Vard Heaton's Life Story
Contributor: anybody Created: 3 years ago Updated: 3 years ago
The majority of this history is directly quoted or summarized from “An Alton Farmer: Life Story of Vard Hoyt Heaton”.
I was born January 31, 1915, the seventh of eight children born to William Hoyt Heaton and Persis Esplin in Alton, Utah, in their home. …My hair was red and straight as a string. It did develop a little wave when I started high school, and started noticing the girls. My oldest sister, Irene, said my eyes were the color of a cat: hazel, I guess, or green. I was always slender and reached my maximum height, 5’11” when I was 15 years old. I have weighed between 140 and 155 lbs all of my adult life. My mother said I was shy, sensitive, and had a serious nature when I was young. I have been struggling with this problem all of my adult life and still am.
Our father was killed in a farming accident September 3, 1918 when I was 3 ½ years of age. My brother Gail was 3 ½ months of age. …I have thought about the time Mother and Dad spent together. They were married just under 22 years. He spent about 5 years of this time on his two missions in Texas, and considerable time at the sheep herd away from home. Their time together was short. Mother lived as a widow for 51 years after Dad died.
[When Vard was 5 or 6 years old, he brought some pinecones back from Rush Meadow. He was excited to roast the pine nuts when he got home. He pulled some hay out of the side of the stack at the barn and set it on fire, thinking only of his pine nuts. Soon the whole haystack was on fire. The stack was out a short distance from the barn and they hung wet quilts up on the side of the barn to keep it from catching on fire. There were four barns right there together. If one had burned, they probably all would have burned. Vard said,] I remember how badly I felt. The hay meant so much to our family at that time. The only income we had was from cream we shipped in five gallon cans to Salt Lake and from grain we sold to sheep men around. …Mother didn’t even get cross with me. I guess she could see how badly I felt and figured I had had my punishment.
When I was young there used to be lots of sheep run in the area around Alton …We younger kids used to go around these different herds; if they had lambs without mothers (we used to call them dogies), they would give them to us. We used to carry them in gunnysacks, hanging them from the saddle horn on each side of our horse. We would cut a hole and put their heads out so they could breathe. Sometimes they would die before we could get them home. We had several cows and some years we would raise 20 or 30 lambs. We would bottle feed the dogies on cow’s milk. We would eat the wethers and keep the ewes to raise our own sheep. This helped us get started in the sheep business.
My sister, Geneva and her friend, Idonna Gibson, taught school in Alton the year I was in 7th grade. …They needed someone to do the janitor work and Geneva asked me if I wanted to do it. It paid $10.00 a month and that sounded like a lot of money to me so I agreed to do it. The floors had to be swept each day, the blackboard cleaned and, after the weather got cold, a fire had to be built each morning in each room and ashes removed each night. I had to cut and carry wood for each stove. There was a large bell mounted up on the front of the building. You could usually hear the bell any place in town, especially if you were outside. It was part of my job to ring the bell 30 minutes before school and again 5 minutes before. I thought that was quite an important position – anyway it provided for our needs.
When I was young we raised most of our food. Mother always raised a good garden – potatoes, beans (green and dry), peas, lettuce, corn, lots of berries, plums, apples, etc. We raised our meat, mutton, beef, chickens (eggs), and pigs. We didn’t need to buy much and had nothing to buy with. …Mother made lots of cheese in the summer. …She used to make her own laundry soap … and even made her own lye sometimes. She would make her own potato starch as well.
We spent the summer months putting up hay, grain and other crops. Each fall at threshing time, we would save 25 or 30 sacks of the best wheat and load it on a wagon and haul it down to Glendale where there was a gristmill. One year someone left the gate unlocked between the corral and the stackyard, and 4 work horses and 2 saddle horses got into the grain. Both saddle horses died a few days later. That was a real blow to the family. We had nothing to pull the wagons or machinery – like losing all your cars, trucks, and tractors today.
[Vard remembers when electricity came to Alton, then later the telephone, and then running water. What a treat each of those was for the family! Vard said,] I can’t emphasize enough the gratitude we felt for electricity, running water and the bathroom with an inside toilet. I must have been about thirteen years of age at the time. I can imagine how Mother felt – she had lived a lot longer without these comforts. Sometimes we take these conveniences for granted. If we had to do without them for a while we would appreciate them more.
When I was 13, I went to Kanab to attend high school. [Vard stayed with various families, helping out to earn his keep. He did this for two years. His third and fourth years he went to high school in St. George. He worked his way through as a janitor. Unfortunately, he caught rheumatic fever. The doctor told him he needed to quit school so he went home for a few weeks. His joints would swell up and be very painful. After a 2-3 week recovery, he returned to school.]
