling the customers) all of a sudden give a wink and begin to poke its hand out to you smiling, you will not get scared out of seven years' growth.
     --From Good Morning, Young Lady

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mrs. Birdsey's compliments

She went into raptures over everything, Bishop Birdsey's wife did. It was her way. She handed out compliments like they were a cartload of strawberries that were going to spoil on her before she could get them preserved. She gave them away desperately. "Here—you take this—you might be able to get some good out of it before it spoils," her little dark eyes pleaded. After a while these laudations got to be a glut on the market and nobody openly valued them, but Mrs. Birdsey kept on just the same. Something made her do it, perhaps a deep-lying wish to be complimented in return (she never was, nobody thought of such a thing), or a painful need to be thought agreeable by her fellows, a need greater than others were tormented by, maybe, as the ibex needs mountains and the wanderoo needs trees, or if not that, a nervous habit, as some twitch and others jerk.
     It was not a bad habit! It made everybody feel wonderfully good even when they did not believe a word she was saying, or only half or three quarters believed it (for she had too often been heard giving praise where none was deserved). Certainly the Ecklund girls—Myra, too—felt better to hear that they were beautiful, bright, talented and looked nice in their clothes, than if they had heard they were not and didn't, or heard nothing. The thing about Mrs. Birdsey was, though so often giving a compliment when it was ridiculous to do so—as for instance, praising Aglia Parmalee for her good housekeeping, Mrs. Lilygren for her taste in hats and blind old Mr. Ayres for his spruceness—in one's own case, she might possibly be right, or if wrong, not SO wrong as in the case of others. Everybody disdained Mrs. Birdsey's myriad compliments. However, nobody but thought that in his own circumstance there might be a grain—no more than a grain, perhaps, but a grain—of truth in what she said.
     --From Up Home

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Pay it without a second thought"

One of the great principles of Doctor's philosophy was that there's so many varieties of misery in this life that can't be cured by money, if there's one that can, why, pay it without a second thought.
     --From Variation West

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The universal Public (whites only)

The Salt Lake House had always been (and been allowed to be, for practical purposes) non-denominational, its proprietors Mr. and Mrs. Birdwood (he a fallen-away tithe-paying Mormon, she a fallen-away tithe-paying Catholic) hospitable to the extended, international or universal Public except in cases where that Public happened to be brown, black, red or yellow.
     --From Variation West

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"A fad got started"

History wouldn’t have paid Sodom and Gomorrah any more attention than it does to St. Paul and Minneapolis had not a fad got started in the two places of fellows falling in love with fellows and pronging fellows to an extent that it even got them noticed by the authors of the Bible.
     --From Variation West

Friday, November 8, 2013

The last straw

In her mind’s eye, like a picture in a frame on the wall, Linnea saw herself at this moment in the rain and mud dragging her cow along. Where was her vanity now, that had made of her self a spotless spruced-up citified woman that any man would be proud of? Her hair blew around her face in sodden strings. She was without her corset, and had left her dignity in the drawer with it. Her Mother Hubbard was ugly and shapeless, her shoes a caution. Another year of this and what would she be like? She! who went to the wedding at the Seelys’, who could go to the Tabernacle and sit there as handsome as anybody, who could window-shop down Main Street, who could drink coffee with friend after friend—what would she be like? A cow, that’s what! As dumb and heartless and soulless and clompy and manure-heeled as a cow! And not in a class with Bonnie either.
     She stopped tugging and pulling suddenly and let the rope go. “No, sir,” she said out loud, “I’ll be damned and double-damned if I’ll do it! No, sir, by God Almighty,” she said, glaring upward through the rain and closing down her umbrella as though she had got safe at home under a snug roof. “I might not set the world on fire and I might be just as poor a sight and just as no-account in one place as another, but I’ll be damned and double-damned if I stay buried in this HOLE, pulling a COW around without a CORSET on and nobody to care whether I live or die! I’ll be TRIPLE-damned if I will!” she said. “Was I born to be planted out on ten acres like a tree and left there? No, I was not!” she said. “Was I born to have some double-damned man plant me where he wanted me and leave me there? No, I was not,” she said. “Was I born with sense enough to get in out of the rain? No, I was not,” she said, “but I’ll LEARN some sense or I’ll fall over dead trying. A house don’t have to fall on me!”
     And there it was. That was the last straw, that broke the camel’s back. A little thing, for size it up and it’s always some little thing. Not the cupboard falling on Rudie, not the mosquitoes or flies, not the loneliness and isolation, not the frozen potatoes, not running out of fuel and keeping the children in bed two days, boiling her coffee over the flame of the lamp, until Olaf sent out the load of coal he promised, not running out of flour and being two days without that, not getting scared to death in this God-forsaken place that every cough was pneumonia and every stomachache an obstruction of the bowels. No. It was dragging a cow through the mud in the rain with her shoes making that nasty, sucking, clopping, slopping, mucky sound every time she lifted her feet and the cow pulling back and her wet hair blowing in her eyes like a witch’s.
     --From The Peaceable Kingdom

