Wednesday, August 19, 2009

As I promised...

Here it is the tour of my hometown! First I must say I never realized that my upbringing was unique until I started teaching school in the ghetto's of Atlanta. In fact, stories of my youth became so popular with my students that I used it as a discipline method. I would tell stories about my childhood on Fridays if my students managed to behave all week, which, I must add, was rare. It was while teaching that I realized one, I was pretty lucky to have been born where I was born and two, my childhood seemed to parallel the childhood of others the only difference being their childhood occurred at least 50 years previous to my own. Yes, this is the topic of which a Newsweek article was written entitled something to the effect, "the town that time forgot." Unfortunately I can't find proof of this article's existence so I am writing my own.

I hope you can read the sign above that says,"POP. 750" make that 749, afterall, I left remember? Someone built this beautiful introduction to my hometown for their Eagle Scout project. Sanford was settled by early pioneers sent from the headquarters of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City as an effort to develop Southern Colorado.

This is main street, essentially the only paved street in town and obviously absent of all stoplights. In fact, main street is so small that if you timed it right you could stick a spot light out of your truck window and manage to put out every single street light in town before the first one would come back on. According to my last count there are at least 13 stop signs in Sanford. Seven of which I ran when I was sixteen, not knowing the cop was following behind me with his lights off, very stealth, right? When he finally pulled me over my mom drove by and started yelling at me from her car window. She actually saved me a ticket because our town cop simply said, "Drive home Melisa I think your mom can take better care of this problem than I can."

This is the house I grew up in, smack dab in the middle of Sanford's main street. I felt like I was at the center of the universe. My house was the meeting place for most of the important events in my early life and whenever anyone drove past they would honk their horn, especially my friend Shae. Shae's car, charmingly we called the car Patsy, had a tendency to honk without being asked and generally at times when we were trying to be inconspicuous. Sometimes Patsy would honk for a solid ten minutes before being quiet. Patsy was like our master of ceremonies constantly announcing our arrival at each and every social event.

So, where do you shop in such a small town? Well, you don't, not really anyway. We didn't even have a gas station. But, we had a few shopping options when I was a kid. Above is Arlene's house. We were able to buy penny candy there after school and yes, the candy was really a penny. Below is Scott's Country Store, this was where we spent most of our lunch breaks from 7th grade until we graduated. Scott makes a great green chili-cheese burger at his store. Scott also hosted a weekly meeting in his store to discuss books and current events. He called this little club F.O.B. or Friends of Ben, (Ben Franklin that is). My dad was a founding member.

So, what do you do for fun in a small town? Well, sports of course ruled and continues to rule life in Sanford just as it does in most small American towns. Life at home stops, including school, when there is a football or basketball game. The whole town shows up and when the game is over it is a topic of conversation for the rest of the week, until the next contest begins. We also rode horses, although I was half-way afraid of my paint horse named Skeeter. He was a bit of a spook. Although the stories my friends and I used to make up about our superior skills as horsewomen were second to none.
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Hay gets trucked out of my hometown to dairy farms in Texas and throughout the country on a daily basis. So, a favorite pastime was playing on top of these enormous stacks of hay, building forts with smaller bales, and playing king of the mountain in smaller stacks.

The Sanford Canal was built by early settlers to irrigate the fields around the town. In the summer time we would float down the canal on tubes, from one end of town to another and then catch crawdads in the water when we were done.

I never learned to swim very well, but what I did learn I learned in the rivers around Sanford. Mischief seemed to direct us to the river most summer nights and weekends. Different parts of the river had different names, like the Sanford Beach, or The Partying Grounds. The bridge below is where I jumped off into the icy water the night before high school graduation. It seemed like a harmless thing to do, until I caught a horrible cold and lost my voice. I had to sing at our graduation ceremony. I am living proof that Heavenly Father helps even stupid people, because I was granted my singing voice for the song and then it was completely gone for several days.

When we weren't at the river we spent a lot of time in two different places. The prairie and on top of Saddle Back, the mountain in the photo that looks the most like a saddle. A quick climb up the rattle snake infested Saddle Back gave you the most optimum view of our quaint little hamlet. We used to take the "city boys" (not Scott) who thought Sanford would better be known as Hicksville up that mountain. Then we would pretend to be afraid of some strange noise. The boys would get all tough and excited that they were going to have their chance to protect us poor defenseless girls and then we would take off running down the mountain, hide in the sage brush and scare them nearly to death as I recall. Once, after terrifying one of these boys we watched him roll down the mountain and then pee his pants. He honestly thought we were witches after that night and would never speak to us again.

The prairie on a summer night was not the place for any PETA members. We spent the hours in the time-honored tradition of RAT STOMPING. That's right, walking through the brush at night and watching the rats and mice scurrying around our feet while competing to see who could stomp the most. The boys were always armed and shot anything that moved. I am still surprised none of us got killed. Once we shot a coyote on the prairie. Then we waited until it got really stiff and smelly too. Next, we twisted its limbs into a totally inappropriate gesture and placed him on the steps of the church early one Sunday morning. Yeah, everyone that was us!

One of my buddies had a generator and an old TV. We would take that generator and TV out to the prairie on a Saturday night and watch Horror Movies on an old couch we found at the dump. It was that terrifying fun that you couldn't get enough of as a kid.

The cemetery was always good for a few laughs. In fact, being scared and scaring other people was our favorite thing to do. My mom gave us the idea of laying on the graves with white sheets over us. Then when a car would pass by we would rise up from the dead. We almost caused several traffic accidents when we played this game. The cemetery wasn't always fun though. We buried several friends while we were in high school, and I think most of us still struggle to understand why they were taken from us. Hey, but on a lighter note check out the sign for the Sanford Cemetery (another eagle project). The sign actually says "welcome!" Really? Isn't that ironic? Notice the picture of the spooky looking tombstones. These markers used to glow in the middle of the night. We would hang out around the "glowing grave" and tell ghost stories late at night. Even my little boys have visited the glowing grave.


