Partial history of Keith LaVell Gurr in his own words taken from a recording he made in 1991.
Contributor: Taneya Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
Partial history of Keith LaVell Gurr in his own words taken from a recording he made in 1991.
It’s a privilege to be here today and tell you about my life history. I thought I was really well prepared but I lost my note already. I was born in Provo, Utah in April 20th, 1926 and today’s February the 3rd 1991 so time really flies by in a hurry. But anyway a we lived in Provo for a short time then moved to Alberta and I wasn’t going to tell you where the Alberta was cause some of you might think , “He lived clear in Canada”, but anyway it was Alberta, Utah, about 50 miles south of here(Draper, Utah?). And then we lived there for a short time and when I was about 3 ½ years old we moved to Buckhorn Flats, now some of you don’t know where Buckhorn Flats is, but it’s, you know where Beaver is, it’s just 20 miles south of Beaver out there, it used to be a dust bowl out there when I was a kid but there’s some pretty good alfalfa fields out there now. But anyway, I was about 3 ½ when we moved there. We moved into an old house, we called it uncle Luke’s house, but anyway, it got hit with lightening, with a lightning storm and burnt down and so my dad built a little shack over by a sump, It had a big old shade tree there, and all my children saw it, we camped there over night and had, you know, roasted weinies and stuff there as we went through there. But anyway, this place my dad built wasn’t over 14 by 14, just one room, I had a brother and a sister, there was three of us and my Uncle Wilford and Aunt Leah, they lived down the lane about three quarters of a block, and this old sump was the only irrigation deal we had, and when they’d start that old deal up to irrigate the pasture and that out there, my dad would take a long pitch fork and get down in the bottom of that with his boots on and fork out the moss and stuff every once in a while. I can only remember him doing about twice. But, there was a lot of these here salamanders, we used to call them water dogs, they’re about six inches long, you’d through them out on the banks and we always had three or four big ole sow pigs running loose around there because you know they’d eat better if they was running loose than if they were in a pen, but anyway they would eat these salamanders and I’d see these old sow pigs just grab right ahold of a rattlesnakes, and you know, and just whack them up right in two in one bite and a pig is immune to rattlesnake bites, so you know, it don’t bother them any.
Well anyway I’ll tell ya about the first time I can ever remember falling off a horse. My dad come down out of the cedar mountains, up there he was east of the highway and we lived just west of the highway just a little bit, the old highway, and he come down out of there with a load of cedar trees on this wagon that he had, old Bess and a horse named Shorty, and then there was another horse named Clyde, he would take three horses up there with him, he’d leave one in the back that he used to drag the log, these big old cedar. When he would start the old saw up, it was driven by just a rear end off an old truck, he would just put her in gear and it would start that big old blade around and he’d cut wood and him and my uncle Wilford would haul this wood into Parowan, Paragonah, and Beaver and sell it by the wagon load and that was their income back then, which was just a meager income and they’d milk three or four cows and set the cream out and separate it and some wagon would stop and take it to Beaver. But anyway, when he came back and unhooked this team of horses, I ran out there and put my arms in the air and wanted him to lift me onto old Bess and he did and we just went a little ways and old Bess just stopped and shook, and if you’ve ever seen a work horse that’s been worked, you know, pert near all day, they can really shake hard, and boy I just went right off and lit in the only thistles and stuff that was right in there and I lit on them and boy did I let out a holler and my mom thought I’d been stepped on I guess, and she come running out and got me and took me in the house and started pulling stickers out of me.
