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songs in the desert

March 23, 2010

Again, it’s early morning. Something about the quietness of that time triggers memories. This morning the memories are right outside my window because I’m sitting at Notah’s house looking at the coming day from my recliner. It is gray and overcast this morning here. For a few minutes therising sun broke through the clouds and laid golden strips across the landscape but now it is hidden. The wind has kicked up dust infront of the distant hills. I’m tremendously content to be back in the desert, even if it is 150 miles from Rock Springs. It is still wonderful.

As I read over the previous post just now, I thought of another song in the desert. One day Linda Maddux and I were walking along the base of the cliffs along the road that led cross country to the highway (Today it is a real road, black topped even!) I don’t remember what day of the week it was, probably a Saturday because we were free in the middle of the day and that wouldn’t have happened on a weekday. I would have been in the classroom and Linda would have been occupied with room mother duties.

As we walked along there was a quiet atmosphere over Rock Springs and we were talking about inconsequentials. Out of the silence we heard a Navajo song rising out of the hills. It came from our right on over the hill behind Johnny Howe’s house. It was the chanting, rhythmic lifting of syllables you only hear in Navajo land. The song was as beautiful as the one I’d heard in the early morning except that it was a young voice singing. The voice was older than an elementary school child, but not yet achieving the maturity of the later teens.

We stood there enjoying it for several minutes. Suddenly the words coalesced from the rhythm and strings of syllables! The voice was singing Standing On the Promises! The melody was gone, translated into the up and down chant rhythm of the Navajo. The words were separated at odd points to match the necessary cadence of traditional singing. It was even more beautiful than the Navajo song I’d heard before floating over the sage and rabbitbush.

We never knew who it was singing. He would probably have been too embarrassed to admit it even if we had asked around. I wish I knew..

A quick word about Linda Maddux. She and I came to the Rock Springs Mission at the same time. Linda was still finishing her last year of high school when she felt the call to work on the mission. It is a credit to her parents’ dedication to the Lord that they sent her with their blessing.

Linda came as a room mother. She took care of the kids from the time they got out of school in the evenings until they returned to me the next morning. During the day when they were in school Linda was in school also, finishing her senior year. Lorene Brown did the laundry every day-full sets of clothes and underwear for 30 little bodies have to washed every day, leaving them for ‘laundry day’ would make an impossible task. After Lorene finished the laundry she returned the folded clothes to the dorm and when Linda returned from school she put them in the piles for each child in the giant closet if sister McCormich hadn’t had time to do it..

It was from this closet each day that she chose the outfits for each child. Although if a child asked for some particular shirt or dress, she tried to give it to them, it wasn’t possible to allow the children to go in the closet and pick their own outfit. Think of the mess your children make of their rooms when they pick their clothes in the morning! Now multiply that by thirty all confined to one room. Linda got the outfits ready for her group and laid them out each morning. (We also had sister Aneza Ebanks and Sue McCormick, but that was later)

It takes a lot of work to care for that many kids and still keep a homey atmosphere in a dorm. These weren’t just school kids boarding in a dorm. We cared about each one and loved them almost as our own. The atmosphere in the dorm did have some rules about running around and so forth, but we spent time with the kids, playing with them, talking about the things kids are interested in and going on long hikes. We all ate in the dining room at several big tables. Each table had a one or two adults sitting at it with the kids and there was general conversation and fun going on during meals. It wasn’t confined to the kids sitting alone, just talking to each other like you see in other dining hall situations, it was like eating dinner at your own house with a big family. Like I said, it was a lot of work, but everybody loved it.

Those kids were special. I wonder where they are today.

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