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Jerry Kendall

Jerry Kendall: My Christmas Story: No Stolen Yule Tree Back In The Day

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By Jerry Kendall, guest columnist

I went to the post office yesterday to send a package. The nice lady behind the counter, was smiling despite the long line of folks lined up to send off Christmas gifts. She asked if I would like someone to sign for the package at the other end to ensure that it didn’t get stolen off the front porch. 

I thought. “Who would steal a Christmas gift off of someone’s porch?” My thoughts went back to long ago when a young sailor, stationed far from home, was wrestling with his own conscience. He was newly married, living off base and trying to get by on $300.00 a month. It was right before Christmas and his new bride sure wanted a tree but he had no money.

 A grocery store, near his apartment had a bunch of them out on their parking lot which they left out all night. He thought about coming by at night and just taking one. But, stealing a Christmas tree seemed like a terrible thing to do. 

Besides when he was younger and in the boy scouts, his troop sometimes sold the trees to make money for the scouts. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like a bad idea. 

Finally, he decided to go the owner of the store. He asked him if there was something he could do to earn one of those trees to take home. 

The man put his hand on the young sailor’s shoulder and said, “You’ve earned it by wearing that uniform young man. How about you just pick yourself out a tree and take it home.” 

I learned a lot that day and I have never forgotten it. 

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Jerry Kendall: Dad Sold Favorite Fishing Pole So His Boys Could Enjoy July 4th

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By Jerry Kendall, guest columnist

JEFFREY CITY – Once again, Memorial Day is on the horizon. It’s a day for reflection. A special time set aside for remembrance of the folks who have made a difference in our lives. The people who made the world a better place to live. We keep them alive by remembering.

A while back my big brother told me a story about our father. He was killed in a mine accident in 1960. I was 10 years old then and at 71 years, I still love to hear stories about him or anything that has to do with him. I miss him every day.

My big brother was over at a friend’s house one day and the talk got around to fishing. His friends uncle was there and he asked my brother if he knew that he had one of my dads’ old bamboo fly rods. “No, how did you come by that?” My brother, excited by the prospect of seeing something of Dads.

The old man smiled and took a seat on the sofa. “Well, your father had seen me a eyeballing his bamboo fly rod on many occasion. One day, he come to me, pole in hand. “I have seen you admiring this pole for a long time now, so I got a proposition for you. I have no money for fireworks for my boys this year so I will sell you this pole and reel so that I might give them a good 4th of July.”

My brothers eyes filled with tears.

He knew that the pole had been special made for Dad and it meant a lot to him. “He sold you his prize fishing pole so that we could have fireworks? Can I buy it back from you?”

The old man smiled sadly and said. “No, I’m sorry son but he was my best friend and it means too much to me to part with. When I’m fishing with it, I feel that he is standing right there beside me.”

When I heard this story I realized that, I missed my father every day and loved him so very much. But knowing how he must have loved us boys, to sell his bamboo fly rod, that meant so much to him, so that we could have a happy 4th of July.

The very thought of it was like the feeling I used to get when I would fall asleep on the floor in front of the TV and he would gently pick me up and carry me to my bed, tuck me in and kiss me on the forehead. “Goodnight Son.”

We keep them alive by remembering.

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Growing Up in Jeffrey City, Wyoming

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By Jerry Kendall, Cowboy State Daily

Whenever I mention that I grew up in Jeffrey City, I almost always get the same response: “Really? Jeffrey City? I’m sorry.”

Then I spend the next 15 minutes trying to convince the person that it wasn’t a bad place to grow up. My explanation generally starts with, “the wind blows a lot but after a while, you hardly notice.”

Well, anyone who has ever lived there knows that you never get used to it. Ever! You just sort of live with it and adapt.  

Ain’t no one better at adapting than kids.

Now you’ve got to realize these were the days before video games, computers, cell phones, and if you even had a TV, you only got one channel.

We spent all our free time outside and it seemed there was always plenty to do. After all, we did have the whole Red Desert for our backyard.

Our family actually lived on the back trailer row of the town and as the wind ripped through the gap between Green Mountain and Crooks Mountain, we were pretty much the first thing in its path other than the sagebrush.

I can remember watching the walls of our trailer moving in and out, like some great aluminum salamander breathing. Sometimes the windows would bow in until I thought they would shatter, sending shards of glass into anything in their path. Folks would put old tires on their roofs to keep them from rumbling as the wind swept over them. As I mentioned, the wind blew some in Jeffrey.

During the winter there were huge snowdrifts, which set up to the point where you could carve out caves or build forts made from blocks carved with shovels. We used these fortresses for huge snowball fights amongst warring enemies. We played king of the mountain on a mound of snow that would have been considered a real mountain in some states.

When it got cold enough, the miners would go out into a nearby field and push up snow walls with plows or backhoes into a large square and then fill the center with water for a skating rink. Almost every kid in town would show up with their battered old hockey skates. If you tried to skate against the wind you would end up going backwards until you ran into the snowbank on the downwind side of the rink.

What most of us would like to do was walk in the snow up the side until we got to the upper end. Then holding you coat open so the wind filled it like a sail, we would fairly fly across the rink, smashing into the bank at the other end and rolling through the snow out into the field. Hey, when you get lemons, make lemonade!

I remember one hot summer day, my buddy Dean Axtell and I were wandering around town, slingshots hanging from our back pockets, wondering what to shoot next when we spied a large refrigerator box behind the mercantile. We decided to make a fort out of it.

The wind was howling as usual. This box was a place to get away from being sandblasted for a while. Fighting the wind, we dragged it out to one of the few grassy areas in town, which ran along the highway and we crawled inside.

Much to our delight, we started rolling alongside the highway, tumbling all over each other and laughing uncontrollably. As we gained momentum, I ended up rolling out the end of the box, landing in a heap on the grass.

“Hang on Dean!” I shouted as I ran to catch up. But I couldn’t catch up. Dean was a little feller back then and he and that box were headed east at a high rate of speed. Just when I thought I would never see my little buddy again, the box spit him out as well. He was so dizzy he couldn’t stand up, so as any good friend would do, I ran up and dog-piled him.

We sat in a heap, laughing until our sides hurt and watched in amazement as the box began taking huge leaps into the air. The last time we saw it we figured it was headed for Casper. “Well, now what do you wanna do?”

 Everything considered, Jeffrey City was a great place to grow up in. We had movies in the old Quonset hut on Friday nights. We had a small outdoor swimming pool. We even had a bowling alley, which had been moved from Lander. Add that to the Sweetwater River within walking distance to swim and fish in and of course the Red Desert in our backyard to explore.

One thing though  .  . . the wind does blow there a bit.

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