Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gene, you spoke of financial difficulties

Allen Curtis Fast, center, back row, with his sons
Byron is second from left and Emmett third from left, front row
September 15, 1961
[Excerpt from one of Leora's long, rambling letters]

. . . . Gene, you spoke of financial difficulties. Of course Dad and I had them a lot too, but remember, I never went out to work, but we managed. A few times in Milwaukee, we did have to take county help as to food. Uncle B.M. (Byron Macually Fast, Emmett's twin brother) sure was wonderful to Dad. He helped to pay for your braces. Just read an old letter here he'd written Dad and was much concerned about your teeth, etc.

Remember, though, Dad had about $400 in stock he'd bought on the market. It was of the Associated Gas & Electric Company that Byron worked for so many years before he retired. But I remember Dad giving him that certificate showing amount of shares he had bought, so I felt it took care of repaying him on your teeth care.

When we came to Los Angeles, Dad paid back Uncle E.N. (Edward Nash Fast, Emmett's oldest brother) and Byron the $800 I think it was that they loaned him to start in gas station business. I sure was glad he could repay that, and we sort of got out of the depression by going to Washington DC and taking civil service jobs. It was easier on me at least, working in a department store than trying to run that Sun Oil Station with Pierce's help. Better that Pierce got a job in DC too.

Anyway, we found the Mormons, and I was Pierce's first convert and baptized by him here after I'd studied, but genealogy gave me the first boost. You talk about Perry writing stories. I could write plenty on our experiences and how these hard experiences in life led us to the east to find the Mormons. Poor Dad, it seemed the old devil sure tried hard to get him down through the financial way, for he was always money-minded or concerned in the stocks, etc. Guess it was because Uncle E.N. was such a shrewd financial businessman, but he took a course in business college and taught it awhile I think and was up in world affairs too.

He would have made a wonderful government man in our Capitol at Washington, DC. His handwriting was beautiful. Anyway, he became secretary and treasurer of the concern he worked for and was so well thought of by all the brothers and sisters of Fast family. They all admired him. Uncle W.W (Walter Wyman Fast, another brother) is well-fixed too but not the fine, genteel man E.N. was. W.W. is ok, but like his German fore-bearers, he's blunt and out-spoken. But I liked him. He helped out on Dad's funeral expense.

I want to tell you, why don't you just keep the girls practicing on their music and let down on going to music teacher. They'll learn to play and read their music well if they just keep up a daily practice period and save paying that teacher the cash you need now. It's the constant daily practice period and putting into practice the things they've been taught in music. Marian has a beautiful tone quality in singing. When she gets a little older, it would be good for her to learn how to sing and breathe correctly, posture and tone quality, etc. Singers are usually very healthy people because of learning how to use the voice and breathing correctly and having correct posture they get better tone quality. You shouldn't go in debt but take care of the necessities first and learn to economize--even the children.

Perry with his parents and his five sisters
September 24, 1961

Dear Mother & Dad,

Thank you so much for the money. I will get you paid back just as soon as I can and I surely hope it doesn't put you out. This gets to be quite a long stretch waiting from June to October for a check.

I enjoyed your letter and all the news. I was surprised to hear about Jack Detomasi. I'm afraid it won't be long until Fred goes too. I was pleased to hear about Wilda. That fellow seems to be very nice, and I think she is very fortunate.

We are all back in school now and I have to get up at 5:30 to get Linda to seminary by 6:30. I go right on over to school. The day seems long, but I get a lot more accomplished anyway. I'm glad you enjoyed my little story poem. I'm trying to write something that can be enjoyed by children and perhaps understood by adults. I have just completed another much shorter one. When I get it typed up, I'll send you a copy.

Marian has just completed her part in "Promised Valley." She had so many rehearsals, it became quite a strain. I didn't know if she would be able to hold out, but she did, and now she is real pleased and so are we. It was a real good production.

We are back on standard time now. Perhaps now the early morning hour won't seem quite so early. Please write us soon. Love, Perry

Perry enjoyed writing and shared much of what he wrote with his family. During this time, he also took a creative writing class as part of his coursework for obtaining a master's degree. I'm including one of the short stories here, and I'll include other stories in future updates.


