Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wolf Hunter

Okay, I am officially obsessed with Rocky Smart's recent (and very manly) foray to Mongolia to hunt wolf.  I'm pretty sure I won' t rest until I make this trip. 
The following poster says it all for me. 
About 30 years ago (and before I even knew the term "bucket list") I made a list of adventures to do before I die.  I called this list "Darrell's Big List."  I made progress on completion of this list in recent years because I had the money and freedom to travel.  That was until Rocky started blogging about the blow-your-mind-cool things he is doing. I feel like I will never be able to die because my list (which now includes wolf hunting in Mongolia) just keeps getting longer.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Pride of Puglism

People my age have questioned the wisdom of continuing to be engaged in pugilistic endeavors such as wrestling and Brazilian jujitsu.  The following might explain my addiction to pugilism:  Growing up, my older brothers were great baseball players.  I, on the other hand, sucked pond water when it came to baseball.  I knew I was terrible because I once over heard my Little League coaches strategizing, "Maybe if we put Smart in Center field he will have support from both sides and the damage will be minimized."  Ouch! Words like that can leave a mark for life.  Knowing that baseball was not in the cards for me, I thought maybe I would try my hand at basketball, after all we played almost everyday on our back yard court.  I could hold my own in this venue.  However, when I went out for the team at Lincoln Junior High School it became apparently that the only reason I could hold serve on our back yard court was because no one ever called fouls.  A foul had to be pretty obvious to be recognized as such at 1807 South 3rd East; and by obvious, I mean it needed to involve maiming, freely flowing blood or disfigurement.  I was shocked when I played for the first time at my junior high school and was told that charging was a foul.  I thought, "How else am I going to get close enough to the hoop to make a shot if I don't bull rush whose ever guarding me?"  I mused, "That's just a crazy rule." In fact, it wasn't until I went home and complained to my dad about how they were calling the game at school that I learned the truth about this well guarded basketball secret called "charging."   When it was settled in my mind that this rule was, in fact, going to be enforced and that I was likely to be whistled every time I ran down the court for some ticky-tacky touching foul, I reasoned, "Dude, you gotta find a new sport!  You absolute stink at baseball; you're pretty small for football; and apparently you are certain to consistently foul out in basketball."  I was pretty disappointed.  That is, until I walked into the wrestling room for the first time. 

My introduction to wrestling, and my first sight of the wrestling room must be described in some detail to appreciate the significance of this event.  My first recollection of wrestling was walking with a group of shirtless 7th graders into the poorly lit, dingy wrestling room in the basement of Lincoln Junior High School.  The mat was a relic--a grayish coarse canvas cover, the consistency of sandpaper with horsehair stuffing, the surface of which was about as soft and inviting as worn concrete.  I describe the mat as grayish because no one really knew the original color of the canvas.  It had areas that were pinkish and yellowish, extant remnants of blood and urine, we supposed.  It had differing sizes of mysterious and random black and red spots in amoeba like shapes; but mostly it was just filthy shades of gray.  The edges were so tattered and worn that the rough horse hair padding was spilling out onto the mat, and had been littered over much of the canvas, creating an itchy, miserable surface.  The mat burns that we dished out and received on this mat were horrific. 

On the mat we were instructed to wear a jock strap, shorts and socks.  Coach Kotter sternly explained to us, "Everyone needs to wear socks; we don't want your stinking feet dirtying up the mat!"  Honest!  I am not making this up.  While I have exaggerated many things in life, my description of the wrestling environment at Lincoln Junior High School is a remarkable exercise in journalistic restraint.  This mat was so dangerous and filthy that it's impossible to accurately and completely describe the health and safety risks it posed.  The wrestling/boiler room at Mingo Junction High School in the movie Takedown was a muted representation of what I faced on day-one of wrestling at Lincoln Junior High School.

Coach Kotter taught us three essential moves, guaranteed to defeat any opponent:  a double-leg takedown (to get our opponents to the mat), a half-nelson (to turn our opponents), and a stand-up (to get away).  I'm dead serious when I state that he only taught 3 moves.  However, it was not the paucity of instruction that was so shocking, but rather how it was taught.  The following was the entirety of the double-leg takedown instruction:  With great confidence he declared, "To take down any opponent you use what I like to call a double-leg takedown.  To execute this move you tackle your opponent so fast and so hard, and then violently drill him to the mat so that he can't defend your attack.  Works every time."    We then divided into partners (not necessarily by size or weight) and took turns smashing each other into the canvas.  The half-nelson instruction was pretty much the same:  "Make a lever with your strong arm by going under his arm and over his head.  You then pry and drive him against the canvas until you either break his neck or he turns over--his choice.  Works every time."  We then took turns on the crowded mat with the same mismatched partners and tried to break each others' neck with our newest weapon, "the half-nelson." 

