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My Personal Remembrances of my Father, James E. Ririe
By David Ririe

My father was a very hard worker. His movements, once he made up his mind were very quick. I was never able to keep up with him at any of the chores we did such as pitching hay, milking cows, or hoeing weeds. When he harnessed horses preparatory to the days work on the dry farm he removed two harnesses at the same time and carried them to the horses. On the harvester, before the day’s of the crawler tractor, he would hitch as many as twelve horses and drive them skillfully over the hills to thresh the grain. The work day started before daylight and ended when it was too dark to continue.

Dad was a great story teller. As Max, Clive, and I listened intently he told us the story of Bruno, a mean bear, and of other characters he made up. I could hear mother giggling in the background as she was amused by the tales that flowed from his lively imagination.

On cold rainy days on the dry farm we played mumble peg on the floor of our little house. The boards were marked with cuts where the jack knife had landed.

One day I climbed on a saddle horse that was tied near our dry farm house. It was not bridled and I had only the rope with which the horse had been tied in my hands when the horse took off. It circled the house, ran under the clothesline which nearly cut my head off and galloped wildly over the hills to the rear of the farm. Fortunately Dad spotted me and came running with a team of horses and rescued me. Both of us were greatly relieved to find that I was scared, but unhurt.

Dad was a man with many irons in the fire. Max and I were given many things to do on the farm. Sometimes so much was needing to be done that he would change his instructions several times before leaving us to do the day’s work. He made us feel part of the operation. I was well aware of the fact that there was money required to repay the bank at the end of the season. Dad's financial aim was simple. It was to get out of debt. Although I'm sure I nearly drove him nuts with my slow, deliberate, and mistake-filled ways, he often said that his boys were better workers than any of the men he hired.

His several farms and the custom harvest work that he did each summer and fall required a complete overhaul of the Holt combine which often took several weeks. Max and I and usually a hired man assisted as he checked bearings, sprockets, chains, and other parts. I had the simplest, but most tedious job of replacing the worn cylinder teeth. Our harvest season usually started in July on Uncle Joseph Ririe's farm and proceeded to the higher and later areas of Antelope and thence to Granite where we finished the work in September. The older harvesters were complicated with hundreds of parts that could wear out or simply break. I have seen Dad so frustrated that he would swear and throw wrenches, but he never gave up. There was never a field so weedy or difficult that he wouldn't combine harvest it.

We always had hired men. Often they were the sons of Mother's brothers and sisters. Fred Harden, Vance Perry, Clayton and Morgan Perry, Ray and Jay Anderson and Perry K. Lovell, all worked for him at times. He also hired Uncle Eldon Ririe, Douglas Ririe, Alfred Bush and probably other members of the family that I can't recall. I sometimes wonder if all of them appreciate the fact that they were able to get jobs and earn money because of his industry. I remember another hired man, Lee Ball, who asked Dad for a job soon after we had switched from horse to tractor powered farming. Lee had been afflicted with polio and only had one useful arm. I am sure that Dad debated about hiring him because of the handicap, but he did so and Lee drove the tractor as we harvested until Max became old enough to do so. This was just one of the many demonstrations of Dad's consideration of people who needed a boost to their confidence and a paying job. He paid more than the going wage stating that he expected more and wanted loyal workers.

I mentioned that Max drove the tractor as we combine harvested the grain. I sowed or tied the sacks and Dad ran the reel that adjusted the header cut. Of all the jobs I ever did I think swing or tieing the sacks was the most rewarding. It was one of the farm jobs in which I became competent and for which he praised me. On other jobs I made so many errors or was so slow that he became exasperated with Max, on the other hand, was praiseworthy because of his understanding of and skill with equipment. I have been around hundreds of men or more in my life as a farmer, farm adviser, and experimenter, and I have yet to meet anyone more skilled than Max on a traetor. Without markers or any visible sighting objects, he could plow the straightest of furrows or keep the combine at the exact swath. Dad loved it. One day, however, we were harvesting on a beautiful flat on Granite where the crop was good. On one side of the field there was a straight run of perhaps a quarter of a mile in length. As we cut around and around the field the day wore on and Max became sleepy. We came to the end of the straight field, but no turn was made. Dad laughingly grabbed a handful of wheat and threw it down over Max. Max awakened, turned around, grinned impishly, and pulled the combine back to the unharvested wheat. When he came around the next time the same thing happened. Dad sat on the harvester and motioned to me to let Max continue his nap. As we were about to reach the border of the field, which incidentally was adjacent to the Snake River Canyon, Dad yelled and woke Max up. It apparently aroused Max completely because he finished the day without a nap.

