My Personal Remembrances of
my Mother, Verna Perry Ririe
By David Ririe
Mother's Patriarchal Blessing said, "You
are a diamond, yea a costly pearl."
The Patriarch was truly inspired when
those words were given to her. Often I have said that the mistakes made
by me could by no means be blamed on my parents, and especially my Mother.
She was constantly a teacher, both by precept and by example.
One time when I was a boy Mother showed
me a group of bulletins she had acquired from the University of Idaho.
In one of them experimental work of an agricultural research station
was written about. She said to me, "This is something you might
be interested in.” Subconsciously I think from that time on I wanted
to do something in agricultural science. She wanted her children to be
educated. I recall how happy she was when I elected to go to Ricks college
in preference to the state school at Pocatello and again when I chose
Brigham Young University at the close of World War II. Incidentally,
she also said, "David, you should be a Lawyer” on several
occasions when I argued with her.
As I look back on my childhood and
the summers on the dry farm, I recall how hard she worked. She even drove
the horses as the land was harrowed. She cooked for the family and for
hired men all of her life. Our dry farm house was not much more than
a shack. No flowers or lawn or sidewalks surrounded it. It was heated
with the same wood burning stove upon which the cooking was done. Water
for all culinary purposes was carried in a bucket from a cistern. Her
broom was always worn out from sweeping the dirt off of the door yard,
which she did every morning to make the yard appear somewhat presentable.
She said she liked her broom to be worn down because it worked better
She was devoted to her children. Most
of the tears that I saw her shed were because of us. She was tender-hearted
and cried easily. One time she became so frustrated with Clive that she
took a willow to tan him. Before she even touched him, he let out a wail
that could be heard a block away and hastened to submit to her will.
Afterwards, as was invariably the case when she scolded us, I found her
in her room crying.
After my pneumonia operation at the
age of four years, she nursed me back to health. She insisted that I
walk for a time each day with a broomstick locked across my back and
held by arms in such a manner that it straightened my back. The doctor
told me that it would keep my back from being bowed. It was quite uncomfortable,
but patiently she persuaded and cajoled me into doing it. She was very
frightened by pneumonia. My heart ached for her one day when she, while
walking and carrying Clive home from town for a doctor's appointment,
informed me that she was crying because he had pneumonia.
A few days before our sister Anne was
to be born, Mother slipped on a bunch of dandelion stems that we had
left on the porch. As a result she had a difficult birth and little Anne
died after three days on this earth. After three boys, Mother finally
had a little girl and now that eagerly anticipated baby girl was gone.
Mother must have grieved with her broken heart, but we were not blamed
because of the fall our innocent carelessness had caused. How happy she
was when dear little Carma was born and she finally had a little girl
to go with her three boys.
She told me once how hurt and angry
she was when Uncle Hebe took his first look at me and said that I was
an ugly baby. At the birth of Jim, the next to last of her eight children,
she said to me with a teasing twinkle in her eyes that each successive
baby was more handsome than the last. It would have hurt, but for two
reasons. I knew she didn't really believe it and I didn't believe it
The next Thanksgiving after Jim was
born she asked me what I was thankful for. I spouted out a list of the
usual things. She listened intently then looked lovingly at Baby Jim
as she said, "But haven't you forgotten someone.”
"Oh, yes," I replied, "I
am thankful for the baby."
She worried about our safety. When
Max was eight years old and I was ten tears old, Dad sent us to the dry
farm for the summer with a horse named Banjo and a useless dog named
Tip to herd our sheep and those of Bishop Hyrum T. Moss, our neighbor.
She gave Max and me tobacco cans containing matches, a piece of string
to be used as a tourniquet, and a razor blade. Then she instructed us
that if we should be bitten by a rattlesnake that the tourniquet should
be applied, cuts made across the rattlesnake fang marks and the poison
blood sucked out and spit on the ground. Not until I had little boys
of my own did I appreciate the feelings her tender heart felt as she
worried about our safety during that long summer. Very often on Tuesdays,
she would appear on the dusty farm road and sit with us as we ate the
good things she brought and listened to a primary lesson.
Mother once had a terrible fright.