Finally, the most frightening bit of instruction was the stand-up:  "On the whistle, just jump to your feet and throw elbows as hard as you can.  Swing 'em hard enough to break teeth.  He'll let go of you.  Works every time."  Following this instruction, the mayhem began in earnest.  My criticism of Coach Kotter's instruction was not its lack of technical precision, but rather its lethal effectiveness.  You see in 1969, Lincoln Junior High School was full of sociopathic idiots. For them, this type of instruction was a license to maim and kill.

It was in this Mad Max like environment that I learned to wrestle.  If you wanted to score points and win, you executed everything with bad intentions.  The blood flowed freely in those chaotic practices.  There were no rules governing bleeding. We just proudly bled on each other.   I remember many times showering and watching the pink water wash away in a cleansing ritual that was almost spiritual in nature.  I had battled, and whether it was my blood or the blood or my opponent, it hardly mattered.   Technique meant nothing at Lincoln Junior High School--it was more like street fighting in gym shorts and I loved it. I knew I was in a very special place.  I felt that I belonged.

I loved the sheer physicality of wrestling--the steely taste of blood in my mouth, the stinging sweat in my eyes and the burning in my lungs.  Despite a total lack of technical instruction, I started figuring things out.  I had a natural feel for how to beat stronger and bigger opponents.  I went home and dreamed about wrestling. I would play out scenarios in my mind and how I could do things that might help me win.   I soon discovered that I could beat everyone in the room.  It was the only sport in which I had ever excelled.

Over the years, I have come to discover the pride of pugilism.   In addition to wrestling, I dabbled in Judo and boxing, but it was always wrestling that held sway for me.   I took pride in the pain, the meanness and the physicality of the sport.  I came to see the beauty in the dance of pain that is wrestling--it is technical and complex on one level, and yet at its core, is essentially a contest of brute strength and speed.  And then there is the strength-to-weight-ratio-battle that plagues every pugilist.  Wrestling cannot be truly appreciated until you have cut weight.  There's not room in this post to blog about the mental battles involved in cutting weight, but suffice it to say, that cutting weight is a lonely walk that demands a level of sacrifice that only pugilistic competitors can appreciate.  Yes, gymnasts cut weight, but wrestlers (and other pugilists) do this in the context of daily physical beatings in a room full of tough competitors who want nothing more than to see you fail.  

I believe the evolution of pride for wrestlers begins with the inescapable realization that after all the hard work and pain and sacrifice, that socially we are still viewed as a pariahs, outcasts and misfits.  Wrestling is not pretty to watch and everyone (including wrestlers) knows it.    While everyone respects wrestlers, no one other than wrestlers love this sport.  They don't watch it; they don't follow it; they just don't care.  While wrestlers might well complain and ask,  "Why are we not appreciated?  Why are we always underfunded?  Why do we invariably get the crappy schedules and worst equipment?", they eventually take pride in their status as second class citizens.  "Give us your worst, and you will see our best!" they chant.  Wrestlers (and I believe pugilists in all forms) are a very prideful group.  They treat every disrespectful comment as a challenge and every criticism as a personal affront. When people push, we push back. 

So, when friends question my sanity, I don't expect anyone other than a fellow pugilist to understand.  All I can do is shrug and blame it on the stubborn pride of pugilism-- you see, I would rather have my face beat in, or have it pounded on the canvas mat in the basement of Lincoln Junior High School, than yield even a single point.  


Exhibit A, Rughead circa 1972

Exhibit B, Rughead circa 1973

Exhibit C, Rughead circa 1974

Sans rughead circa 2012
When Shea had longer hair, Sheila and I were often asked about his beautiful curly mop, "Where did that come from?"  Snick has fielded similar questions about Evelyn, "That's some pretty crazy hair!  Who'd she get that from?"  The answer is always the same: "Darrell."  The reaction to this bit of information is invariably a look of incredulity.  So as proof positive that I once sported
 an unruly rughead, i.e.., a loose, seldom-needed-to-be-combed Afro for much of my adolescence, I offer exhibits A, B and C. 
In those days I actually cared about my do, and accordingly demanded critically important hair care products to insure the right scent, body and look for my hair.  Now, Gillette Fusion razors every third day is all I need.  I'm happy knowing that I'm saving a lot of time and money by being follicle challenged. More importantly, I'm relieved that I never have to worry about a bad hair day.  However, the reality is that at times I truly miss my hair.  And if by some miracle it was immediately restored, you better believe that I'd be rocking the rughead just like I did between 1972 and 1975! 