One of the things I especially enjoyed while going to school in St. George were the school dances which they had almost every Friday night. They also had some students who formed an orchestra. They played on Tuesday nights for dances held in the upstairs room above the Wadsworth Theater; I really enjoyed the dances. I also really liked the basketball games and got enthused about them.
That summer Ross received a mission call to California and Mother was worried about how she would finance his mission. I just didn’t feel like I could go back to school. I probably could have gone and I wish now that I had gone, but I didn’t feel like I could then. That was the last of my school. I started herding sheep after that and I herded sheep most of the rest of my life until we sold the last of our sheep in 1971. One of the reasons I started herding sheep was because it seemed the only people who were able to provide for their families were those who were in the sheep or cattle business. …I am sure this was a mistake. I am sure my life would have been a lot more rewarding if I had gone ahead and finished school.
In the summers they used to have dances in Alton one week and then one in Hatch the next week. One night they were having a dance here in Alton and I didn’t want to go. Margaret Luke was living with us at that time… she went to the dance and then came back and told me that Floss (Florence Huntington) was up there. For some reason I didn’t think she was going to be there that night. I hurried up and changed my clothes and started running up the street. Mother had a bunch of those cottonwood trees growing right along the street to the corner. I ran into one of those trees, then came back to see what was the matter. My eye was swollen clear shut. I went up to the dance, peeked in the door, but did not go in.
Floss and I went together off and on for a year or two. Then after we started to go to school in St. George, I wanted to still date her. But one day I asked her for a date and she wouldn’t tell me yes and she wouldn’t tell me no. I figured she was going to wait and see if she could get a date with somebody else. So I told her if she wouldn’t tell me then I didn’t want to go with her. So we didn’t go together for quite a while. I came home and went to the sheep herd for 3 or 4 years and we didn’t date, but I still liked her. So finally one night there was a dance in Alton and I decided if she would go with me I would go with her again. I found out later that Floss had made a wager with her sister Ada about this time that she could get me to ask her to go with her again. (If I had known this then, I wouldn’t have asked her.) But we started dating again and then I had to go back to the herd and she went back to school, but about 18 months later we decided to get married. I’m not sure yet whether she married me because she liked me or because she felt sorry for me.
Floss and I chose September 8, 1936 for our wedding day. She and her mother came to Alton on the evening of the 7th and stayed at our home. We left really early the next morning for St. George. We had to go to the courthouse and get our marriage license. The clerk was out of his office and by the time he came, we were almost late for the session.
At that time people didn’t notify the people at the temple that they were coming to be married and they weren’t prepared for us. We finally made it through the session. There was just Floss and her mother and my mother and me. We waited quite a while for an officiator to come and marry us. Finally he came and took us to the east sealing room. Just the four of us and President Whitehead. He told Floss to get on one side of the altar and me on the other. He very rapidly read the marriage ceremony and when finished he turned to me and said, “I’ve done all I can for you – you can kiss the bride”. He picked up his papers and left. We didn’t know if we were married or not. But I guess it took – we are still married after 64 years and doing well.
When Dad died in 1918, Mother was left with her home, the 20 acres below her home, Rush Meadow, the Findlay Field and the Cow Pasture. Dad had a 640 acre homestead claim up north of the Bench Field. The government permitted Mother more time and she eventually proved up on it and received the title to it. She also had a few sheep. Our family worked together at that time under the name of Persis E. Heaton and Sons.
We did that for 8-10 years until Merrill and George got married. When Mother’s brother, George Esplin, bought a ranch in Colorado, my brother George decided to take the sheep which we had and move to Colorado with Uncle George. Merrill took the Bench Field and Rush Meadow and started working for himself, running a dairy. That left Mother and us four younger boys working together as Persis E. Heaton and Sons. We did that for 2-3 years.
Then Uncle George got into financial trouble, sold his Colorado ranch, and returned to Utah. My brother George also sold his sheep and came back. George bought Rush from Merrill and the field west of town and he ran a small dairy.
Mother and us younger boys acquired a few sheep again and they gradually increased in numbers. After a few years, George wasn’t doing too well in the dairy business and decided to move up to Alpine, where he would have a better market for his milk. We bought him out. Merrill was also struggling in the dairy business, complicated by the fact that he had allergies and had problems working in the hay. He decided to move to Fredonia and work at the sawmill. We rented his farm.