At a Church holiday celebration on the Lundquist Ranch, the men of the
Ward were riding steers. We were some distance from the corral chute
when a speaker announced, "The next rider will be Clive Ririe.” Clive
was about ten years old at the time or perhaps even younger. Mother was
always deliberate in her movements and generally unhurried, but on this
occasion she could have broken an Olympic hurdling record as she crossed
the farm yard and removed Clive from the steer's back.
Mother raised a garden every year and
it seemed that every year she bought baby chicks and raised them. Quite
often the chicks died, but she kept at it. During my last summers at
home we enjoyed many a fryer that she had raised and of course her chickens
kept us well supplied with eggs.
Mother didn't work outside our home,
but she did augment Dad's farm income. She churned butter with the cream
from our excess milk, which she formed into carefully weighed cubes
while mixing in coloring and I think a little salt. Then she wrapped
them in clear paper and took them to Hunter's Grocery Store where she
traded the butter for other groceries. Once I heard her say, "I
hope Gus doesn't sell my butter to Mrs. ---. She's so particular and
I'd die if she found a hair in it. "
With Lee Bush, Lawrence Bush, Wayne
Harris, and the Woods' boy, Mother played in a dance band. They rehearsed
and set up their dance program around our piano. The young men who were
in high school at the time would sing the newest hits or play them on
their instruments and Lee Bush, who played the violin by ear, and Mother
who played both from sheet music and by ear, would pick up their parts
and play the numbers. Mother was by far the most talented musician I
have ever known. Once she heard a number, it seemed to be indelibly committed
to her memory. My earliest recollection of her piano playing, however,
was not from gleefully listening as she rehearsed for the Saturday night
dances, but it was when she played background music in the local theater
as silent movies were being shown. She sat at the piano at the side of
the show house and while following the action on the scene played piano
music to accompany the moods of the scenes that were shown. The first
picture show I remember seeing was a Tarzan of the Apes movie to which
she played appropriate background music. One time Mother was unable to
play for the performance so the theater manager asked Mrs. McCorkle to
take her place. The next time he saw Mother he said, “Please don’t
miss anymore shows. During the most tender love scene, Mrs. McCorkle
was playing Le Marseilles.”
Mother's piano music brought joy to
our home and because of her incredible talent she contributed gaity,
culture, spirituality and refinement to the community. I do not believe
there was a person in our ward who sang a solo or a part in a musical
group that Mother did not accompany. They often came to our house to
rehearse and she was of great help to them. She also assisted them greatly
during performances. With several of the soloists her ability to change
keys was taxed to the limit. She accomplished several key changes during
a number without the rest of most of us realizing that a change had occurred.
One of Mother's unrealized desires
was to learn to play a pipe organ. Once at Conference time she sought
for a seat that enabled her to watch the Tabernacle Organist as he accompanied
the choir and congregational singing.
When the high school started a band
she organized the Band Mothers and became president of the group that
raised money for the needs of the band. She served in this capacity even
after I disappointed her by dropping out of the band. Her disappointment
was definitely not shared by other band members, one of whom proposed
that a trombone player who forgot his instrument should take mine because
I couldn't play it anyway.
Mother's remarkable memory was not
in music alone. She was a walking phone book. We did not use the book
because we could get practically every number we wanted by merely asking
her what so and so’s number was. I never knew her to make an error.
She aided her memory by keeping a daily diary which contained the happenings
of each day and it was often referred to by the rest of the family. Even
with her memory, she didn't trust her mental notes for anything but worked
off a long list of appointments and tasks that she needed to accomplish.
She was very well organized, although there was so much to do and so
little time to accomplish her family, Church, and community duties that
some things remained undone. Her long list was impossible to finish with
so little help given to her by the rest of us. Housework or any other
duty never superceded her desire to see to the needs of her children.
In the wintertime when we would come
home from school she often had a warm dish or two ready for us. She was
an excellent horsewoman. Many times after I obtained skis I would come
home from school and find that she had saddled a horse and was ready
to ride. Off we would go, galloping up and down the country lane or through
an open field with her on the horse and me on my skis. The horse pulled
me as I held on to a long rope, which she had tied to the horse’s
tail. I don't know how much enjoyment the horse felt, but Mother laughed
when I fell off the skis, praised me when I successfully negotiated the
drifts and we truly enjoyed the sport and the warm cocoa or hot soup
that followed the fun.
