The second grade was extremely painful. I was emotionally wounded, and the wounds were very deep. From then on, every day in school I had a problem with reading, writing, and spelling, as I was never very good at any of them. Whenever I was placed in a situation such as being chosen last to be on anyone’s spelling bee team, I would automatically give myself a shot of shame and guilt. In my mind, I repeated the idea that “something must be wrong with me.” As time went on, the secret got bigger and the pain got worse. How could I get around being shamed for not doing better at reading, writing, and spelling? I didn’t know then that was my struggle was a blessing in disguise. Each day I got to exercise creativity, as creativity can be defined as finding a solution to one’s problems.
Some of my solutions were:
I always tried to make friends with the smartest people in the class. They would help me through. I remember that one of my roommates at BYU took chemistry with me. She was a couple of years younger than me but, boy, was she smart in chemistry! Thank you, Judy, for helping me get through chemistry.
- I would beg the teachers to have a help session before a test. I remember Mrs. Turner taught the hardest foods class I had to take. She had a help section before every big test. I would go to the session and take notes on every word that came out of her mouth. Then I would memorize every concept she gave in the help section. I got the second-highest grade in the class.
- I knew that I was much more of a visual learner than an auditory learner, so I would go to the campus to study. I didn’t go to the library to read, but rather, to a classroom with chalkboards. I would write out the material that I needed to learn. That way I could take it in better.
3. When we were assigned to read silently, I would read as much as I could until I saw the kid next to me turn the page, and then I would turn my page and start at the top again.
4. When we would read out loud in school, I would count the number of paragraphs until the teacher would call on me, and then I would practice that paragraph.
5. I would get my mother and dad to read a book with me in preparation for a book report. Then, whenever I was assigned a book to read the next year, I would report on the book I had read the year before.
The ways and means of getting through classes were endless. Every day I would open up my mind to figure out a way to get through the class without exposing my handicap and myself. Most people’s handicaps are visible; not so with mine. By utilizing my creativity, I was able to keep them so well hidden.
For years, people have asked me how I came to be so creative. The only answer I could give is that if you had to figure out a way to get through school every day of your life for 18 years, you would have to be just as creative.
The years have passed, and I have attended many classes. For all those years I covered up the pain of my second-grade year, ith overcompensating and overdoing so no one would find out.
The Cold War was in full swing when I entered fourth grade in 1955 and that was the chief cause for upheaval at our little school. Our small agricultural town was suddenly playing a very large part in the effort to deter the Soviet Union. Uranium, a key component in triggering an atomic reaction, was discovered in the area, and, within months, little Monticello had doubled in size. It was quite a change, both for us and for our school. The class sizes swelled to fifty. That meant teachers were spread very thin and sometimes there weren’t enough there to cover all of the classes. The classroom became an unstable and somewhat uncomfortable place during that time, but there were always the outdoors and my adventures to turn to.
As a child, I always had a bicycle, almost before I could even depress the pedals. First came a tricycle, and how I loved riding it up and down our driveway! At age three, anything that moves you around is thrilling.
In Monticello, Utah, where I grew up, kids usually had the fun of participating in a parade once a year. Our town held parades that commemorated Independence Day and Pioneer Day on July 24th.
I was the flag girl and I rode my bike proudly out in front, leading the parade as though it were a serious, solemn responsibility.
When I reached the first grade, I wanted a “big kids” bike. My parents knew how much I liked to ride my tricycle, so they ordered me a green one. It did not come with the training wheels, were ordered separately. I was so excited to have a bike that every night I would persuade my father to hold me steady while I rode it around the house. By the time the training wheels arrived, I didn’t need them. It was the beginning of my love affair with bikes. Soon, I was riding my bike everywhere, including to school and to my friends’ houses which were located in town, a far piece from my home at the ranger station. By day’s end, I’d ridden several miles; it never once occurred to me that it was beneficial for my health. It was just how I got around and I loved it.
Once a year we would all pile in our Packard and head to Provo, Salt Lake City, and Coalville to see our relatives. My Aunt Margaret lived in Provo and we would always stop there for a few days. She only lived about one mile from the south end of the Brigham Young University campus. My parents would always take us to the campus to walk around and see the students in action. Every time we went there, I remember them saying, “This is where you are going to go to the University.” No matter how low I scored in reading, I always knew that someday I would go to BYU. I ended up spending seven years there. Ultimately, I received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. I later went on to teach classes for BYU Education Week. This assignment required me to travel throughout the United States and Canada. I also developed a class called Roughing it Easy. The title and class materials were taken from the camping book that I wrote. I also taught several classes in the recreation department at Brigham Young University.
On one of our trips, my Aunt Effie, who was married to my father’s brother, Earl, passed away. We traveled to Provo for the funeral.
My grandmother lived in Salt Lake City in a little, one-room apartment that was located across from the City and County building. This apartment did not have a bathroom, so it was necessary to walk down the hall to use the restroom. If you wanted to take a shower or bath, these facilities were located upstairs. There was only a small area of grass located in front of the apartment building so we would go across the street to the City and County building to play in the big grassy yard there.
The photo to the left is Jared, my Aunt Dorothy, and my Grandfather Richins. The one to the right is my grandfather, with Jared on the right and Clyde.
We would then drive up a two-lane road through Parley’s Canyon past Kimball Junction and Park City, which was a small mining town. There were no buildings in Kimball Junction.
Grandma and Grandpa Richins lived in Coalville. Grandpa was a sheepman. He and had spent his entire life buying land, growing sheep, and building a successful business. My grandma made the best homemade white bread, which I loved.