The dirt roads and fields around home were where I learned to drive and where I got my first kiss. My friends and I snuck out one night and met some boys under these trees on a deserted back road outside of town. Not exactly romantic, but it got the job done.

Not following through on a dare was a cardinal sin as a kid. Twice my friends dared me to "SHOOT the MOON." Of course I did. First, I stuck my bare butt out of the back window of our school bus while in route to a basketball game. I watched in ever increasing horror as the car following our bus never turned, but just kept following us all the way to the parking lot of the school where the basketball game would be held. The two men in the car waited for the bus to unload, anxiously waiting for the last passenger. I was the last one off and therefore the first one confronted by these two men, none other than the referees for our game that evening. The second time I was prompted to "Moon" someone the exact same thing happened only this time I managed to moon the mayor of our town, Gary Bailey. The mayor's home is pictured below.

There are two buildings in Sanford. The Mormon Church and the School. So, of course all activity in the town centered around these two structures. It also helped that they were only separated by a baseball field. It was in the parking lot of this church under a light pole that I first saw my future husband. I was twelve, he was thirteen and he was trying to break into this enormous blue car with a Disneyland bumper sticker on the back. I knew the car well, it belonged to the Vannoy family. They lived close to me on Main street. I had a role in the 24th of July Pageant but was kicked out of the church building until my part began for being to loud. I yelled at the boys for their criminal actions and they laughed and said it was their cousin's car. The Vannoy's hadn't mentioned any cousins to me, especially cute ones who happened to be felons. I ran into the church and told the Bishop. At some point in the evening I was introduced to the boys, one being Scott, the other a cousin and when I realized they were generally law abiding children we were almost inseparable for the rest of the summer. I would never be the same!


Across from the church is the Sanford post office. Our post master lived in this house/post office throughout my childhood. This is where I went to mail back all of the letter's that a younger Scott Butler wrote to me after our first summer together. Of course I didn't send them until I had ripped them into a million tiny pieces, all because the boys at school were hassling me about being in love with a "City BOY!" Eventually, I proved them right. I was in love with a city boy.


Kindergarten through 12th grade students all go to school in this building. There were 26 kids in my class, only 8 were boys and we were together everyday for 13 years. The same group of kids, in all the same classes for years and years. There were problems, but we also developed a incomprehensible bond with one another. This is the building where I went to three proms, four homecoming dances, and four Sadie Hawkins dances. This is the building where I found a chicken in my locker my junior year and where I got caught kissing my boyfriend behind the stairs in 8th grade. I got into my first fist fight by the swings in 3rd grade and got my first spanking by Mr. Mortensen our principal.
This was the first of three spankings that I received in elementary school, but maybe the only one I really deserved. I certainly didn't deserve the whallop I got for hitting Mrs. Canty with a piece of clay in the back of the head while she was writing on the chalk board, but I got one anyway. School was where we were forced to eat all of our school lunch and Mr. Mortensen would hover over us while we tried to keep the nasty food down. What little scraps were left on our trays were then placed in huge buckets to be taken to the farm pigs for dinner. Once my dog Ginger followed me to school and got into the slop buckets. He threw up for a week. The next time Mr. Mortensen asked me to finish all of my Beef Stew at lunch, I told him it wasn't even fit for a dog and how Ginger ate it and threw up for a week. I didn't get spanked for that but I had to memorize the Gettysburg address. I was in 4th grade. School was easy but sports were tough and so was trying to get along. I didn't get away with much. I had an uncle as a teacher/coach, an aunt as a teacher, another uncle as a principal, and my dad was on the school board. When I quit playing basketball my junior year, this lucky familial arrangement at the school made me the most likely candidate to be a junior janitor. As I cleaned the boys toilets after school everyday I realized I should have never quit playing basketball. I loved sports but was never able to take things very seriously as a kid. My joy in sports came from making the other team angry with me. For instance, in Volleyball we wore long sleeved uniforms. I would write the other teams name on my arm followed by the word SUCKS! I would walk up to the net facing off with my opponent, slide my sleeves up my arms and to their dismay they would see those words written on my arm and all anyone ever wanted to do was beat me up. I fouled out faster than anyone in the history of high school sports in one basketball game and got a clip board thrown at my head by a coach for my antics.

Where to stop! I suppose I could go on forever. But I know that none of these stories are new or exciting to my friends back home, they are simply a way of life. However, they are things I want my own children to understand about their mother and they are memories that I will always cherish. We didn't have much and we definitely didn't have much to entertain us, but I never remember being bored. Life was good. I felt like a famous person as a kid, everyone knew us, most even saw my bare butt from time to time, and they loved us anyway!

7 comments:

Chris Andria & Alexis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Andria & Alexis said...

hat is such a great story about life in the valley! I can attest to turning the lights off on Sanford's Main Street as well.....great times :)

Tracy said...

Hilarious!!! those are great stories to tell to city kids in Atlanta or anyone anywhere! the car Patsy made me laugh out loud... that would just be so funny to be riding in a car and have it start honking for no reason. hahahaha

Kristin said...

That is great. What hicks we all are. I loved every part of this post.

The McGill Crew said...

LOVE IT!!! What an awesome childhood! Had a blast going on the town tour!!!!!

G&G said...

Gee, I never knew that about the Sanford lights, would have tried if I would have known. But La Jara kids favorite things was messing with the goal posts!!!!

The Hasletts said...

I feel like I just went through my scrapbook of memories. We sure had a lot of fun-hope our kids have as great a time in school as we did! Thanks for the giggles...