Sunday, September 21, 2008
In fairness, Lynne Cheney and I have never met in person.
We are both Wyoming women, girls from the sagebrush of the windswept prairie and desert, whose lives have been significantly impacted by the oil and gas industry that competes for attention with the cattle ranchers of the Equality State.
But most importantly, we share a common ancestor, Ebenezer Peck of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, which makes us distant cousins. Our own respective Peck ancestors became Mormon pioneers and crossed the plains. Her favorite to cite is Fannie Peck; mine is Martin Horton Peck, who was part of the Nauvoo Brass Band in the glory days of the Mormon settlement, and later became the first blacksmith in the Salt Lake Valley.
Lynne Ann Vincent Cheney.
Lynne Ann Vincent was born in Casper, Wyoming, and attended college in Colorado. She is an author, historian, and from 1986 to 1993 served as Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
She is currently Second Lady of the United States, a position she has held since January 2001, and married to the Vice President of the United States,Vice President of the United States, another Wyoming native, Richard Bruce Cheney.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Many years in the month of March my husband and I found ourselves on the beautiful island of Maui.
And many times, in those many Marches, we found ourselves at the Sacred Hearts School festival in Lahaina, supporting the local parish school with its annual fundraiser, where we went to eat local food, listen to local musicians, get chair massages, buy silliness and seriousness, and participate in the silent auction. It was always a good time.
Rows and rows of picnic tables lined up behind the church next to tends of food provided by local restaurants and merchants, island food, served island style, and accompanied by island music. We always met the most interesting people at those tables.
One year, we sat down in an empty space at a table across from a man in a crocheted cap, with two little girls. One was obviously his daughter, and the other, apparently was her friend. They were gracious, warm and friendly. We sat and visited about the school. The daughter attended there, with her friend, and the dad was along to support.
At some point in the conversation, it somehow seemed appropriate to ask him about himself, what he did for a living.
His daughter snickered. "What does he do?" she replied, giggling, as though I should know. "He's Marty Dread!"
He suddenly stood up and removed his cap. Dreadlocks cascaded to his shoulders, and he shook his head.
That was how we came to meet Marty Dread. He was performing at the fundraiser, with his band, later that evening, a very famous (although we didn't previously know it) Hawaiian reggae performer in the spirit of Bob Marley, and a Rastafarian who sent his daughter to Catholic school and supported the school and the local community.
We stayed to hear him sing, and he was glorious. We went out next day and bought his CDs so we could have his music with us when we returned to the mainland.
Now, when we return to Maui, we go to the Hard Rock Cafe on Front Street in Lahaina on Monday nights, where Marty Dread can be found performing with his band when he's not touring elsewhere. And we remember that great night so many years ago when we first met him over some mixed plate, with a couple of little giggling girls.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Shortly after college, I worked for two years in the early 1980's in the Department of Neurology at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, where I met and worked with a number of fascinating people who had an impact on my life.
One of them was Annie Osborn.
A graduate of Stanford Medical School, Anne Osborn was a neuroradiologist at the University of Utah, and as such, had a lot of overlap with the Neurology Department. She was at the time a single woman in her mid-thirties and a rising star in her field, well respected by her colleagues and by the medical students who trained there. She had a memorable persona, and a singular laugh that would echo down the hallway. Although not particularly old by any means, one wondered if she was likely to marry, and simply thought of her as being single, and very much a professional. The fact that she was an LDS woman, a professional, and single, was at the time somewhat noteworthy, and she was included in LDS Church publications writing on the very subject of being single in 1977.
Anne went on to write the definitive textbook on the subject of neuroradiology, and became the first female president of the American Society of Neuroradiology.
Anne G. Osborn.
Annie Osborn, the well respected, dynamic, neuroradiologist later married a General Authority of the LDS Church, Ronald Poelman, after the death of his first wife, and went on to have a successful career as an author, not just of numerous medical texts, but of religous and autobiographical works as well. Her book, The Simeon Solution: One Woman's Spiritual Odyssey, is her own account of her life and journey.
She continues to be on the staff at the University of Utah, and is well respected as an educator and author.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I was on an airplane coming back from who-knows-where in June 2002 when I picked up that day's copy of USA Today and saw a photo of Brett Parkinson directing volunteers in an organized search for missing Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart.
Brett Thomas Parkinson.
To his brothers, he was Tommy.
Everyone has that one indefinable person in their life; for me, that person was Brett Parkinson. I doubt his memory of our first meeting has faded any more than mine has. We were in Larry Best's Honors Freshman English class; I'd just read for the class my essay on Muffin Miller about my exploits as a 16-year-old cooking for a hay crew on a cattle ranch in southwestern Wyoming, and Brett, intrigued by the whole thing, pressed me to skip my next class, Poetry Writing, with Elouise Bell, to hang out with him in a booth in the Cougareat.