Evelyn--3rd Generation Rughead.

Shea--2nd Generation Rughead
The rugheads just chilling.


Saturday, December 21, 2013


I used to tell a mighty fine story.  It's part of my heritage.  My earliest memories of story telling was my Grandpa Smart--Hezekiah Bayliss Smart, who has become the namesake of a number of recent births in our family.  My brother Ricker perfected the yarn.  He could tell a story better than anyone I ever met.  Telling stories is an important part of who we are as Smarts. In truth, we live life to its fullest.  We fear little and will try anything once.  We then gather and entertain each other with stories, which are mostly truthful.

The key to telling a good story is to include enough truth to make it believable, but exaggerate enough to make it interesting.  You know, kind of like a Hollywood blockbuster movie that is based upon a real life event.  Fact:  I was bitten by a lion cub while in Japan on my mission.  Over the years I have regaled many with this story in its exaggerated form of how I was attacked by a lion.  Unfortunately, this story will now probably never be repeated. I have been silenced!  Let me explain.

My nephew Rocky, whose chin is more square and jutting than mine, whose hair is ruggier and more full than mine, and who is, in every way more manlier than I could ever imagine being, recently blogged about an experience in Outer Mongolia that without exaggeration was so spectacular that all I am left with is lame anecdotes.  The simple version of the story is that Rocky traveled from Bangkok, Thailand to the steppes of Asia, somewhere in Mongolia, stalked and killed a wolf.  Then with a condescending wink to all of us wanna-bes, dispatched the wolf's still warm testicles.  After this story, I've got nothing to say.  Nope. Nara.

Imagine the embarrassment of me telling my marginally interesting story of being bitten by lion and in walks Rocky.  Immediately, everyone would interrupt and demand that Rocky tell his Hemmingwayesque tale of wolf hunting in the remote wilderness of Asia.  He would start with the remarkable trip from Bangkok to the steppes of Asia.  This in itself would involve a story reminiscent of the Ricker. He would describe the personalities of his insane and wildly interesting guides with such detail, that all in the room would feel as though we had been dropped right into the middle of an Alistair McLean novel.  He would then describe his interactions with these crazy characters in a manner that would allow him to weave other past experiences from his travels in Asia and South America and Europe such that his tale would become a series of stories within stories. Finally, this epic story would reach a crescendo with his telling of he how he, with alacrity and aplomb, ate the testicles of the wolf he had just stalked and killed.  If you have killed a wolf and eaten its testicles regardless of the location, the Dos Equis front man has got nothing on you.  No one in the room can compete at this moment. Yep. we've got nothing. At this point every man in the room is totally emasculated. 

In the aftermath of this story, I would be so afraid someone in room would recall,"Hey, Darrell weren't you telling us about being attacked by a lion?  Why don't you finish that story?"  Talk about anti-climatic! Even if I told my now obviously lame lion story, it would seem so small and insignificant by comparison. I would run the risk of having to admit that it was actually a very small lion and that I was not scarred in the encounter.  Trust me, a story about a simple bite from a lion cub that did not place you in jeopardy of injury or death is not a story worthy of telling when a manly man walks in the room and he has just killed a wolf and eaten its testicles.   So until I have lived some more, I am definitely silenced. 

The details of Rocky's amazing story can be found at http://looksmartbesmart.blogspot.com/.

Above is the picture of me being attacked by a lion circa 1976. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bees Know!

My little helper Cole.  He smokes the bees while I work. 

The first year bounty from my most amazing and diligent little bees.
I recently extracted honey from my beehive.  It was a miracle really.  I'm not sure I did anything right.  When I really felt lost, I would simple go to You Tube and watch a couple of videos on how to do anything beekeeping related.  So to all those naysayers, aka Sheila Hague Smart, who thought I would be a lousy beekeeper, all I can say, is "Ha! Told ya so!"

Okay, in fairness to the She-Wolf, it's true that I rarely read directions for anything.  Furthermore, beekeeping is very technical and requires detailed research and massive amounts of reading to be successful. So the likelihood that I would successfully harvest anything other than a bunch of bee stings was pretty remote. I'm sure she felt secure in her prediction that this would be a waste of time and money; and although her assumptions were based entirely upon a foundation of solid facts and historical precedents, in the end she was oh so wrong.  I harvested 36, 4 oz. bottles of beautiful, sweet honey. 

