Archive for January, 2008

Owen Cannon Bennion 4/10/22-1/24/08

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Here are images of my father as a 19 year old missionary, as Iremeber him when he was the age that I am now and as he was before his passing.
Here is the obituary we sent to the papers here in Missouri and Utah.
Owen C. Bennion, 85, Stark City, died at 10:05 p.m., Fri., Jan. 25, 2008 at his home, following a short illness. He was born April 10, 1922, in Salt Lake City, UT, to Glynn Sharp Bennion and Lucile Morris (Cannon) Bennion.

Mr. Bennion spent his early years homesteading and cattle ranching with his father in western Utah. He served as a missionary in the Central States Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1941 to 1943. He also served stateside in the US Army during WWII from 1943 to 1947 at Ft. Lewis, WA.

Owen graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT in 1955 with a BS degree in Education. He also took graduate classes at University of Mississippi in Oxford Mississippi, and received a Master of Science Education at the University of Utah in 1960. He taught in the science department of Lincoln High School in Orem, UT from 1955 to 1960; taught Physics and Earth Science in Brigham Young High school from 1960 to 1968; taught Chemistry, Physics and Geology in the Indian Education Department at Brigham Young University from 1968 through 1984. During this time he took frequent trips with his students to teach Geology and outdoor survival skills in Utah’s west desert. He also taught Old Testament and Book of Mormon; went to Israel to work on biblical archaeological site at Tel Macal and taught geology at Crowder College from 1984 to 1986.

Mr. Bennion was a lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served as a Sunday School teacher, Bishop, Branch President, High Councilor and Home Teacher. He was an avid gardener and loved fishing and back packing in the High Uintah Mountains in Utah, where as a Scout Master he frequently took his Boy Scout troop.

Mr. Bennion was preceded in death by a brother, Glynn Colin Bennion, and a son, Matthew Wood Bennion.

Owen married Lenore Wood, August 30, 1949 in Salt Lake City, UT. Lenore survives along with 12 children: sons, Joseph and Lee Bennion, Spring City, UT; Glynn and Jodi Bennion, Scott City, KS; Howard and Holly Bennion, Fairfield, CA; Samuel and Miyuki Bennion, Stark City, MO; Jonathan and Clara Bennion, Camdenton, MO; daughters, Katherine and Dennis Pincock, West Valley City, UT; Anne and Darrell Hansen, Granby, MO; Jeanne and Brad Mitchell, Perry, OK; Mary Lois and Jonathan Snow, Burlington, IA; Eileen and John Bingner, Hillsborough, OR; Lillian and Doug Nehring, Billings, MT; Lucy and Bryan Byrd, Stark City, MO; two brothers and a sister, George and Joye Bennion, UT; Robert and Francine Bennion, UT; Eileen McKean, Salt Lake City, UT; Sergene Bennion (sister-in-law), Provo, UT; 67 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.

Flying East

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I caught a flight to Tulsa Tuesday and drove to my parents home in SW MO. I have been spending time with my folks at the hospital in Joplin. Mother, Dad and I made the difficult decision to take him off life support Wednesday morning. Dad was against it until he was convinced that my mother would be well cared for. I could see the relief wash over his face and a calm set in. After the ventilating tubes were with drawn from his throat he slowly became stronger and brighter. Finally his speech came back and he became very much himself for a while laughing, telling stories and talking to distant family on the phone.
Owen and Hannah Byrd.
Dad expressed a desire to go home so the cardiologist gave his OK for Dad to go home to hospice care. I went ahead to help prepare his hospital bed at home. When he arrived he was very anxious and in a lot of distress. He had been given Ativan to make him less anxious for the drive home. It had taken the opposite effect (1 in 1000 chance) making him very agitated. It was a very difficult situation. Though Dad was very distraught I felt a strange and wonderful sence of peace as I assited my father in the most difficult work of his life. It was clear that he was ready to go and wanted to but was unsure about how to do it. It is hard waiting for death when it comes in the form of suffocation from within. As I satr with him holding his hand, wiping his face and giving him ice and water to drink I had one of the peak emotional and spiritual experiences of my life. I understood that although death can be difficult it is also sweet for those who have walked in integrity as he has.
We administered morphine to settle him down and to help with the feeling of drowning in his own fluids. That is how he will eventually go as his lungs slowly fill. His heart is too weak for proper circulation.
This is a tough situation but I have felt a tremendous amount of peace over it. He is going out with a lot of dignity and courage. It is amazing to watch him do this once in a lifetime work. I am glad to be able to assist him as he passes into eternity and back to his ancestors.
Though the eagle is generally flying west he was able to head east first to be in his home with his family all around him. Life doesn’t get much better than that in the end.