But anyway, then I had a little bay mare and I was just coming four years old and I could, my mom would have to help be bridle that little horse right to start with, but I could lead it over by the fence and hop on it and when I was just turning four years old I could ride that little mare all alone, gallop her, take her on a dead run, do anything, we really had a lot of fun me and that horse together. But anyway, I had my younger sister; my only sister at that time, her name was Margie. I’ve got seven sisters but they know that Margie was kind of my favorite, but I told them all they’d been my favorite one’s when I’ve just been talking to them. Anyway, we, I was on the front, and Margie in the middle, and my brother Tom that was just about 15 months older than me, he was on the back and we went across the highway and was riding out west in the flats there, and there was a lot of grave sights out there, we called them the Indian burial grounds, but they were about this wide and about six or seven foot long, there was quite a few of those holes scattered out there. Well anyway, we was riding out through there and on the way back I decided to put this little mare into a little gallop and I don’t know what, but I can remember this as plain as day, we was all in tuned to go to the left there and I thought “Well I’ll fool them” and I pulled that little mare to the right and it got my brother off balance, he got off balance and he was holding on to my sister so he pulled her off and my sister was holding on to me and pulled me off, all three of us fell off and we was about four or five blocks away from the house and there were lots of old tumbleweeds and stickers and that out through that sage brush and Marge was bare footed, she didn’t have no shoes on so me and my brother made one of these Indian little seats with our arms and she sat in there and we carried her clear to the house. But, we played out in a small pond that gathered out there in the meadow where we used this water from the sump to make a garden and have a pasture for milk cows right there, and there was, you know how these old pastures will get with these clumps of sod sticking up, we’d go running across them barefooted and there was a lot of pollywogs in there and we’d catch them pollywogs and play. That was the second time I fell off a horse. The third time me and my brother was on Pet double we went just up to Aunt Leah’s and around and was running back, I had her in a pretty good gallop and this little ditch right, that come in front of the house, it wasn’t only that deep and that wide, well this little mayor she just sprang right over it, my brother got off balance and pulled me off with him only I lit right square on top of him and he lit on a little rock right on his ole hind end and it really hurt him cause it took quite a bit to make that guy bawl but boy he really started bawling, it hurt him pretty good.
Anyway, I got to get right along cause I’ve got some other things I want talk about but we, these big herds of sheep would come from Beaver and all over and we had the only big water hole there and so they’d make arrangements with my dad to water these sheep there and then, you know some of them herds would have probably a thousand head in them. But, anyway they’d always give him one or two sheep that had, you know, lambs with them and so we’d raise them lambs ‘n stuff and then after we got all done watering, but we got, you know just a little herd of sheep going around there, and when the next herd would come in, we’d have to , I know my dad and mom would go out there and herd them into a little coral there and shut the gate so they wouldn’t get mixed up there with the other herds that come in.
Moving right along we, things were tough then, the old depression was just getting started I guess and, pretty good and we moved from there and came to Provo and lived down fifth west clear down there by the lake shore and a my dad started a little Jersey herd that he was milking cows and stuff, and him and mom would separate it and bottle the milk and he got tired of that and he got hooked up with a couple of friends of his and they told him there was a easier way of making a living than milking cows so he sold out and bought him a coal truck, and that was probably where the biggest mistake that he ever did pull cause on account of the environment that he got in with these other couple of coal haulers and that, he got drinking a little and away from home hauling coal and pretty soon he got with another woman and got her pregnant, and so anyway it ended up in a divorce, and we were, he left us in Caliente, Nevada at that time and, but anyway my Uncle Wilford, he’d moved out from Buckhorn flats out into Caliente and they made my Uncle Wilford bishop in that ward probably three weeks after we moved into Caliente, and then about two weeks after that they made him the town Sheriff, and back in them days that Caliente was quite a old rough town, they gambled there. We lived just up the hill about a block up out of town and me and Dean and Tom, we’d come down there, and look in there to see what was going on once in a while. There was little grocery store, boy if we could round up a nickel anywhere we’d come down and buy a little bag of those, that good chocolate candy mix that’s got peanuts, that mix now costs about three and a half a pound, over there we could get a whole sack for a nickel and that was one of my favorite candies back in them days, along with that along with that there two penny square Hershey bar with a picture of a woman on it with a big full skirt; anybody remember that one for two cents? Your old enough, but you probably didn’t have two cents. But anyway, my dad abandoned us in Caliente, Nevada.