I would like to believe that I possess natural instincts to be a beekeeper.  In the end I think the only 4 videos on YouTube that I actually watched must have really mattered.  Either that or my bees are simply world class.  My guess? The later.  Honestly, I felt a special connection with my bees.  As I worked my perennial flower beds throughout this past Spring and Summer, I marveled as my bees would diligently go from one major bloom to the next.  Every time a new set of blooms came on, there were my bees, organized and happily working.  It seemed magical to me.   To the casual observer it's obvious what bees do, but when you are responsible for them, you take particular notice of the little things--things so complex and inexplicable that you stand in awe at the power and mystery of nature. 

It's not always the case that a first year beekeeper will get to harvest honey, but because I had a completely full second super.  (A super is a box stacked on the hive where the bees can store excess honey for the winter.), I felt confident that I could harvest from the top super.  I left them a complete box of honey and am hopeful this will get them through the winter. 

When I predicted to the She-Wolf that by the end of the summer my hive would likely be home to 20,000+ bees she threatened me, "None of my grandchildren better get stung, or you'll be answering to me!"  (I took this threat seriously because of its tone, but also due to the fact that it involved the She-Wolf's grandchildren.)  In the end, the only one who got stung was Sheila.  Somehow I just think my amazing little bees know who loves them and who doesn't.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Whole Park Full of "Supers."

 Two supers that barely need costumes.
 While neither are superheroes per se, they are both "super" for sure!
 Two "super" members of my family--Janee and Rhett.
 I gotta be honest, having the feel of hair on my head felt pretty darn good!
 The Incredible Hulk in so many ways!
 Although this was a ton of work for Jenn and Darc, I think they also had a good time. 
 Even super heroes need their rest.
 One of our family's favorite persons and Alison's namesake, and her beautiful daughter, Presley.
 A super Grandpa, Kevin Burnett!
 I mostly just hung out, but Darcee and Jenn gave me the mike, which made my day. 
 Okay, we know it's not a superhero costume, but she is so cute, does it really matter?!
Congratulations, indeed!

Hero-Up For Children Cancer was an amazing race!  To say that we are proud of Darcee and her siblings would be a huge understatement.  She had a cool idea to bring together persons interested in cancer awareness and raise money for cancer research all at the same time.  I had my doubts initially that anyone could make money putting on such a race.  I stand corrected--I now have the vision that Darcee had when she first conceived this race.

Darcee has often wondered whether there was a place for a woman like her in the church (and in our Mormon culture)--afterall she doesn't sew, she is not interested in crafts and she possesses only passable singing ability.  What does a woman like her do in the church?  How does she fit in?  With such an obviously lack of normal LDS woman-like virtues, could she ever actually be called to serve as a Relief Society President? 

So, what does she do?  She runs.  Not exactly the prototypical talent for an LDS woman.  Despite the dearth of notable, more mainstream and acceptable LDS type talents, she is a super hero in all of the things that really matter.  She is determined and courageous.  She is an excellent mother and wife.  She is the sort of daughter that every parent dreams of raising.  In short, there so much more to her than sewing, crafts and music. 

The race that Jen and her put on is hard to sum up.  I have written more detailed thoughts in my journal that better describe my feelings on this race, but suffice it to say, that the next time this most remarkable daughter tells me she has a great idea, I assure you, I will not doubt.  I have always viewed her as Wonder Woman, and now she has left no doubt--she is worthy of that moniker in every way. 

Although the concept of the race was Darcee's, she couldn't have done it without a lot of much appreciated help. particularly from her siblings, close friends and ward members.  And Jenn?  Well, she is the real deal for sure--an absolute reincarnate of Marvel Girl!  I can't wait to see what's in store for these two real life Super Heroes.

(As a post script, I must correct my beautiful niece, Alex who blogged that I dressed up like the Wolverine.  Yes, she owes me a "super" big apology.  This is because I exude the essence of the Wolverine to such a degree that simply allowing my inner-Wolverine to emerge can hardly be described as merely "dressing up.")

To Be Amazing, You Have to Do Amazing!--Mt. Stuart with our Stake YW.

Applying "sunscreen" that I borrowed from a YW--it was actually some type of make up with a sunscreen element to it...regardless, it worked; and I'm pretty sure it made me smell really sexy.

 The scramble to the summit.
 The ridge overlooking Stuart Lake.
 A summit smile.

 Despite the occasional exposure, the YW climbed like champs.
The Summit with Brother Borchert and the YW.
 The view from the false summit.
Our hasty belay with a very fortunate piece of webbing. 

