Tales Mama Told Me

I thank Mama for today’s stories.

I don’t know who they were, but when I was a kid, every summer a family group came and ‘camped’ in a grove not far away, and Mom said they were Gypsies, and they ‘stole’ kids, and blonde ones were considered special for they brought good luck to the group, and there I was with hair so white, it could snow on me and no one would notice.

Every kid in the neighborhood had been told the same story, and we all were so scared we didn’t step outside as long as ‘they’ were near. Our area was so quiet you’d never known there was a kid for miles, and to this day if I’m among beautiful, dark, curly haired people I shiver and want to run home and lock the doors.   And I’m now no ‘kid’, nor have white hair, but oh, the power of tales learned from our Moms.

The next story I tell is not something she told me, but because she refused to even hear or answer my questions, she also made it more mysterious and interesting.. I know now, that she had no idea what to tell that dang kid with her persistent questions, but, there was this certain house that we passed every day, and I knew that house had more chimneys and ‘outside’ doors than any it needed.

It bugged my childish mind because Mom would not talk about it. You see, that house had all those chimneys, as well as seven outside doors. and I asked and asked and asked, and no one would even acknowledge the oddness of it.

My parents would ignore me, talk about something, anything else, so I knew there was something I wasn’t supposed to know, and only when I was older did I know it had been built when polygamous homes were needed, and to ‘keep peace in the family’, some poor man had had to give every one of his seven wives, her own place to cook, and her own ‘front’ door.

Now I laugh and wonder why those seven women didn’t gang up and let that man know how much power there is in numbers, but people didn’t do that kind of thing ‘back then’. Anyway, when parents dodge their kid’s questions, those kids know there is something behind the silence, and so stories get bigger and better, Like this one. For though an Arctic Circle restaurant  sits there today, I never pass that corner without thinking of all those chimneys, and that poor cuss with seven wives, seven private rooms, and seven front doors, and probably wished far more than seven times that he’d never gotten in such a mess.

And then there’s the Dream Mine hidden in the mountains east of American Fork, Utah. The men reported it to Brigham Young, but were told to leave it alone, to raise their farms and family and leave the Mine for the next generation.

Well, of course they obeyed orders, except one fellow named Rhodes who dreamed over and over of where it was, and finally, disobeyed rules, took to the mountains, and what’s more, found that Dream mine, but could not ‘work’ or claim it because of Young’s injunctions,

Rule or no rule, Rhodes made a map of where it was, and also told (whisper, whisper) a few of his chums, and so the tale spread. Many a man, far into the 20th century, spent months each year seeking that Dream mine, with no success,   There was even a son of a well known Murray family, friends of our family, who refused any full time job, because each spring he ‘had to go to the mountains’, sure that ‘ this’ time that Dream mine would be his. And, in time he died, with no mine. And never had a full time job, either.

Today I wonder if Rhodes just might have blundered upon Timpanogas Cave, and thought it to be a wonderful mine, and never dreaming its value was of beauty, not ore. Who’s to know,  but for almost two centuries men have sought his mine while thousands enjoy pure beauty in the same area he described.

Then there’s the well-known story of Polka Dot Dresses for Burial clothes, and even if you’ve heard it, read along, and laugh with the rest us.

It’s become a standby of old tales, but the first time I heard it, and before I knew why everyone laughed, I still saw that even my mother smiled. But when I grew up enough to know what was meant, I didn’t smile, I laughed louder than anyone.

So, here’s the story: An older woman died and the family was wondering what kind of dress to bury her in.

The Mortician said, “Well, for women who have married and had a family, we usually recommend a deep, royal purple, but if it’s an unmarried, virgin woman, we suggest pure white.”

The family stepped aside and talked a few moments and then their spokesman said, “Well, we want to do the correct thing,   and so we’ve chosen to bury her in a lovely White Dress, but we need to have it sprinkled liberally with Purple Polka Dots.”

I’ve heard this story, told and laughed over by more than one local family, which for some reason surprises me. Of course, I think it’s a funny story, and if asked today, I’d wager that Polka Dot dresses would almost be a standard choice. But today I betcha they’d have to add the Purple dress with White Polka Dots.  Am I right?????

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