As we other kids were getting older, we continued to work with the sheep. It was right during the Depression. Uncle Israel’s and Uncle June’s families and other neighboring families were having a hard time and were discouraged. Land and sheep were selling real cheap at that time. We bought Reservoir Hollow, one half of the June Heaton Reservoir on the Arizona Strip, and an East Fork forest permit from Uncle Israel Heaton. A little later we bought Roundy Canyon and the balance of the June Heaton Reservoir from Lincoln Pugh. We bought Birch and the Merle Findlay allotment in Arizona from Merle Findlay. Later we bought the Elmer Jackson and Earl Jackson allotments in Arizona. We bought the Harold Sevy property and other pieces as they became available. We bought the land down around the Elbow from Ervin Roundy, Milton Roundy, and the last from E.J. Graff.
We operated under the name of Persis E. Heaton and Sons until the 1950s. When Mother decided she didn’t want to be involved any longer, we changed the name to Heaton Brothers. Through the years we worked hard to improve our property (clearing, re-seeding, etc.), water storage, and conservation practices. Loyd, Ross, Gail, and I, along with our wives and growing children, worked closely together. In the 1960s and 1970s we gradually changed from a sheep operation to Hereford cattle. We cleared more land to irrigate for alfalfa fields. At the time we made the legal change to a corporation, we changed the name to Heaton Livestock Company. Making a living in agriculture requires lots of hard work, long hours, and many challenges. But it has provided a good and happy life for all of our families.
Ross and I bought the house and lot across the street west of where we now live (200 South Main Street in Alton). The house had an open porch on the back and we tore up the floor and dug a basement by hand and hauled the dirt away with a wheelbarrow. We made a coal room, furnace room, fruit room, and installed a furnace in that basement. We built a bathroom and kitchen above it and when finished, Ross and Delila lived in the south side and Floss and I lived in the north side and we shared the bathroom.
Our first three children were born while we were living in that house – Vivian (1941), Janice (1943), and Raymond Vard (1946). The summer Raymond was born we bought the lot across the street to the east and that summer we started building a new home. We moved into an old house already on the north side of the lot (which used to be the old schoolhouse) and lived there while the new house was being built. By November 1946 it was so cold in that old house that we moved our things into the new (unfinished) house and continued working on it at nights after work. This has been our home the remainder of our lives. It was the only childhood home of our last three children – Douglas Kurt (1949), William Huntington (1954), and Terry Lane (1957).
Through the years since the children have left home, we have enjoyed many special visits and activities together. We love having our children and grandchildren come see us. We look forward to family reunions, special birthday celebrations, and holidays when we can do things together. Our fiftieth wedding anniversary reunion, my eightieth birthday celebration, and many other special family times bring us much joy. One such special time occurred a few years ago with Vivian and Janice, after their own families were about raised. They came out together to camp headquarters at Twins where Floss and I were tending the heifers in the spring during calving time. They stayed and helped us for a week. They rode horses, moved cows, and helped with whatever we were doing. One day Mother looked out of the trailer at Twins and saw Vivian and Janice coming up the valley with their horses on a dead run! She almost had heart failure. What she didn’t remember was what good riders they are. Such has been the good life we have enjoyed working side by side with each other and our family.
BLM: The winter or 1949 was a cold one – quite a lot of snow. Wayne Gardner froze while trying to find his camp in a blizzard. He had been a member of the BLM District Advisory Board and after his death I was appointed to take his place. I served on that board for the next 25 years. This board held meetings four times a year in St. George. I was also appointed by this board to represent the sheepmen on the Arizona state advisory board with their office in Phoenix, Arizona where they held their meetings twice a year. Then I was appointed by this board to represent the sheepmen on the National Advisory Board with offices in Washington D.C. where they held meetings once each year. Sometimes the National Board held meetings other places: Portland, Oregon; Riverside, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Lake Havasu, Arizona; and Floyd Lee’s Ranch in San Mateo, New Mexico. Floss went with me to some of these places and Ross and Delila went with us to the one at Floyd Lee’s ranch. The BLM working under the Department of the Interior was charged with the responsibility of administering all government lands not administered by the Forest Service.
Church Service: In 1960, Gail was made bishop of the Alton Ward and Horace Roundy was called as first counselor and I was second counselor. While Gail was bishop, they did extensive work on the church recreation hall and made a new foundation and floor in the hall and insulation in the walls and siding on the outside. They made a new bishop’s office, Relief Society room, kitchen, restrooms, and janitor’s closet. Gail, Allen Cox, and I and other ward members worked there most of the winter. We also painted all of the rooms in the hall. The ward members did all of the work under the supervision of Bishop Gail and Allen Cox.
