Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ross's Eulogy for his Father 9/25/10

Here's the talk Ross gave at his Father's funeral:

A year and a half ago my wife and I moved to Wisconsin. The area where we live still qualifies as “America’s Dairyland”. About 20 miles from our house is a town called Black Earth. It is called Black Earth because of the deep rich topsoil in the area. The neighboring community of Arena has a type of soil named after it. Ever since moving to this part of the Midwest I have wished that my father could come and see what it is like farming in this area. When they plow the fields I never see a single rock laying on top of the earth. The dairy cows provide a never ending supply of natural fertilizer . None of the farmers in our area irrigate their crops. And yet, their corn is eight feet high, the alfalfa seems to get gets cut at least once a month and the vegetable gardens produce amazing yields.
I wish I could invite some of the Wisconsin farmers and gardeners to come to Utah and see what they could do with a little plot of ground at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon. I have never seen any “black earth” and if they were to name a soil type after what was in our backyard I am sure it would include rocks in the title. There is never enough rain to grow anything other than weeds, so constant irrigation is a requirement.
It was in this soil and this environment that my father was able to raise prize winning tomatoes, corn, carrots, potatoes, asparagus, Chrysanthemums and Orchids.
In addition to fruits and vegetables it was on that plot of ground at the mouth of Mill Creek canyon that my parents raised a family. Today we are here to memorialize the life of Russell Hansen and I think it is impossible to discuss his life without discussing his passion for gardening. To my nieces and nephews I hope that I can share with you some of the lessons that I learned from my father hoping that you can learn from his life and his example.
No one becomes a Master Gardner over night and I know that my father learned many of his gardening skills by trial and error. I think he always was trying to improve upon what he had done before and to learn from what others had done. A few years ago my father finally gave us a copy of his life story. After reading his story I realized for the first time that he did not have a lot of good examples teaching him about how to be a good father and raise a family. I was shocked when I read about him and his mother hiding in the back of their small home from a drunken brother looking for money with the husband and father nowhere in sight. In spite of this start he managed to raise a functional family that works together and care for one another.
I remember a cold spring storm was predicted to come one night just as the cherry tree was about to blossom. Having recently returned from living in southern California my father was very familiar with the smudge pots used by the Southern California citrus growers to protect their trees from freezing . He figured he just needed some warm smoke to protect the cherry tree during the night and thought he could create his own smudge pot by burning a tire in the wheelbarrow. A tire was found, the wheel barrow was rolled into place and the fire was started. The next day I remember seeing one-half of the cherry tree burned black and one side looking okay. As time went by obviously nothing grew on the burned side but the other half of the tree blossomed and bore fruit just as he had intended. I suspect depending on your attitude it could have been considered a success because he got fruit would otherwise have been lost but at a price of burning half of his tree. At least it was a learning experience.
In all he did I think my father was an example of commitment. Real commitment means that at times you cannot be concerned with what others may think. Many years ago our Stake experimented with a welfare project that never really got off the ground. As a result there was a green house left in the Mahoney’s back yard. Through some negotiation my father acquired the rights to the greenhouse and he resolved to move it to our yard. The proposed idea for moving the greenhouse was to remove the glass then put the frame on scaffolding with rollers and roll it down the road to our house a distance of nearly a mile. As a young teenager my biggest concern with this experiment was fear that someone might recognize me participating in moving this aluminum beast down the road. It was truly a horrifying experience. But my father committed to this project saw it through to completion and I participated although I am sure I never raised my eyes from staring at the road as we rolled along. I think the same commitment was demonstrated in the years of church service and willingness to serve two missions after his retirement.
Succesful gardening also requires determination and a willingness to keep going when things don’t turn out right. Not every crop that is planted is going to grow and sometimes the bugs and worms win. I am sure my father hoped that his children would develop a passion for gardening. If that happened it would be news to me. If lemons grew at Marsha’s house I am confident that she had nothing to do with it. And last time I checked out Kent’s condo there was no place he could have been hiding a garden. But, in spite of such a failure to produce gardening children my father never seemed discouraged and was truly thrilled when in-laws and grandchildren showed interest in what he was doing. I am sorry that I don’t think he recognized the fruits of Sheri’s garden this summer or saw Clint’s new beehive. In spite of my failings as a gardener I never felt that I was less in his sight he accepted me for what I was “a spoiled city boy”. I would like to suggest that the gene for gardening simply skipped a generation but I don’t think that would be honest or accurate.