Our farms were strung out the length of the entire area from Ririe to Coonard Valley. When we moved the equipment Dad was always in a hurry and Max and I followed his example. We would back the truck up to a bank or other raised place and Max would drive the Caterpillar D-4 on to the truck bed. As soon as it was in place I would drive off. We never tied the tractor on the flat bed truck or even locked the brakes. In fact, we often didn't shut the engine down. Max sat there with his foot on the brake as we drove to the next farm. I shudder to think about it. If an OSHA-like agency had been in existence in our day we would have been overwhelmed with citations and put out of business.

One year we harvested grain on the Smith Farm above Poplar in an area adjacent to the Snake River called the "Rush Beds.” An afternoon storm came up. The wind blew and lightning streaked across the sky. A very little rain fell, but when it subsided we found that a wheat field had been struck by lightning and a fire ignited by the lightning. We quickly moved the harvest equipment to a safe place and started to fight the fire. A hired man was dispatched to the valley to get help. He drove into the Byington place and asked Mrs. Byington if her boys could be spared to help fight the fire.

She asked, "Why don't you back fire it." No help came from that quarter.

Years later I came home for a visit and as usual went to church where it was a delight to meet and become re-acquainted with old friends. One of the Byington boys cornered me and said, "I would like to tell you why I went on a mission and am now active in the Church. There had been a storm and the dirt road to our farm on Antelope had become slick. As I drove toward home the truck skidded and ran off the lane and became stuck. I started for home to get help. As I walked along, hoping to catch a ride, your Dad stopped and picked me up. When I explained to him what had happened, your Dad turned around and drove back to his farm on Granite. We loaded his tractor on a truck and brought it to our place where he pulled my truck out of the mud. Then he went back to Granite and unloaded the tractor and went on about his business."

This act which I have related as nearly as I remembered it from it’s telling was typical of things Dad did for his neighbors. While he served as Bishop he was very often called upon to administer to the sick, to help people in trouble, and to speak at funerals. These things he did with care and unselfishness.

Dad made friends easily and with many people. I recall a conversation Max and I had which went something like this:

Max: "I was waiting in the car and I heard two men talking and I knew immediately it was Dad before I saw him.”
Me: "Who was he with?"
Max: "He had met John Summers. When I am in town with Dad it seems that he knows everybody."

And people knew him, too. As far as I knew, they knew him for good. One day he entered the First Security Bank in Idaho Falls. The president of the bank was Minnie Hitt. As Dad entered the bank, she called out to a subordinate, "When Jim Ririe comes to you, give him anything he wants."

Dad seemed to me to have no sensitivity to cold, dust, chaff, or the heat of summer. When I complained of the cold, he said, "If you can't work fast enough to keep warm you're not working fast enough."

His remedy of the cold was to flap his arms around his chest until the increased circulation of blood warmed his body. How well I remember being on the dry farm where he had planted a row or two of potatoes next to an alfalfa field that he had miraculously grown without irrigation. On that day we were digging the potatoes when it became cold and started to snow. I still don't know why those potatoes were so valuable that we risked freezing to death to gather them in or why the spuds didn't freeze before we got them home. On another cold day we were shingling the roof on the big red barn. It was so cold that the shingle nails that I held in my mouth froze to my lips. I still wonder that I didn't grow numb with the cold and fall off the roof. Dad, however, on both of these days and others like them didn't seem to be bothered in the least.

Dad was a source of great pride to me. This was especially the case as I observed his service in the Church and on a few occasions accompanied him as he visited wards as Stake President or as Counselor to President George Christiansen.