Since being called to the Stake Presidency, I have tried to divide my time equally between YM and YW.  We have an outstanding group of YW in our Stake who are courageous and seek to challenge themselves physically.  A recent climb of Mt. Stuart with a few of them, yielded a most remarkable spiritual experience.  Below is the email that I sent to Sister Calaway (the Selah Stake YW's President) following our climb to memorialize what occurred.  
Sister Calaway:
I wanted to again thank you for your pre-climb prayer in the parking lot before we left.  We talked about that prayer on the mountain way before things got scary.   We talked about how much Sister Calaway loved each of the YW and the power that comes with a righteous prayer.  What I didn’t share with them was President Grow’s (and my) concern over your use of the term “extraordinary.”  Please never again pray for “extraordinary” experiences when I am leading a group of youth!  When you spoke those words I was really concerned.  "Extraordinary" things happen when someone gets sick or injured and we have to rely on each to get off the mountain.  Please know that I was extra careful because of your prayer.

I want to share with you my personal observations about our climb so you know what really happened:  Just below the false summit there was a lot of rock fall—some of it quite dangerous.  We went slow and constantly communicated to avoid dislodging something that would injure another member of our team.  The YW were a little unsettled after we gained the false summit and I could tell they were unsure about continuing.  We were only 400’ from the summit, but the vertical scrambling/climbing was ahead of us.  I urged them on.  I struggled to find a good line to the summit.  We gained the ridge where I was comfortable and we could move quickly, but the YW were really concerned about the big (2,000’) vertical drop off to the north.  They were moving very cautiously, so we descended off the ridge in an attempt to find a safer route.  Instead, we found ourselves repeatedly having to scale a number of challenging 10-15' mini cliffs.  By this point in time, the YW had zero confidence in my route finding abilities, and  clearly doubted that I could find a safe route to the summit.  I could hear them questioning me, “How are we going to get back?”  I assured them that we would find a safer, easier route back. (I might have lied just a little bit.) 

I was watching the building clouds to the east (which were moving directly towards us) and was very concerned about the slow pace we had settled into.  Many of the clouds were dark clouds, with menacing anvils on the top (this type of cloud sometimes produce thunderstorms).  The summit route would be a very exposed place to be in a thunderstorm.  My anxiety was building and I kept thinking about your prayer where you pleaded with Heavenly Father for these YW to have “extraordinary” experiences.  “What was Sister Calaway thinking?!”  I wondered.  No one wants to be the leader where YW are going to have extraordinary experiences.   I was guessing that we had about an hour to get to the summit and return before these dark clouds hit us.  Our pace was likely going to take us a little longer.  We had one last challenging vertical climb (about 15’) to gain the summit.  I was really pushing the YW at this point. Our motto to that point had been: “Be Amazing, Climb Strong!”  I had to remind them, “If you want to be amazing, you have to do amazing!”  I feel bad about how hard I pushed them, but I was feeling some anxiety about the clouds in the offing.   When we arrived at the summit, a thick cloud moved in.  I could no longer see the menacing clouds in the distance, but was now concerned that we would have difficulty spotting the cairns in the low visibility and that it would take us even longer to return.  Of course, I was keeping all of this to myself. I was outwardly expressing as much confidence as I could muster for the benefit of the YW. I asked Brother Borchert to offer a prayer on the summit.  It was, similar to your prayer, one of the most powerful, heartfelt prayers I have ever participated in. He paused multiple times during this prayer searching for the right words to speak.  The Spirit was as powerful as I have ever felt.  When he ended, the thick cloud that had descended upon us was literally breaking up and moving to the South.  We were amazed to see blue skies peeking through this cloud, which was seemingly “fleeing” from us.  I use the word “fleeing” because it felt like the elements had changed immediately and that this cloud was being moved or chased from our presence.  As we ended the prayer, I noticed that a couple of the YW were crying. I simply asked them, “Can you feel that?!”  We all looked up and commented on the dissipating cloud. The Lord had heard our prayer. With renewed confidence we immediately set off searching for an easier route to descend to the false summit.

My hope was that the heavens would remain open long enough to let us get to the false summit, and perhaps to the 8,500’ level where we might be a little more protected.  I had a difficult time with route finding coming off the summit as well, and again could sense that the YW were doubting my ability to lead.  In fairness to me, however, it’s not like these are established trails; you basically pick the best line you can and fight your way to and from a summit.  Route finding is part of the challenge of mountaineering.  I always expect to be a little lost and am comfortable trying to find a route.  The YW clearly did not share my enthusiasm for route finding.  We experienced some challenging down climbs coming off the summit, but again the YW did extremely well. They exhibited great courage and faith.  

