Saturday, May 6, 2017

Summers with Aunt Kay

Note: Tomorrow I have to teach a lesson at church for the Family History Committee on writing family stories or memories. In preparation for this I thought I would practice a little. This is a third rough draft effort. Read an earlier effort about Easter memories here.

I am blessed to be named after an amazing woman, Kay Messerly. Aunt Kay is my mother’s elder sister, a talented, funny, and resourceful lady. She worked for many years as a nurse for Southern Utah State College (now SUU). She was married to Grant, who was a journalist and sheep farmer. Together they had four kids, all older than my brothers and me.
My parents would send my brothers and I to visit Aunt Kay for two weeks each summer. At the time Aunt Kay lived on a farm outside of Beryl Junction, Utah. Beryl is literally the junction of two state highways, SR-18 and SR-56, in the southwestern part of Iron County, near Newscastle and Enterprise. The 2010 census shows a population of fewer than 200, so it is a slow, country lifestyle. There are lots of jack rabbits, vermin and flies in the scrub brush covered terrain.

When we visited, Aunt Kay and Uncle Grant lived in a home built for a Mormon polygamist family. It was two separate houses that had been converted for use by one family. One house was the kitchen, living room, and laundry/bathroom. Immediately next door, just a few paces away, was a house with bedrooms, a sitting area, and another bathroom. Later in life, Aunt Kay had the bedroom house torn down and installed a doublewide trailer.
Aunt Kay with her daughter's horse (cousin Ron to the left).
I believe this is the back of the bedroom house.
In addition to the two houses, there was a big spud cellar on the property. A spud cellar is a structure built to store things needing to stay cooler, such as fruits and vegetables. The Messerly spud cellar was partially underground and quite large. It was no longer used to store food, but did have other boxes furniture items inside. My brothers and I enjoyed sliding down the slope of the asphalt shingle covered roof for entertainment. One time I slid so many times I wore through the seat of my red pants.
Vejo, Utah Pool
Aunt Kay kept us busy playing outside, mostly because back home it was too hot to do so. Sometimes she would take us to picnic and swim in a community pool in Veyo (south of Enterprise). Back at the farm, we made forts out of old pallets, dug caves into the dunes, helped in her garden, and took walks down the dirt roads. I remember making forts connected by a plastic cup “telephone-string” system and curtains made out of scrap fabric. I believe we also had a few old doll dishes found in the spud cellar.

A few times when visiting Aunt Kay it was during July and we would get to go to the Pioneer Day celebration near Enterprise. There was good food and a rodeo to watch. My favorite though was the crash up derby. Watching the cars crash into one another until only one was left running was lots of fun. One summer my cousin Ron was in the derby, but I don’t think he won.

Ron (Aunt Kay’s youngest son), who was a good five years older than my older brother James, was lots of fun to be around. He was adventurous, funny, and creative. I believe he was the one who showed Jeff and James about digging down into the sand dunes to create a cave-like dugout. Ron took me out to shoot rabbits once; I had expressed the desire for a lucky rabbit’s foot. But after getting a real rabbit’s foot I just felt sick knowing how it was obtained.  
Aunt Kay (front left), Uncle Grant, and their four kids (1980s?).

The clearest memory I have of Ron was when he had bottle rockets to shoot off. He and a friend set them up on the back lawn. When one appeared to be a dud and fizzled out instead of taking off, Ron went to see what was wrong. Unfortunately, when he picked it up to check, the bottle rocket exploded and burned the palm of his hand quite badly. He ended up with a nasty, giant three inch blister on that palm. Luckily, with Aunt Kay being a nurse, he had excellent care and was not permanently injured.

As I reflect back on these experiences I realize the love and bonds that were forged during these summer trips. I will forever feel grateful for the relationship I have had with my Aunt Kay. Her warmth and humor made the summers of my youth memorable.

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