My earliest recollection of him was watching him on the stand as an assistant to the Sunday School Superintendent, Lewis Adamson. I looked upon him with pride. Sometimes when we acted up he would motion to us and we would go up to the stand and sit next to him. I don't know whether Max was unruly many times or just liked sitting on the stand. This I do know, it only took a stern look from him to insure a change in my behavior.

I recall riding home after Church with the family after Church on the night he was sustained as Bishop. One of my brothers innocently asked, "Dad, now that you are Bishop, does that make all of us Bishops?"

He answered, "No, son, just me and your Mother.”

In one of the first meetings after he was called as Bishop he said, "In the past our ward has been proud to keep two missionaries in the field, which is good, but I propose that we should double that number." To his and the ward's credit that goal was met and a steady stream of missionaries left from the Ririe Ward during his tenure as Bishop. He loved missionary work. As he mentioned in his short history he served in the Eastern States Mission and praised Uncle Joseph for encouraging him to go. Uncle Joseph no doubt assisted Mother through that winter, but it is Uncle Parley that I remember doing most of the chores that Mother was unable to do while Dad served. Dad's letters home were loved by all of us. We gathered around Mother as she read them to us and watched her smile when she came to misspelled words. Dad wrote well and with great descriptiveness but he must not have had good spelling teachers in school. I remember the day he came home from his mission. We did not meet him in town. He walked from town through the fields to our house. When Mother saw him, she ran to meet him and they embraced each other. I recall wondering when he was going to notice me. It was truly a happy day. He had served in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Trenton, New Jersey.

No one could have doubted Dad's loyalty or devotion to the Church. One day when I came home from college feeling pretty smart after having been taught by learned professors, I said something like this, "One of my professors said there were many men righteous enough to be Church Authorities."

Dad answered promptly, "That may be, but the headquarters of the Church is in Salt Lake City, and don’t you forget it."

He was visited by many of the prophets during his tenure as Bishop and as Stake President and he had opinions about them. I didn’t hear him say anything bad about any of them, but I could tell who he liked the most. He almost worshipped President Harold B. Lee and he had very high regard for Elder Le Grande Richards and President Ezra Taft Benson. For example, he was pleased when President Ezra Taft Benson, who had been assigned to dedicate the Stake Girl's Camp, after hearing about its construction asked Dad to dedicate the building.

On another occasion I experienced his close relationship to Elder Le Grande Richards. Elder Thomas S. Monson had recently visited our Monterey California Stake and since I was called to be Bishop of the Salinas Ward shortly thereafter, President Ariel C. Merrill of our Stake had arranged for Elder Monson to ordain me. Dad met me in Salt Lake City and we went into the Church Office Building. Upon finding that Elder Monson was occupied, Dad approached the desk and asked if we might meet with Elder Le Grande Richards.

The receptionist called Elder Richards and he came out into the hall and greeted us warmly. The conversation went something like this:

"Hello Jim, come in. It's good to see you. What brings you to Salt Lake City?"

Dad explained our purpose for being there and Elder Richards looked at me and asked, "Would you like me to ordain you?" I answered, "Of course, but what about Elder Monson?" To which Elder Riehards answered, "Never mind. I'll take care of Brother Monson."

He then invited Dad to stand in with him as he performed the ordination. Then he visited pleasantly with us and especially with Dad. Dad was an activist in our community. During his term as Bishop, an old building was remodeled and became the Seminary Building; our Ward bought and farmed the Dutson place as a Welfare Farm; and he started the remodeling of the Church House. In the town he was a charter member, of, the Lion’s Club, President of the Ririe Grain Growers, an organizer of the Farmers Producer's Co-op, a promoter and board member of the Ririe Fair and the winter Carnival, and for many years a school board member. Looking back on those years, I believe it's safe to say he was the best of the leaders in the Ririe Community for several decades. He took great pride in the potato co-op. I remember several times his joy as he announced that on a particular day our co-op's potatoes had topped an Eastern Market.