Jessica was born in the old pasture at the McClelland farm. There were fifty other lambs in the pasture and most people could not have told them apart. But to their mothers they were not alike at all. There was Isabelle. Her wool made little whorls down her side and ripples across her back. There was Minerva. Her wool went in little whorls across her back and ripples down her sides. Then there was Roxanna. She had teeny tiny ringlets all over her fleecy body. And Philemon had just a tiny bit bushier growth of wool around his face.

Yes, they were all very different and all of their mothers were very, very proud of them.

Of course Jessica was different too because she had been born late in the season and so she was smaller than the rest of the lambs and her wool didn't go in whorls or ripples. It just stood out straight all over her body. But Jessica was different in another more important way. Her mother was the leader of the herd. When her mother fed along the ditch-bank all of the flock fed along the ditch-bank. When she nibbled on the tender bark among the willows, the rest of the flock nibbled on the tender bark also. And if a strange dog should happen to come through the pasture, she would stand, face the intruder and stamp her feet. Immediately she would be joined by all the others until the baffled dog would trot away in silence. Or if the danger seemed great, she might break and run for the shed followed of course by all the others.

"My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother as far back as we know have all been the flock leaders, Jessica," her mother would say to her time and time again. "And when you grow up, I will expect you to be the flock leader."

"But Mother, how do you get to be the leader?" Jessica would ask.

"My dear, how many times have I told you; you become a leader by leading. All sheep want somebody to lead them so all you have to do is lead. It's just as simple as that."

"But Mother," Jessica bleated one day. "I just don't understand."

"Now, now," answered her mother. "You should be out practicing leadership on the other lambs. Why, when I was your age, they always followed me in the games I wanted to play. The time to start is now."

Jessica started over to where the other lambs were playing tag in the middle of the pasture. But just as she was about to join them, they shot past her, almost knocking her down. Isabelle was leading them in a race to the other end of the pasture. Jessica started after them. "Perhaps," she thought, "if I can beat them, then they will let me be their leader." She ran as fast as she could. She passed most of the lambs. She saw Isabelle just ahead of her so she closed her eyes and ran harder than ever. Suddenly, POW! She hadn't seen Isabelle turn and Jessica ran right smack into the fence.

Embarrassed and ashamed, she picked herself up. The others were far away now. Roxanna was showing them how high she could jump, and the others were trying to imitate her.

"I can out-jump any of them," thought Jessica. "Perhaps when I show them how I can jump then they will let me be their leader."

When she got there, they were nibbling on young willow shoots. Jessica started jumping. She jumped high in the air, but the others continued to nibble on young willow shoots. Jessica jumped again as high as she could go, making a half turn to the right and a half turn to the left then landed perfectly on all four feet. The others still nibbled on young willow shoots. Again Jessica sprang into the air, high, higher than she had ever jumped before. And then she did a remarkable thing--she made a complete somersault in mid-air.

When she came down, she looked about only to find that they had run over to the ditch bank. They were playing "Boss of Bunker's Hill," and they were all trying to push Philemon off the hill.

"Perhaps," Jessica thought, "if I can push Philemon off, if I can get to be the boss of Bunker's Hill, maybe then they will let me be their leader.

She ran over and started pushing with all her might. She stumbled and fell, got up, others came tumbling down in front of her. Over them she jumped. She pushed, butted, squeezed, squeezed, pushed, butted. Finally she reached the top, but as she turned to challenge the others, she saw they were off on another race--this time with Minerva in the lead. Jessica stood there sad and alone. She was the boss of Bunker's Hill, but there was nobody left to be the boss of.

Poor unhappy Jessica. She walked away and lay down beneath an old cottonwood tree. She just lay there and thought. She had so many things to think about.

Days and weeks passed and Jessica played less and less with the other lambs. At first she stayed by her mother, but her mother criticized her.

"Why don't you play with the other lambs? How can you ever become the leader? When I was your age. . . ."