Throughout the remainder of the day, the building dark clouds literally “fled” from before us.  Menacing clouds continually moved towards us and at the last minute dissipated or moved to the south, away from our path.  I kept thinking about the Psalm of Nephi, who had been carried away to a high mountain and cried that the Lord would make his paths clear.  2 Nep. 4: 32-33.  I don’t know how else to explain the phenomenon that we continued to witness all day—where clouds were literally moved away from us.  While sometimes it was raining in the valley below us, our climbing conditions were really pleasant.

There were a couple of other tender mercies at different points along the way.  First, finding relatively clean water on the false summit in a small depression of a rock that we could filter when we were essentially out of water.  This was huge because our descent took us much longer than expected and we were definitely in need of water.  Second, Madison Brown just happened (at the insistence of a righteous father) to bring along 25-30’ of webbing—the exact length we needed to safely descend a precipice blocking our path.  Without this, we would have been required to up climb (and backtrack) 500’ at a time that we were literally exhausted.

Most importantly, this climb reaffirmed the great confidence I have in our YW.  They are amazing, because they do amazing! They exhibited great faith and obedience in following their leaders even when they were way beyond their comfort level; they endured pain, sleep deprivation and exhaustion with hardly a complaint.  They were buoyant and cheerful throughout the climb, making it truly a pleasure to climb with them. I am particularly impressed with Madison Brown.  She was in a lot of pain. She had painful blisters early Saturday morning and could have quit.  Despite this, she soldiered on without complaint. Her determination perhaps bordered sheer stubbornness. I was so proud of her.  She struggled the last few hours of the climb, but kept moving.   The manifestation of the Spirit was something I will never forget, but more important than that was the Spirit of adventure, courage and determination exhibited by these very beautiful and tough YW. You would have been so proud of them.  It was such an honor to accompany them.

I hope that this experience does not jeopardize my opportunities to lead our YW again.  My patriarchal blessing promised me great opportunities to lead youth.  This experience has reaffirmed that promise.  The reality is that mountains are dangerous places.  We try to be as careful as we can.  I pushed hard for the summit because I believed in our YW.  I felt pretty strongly about not turning back. I wanted them to be physically challenged and go beyond their comfort level.  Good things happen when we push ourselves physically.  In retrospect, I’m not sure I would do a straight-through 24 hour climb with our YW again.  I would do it with adults who knew what they were in for, but I think the YW had no idea what to expect, and were a little shocked by the sheer physicality of this climb.  They worked very, very hard for 24 hours straight with no sleep and were mentally and emotionally stressed beyond what they had perhaps previously experienced.  In the end it was an “extraordinary” experience for all of us.

I can’t say enough how grateful I am to Eric Borchert, Ester Montgomery and Tom Gearheart.  I love these great youth leaders!  A big thanks to President Grow, and our "rescue team."  Although, we were never in need of rescue, our hearts were lifted when we saw their campfire at Engel's Creek and realized they had come to help us ascend the difficult trail up Long’s Pass.  Also the food you and Sister Grow provided at the trailhead was greatly appreciated!

Finally, Brother Borchert’s prayer on the summit will forever be etched in my memory as a moment in time that I felt my Heavenly  Father’s love for me and the youth of our stake. I have no doubts that He hears and answers prayers—sometimes even in immediate and miraculous ways.  At noon, on September 21st,  on the summit of Mt. Stuart, the heavens literally parted and I glimpsed a small portion of the love and power of God.    Despite the wonder and power of that day, we will likely never invite YOU to offer prayer at the beginning of a big physical youth activity.   “Extraordinary” is simply too stressful for leaders.     Again, thanks for all you and your presidency do for the YW of our stake. 
Darrell Smart