One time he was asked to fight in a friendly boxing match as part of the card for the winter Carnival in Ririe. He came out with fists flying and made such an impression that Joe Parker who was always promoting local boxers, including his own sons, and several other local boys, one of whom named Byron Larson, became very good, that Joe asked Dad if he wouldn't box on his next card. Dad had regarded his appearance as merely being a good sport and declined the offer.

Joe Parker talked Dad into sponsoring an exhibition bout in Ririe for Tony Galento, a famous New Jersey heavyweight who claimed to train on beer. The event was to be a fund raiser for our Church Building Fund. Dad, as part of the evenings entertainment tried to serve Tony a glass of my Dad's favorite drink, buttermilk, but old Tony refused. Some of the more pharisiachal church members didn't approve and criticized Dad for being part of the event. I thought it was fun, but felt bad along with Dad when after paying the professional fighters and the promoter there was little, if anything, left for the Building Fund.

A number of things happened during Dad's tenure as Counselor to Rigby Stake President George Christiansen and East Rigby stake President that I am aware of and that might be of interest to members of our family.

One time President Christiansen and Dad and perhaps others went fishing. Apparently it wasn't a very successful outing for Dad only caught one small fish. He wrapped it carefully in a section of a newspaper and placed it in the glove compartment of President Christiansen's car. President Christiansen said the smell nearly ruined his car before he found out the source of the odor.

Another time a group of the faithful went to Logan on a temple excursion in a bus. On the way home Dad looked up the aisle and spotted President Christiansen seated in a front seat. He took a blanket and crept up the aisle where he placed the blanket over the man's head and held on tightly as the victim struggled. Dad finally looked around and saw President Christiansen sitting in a seat across the aisle from the victimized man, whom Dad scarcely knew. Mother told me it was one of the few times she knew Dad to be embarrassed into silence.

Dad caused me to be embarrassed once .I was in the Service and in uniform when I met him in Salt Lake City at Conference time. We approached the Tabernacle door and an usher was doing his duty. He looked at Dad and asked, "Stake President?" Dad looked at him and said, "Yes, and he's with me." Dad was never very impressed with protocol and it didn't bother him in the least to take me into the Tabernacle where I sat in a front pew with distinguished Stake Presidents. It seemed to me that every speaker who spoke looked down on me as if to ask, "What is that shave tail of a lieutenant doing among the Stake Presidents?" It was a long meeting for me, but Dad undoubtedly enjoyed the session.

When I was about fourteen years old Dad took me with him to Conference. It was during the October Conference and concurrent with the World Series in St. Louis or Detroit. I loved baseball and Dad knew I liked it so we went down to the building where the Deseret News or the Tribune was posting the score and an accounting of the game in progress on a bulletin board on the side of the building. We stood and watched the game until it ended and then we went late for Conference. It demonstrated to me that Dad's boys were more important to him than any Conference Session.

To get back to my remembrances of things that happened or that were told to me during Dad's tenure as Stake President.

He told of calling George L. Lovell to be Bishop of the Ririe Ward. I don't know which General Authority was involved, but when Dad presented names and qualifications to him the Authority asked which of the candidates would be the first to tell someone who was out of line to go to hell. Dad answered that it would definitely be George Lovell and the authority instructed Dad to call George to be the Ward Bishop.

Dad approached George Lovell and called him to the office. George hesitated, "I'd like some time to think it over." Dad answered, "You don't need time to think it over. The thinking has already been done."

Of course George accepted and went on to be a fine Bishop, a Stake President, and a Mission President.

I have tried to instill into my mind and into that of my children Dad's advice by saying, "When you are called to a Church Office, say yes, and worry about it later."

Dad also told me once that there should be an extra verse in the hymn, "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go, Dear Lord," and it should read, “I'II stay where you want me to stay, Dear Lord." Apparently he had little sympathy for those who burned out on Church Callings without a reasonable period of service.

He also told me of a lady who became hurt when it became necessary to release her from a calling that she had held for many years. When she came crying to Dad, he listened to her, then said, "Sister, when you were called it was for the good of the cause, and now you are released for the same reason."

Dad said she thanked him at a later date.