Mother laughed as easily as she cried.
Her dry wit was such that it crept up on you. One day a funeral was held
in the Chapel. Just as the service ended and the procession started for
the cemetery, I drove a team of horses out in front of the lead car.
For several blocks the team pulled me and the Hoover Wagon at the head
of the row of cars. The procession was even slower than usual and I expected
to hear about my negligence for not being alert and waiting for the cortege
to pass. Mother, however, put my mind at ease when she and Dad came into
the house. Dad looked sternly at me and then she laughed and said, "It's
been a wonderful funeral, Dad spoke, I played the organ, and David led
the procession." Dad said nothing to me about it.
When Dad was elected to the Legislature,
he was happy about it, but Mother was obviously not as impressed with
his victory. She said, "I don’t know why you should brag about
it. After all you yourself said you were running against a sheep rustler."
One day Dad entered the house in a
bad mood. He was grumbling because the government agency that had hired
him to measure land for a wheat acreage limitation program had not paid
him and he was accusing the Democratic Administration and especially
Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, of crooked dealing. Mother
told me afterward that that was the day she confessed to him that she
had voted for Hoover. Mother was a Republican, but she probably voted
for Democrats if she felt good about their candidacy. When I expressed
surprise and anger because the paper reported that a few people in the
Ririe Precinct had voted against Dad, she consoled me by teaching me
a political fact. Some people vote along the party line with little or
no thought as to which party's candidate is most qualified.
Mother was an excellent cook. She seldom
used a recipe, but tossed in the ingredients from memory. Her homemade
bread was unexcelled. She and Vivian Bush made their own yeast from potato
peelings and quite often borrowed starter yeast from each other. On rare
occasions, the salt would be left out of the oatmeal or a batch of bread,
but we laughed about it and ate it anyway. My friends liked to come to
our table and I hated to go to theirs for the same reason. She cooked
better food and served more of it than my friends did. One time Max and
I came home from Ricks College and described to her a delicious upside
down cake that we had been served in the college cafeteria. She decided
to make it for us. The final product wasn't anything like we described
to her, but it was better. Her cookies loaded with gumdrops were not
excelled by any cookies that I've ever eaten. Even after she got a wonderful
electric stove, she still said she felt her results were better on the
old iron wood stove. She was diet conscious and bought oranges by the
Case in the winter months so we could get our vitamin C. She also served
raisins, spinach, and liver because she felt we needed it in our diet.
We ate well, thanks to her cooking and Dad's ample providing ability.
Mother often spiced her teaching with
old sayings and quotes. I hesitate to say how many times she said, "A
thing worth doing is worth doing right.” She often quoted Heber
J. Grant, who said, "That which we persist in doing becomes easier
for us to do, not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but
that our power to do is increased."
She was faithful and above all else
wanted us, her children to be true to the Church. She said once to me, “I’ll
know I've been a good Mother when my grandchildren turn out good.”
I came home from Brigham Young University
one vacation time and attended Mutual. About two or three minutes before
the meeting the officer in charge told me that the person assigned to
give the spiritual thought had failed him. Then he asked ms to take the
time. I made an excuse and got out of it, but it bothered me. Attempting
to justify myself later that evening, I told Mother what had happened
and said I felt imposed upon to have been asked at the last minute.
Mother lectured me with sadness and
disappointment. "Have I not taught you better than that? Haven’t
you learned that the Lord will help you when you answer a call from the
Church?" She was right and I never turned down another call unless
it conflicted with an inescapable prior commitment. Mother knew a lot
about the influence of the Spirit, because she felt it. She knew of my
situation during my imprisonment during World War II and she knew when
gentle, but stern reproof was needed. She was a wonderful Mother.
It has often seemed contradictory to
me that she should have lost her life in an automobile accident. She
was the most careful driver that I knew. Her life ended prematurely,
it seemed to me, but she gave enough of her energy, intelligence, talent,
and goodness to have filled a life span of years far beyond her age at
the time of her death.
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