So Jessica chose to be alone more and more. When the flock fed in the north pasture, Jessica fed in the south pasture. When the flock fed along the ditch-bank, Jessica fed in the marsh. But Jessica especially liked to feed in the willow patch because there she could really be alone.

Once Jessica's mother searched her out and said, "What in the world is the matter with you, Jessica? This isn't natural. This isn't normal. Don't you know that all sheep stay together? Why are you so different?" But Jessica didn't know why she was different and so, of course, she couldn't answer her mother's question.

One day Jessica was standing by the shed gazing through the fence at the cows. It was early morning and the cows were just getting ready to leave the corral to go out to the cow pasture.

"I think I would rather be a cow than a sheep," thought Jessica. "I would like to join them if only I could get over the fence. I'll bet if I tried, I could do it." So Jessica climbed up onto an old log that stood by the fence and with one mighty leap she landed on the other side.

"That wasn't hard at all. Now I will be a cow," she said, and she trotted off to join the cows.

When Jessica's mother saw what Jessica had done, she shook her head sadly and wondered why she had been given such a lamb to raise.

"I think I like this much better," thought Jessica. "The grass and clover are much taller. Over in the sheep pasture one has to nibble right down to the ground."

So Jessica followed the cows to pasture every day and the cows didn't seem to mind at all. Once Mr. McClelland caught Jessica and put her back with the sheep, but Jessica promptly jumped back again so he just let her stay.

When winter came, Jessica put her head in the manger and ate hay with the cows and her wool grew heavy and thick.

Then one day it was spring. The air smelled of blossoms and the sun was so warm on Jessica's back that she was almost uncomfortable.

Suddenly she heard a lot of noise. There was much shouting and commotion. She looked through the fence. Men were driving the sheep into the corral. When they had them all in and locked up, they set up some strange machines outside.

Jessica stared in surprise and amazement as one by one the sheep were caught. They kicked and struggled to get away, but each one was promptly set down and each fleece was sheared off. Then it was tied into a bundle and thrown into a big sack.

After Minerva and Isabelle were sheared, Jessica could hardly tell which was which because there were no more little whorls or ripples.

Jessica really had to laugh when Roxanna was sheared. Roxanna just sat there so helpless and undignified while all of her beautiful little ringlets were clipped away. And Philemon was really a comical sight when the long wool was sheared away from his face.

The sheep were all so frightened. They crowded back into the corner of the corral--crowding, pushing, shoving--but they could not get away.

When Jessica saw how frightened they were, when she saw how helpless they were, when she saw how strange and awkward they looked without their nice fleeces, she began to feel sorry for them. She felt so sorry for them that she wanted to help them.

"Maybe," she thought, "if I were a sheep again, I could help them." And Jessica longed to be a sheep again.

She watched until the men had sheared the last sheep. They started to put the machines away. then Jessica bleated long and loud. "No, here am I! Don't forget me!"

One of the men called out, "Here is one more." They caught Jessica. She kicked hard, but soon they put her down and her long thick fleece was clipped away.

Then the men took their machines away and the shed gate was thrown open.

But still all of the other sheep were shoving, pushing, and cowering in the corners of the shed. They were so frightened and helpless.

"Well, this will do no good," said Jessica. "Besides, I feel much better now without that winter coat." So she leaped into the air and ran out of the gate and into the sheep pasture. And to Jessica's surprise, all of the other sheep came stampeding behind her.

Then Jessica began feeding in the south pasture and all of the other sheep began feeding in the south pasture. Then Jessica fed along the ditch-bank and all of the others joined her. Then she decided to feed among the willows, and all of the flock followed her among the willows.

After she had fed there for several hours, Jessica decided to go lie down beneath the old cottonwood tree. And of course the whole flock joined her in the shade of the old cottonwood tree.

Jessica lay there for a long time and chewed her cud and thought and thought because she had a lot of things to think about.

Perry's teacher wrote: "This is a rare story. Your intuitive sense of rhythm, backed by an obvious understanding of the habits of sheep, has produced a story for adults and children alike. Please give me a copy. A perfect ending!

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