When we moved off the dairy we moved down in Provo right close to Planter Park, about a block and a half from there and the address was 158 South 7th West, and that old neighborhood there, they really had a lot of fun, a lot different than the neighborhoods I see today. Kids today don’t know how to play, run sheep run kick the can, Annie I over or hide and go seek, you know they do it a little bit I guess but boy I never see none of it. But, that was a marble playing neighborhood. We had a game that I’d never seen nowhere, only in that neighborhood. On the corner of 158 South 7th west, you know there’s them big cement pieces that’s got the addresses like 7th west and that, we had a game going on in that neighborhood called (blagma game?) and you got to sit down and sometimes you’d end up with 150 marbles before they could hit your one marble, sometimes you’d throw that and (he’d hit it?). But, anyway sometimes you could get her in two or three shots (with lagging them and spotting them?) you know, you get it easier that way. But, anyway we really had a lot of fun playing marbles there, we’d play this, where you just draw a little ring about eight or ten inches wide and play 10-up or 20-up, whatever you want to play, depends on how many are playing, if there’s only two then you’d play 10 or 20 up. Me and my brother Tom, we was playing there one day, and when we moved in there the roads out in front of 7th west there was dirt and it made a good area to play in, but our driveway was dirt too and it was a good area to play in. But Tom, he had a big steely about this big around and he was always fudging with it you know, boy he’d knock a lot of marbles out with that thing, and one day we was playing fifty a piece and it was his turn and he fudged that old steely through and knocked half of them out, and there was a whole bunch of “on-liners” and we had a deal that the “liners” stayed in and he was taking “liners” and all of them, boy he just grabbed a couple big handfuls and I was hollering and getting mad, I don’t know why he run, but he grabbed these two handfuls of marbles and took off out around the side of the house, we was up here at the front of the driveway and he run down the driveway a little bit and as he took off running I picked up his big steely, he left it laying there, and I threw it at him as hard as I could, you know it’s really a wonder that I didn’t kill him cause I hit him right above the temple but boy he went down, I mean he went right down flat on the old ground, he was out for a little bit, and I knew I was in trouble when he ever come to. So, anyway there was two big walnut trees there with thick leaves and I went right up to the top of one of the walnut trees and got right up in there around those leaves and boy about then he was shaking his ole head and getting up and rubbing his head and he started looking for me and he went down on the corner, Holladay’s lived there and next door Petersons, and I could see about every move he was making around there looking, but anyway, I waited until after dark to come down and about then my dad happened to come home, we was I guess about six or eight years old and I went in the house when I seen him go in. But, we did get into quite a few fights, me and that kid for some reason or another. I’ll just tell you about one quick one. We was in the kitchen messing around and boy he wacked me one and I wacked him back and I can remember running out of the kitchen into this little front room and into mom’s bedroom and as I leaped over on the bed I doubled my feet right up here by my chin and boy as he come in to jump on me I straightened both feet out as hard as I could hit him and I hit him right in the face and bloodied his nose and he went flying back and I got out of there and hid up again.
But anyway, enough of that, and then time went on and I went to the old Franklin grade school, then the Dixon Junior High and I graduated from the ninth grade and I thought that was pretty good for me. So I started school in the early part of the tenth grade at the old Provo High and I had kind of a hard time staying in school because my dad and mother separated when I was about ten and I had a horse back there that I bought from money that I made from peddling vegetables. Me and my brother had a little flat bed wagon with kind of (cleat?) tires on it, it was easy to pull, we would take two of these old time lettuce crates on that there we could put about 60 dozen corn and that or you know fill it up with cabbage or red potatoes or anything. We’d go down to (Vincent’s Farms?)and buy them down there and peddle them on the way home and around the neighborhood. We was good asparagus gatherers we would gather asparagus all over, sold that for money. We would gather junk, you know copper wire and aluminum pans, zinc lids and brass anything we could find that you could smash up and take down to the old Provo Hide and Fur and sell it. We made a lot of trips down there and we would get, you know, close to two bucks for two or three days gathering, back then that was quite a bit of money. Did any of you guys gather up copper wire and everything, you know, to make a living, not just for show tickets, but you know, to help your mom buy bread and stuff for the table? Well anyway it was quite a deal back in them days. I can remember one time we were going along in back yards and there was a big ole aluminum pan and I eyed that thing up, it looked like they’d been watering chickens in it, but anyway, I took that pan, I probably shouldn’t have, but I did, it was a heavy one. Then I got up to the 10th grade, in the meantime I had been in the chicken business and the pigeon business and the rabbit business cause those rabbits was always good to eat, and the chickens always laid us plenty of brown eggs, and the pigeons, they were just to look at, the ones that wanted to stay home, they’d stay home and the ones that wanted to fly away, they’d fly away, but we always had plenty there anyway. Me and Reed Peterson was messing around at the park and a cop come down and said “How come you guys are sloughing school?” We said, “Oh, I don’t know, we thought we’d like to stay out and play around a little” and he said “Well, hop in here”, and he hadn’t had a lot of trouble with me going to school cause up ‘til the ninth grade I went pretty good. So anyway, I said “Well what are you going to do?” and he had already said that he’d warned us couple of times, but anyway, he took us right down to that dad gum old Provo City Jail, and I said “You mean to say you’re going to put us in jail for sloughing school?” and he said “Yep”, he said “I’ll get ahold of your mothers and tell them where you are”. So he put me and Reed in jail and I said “You put me in jail and I’ll tell ya what, I’ll never go to school another day”, you know, I was dumb cause I had a lot of ambition when I was a kid but I had a hard time sitting in school, anyway, I had a lot of things to do and get done. So he put is in there, and at that time I had a strawberry old mare named Cloud, no the strawberry old mare was named Rusty, I had a pretty paint horse, a black and white horse named Cloud and I was in there, Rayola and my sister Margie come down on those two horses and right as you look out the bars of this jail you had this open field there and they come down there and started galloping these horses around a big circle. Marge had long blonde hair and her old hair was just waving out in back and I was hollering “Quit running them horses”, you know, getting after them, they were just laughing their heads off, you know, cause they knew I couldn’t do anything about it. Anyway, they convinced my mom that it would pay to just leave us in there for a couple of days, you know, at least two nights, and boy that old food there wasn’t near as good as the fried pheasant and fried rabbits and homemade bread that I was used to getting at home and so anyway, we got out.