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


On a recent climb of Mt.Stuart as I was taking a break and eating some of my brother Rick's World Famous Turkey Jerky, it dawned on me, this is my last bag of the jerky he had sent me.  What then?  Who will replace this?  Over the years, Rick has occasionally sent things in the mail, such as this turkey jerky.  He is always into something crazy.  His crazy always involved a story--a story that was so remarkable and unbelievable that it had to be true.  As the climb progressed, I couldn't bring myself to finish off the last of this jerky.  It seemed too final. 
It's been about a month since his death and I think about him all the time.  I have been blessed with many things in life, but perhaps nothing as important as the amazing brothers that I have.  It's hard to describe the Ricker.  You can tell things that he did and said, but unless you knew him, people might not believe these stories.  Everything he did somehow became larger than life; something worthy of a story--a Ricker story.
Recently, more than his stories, I've been thinking about Rick as an older brother and a mentor.  He taught me how to dance--well actually, he made fun of me and told me that I'd never get a girl with moves like that, and so I taught myself by mimicking his style.  He lovingly smoothed the path for me in school.  Teachers would accusingly ask, "So you're Rick Smart's little brother?"  I would remind them, "Yes, but Jan Smart is also my sister!"  It was an interesting example of damnation and redemption in sibling associations all at once.  He gave me important advice on how to be a man, "Don't give up your lunch money, or you'll be identified as a pussy."  (This was at Lincoln Jr. High School, where hanging onto your lunch money could mean your life.)  This last bit of advice turned out to be pretty important.  I got pounded for three days straight, but it finally ended, when the hoodlums at my school realized that I wasn't going to give it up without a fight. 
Rick also, and more importantly, gave me wonderful advice about the importance of serving a mission.  He was a fantastic example of how to treat my parents, my wife and my children. Sheila and I so admired Rick and Cheryl, that we designated them as guardians for our children in our will.  I think this speaks volumes about how much we admired Rick.  He was always so welcoming to us and our children.  The dinners at his home were legendary. I realize that Cheryl will keep the dinners and get-togethers going, but who is going to tell the crazy stories?  There are indeed people in our lives who are irreplaceable.  Rick was such a person in my life.  We soldier on without these people, but our lives are diminished when they die.  My life will go on without my older brother Rick, but I will miss him terribly.  Whenever we spoke on the phone he would always remind me, "We just love you guys!"  I knew he meant it.  I will miss that.
Rick raised amazing children.  I see so much of him in them.  I am so glad that each of them spoke at his funeral.  While it's impossible to adequately honor someone like Rick in an hour long funeral service, they were able to highlight the things that I truly loved about Rick.  I am hopeful that Rangi can develop Rick's ability to spin a yarn and become our family storyteller.  While he will never replace his dad, Rick's stories need to be told and retold.  They help us feel connected as a family.   
Today would have been Rick's 64 birthday.  It's seems like an appropriate day to finish off the last couple pieces of Ricker's turkey jerky.  While I miss him tons, I am so grateful to have had such an amazing brother in my life.  There will undoubtedly be tears shed in our family today, but we will also feel great joy when we think about Rick and the fact that our  association with him will endure this life.
(The first picture above is how I will always remember Rick.  When I see him next, this is how I expect to see him.  The second picture is the only picture I could find of me and my 4 brothers. This was taken at a wrestling tournament in Las Vegas that Rocky and Rangi were competing in.)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Psycho African Bees

Despite being allergic to bees, I have been interested becoming a Bee Keeper for many years.  Last year for Fathers' Day my family generously gifted me a bee keeping kit.  It was too late in the year to order bees for my hive--I had to wait until this Spring to get them.   Several days ago, after much anticipation my bees finally came.  They arrived in a little wooden box, with the Queen protected in a special little box, inside the container. 

I have been studying bee keeping on line.  I learned and practiced the technique of introducing the Queen into the hive.  I was pretty anxious about the "big dump", which is essentially the process of dumping the small colony into the hive.  The on-line You Tube videos make this look pretty simple.  In reality, it was terrifying.  As instructed, I calmed my bees by spraying them with sugar water.  After settling them down, I attempted the "big dump."  My bees went crazy.  Instead of going into the hive, they swarmed me.  Apparently bees have a keen sense of smell.  I discovered in an horrific way bees most definitely can smell fear. 

After extricating myself from this seemingly life harrowing experience, I checked the wooden box my bees came in to make sure they weren't labeled "Psycho African Bees."

Later that night, I was at the Naches Ward building and ran into Stephanie Peterson, a Laurel in our stake who also happens to keep bees. I asked, "Hey Stephanie, what do you use to calm your bees?"   She responded, "I just smoke them with weed."   "Weed?  Really?" I mused.    Now there's some interesting advice.  I was curious about how I would get the weed, and what the legal repercussions might be.  Then it dawned on me, maybe she meant that she uses common field weeds to smoke her bees.  I inquired.  Sure enough, that's what meant. 

After my first encounter with my bees, I'm not sure common garden weeds will do the trick.  They might need something a little more potent to soothe their spirits.  Fortunately, we live in Washington State where weed  is now legal, so obtaining and using weed is not a legal problem.  The challenge is obviously a moral dilemma for me.  I am an officer of the court and have a reputation to uphold.  Furthermore (and most importantly), there is the likelihood I would not pass my next temple recommend interview.  So, what to do?  Place myself in mortal danger by exposure to Psycho African Bees, or reduce the anxiety in both my bees and myself by smoking a little weed in the back yard?  So, if you notice a glassy look in my eyes the next time you see me, you'll know how I resolved this dilemma. 