Another day at the prison.

Friday, January 18th, 2008

It was bitter cold this morning, probably 18 degrees, when I started the truck and drove to Gunnison for my weekly visit with the American Indian inmates there. I sat facing south as the brothers prepared their fire and water drum. I can’t get over the devotion it must take to spend half an hour working with wet leather in those temperatures with no gloves so you can then sing and pray. I wonder if that was required how many of my faith would participate.
After the usual opening greetings, songs and prayer I asked for some time. I shared with the brothers the story of the wounded eagle and explained what has been happening with my father during the past week. THey offered to pray and sing for him. Two of the Navajo brothers, Travis Nakaidine, and Ricky Bilse, brought the water drum they had been preparing over and knelt in front of me and sang a set of four NAC songs.
As they were finishing the fourth song a large golden eagle flew in from the east right over our circle. The bird proceeded about 100 yards beyond the circle, turned and flew east back over the fire and on toward the mountains. We all watched until he was out of sight. No one in the circle doubted that the bird was sent with a message about my father. The meaning is for me to understand. I know that he is nearing the end of his life on earth. The last time we spoke he talked of the spirit world and seeing departed loved ones soon. THe eagle’s flight west would indicate death. His turn around and easterly path may mean returning to the Creator or Christ as my father knows Him.
During the past couple of days my father has seemed to rally, but anyone who knows anything about how things go near the end for severe cardiac patients would say his time is short. I am flying out to be with the family on Wednesday. Perhaps I will see him again, perhaps not. He could go any time. I relish the time we had together in July when we stayed together for a week in Oklahoma. It was a great time.

The Wounded Eagle

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Twelve years ago I took my oldest daughter backpacking to Coyote Gulch out on the Hole in the Rock Road. She was home on break from her freshman year at Cornel University. She had said that all she wanted for Christmas was a trip to the desert so we went.
As we bumped down the dirt road I saw what appeared to be two figures standing on the side of the road ahead. As we came along side of them I could see that they were two Golden Eagles. It is odd to be able to get close to these birds. As we came to a stop we were maybe 10 or twelve feet from them. I carefully opened the car door and got out. They still didn’t move. Looking at them closely I could see that one had a gash on its breast bone and was dripping blood onto the ground at its feet. I took a step closer and the one that was not hurt flew off to the south. The wounded eagle puffed him self up and tried to look menacing. I took a couple of more steps toward him and he jumped up and spread his wings, flying off to the east.
As Louisa and I drove on down to out trail head we remarked on how strange that had been.
We enjoyed a great hiking trip and returned home where she prepared for her journey back to New York for school.
A few days later I got a call from one of my sisters telling me that my father had suffered a mild heart attack and was in the hospital in Joplin,MO awaiting bypass surgery. It was too late to call him so I retired to bed. During the night I had a very vivid dream in which I saw a man dressed in white enter a small room with a bed with a lamp next to it on a stand. The man in white was carrying a person over his shoulder who he lowered onto the bed. The person he carried was dressed in a hospital gown and I recognized him as my father. After he as laid on the bed the man in white left and I looked at my father lying there. He looked small to me. As I looked at him he groaned and began to roll off of the bed. I leaped forward to catch him. As I lifted him back onto the bed our eyes met in a very intense gaze. He looked very small and frail. It was then that I noticed a line of blood soaking through his gown down the length of his sternum. As I observed this wound I awoke in a rather emotional state.
It was morning so I called my sister and asked her for the phone number of my father’s hospital room. When I reached him he was being prepared to go into surgery so we only had a few moments to talk. I could tell he was afraid. He had never had major surgery before. He said, “Son, they are going to butcher me.”
I had watched him butcher beef and venison many times as a boy growing up, his arms red to the elbows pulling steaming organs from the body cavity. I was fascinated with this work of taking apart God’s creatures so we could eat. He would talk to me a bout the function of each part. I never wondered about where meat came from or what its cost was.
He had seven bypasses performed that day. The heart attack had not damaged his heart muscle and the surgeon said the days work would buy him ten more years if he was lucky.
I called Louisa and told her about the heart attack, the dream and the surgery. She observed that the blood on the gown in the dream was just like the wounded eagle we had seen on the road in the Escalante desert. I had not made that connection. That evening I talked with my friend Forrest Cuch, a full blood Ute, who told me that anytime those big birds come that close to you it is to give you a message from the Creator about what is going on in your life. It seem that was the case that day on the road to Coyote Gulch.
The wounded eagle had flown off to the east rather than the west. East is the direction of life, the west road is the way to death. Dad was given ten more years with his rewired heart. It has been twelve and the reaper is back. Dad is in the ICU at a hospital in Joplin. This time there will be no surgery just drugs to keep his blood pressure up and to keep him sedated so his strength will be saved fro his weak heart and lungs. He is walking down the west road. As he waited for the ambulance to come to his home on Saturday he told my mother that he is ready to go to that other place now. He had just come in from a walk and felt poor. He knew it was time. He is 85 and has had a good life.