One day Dad and his friends went fishing. As they walked up and down along the stream, those who were with him addressed him several times as President. Finally a man who had observed them gathered up courage and excusing himself for the intrusion asked, "Are you really President Truman?"

Dad was not President of the United States, but he was a dutiful and active citizen. At the beginning of World War II he served on a citizen's committee that monitored the black-out that was ordered when it was felt that the Japanese might invade the United States Mainland. I am impressed with his statement to me when I joined the Army Air Corps and left for the training base.

He said, "I surely hate to see you go, but I would have hated it much more if you had refused to go.”

Many people remarked to me of the courageous way in which Mother and Dad carried on without complaint during the days of my imprisonment during World War II and especially during the period between the notification that I was missing in action and that I was in a German Prisoner of War Camp.

During the World War II days Dad served as Senator from Jefferson County in the Idaho State Legislature. When he was elected, Aunt Wilma and he were the only Democrats elected to office in the County. In fact the Legislature was so Republican that Dad said he felt like taking a deck of cards with him so he could play solitaire.

He did many things to earn a living during the lean years on the farm. I have already mentioned that we custom harvested acres and acres of wheat for other farmers. One time Father bid for the school bus route and put in the low bid. He built a cover on our truck. Looking back on it, I doubt if it could have come even remotely close to today's safety standards. During the open weather he delivered the students by truck, but in the dead of winter it was by sleigh.

Dad also hauled grain to Murray, Utah where he sold it and then he went over to the Salt Lake salt works and purchased salt which he trucked back to Ririe.

During the Roosevelt Administration, he measured land for a New Deal farm program. The last I heard of it, he was not paid for his work in spite of repeated appeals to bureaucrats and even Senator William E. Borah. In spite of this bad experience he remained a solid Democrat throughout his life.

I remember seeing him angry when the countries of the world voted overwhelmingly for recognition of Communist China over the dissenting vote of the United States and a few other countries.

Dad was one of the best public speakers I ever heard. His sermons often centered around the need to be obedient to the Gospel Standards. He often quoted Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 which read, "There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundation of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated -And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

On numerous occasions I saw my father lose his temper, but it didn’t last long. Very seldom were the times when he spoke harshly about anyone and I never knew him to say bad things about people. He was one of the most optimistic and positive people I have ever known.

When the Ririe Chapel was re-dedicated after it had been remodeled, a lengthy program was held. In spite of the fact that Dad had started the project, engaged the contractor, negotiated the approvals from Salt Lake, and served as Bishop for most of the time during its construction, when the meeting was held Dad was not even acknowledged. I might also add, that our truck was used to haul materials to the site and for many days our equipment and manpower was donated to the building work. I noticed the oversight and was personally hurt because Dad had sent me with our truck and other equipment to work on the project and I was well aware of the contribution made by him and our family.

After the meeting I asked Mother if Dad was hurt or slighted because his contributions were not recognized. She answered, "Yes, he was, but he will never mention it."

There were times when Dad's services were not recognized and there were times when he was praised. Win or lose, praised or criticized, it seemed to me that he went right on with the business at hand in his own enthusiastic positive way. He didn’t take time to cry over spilt milk or fret about mistakes. Knowing my nature to worry about mistakes made, he once told me, "Don’t fret or worry if you make a mistake but concentrate on not repeating it."

The summer before his death he and I took a day long ride to Rexburg, across the Rexburg Bench and through the Teton Valley and back to Ririe by way of Swan valley and Antelope. We bought a bag of taffy candy in Rexburg and munched on it as we drove along. Toward the end of the trip we finished the entire bag. He grinned and informed me that the doctor had advised him to refrain from eating candy. He talked about Mother and of how he had missed her. He related to me that in the depths of his sorrow Mother appeared to him and said, "It's all right, Jim."

I was saddened by his death, but at the same time I could not mourn because I knew that he had been reunited with his greatest love, our angel Mother. As his days on earth ran out, he faced death just as he faced every challenge fearlessly and I believe with even some anticipation.

His funeral was one of the largest I have ever attended. Praises were expressed for his great life of service by many people who knew and loved him.

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