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"So true and so sincere"

It is interesting enough to put down to paper—from day to day—the happenings and thoughts of a period in our lives when Ardyth has finally settled down to write. To follow her while she is writing and to see what will come of it. What being printed, published and being read will do to her—and possibly money—or not being published, not being read. I am sure though, that she never will quit writing—even though her book she is writing on now might not be what I think it is—for her life is one of devotion to writing, so true and so sincere as to admit no doubt, ever. She has the enviable gift to recollect her past and reminisce in the most minute details almost from the day she was born.
     --From her husband Egon's journal, Christmas Day 1947

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Why do we have to notice?"

If you could just be good and not know it, why, then you were really good, but the minute you knew it, you weren't so good any more. The trick was not to know. Like Wanda's oldest little girl. Pearl could sing like an angel when she was out in the yard by herself playing and didn't think anybody was paying attention, but the minute she thought somebody was, she showed off and then she didn't sing half so well any more. That's the way it was with feelings of generosity, or thankfulness, or sorrow, or anything. The minute you got to noticing, then they weren't true any more, like Pearl singing to an audience. Why do we have to notice?
     --From Good Morning, Young Lady

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Waiting for big girlhood

There's a long stretch between little girlhood and big girlhood. The child lives in the same house, but she's sent all her possessions on ahead to the new place down the road (hopes, aspirations and all her dreams are there) thinking to follow them tomorrow, next week. Too soon she sends them on ahead, and forlorn, ill at ease, finds herself waiting out her lease in empty rooms, not even a doll to play with, for the toys of childhood, these too, too soon, are given away.
     --From Up Home

Monday, November 4, 2013

Landing the Sydney Duck

One day the doctor and his driver came dragging in a great long Sydney Duck dressed in a red flannel shirt, with a mob cap on and a knife stuck in his belt. They thought at first his name was Sydney Duck, but Sydney was where he came from, in Australia, and the inflamed vermiform appendix in his caecum was about to bust, the doctor said. Ever anxious to remove this lobe, the doctor fought Mr. O’Heron, wild with fever, like a great fish he was trying to land. Finally it took all of them to get the man on the table, and the doctor even had to give him a slight clout to the temple with a stick of stove wood to keep him there.
     --From Variation West

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Ardyth is a novelist"

Since last night I knew that Ardyth is a novelist. That she is a writer with a style all her own and an imagination as apart as her hair and her eyes and her wit. But that her medium would be the novel on a large canvas I knew only since yesterday, because she read to me a whole long passage with characters more alive and near than those met in my waking hours.
     --From her husband Egon's journal, November 23, 1947

Saturday, November 2, 2013


For the first time she knew what it meant to be bereft: You had something to tell, and the only one in the world to tell it to, was gone.
     --From Good Morning, Young Lady

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Francois had enough of women"

So three generations were working at Alfonce & Son: Henri, Pierre and Francois. But with Francois the whole ancestral line ground to a halt, because Francois didn’t want to get married. Even to please his grandfather Henri on his deathbed, Francois said non, and Henri died an unhappy man. But Francois had enough of women and their hair à la Sappho, à la Venus, à la Caracalla and d’Egyptienne by day. To contend with them by night as well would have been more than he could bear.
     --From Variation West