The Empty Nest

Friday, January 11th, 2008

When we go on a Grand Canyon river trip there is always a tremendous push right before we launch. The last few days before Lee’s Ferry are a blur of shopping,packing,rigging and list checking. When we push off from the shore it all shifts. The journey is before us and the hard work of the preparation fades quickly into the excitement of the being on the river…and there is no going back.
Yesterday we closed on the sale of our home of 29 years. It felt like that. The tough work of sorting through the stuff, the trips to the dump, the thrift store, the packing and moving are all behind us. With the ink drying on the papers there is no turning back. That dear place is quickly fading into the past and out of present view.
I spent an hour alone in the house with my camera talking to the ghosts and trying to make a record of what was left. Hard emotional work…..looking back. The next time I stop by there I will knock on the door.
The dinning room where we gathered to pray, share food, tell stories and entertain friends from the world over.
Tom Schulte installed this linoleum floor using my design. It speaks to his love of craft and his care for detail.
The 1929 Home Comfort was the heart of the home. For reasons of conserving energy (and cash) we kept or thermostat set at 60 degrees day and night. This enforced a gathering around this heat source. The kids often sat reading with their feet in the oven. This appliance could tell a few stories.

The living room.
Window detail. THe casing for all of the windows in the house were scrounged from the old Candlen home in Chester that was being demolished.
Looking south.
The funeral door was used in former times when a viewing of the the deceased was held in the home. It has been sealed since we bought the house. The patina on this door bears witness of time.
Our bed room. The door in this view was originally an outside door. The bedroom was added to the house in 1981.
Lee’s studio seen from the bedroom window. lee will continue using the studio until her new one is built.
The stairs were also added in 1981.
The three girl’s bedrooms upstairs.
In Maori culture it is believed that as objects are used in daily life they accrue spiritual power called “mauna”. I sense this with houses. I don’t know a lot about what went on before our tenure in this house but the three decades we were there were important to us. We leave this house to its new owners with a lot of fondness. It has served us well. It is easy for us to leave it knowing it will be in good hands.

Nicotiana Rustica

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

I love tobacco. I grow it in my garden carefully, protecting the young tender plants from the late frosts of Spring. I clear away any competing weeds so the plants can grow with out competition and produce the right amount of leaf.
I follow a religion that prohibits the recreational use of this plant whether as smoke , chew or snuff. I agree with those prohibitions.
I also give my time every Friday to a group of American Indian inmates at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. I serve as a spiritual advisor to roughly 40 native men. I carrry tobacco and other plant medicines in to the facility. Tobacco is not allowed into the any UDC facility except for the purpose of prayer by Indian inmates. Even staff have to go out of the facility to have a smoke.
Last time I was in it was near 15 degrees in temperature. I watched as several Dineh brothers prepared a water drum in the bitter cold with bare hands. They drummed and sang with wet fingers, glad for the chance to pray in this way. Between songs they shared tobacco rolled in a corn husk according to their traditions. I was awed by their devotion. My hands ached for their frozen finders. I thought about all the times these ceremonies were outlawed. I thought about them going underground with their prayers to survive the prohibition of our government.
I hate tobacco as product and the way it is pimped to our people by conspiring men and women who only see potential profit in its leaves. I hate what the smoke does in the body when used in a way unintended by its creator. I hate the way it seduces our young men and women and traps them into years of addiction and disease. I hate how our government colludes with big tobacco and refuses to really get serious about stopping this evil industry. I want to tear them down. I want to see them fall. I want freedom and health for our children. I am at war and will not rest until this happens.
This ad from Australia is over the top and perhaps a bit gross. I don’t care. Mouth cancer is ugly. Lung and throat cancers are less visible but just as deadly.

I think that we will live in a smoke free world someday. The way it will happen is through LOVE.
I love all of you.


Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

This what my firstborn looks like.
This is what my second daughter looks like with her weird cat Reuben.zinaandreubs.jpg
This is what my youngest daughter and her best dog Mr. Booh look like.
This is what I like to do when I am away from home.
This is how not to run Lava Falls.

This is where I lived for the past 28 years.
This is how it was in 1976.
This how it is now.