Jared was a very curious child. I remember one time when he took a hairpin and opened it far enough that he could insert it into an electric socket. He received really bad burns in the shape of a hairpin on his fingers. Mother and Dad told us we were lucky he did not electrocute himself.
There was a train track in the backyard. Trains went by every day. We took pennies and placed them on the train track. The next day, we went back to see them and they were completely flattened.
Grandma and Grandpa had a workable outhouse. The toilet paper was from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. It was fun to explore Grandpa’s barn and the complex where they lived.
In the spring, we would go to the dry farm and watch the baby sheep be born. We also were able to watch the men shear the sheep and prepare the animals for the warm summer.
On one of our trips, we decided to go to Yellowstone. What a special time this was! I was most fascinated with the bears that we saw every day. If they got close, we would roll up our windows. On that single trip, I counted 43 bears.
Grandma Thomas and relatives come to Monticello to Visit
My father’s mother was Lizzie Clyde Thomas. We always welcomed a visit from Grandma when she came to the Ranger Station. To travel to see us, she would catch a Greyhound bus near her home in Salt Lake City. Then she rode to Monticello. The visit I remember most was the time when she came for Jared’s birthday, which was on July 15. She purchased a cake decorated in a cowboy theme from a bakery in Salt Lake City. While riding on the bus, she held the cake on her lap to Monticello which would have been at least a 6 to 7-hour ride. Jared always talked about this experience. He was so pleased that Grandma thought so much about him that she would carry a cake so many miles to Monticello.
Another time, several relatives made the trip to Monticello. We always had fun sending them to an outhouse down the way and asking them to make sure they flushed it when they were finished. The following is a time when the Sumsions, Turnips, and Grandma came from the big city to visit.
I also remember that Grandma was concerned about me growing up without being dainty enough. When I would travel to Salt Lake City to visit, she would often have a dainty dress for me to wear.
When I later went attended BYU to study, Grandma told me that I was doing exactly what she wanted to do. Those words were always a very special compliment to me.
Visiting the Dugout Ranch with Dad
Dad often had to go on trips to help the men get their cattle ready to go to the forest for the summer. One of my favorite places to go with him was to the Dugout Ranch, which is only about 4 miles from the National Park which is now called Canyonlands. On the way, we would stop and play in front of Indian Ruins that were over 2000 years old. When we stopped there, Jared and I played in the sand that was located directly in front of the petroglyphs. There never was a trench in the front. We were taught to respect the artwork of these ancient Indian people.
Notes about the Newspaper rock from Wikipedia:
The first carvings at the Newspaper Rock site were made around 2,000 years ago. They were left by people from the Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures.
In Navajo, the rock is called “Tse’ Hone'” which translates to a rock that tells a story.
Closer view of the petroglyphs.
The petroglyphs were carved by Native Americans during both the prehistoric and historic periods. There are over 650 rock art designs. The drawings on the rock are renderings of different animals, human figures, and symbols. These carvings include pictures of deer, buffalo, and pronghorn antelope. Some glyphs depict riders on horses, while other images depict past events, such as those that would be included in a newspaper. While precisely dating the rock carvings has been difficult, the repetition of surface minerals reveals their relative ages. The reason for the large concentration of petroglyphs is unclear.
The pictures at Newspaper Rock were inscribed into the dark coating on the rock, called desert varnish. Desert varnish is a blackish manganese-iron deposit that gradually forms on exposed sandstone cliff faces following he action of rainfall and bacteria. The ancient artists produced many types of figures and patterns by carefully pecking the coated rock surfaces with sharpened tools to remove the desert varnish and expose the lighter
rock beneath. The older figures are themselves becoming darker in color as new varnish slowly develops.
I always remember the advice my father would give to Jared and me. You are welcome to play outside of the fence so that you will not disturb the animals, but never reach up inside the rock as there could be a rattlesnake there. We both heeded this advice as we did not want to meet a rattlesnake out there. (Carolyn and I can give you more detail if you would like).
As a young outdoor enthusiast, some of my favorite memories are of the biscuits, pancakes, and sourdough my dad would make.
I remember going camping as a ten-year-old with our family. My dad would get up and fire up the fire to burn down to the hot coals, which were placed both under and on top of the Dutch oven to cook sourdough biscuits. The moment when he opened up that lid and I got a whiff of the sourdough that seemed like it was four inches high, was the moment when I fell in love with outdoor cooking. We would take those hot biscuits and spread a little butter and honey on them. I assure you we thought we had gone to heaven.
Carolyn: From here on I am going to add articles that will give you insights into my background.
- In college, I would survey for several semesters to see which teacher would be easiest for me to take a class from and receive a passing grade before taking a difficult class
- Once I was enrolled in a class, I would immediately begin scheming to figure out whether the test was given based on notes, the text, or a combination of the two sources. If the questions didn’t come from the book, I just stopped reading it.
* In one of my most difficult college classes, I soon figured out that the teacher gave out all the questions to
the test in the help section she offered. I was only one of two or three students who would attend her help sections. I then memorized everything she gave in the help section. I received the second-highest grade in the
Later on, after much success, I found a wonderful therapist that listened to me ask her 1,000 times if I was OK. Then I asked her to tell me at least one thousand times that I was smart. Sometimes she would tell me, “Dian, you are probably the smartest person I know. I do not know anyone else that has done what you have done.”
I have had a wonderful and rich life. Now I realize that without these challenges I would not have developed my creativity to the degree that I did, and would not have come up with all the ideas that I have shared with millions over the past 30 years.
Thanks to the understanding and supportive parents I had, and the many people who came into my life to help me along my path. I now know that I am not “dumb”– I just had a different way of learning.