I want to drop back a little bit, when I mentioned that fried pheasant, I’ll tell you one thing, when I was ten years old I had an old 410 single shot gun and I had a little bally horse named Toto and a big old yellow dog named Rex. Well me and that dog and my horse, I’d take two burlap sacks and drape them over the horses neck and I had a buckskin lace, I’d wrap it around there a time or two and tie it and we would head down 5th West and go down there past the old golf course, let’s see, you go down 5th West and then you cut off where University Avenue comes off from, back into Provo, you know, past that old golf course, but anyway, I’d get down there with this gun and if I wanted bring four roosters home, I’d take four shells, cause if I just winged them a little bit, they’d come down and that old dog would be right on them, but every time, I could get four or five, and if we were going to have company I could get six just as easy as I could one, in fact in them days, cause there was a lot of pheasants in them days. My mom had a real good big old cook stove and she always kept plenty of bread, later on, but before that we had a few lean meals and tough times. So, with me furnishing the meat for the house and eggs and stuff like that there, we started getting along pretty good, a lot better than we was there right to start with when my dad first left, and I can remember she had to go out and ask the neighbors to help her a little bit. But anyway there’s no good meat that I like better than a good ole roasted or fried up pheasant especially with hot bread.
But anyway, then I took a job hauling coal about a month after I got out of jail. I was hauling for a guy named Earl Cloward, he give me ten bucks a trip to go from there up to Spring Canyon or over in Huntington Canyon or wherever he wanted the coal from, but he was with me. I used to make the back of his hair stand on end; he told me that, he said “Boy you make the bristles of my hair stand right up”. There was kind of narrow bridges in a place or two and boy I’d have that old truck going as full as she could about sixty miles an hour empty and there was another big truck coming this way and this narrow bridge come and I didn’t hold up for it to come through, anyway we both went through there and I just barely tipped the old guard rail coming through it this way and he said “Don’t do that no more” and I said “Well, okay”. But anyway, I hauled coal there for quite a while and then I got tired of being away, you know, I liked to go down to them (ole Utahan?) dance halls on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, it was a different night then the mutual was so it would probably be Wednesday night cause I used to go to mutual. My sister Marge and I, we’d go down there together, and you might not believe it, but I used to could really dance pretty good, the Jitterbug, the faster that old music made it ….. Stewart can remember when he first come in this area we used to do a little dancing in this ward or in this stake, I’ll put it that way, and I used to think I was pretty good until I watched old Stewart and his wife dance, then I knew I was. Anybody that’s seen old Stewart dance with his wife, boy he’s good, they used to give dancing lessons so I didn’t feel too bad about him being advanced that much more, you know. But anyway, I’ve had lots of fun dancing and it’s always been good clean dancing, no smoking, no drinking with none of our crowd, none of them ever smoked or drank a drink. One of my highlights, well it wasn’t really a highlight but we had fun, down at Disney World in California me and Delma and Marge, that’s my younger sister, and Bud, her husband, the four of us was at Disney Land one afternoon and we’d done everything and we heard this music playing and we went over there and it was that guy that married Betty Grable, what was his name? Harry James? Well, he was there with his band playing and so boy we started dancing to it and he played some of those good old tunes we liked and then it come to one, a little faster one, and so I traded Delma for Marge and we really started (hoeing?) it up and this here happened just, you know, in about the last fifteen years I’d say. Old Harry was getting old at that time, but anyway, we had lots of fun.
