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
Dad made friends easily and with
many people. I recall a conversation Max and I had which went something
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
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
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
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
He said, "I surely hate to
see you go, but I would have hated it much more if you had refused
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
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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