Don't worry.  In the end, I'm certain my confidence will grow with each bee encounter, and that the extreme anxiety which is producing the fear my bees are smelling will eventually evaporate.  Until then please send soothing thoughts my way. 

My first hive.

 I know they look calm here, but trust me these bees are totally psycho!

Novice Bee Keeper.
 My Greenhouse.
I am keeping the bees in my greenhouse for now because of the cold spring weather we are having.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Holy Grail of Hot Chocolate

Part of our European search for the perfect hot chocolate involved many chocolate detours, such as this: Chocolate waffles in Belgium. 
In 1999 I sent my wife and her best friend, Julie Turner to Chicago to see a taping of the Oprah show.  (I'm pretty sure I was nominated for Spouse of the Year that year.)  I might have one-upped myself with this past trip to Europe.  Following Chelsea's graduation in London, we toured around Europe in search of the perfect hot chocolate.  We visited beautiful cities and small, quaint villages in search of the Best European Hot Chocolate.  Along the way we tasted chocolates of every shape and variety.  While in Cologne, Germany (one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever visited) I took my wife to the Shokolade (Chocolate) Museum.  She was giddy to be sure.  These are actual words spoken by her while in the museum:

      I think I have made a career choice.
      Do you think they would hire someone who doesn't speak German, but who really loves chocolate?
     I'm in heaven.
     Oh my gosh! Come see this!
     This is amazing!

The following are actual chocolate related quotes by my wife at various other locations in Belgium, England, the Czech Republic and Germany:

I love you! (Presumably directed towards me, but she was looking into her hot chocolate cup as she spoke these words.)
That's tragic! (When a man next to us in The Old Chocolate House ordered simple tea.)
I've  heard that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.  (My response to which was to double every bit of chocolate that she ordered.)

And although, Sheila didn't say it, she didn't need to; the look on her face spoke volumes:  I think I might love Chocolate more than you!  Now, I am not threatened this by this for two obvious reasons.  First, chocolate enhances our relationship.  Second, I know that my wife loves chocolate so much it helps me appreciate how much she actually loves me. Based upon her love for chocolate, I'm pretty sure our marriage sits upon a rock solid foundation.
Below are pictures from Our European Quest for the Holy Grail of Hot Chocolate: 

We searched in many chocolate shops.
We negotiated narrow and treacherous European roadways.
We looked high...
and we looked low.

We looked here...

and there...

and everywhere.

And finally, the best hot chocolate we found was at The Old Hot Chocolate House in Brugges, Belgium. 

It was the ambiance, the aromas, and yes, the chocolate that made all the difference.

Finally, I am including our much discussed and debated list of top hot chocolates in the world:

1. Angelina's in Paris, France.  Hands down this is it.  Angelina's is located on Rue de Rivoli, across from the Tuileries Garden.  The chocolate is rich and dark and sweet.  It is so thick that it coats your tongue in a weird but amazing way.

2. The Hot Chocolate House in Brugges, Belgium.  The chocolate is divine and the ambiance is fun.

3. Mt. Hood's Timberline Lodge specialty hot chocolate.  We have debated it's inclusion in our list because of what's included (bits of toffee--the dregs of this hot chocolate become an amazing sludge of fudgy, toffee flavors.)  It tastes pretty much like a hot liquid Heath bar, but with superior chocolate.  The ambiance is unique for me as a climber.  I am not sure if this hot chocolate taste so amazing because whenever I drink it I have just exhausted myself climbing Mt. Hood.

4. The 40th Avenue Espresso in Yakima, Washington.  We're sorry but we had to include something close to home.  To make the list for me, you have to pay extra and then ask the barista to use the Ghirardelli chocolate.  I order it with 3 pumps of caramel syrup, whipped cream and caramel and chocolate sauce drizzled on the top. Yummo!

5. Finally, The Chocolate Pot at the Salish Lodge near Seattle. We hesitated including this in our list because the Lodge changed ownership several years ago and the facility is a shadow of what it used to be.  The hot chocolate is no longer prepared table side, although the hot chocolate is still pretty darn good.  It's inclusion on this list is the original Chocolate Pot, which is technically no longer available.  This hot chocolate was so much more than the wild, table side whipping and explanation of what makes an intense chocolate flavor; the hot chocolate was the closest thing to Angelina's that we have tasted.

Finally, I must include in my personal list the She-Wolf's 806-North-67th-Avenue Hot Chocolate lovingly made for me upon demand. She uses bitter chocolate chips, whole milk and half-n-half in her preparation.  She laces it with caramel and home-made whipping cream.  It's to die for.  Really, I mean it--I might take a bullet for her hot chocolate.  Well, at a minimum, it would be something to include in my last earthly meal!