Boy this time goes by too fast cause I wanted to get up to tell you what this area looked like in 1965, in the early part of ’65 when we moved into here, there was about three old houses, where the polygamist live, and where old (Gold Branch?) lived that started up the covered wagon (state board?) That’s a quite a story in itself but we haven’t got time to get into it. Anyway, I am glad for this short opportunity of presenting my deal, and I got a little farther this time than I did last time. But, anyway it’s been fun over the years, for those of you that don’t know it, we used to have over 150 head of horses running through Pepperwood, that was before Pepperwood was ever thought of, and all through this gully over here, and out to the golf course and that, it was all fenced and we could saddle as high as 90 head of horses at one time on a busy day, and every day but Sunday we saddled 40 to 60 head every day. We had one of the best riding stables this state has ever seen, and it will never see another one that good. We could take forty primary kids out on one ride at one time and never worry about nobody getting hurt. That’s one thing that I did specialize in is a good riding stable and it was run good. And, I was in the fruit stand business, I owned those Green Grove fruit markets, they used to call me, I won’t tell you what they called me, but anyway, we done a great job in them fruit stands too. Our everyday price was two heads of lettuce for a quarter, nine pounds of bananas for a buck, twenty big Texas Pink Grapefruit for a dollar. If you go in these Paul Reams stores you’ll see how they’re set up on their vegetables stands, Paul copied us from that little vegetable room they put in. We started that thing up about forty years ago. But anyway, I went through life, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. Oh another thing I wanted to show you real quick is, you know this temple work, here’s a deal right here that’s from our Stake President down in the old fifth ward of the Timpanogos Stake where Boyd Fugal was the president, but anyway, this is issued in 1961 for people that went ten times or more in a year, you know we can do that much now in a month real easy but back then I guess, you know ten times, you got to put yourself out a little bit to do it, but my brothers and sisters, every one of them has been married in the temple, and we all kind of lived there together, we would try to get to the temple at least two, three times a month. This old Kentucky Fried Chicken deal down on State Street, the first one that was ever there, you could used to go in and get a platter of chicken and it was that big around with potatoes and gravy and everything for a buck ninety-eight or whatever and on the way home from the temple we would always stop in and eat and have fun doing it. I enjoy working in the temple, I’ve enjoyed living in this area and I’ve enjoyed you guys’ friendship. I’ve got to know Lee a little better and he’s really a better guy than some of you might think he is. But I’m thankful for a lot of you guys, this guy over here, he’s even done good work in this ward, a lot of good work, and Lynn has, me and Lynn, when I was in the Bishopric with Lynn and Bob Patterson, we had a few good laughs and at least we got our jobs done and everybody was pretty happy with that Bishopric. I’m grateful to know old Stewart Blazer as good as I know him, I probably know him as good if not better than anyone in here, I’d say a little bit better. Me and him had been together for quite a while. But anyway, a lot of good men here, old Fred Furner sitting back there grinning. I told them guys a joke once and I can’t remember how it went but boy, I mean they laughed.
I wished we had more time cause I had some interesting things to get into. I wanted to tell you about one quick pheasant hunt. When I came home out of the Navy on my leave, not kidding you, I had a little old Dodge pickup and I went down there with a double barrel shotgun that I’ve got over to the house, it’s got one of those long barrels on it, not one, two. But, we went down there and boy was I hungry for good pheasant, I went down there to old Bob Jacob’s place down by the airport and I said “Come and go with me” but he said “I can’t, I’m haying out here”, so he was haying and I went and got thirty pheasants. We had a big neighborhood pheasant fry that night and homemade bread. And then the next day I went down to (see Jake?) and there was two fawns and a big doe out there and I had this little pump twenty two with me, old Bill, his old dad Bill Jacobson says “Go ahead and get one, I want the liver”, so I got my little gun out and they started running and I shot one, but anyway it was a nice fat fawn. That was the first young deer I ever shot, but I shot it and we skinned it out in his down in his milk cows and he wanted the liver and I took the rest home. But, anyway time’s up, I ask a blessing that the Lord will be with us all and I do this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
*This history was typed by Keith’s granddaughter, Michelle Wagstaff. It is assumed by her that this recording took place at some sort of priesthood activity.