On July 22, 1971, my brother, Ross was injured by a horse and he died August 13th in the hospital in Salt Lake. I went up and stayed for about a week and then came home. I was working on a fence between Don Spring and Cecil Pugh’s forest permit when Charles Brinkerhoff came to tell us he had died. His funeral was August 16th.
After the funeral, President J. Ballard Washburn called me to be the Alton Ward bishop to replace Gail. Gail had developed leukemia and cancer and his health problems were getting worse. On September 26, 1971 Franklin D. Richards set me apart as bishop of the Alton Ward. I was released August 21, 1977 and Orval Palmer was sustained as the new bishop and I was made financial clerk. Gail’s health continued to deteriorate and he died November 18, 1977. His funeral was November 22. Four others in my family have died since then: Merrill on May 6, 1985; Geneva on May 12, 1986; Loyd on September 22, 1993; and Irene on March 17, 1998.
We decided to build a garage on our house but thought it wouldn’t cost much more to also make a family room, bathroom, and a bedroom and bath upstairs, so we started in 1981 and finished in 1983 – if one is ever finished.
We were called to be temple ordinance workers in the St. George Temple and started January 7, 1984. Dee and Martha Roundy and Loyd and Alma Heaton were also called and we often took turns taking our cars and rode together. It was an enjoyable experience. We were released to serve our mission in 1989-90, then called again as ordinance workers in the St. George Temple on July 17, 1993, working on Saturdays. We served this second time until our release on June 21, 1997. Floss and I still enjoy attending the temple whenever possible.
In 1989, we received a mission call to Adam-Ondi-Ahman and left July 9. We arrived there on the 12th and got settled in our apartment. The other missionaries who were there were friendly and welcomed us into the group. We did not do proselyting but worked on beautifying the area, and worked in the Trenton ward. It was a great year and a half and we made many friends. We returned home in November of 1990.
I am very grateful to my older brothers and sisters, who did so much to help Mother provide and take care of us younger kids after Father passed away. I would especially like to thank Irene who did so much for Mother after she was unable to take care of herself. Irene and Billy took her into their home and made her feel at home and welcomed the last several years of her life.
I also express my appreciation to my wife who has supported and encouraged me throughout our married life. I am thinking of spiritual as well as temporal matters. She has been a constant companion ever since we were married. We spend most of the time from February 15 to June 1st on the desert where we watch the cattle at calving time. Floss and I, like my Mother, have lived to see all of our children happily married in the temple and rearing their families according to the teachings of the church – for this we are really grateful.
Floss and I have commented a lot of times about how fortunate we are to have the kids we have. How well they have gotten along! How obedient they were! They were never rebellious. They never acquired any bad habits. How blessed they have been in choosing their life companions! I don’t want to give the impression that we are better or know more than someone else. I do want to give thanks for the blessings we have received by having and raising our children. We have had a lot of people ask what we did to have our kids turn out so good. We don’t know. Maybe we were just lucky.
Some things that helped, I am sure, were: we taught them to work; we worked together in the home, the garden, the fields, and with the cattle. They inherited from their mother an optimistic outlook on life. She was always able to communicate with them. She lived her life on their level.
Before closing, I want to express my appreciation to our children and their spouses and children for the many things we learn each day from them and for the way they conduct their lives. I want to again thank my mother for the dedication she always showed in rearing her family, especially without the help of Dad in the later part of her life. It was her example more than anything that kept me on track. For her I am very grateful. I want to again take this opportunity to pay tribute to Floss for the patience, love, and devotion she has shown to me, the children and grandchildren. I am indeed grateful. You couldn’t ask for a better life partner than she has been and is to me.
MESSAGE TO MY POSTERITY
• Stay close to the Church.
• Listen to your parents. The older you get, you will realize more fully the wisdom they have.
• Listen to Church leaders. The Lord won’t let them lead you astray. Keep the commandments.
• Pay your tithing, fast offering and other church financial obligations.
• Be true to yourself and to your mate if you are married. Live to be worthy of the person you hope to marry when the time comes.
• Strive to obtain a good education and keep abreast of all knowledge as it is revealed to man. The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to live a happy and useful life and to be of service to those around you. Study the scriptures. You can learn so much from them.
• Don’t be afraid to work. Be thrifty. Save for a rainy day and be prepared to help others in need.
• Choose good friends and be a good friend. You are judged by the company you keep.
• Prepare for and serve a mission. Nothing you do will help you to live a more well-rounded life.
• Pay your debts.