He was a bad influence. But lots of fun. I won't soon forget the first time he took me up to the Sundance Summer Theater in a VW he borrowed from his brother, and predictably ran out of gas. I won't forget doing laundry late at night with him and Thayne Larson. I won't forget our taking over Lorna Nielson's English class one day in her absence to read Woody Allen's "The Whore of Mensa" to the class.
Brett went off to Brazil by way of San Diego after our freshman year at BYU. I had the distinct privilege and great honor of seeing him off at the Salt Lake City Airport with extended family and friends and being his personal correspondent for the next two years. I won't forget that his aunt, Jackie Nokes, was "Miss Nancy" from Romper Room (I'd actually been a guest as a young child). I won't forget when he left. I won't forget when he returned, or the years that followed with a wider circle of ragtag friends at BYU. It's all fairly impressed in vivid memory.
Those were formative years.
The missives from Brazil were precious treasures--tales of Ipanema, and Copacabana, running on the beach, getting unauthorized tans, sipping much-too-bubbly guarana, waltzing on the edges of Carnival, noting the poverty of the Brasilian people perched on the mountainside in glaring contrast to the wealthy lower down, unfortunate and unexpected calamities, and of course, the colorful mission president who was a former Methodist minister, Helio da Rocha Camargo--sometimes accompanied by photos, or interesting cards, and the occasional highly entertaining and not easily forgettable audiotape, and all signed off in the same memorable signature. They contained much love for the father and mother he adored, a progressive, fit and well travelled physician father he greatly admired, and a strikingly beautiful and talented mother who reminded him of a young Marlene Dietrich.
I won't forget walking around the Joseph Smith building discussing the latest issue of Dialogue, singing Saturday's Warrior tunes, spending late nights at Perkins Cake and Steak, babysitting Aerie and Miel, or driving to Ogden to see our mutual friend Diana Sather. I won't forget him sitting outside the communal bathroom in our girls-only Heritage Halls apartment while I was soaking in the bathtub, which for BYU, seemed fairly provocative at the time. One of our first late night walks outside Deseret Towers mused on topics mixing the urbane and the theological in ways that were decidedly consciousness raising for a 17-year-old, and that typified many of our subsequent conversations. He was the face and sensibility of Ralph Fiennes atop a Trevor Southey mannekin, with equal parts of Ryan O'Neal from "What's Up, Doc?"
He was a runner, running from the desert palms of Indio and the Coachella Valley to the hills of Provo and the beaches of Rio and beyond. And he had an amazing facility for languages (as a freshman he came into BYU with the high score on the National Spanish Exam). He had a restless spirit, an inquisitive mind, and a generous heart, all gifts to those who knew him well.
Somewhere at the bottom of the Amazon is my copy of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" loaned to him, with copious notes in the margins.
Brett came back from his mission to Brazil not knowing whether to go into medicine (as his father and oldest brother had), or law (as another brother had). He eventually finished his degree in English at BYU, married well, violinist Kelly Clark, and went off to Tulane to medical school. I was working at the University of Utah Medical Center some years later when I saw her perform in concert on local television, with images of Brett in the audience and their newborn son.
Many years later I became friends, quite coincidentally, with one of his former missionary companions from Chicago; to identify that person with the "Elder West" in Brett's always colorful missives from Brazil was somewhat of a disconnect.
Dr. Brett Parkinson is now a radiologist practicing in Salt Lake City, Utah, and one of the leading authorities in the field of breast imaging. He recently led a medical mission to establish the first breast imaging and breast cancer clinic in the African nation of Tanzania.
Monday, September 1, 2008
The first southern gentleman I ever personally met was my Uncle Hight. He and Aunt Dorothy had a ranch just outside Evanston, Wyoming, on the way to the High Uintas. Uncle Hight was a transplant from the Carolinas whose ancestors were all very much on the south of that Mason-Dixon line, and listening to him as a child was the first taste I had of the realities of the Civil War, that there were actually people who'd been on the southern side of it. It was all so very real.
He was the first person to sit me down on a milking stool and teach me to milk a cow, the first to show me baby lambs, the first to put me on the back of a seasoned old mare.
I loved going to their ranch in the summertime, loved Aunt Dorothy's boiled raisin cookies with chocolate chips washed down with fresh milk (okay, the fresh milk took some getting used to), their horses, the interesting things in the ranch house and the barn. I loved all of it. They were radiant and loving as a great aunt and uncle, and he managed to fit into the wilds of Wyoming in spite of being a Carolina boy.
Hight Moore Proffit.
Hight Moore Proffit was not just a rancher, or a Dixie charmer. He was a servant of the people. He served eight years in the Wyoming State Senate and two years in the House of Representatives. His wife, Dorothy Ardell Marsh Proffit, succeeded him in the Senate when he was unable to complete his term due to ill health.
He died January 30, 2002, at the age of 90.