Reaping a bountiful harvest from a garden requires attention to detail and patience. Certainly there were times when Kathy may have crashed a car into the carport or I demonstrated a reluctance to put forth a 100% effort towards pulling weeds that I felt my father was not as patient as he could have been. However, anyone who watched him starting seeds under his grow lights and transplanting seedlings in the winter knows these were efforts requiring great patience and attention. I never recall expressing an opinion on a religious or political topic and feeling like I was not being listened to or that my thoughts would be criticized. Certain family members loved to argue the opposite of whatever opinion may have been previously expressed and even they were listened to. Tolerance and patience in listening to others are attributes which seem to be in short supply in today’s world. My children always felt comfortable talking at my parents home.
I think some of the efforts at being a good father worked in kind of the same way. I have wonderful old memories of going to basketball games at the Einer Nielsen Fieldhouse at the University of Utah and sitting in general admission seats in the end zone at Utah football games –those would be successes. I also have memories of being asked whether I wanted to work in the garden or do the dishes after ose not working in the garden. That was probably not a success. In fact, I am sure Russell felt badly that none of his children developed a passion for gardening. His rewards came later as the daughters in-law and sons-in law came and were actually interested in what happened in the garden and really did want to go outside and dig up vegetables. I am sorry that he wasn’t really able to see his grandchildren brag on their blogs about their wonderful vegetable gardens and even the beehives in their backyards. I guess the gardening genes skip a generation.
Beside trial and error every garden needs some fertilizer to help it grow. I recall more than once going off someplace to retrieve a load of fertilizer to spread around the garden. If I was lucky the fertilizer was mixed with sawdust and didn’t smell so bad. I suspect that within our family there was fertilizer in the form of humor and fun. I suspect Kent was the primary purveyor of fertilizer within our family. At the family dinner table we could discuss most any topic relating to politics or current events and we were sure that Kent would provide the contrary opinion regardless of the topic. I remember travelling in the brown station wagon and singing songs on the way to California. One song was about Ragtime Cowboy Joe who lived out in Arizona. I certainly could never imagine someone from our family actually moving to Arizona. But most of all I remember singing about Quennie the Cutie of the Burlesque Show. It was only later in life when I was singing that particular song to my wife that I started to wonder about what sort of a song that was that my father had taught us. The funny thing about it is that I suspect my children probably are also familiar with the song although the tune got lost somewhere in Nevada.
No Utah garden grows without lots of watering and irrigation. I remember various irrigation methods tried over the years. There was pumping water out of the irrigation ditch at night and funneling the water down the rows of vegetables. Finally there was a new source of water up on MiIlcreek road that required us running pipes through the neighbors yards down to the garden. Within our family the essential our Out in Arizona where the badlands are lies and how they were supposed to workThings in my life that I remember
1) Going to Scout Camp
2) Weeding for one hour a day and picking up rocks in the garden
3) Being given a choice of working in the garden or doing the dishes
4) Planting flowers at my grandmothers house on Memorial Day
5) Fathers and Sons outings
6) Being encouraged to work at a scout camp
7) Filing topical law reporters in his office downtown
8) Going to the downtown library and then getting ride home
9) Business people telling me how helpful he was when I was doing computax
10) Going to Utah Stars basketball games, University of Utah football games (endzone) the old Einer Nielsen fieldhouse, Derks Field
11) Learning to ride the ropetow at Brighton then Alta
12) Family Ski Passes at Park City
13) Bishop when I returned from my mission and when I got married
14) Giving blessings to aunt in her later years
15) Backpacking to Havasupai
16) Hiking in Buckskin Gulch
17) Burning the cherry tree with the tire smudge pot
18) Dinner table conversations with Kent arguing for whatever was the opposite side
19) Handyman projects
20) Vacation to California

Ways I am like my father

1) Obsessed by hobby outside work
2) Picking up chairs after meetings
3) Reading books
4) Watching basketball
5) Trying to be helpful
6) Wishing I had children who would do the outside work
7) Exercise – heavy hands walking in the canyon

Ways I am not like my father

1) Hate gardening
2) No handyman projects

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