Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Past Tent–Present Tents

I grew up with Scouting in my blood. My dad was scoutmaster when I was an 8-year old Cub Scout and he let me hang around with the older scouts, even going on camp-outs.  I loved camping so much that I took advantage of every opportunity to go camping both with the Scouts and with my friends just for fun.  This continued into adult life with Explorer Scouts and family, when …finally I was asked to be Scoutmaster 35 years ago in the Bountiful 8th Ward.  I was so ready for this that I mounted a charge for a hike-in wilderness camp in the Uinta High Wilderness Area for my first summer camp with the boys.  Our preparations included careful planning for food, back-pack stoves, sleeping bags and….light-weight tents.  This is really where this story begins.

I MADE A TENT!  Yup, I had found a company known as Frostline Kits from Broomfield, Colorado, who supplied the best of materials and patterns to make outdoor gear.  The fabrics and materials - light-weight rip-stop nylon, mosquito netting, zippers, velcro (which was new, state of the art), thread, folding tent poles and pegs, nylon cords – were all first class, and the patterns and instructions were impeccable.  All it took was a little time from a beginning seamster (as opposed to seamstress) and Barbara’s sewing machine and I had a top-notch 6-lb. back pack tent. 

Jim's TentThe generous size 2-man tent shown here was complete with rain fly and rubberized bottom for rough weather and a vestibule for ‘indoor’ cooking.  Easy to set up, light to carry.  What more could you want for a week in the Uintas.  We hiked from our starting point at East Fork of the Bear River half-way to our destination the first day and camped overnight, planning on completing our trek to Norice and Priord Lakes the next day.  Milt Anderson (Ass’t Scoutmaster) and I shared this cool new tent.  Since it wasn’t raining, I didn’t put up the rain fly.  Hmmmm…. when we awoke in the morning laying there on the ground we could see hundreds droplets of water all over the top of the tent.  I thought that was interesting and reached up to give it a flip.  Much to my surprise – and education – the droplets were all on the inside of the tent and we were drenched by a cascade of condensation that would have been prevented through the use of the rain fly.

My ‘Frostline’ has served me (and my family, who has also used it) well for 35 years – summer camps, winter camps, backyard camps – with never a leak, never a rip, never an open seam (good sewing even if I say so myself).  Now, back with the Scouts, I’ve had occasion to use it again.

After a recent loan-out for an overnighter, I thought it would be a good idea to throw it in the washing machine seeing as how it had somehow missed this opportunity for…. well 35 years.  Ooopps… not a good idea.  The rubberizing material flaked and came off in little pieces.  Amen to my Frostline TENT.

Wait … maybe there’s some life still in that old tent.  Out came the scissors and back to the sewing machine.  Out of one Frostline backpack PAST TENT came two more PRESENT TENTS.




TENT #1 – Here’s a new use for the rain fly – a rip-stop nylon cover for an air conditioning compressor.  What could be better!








TENT #2 – Here’s a new use for the tent – a rip-stop nylon cover for a 6 HP Troy-Bilt Roto-Tiller.  Perfect!





Frostline Label




My FROSTLINE lives on!!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Just In Case

The natural way of things is to ‘accumulate’. A new pair of shoes, new socks, maybe a new sofa or mattress, even a car, but sadly they wear out, get used up or, heaven forbid, just become ‘old’ and need replacement. Like me. Some things however ‘stick’ to us. They become part of us – in a way our identity. Then we can’t bear to throw them away. Things like, well… a pair of shoes or some old Levi’s we just can’t part with. This is a short story about one such thing.

When I reached the magic age of 18 (1957), I was old enough to sign-on as a brakeman at the Southern Pacific Railroad in Ogden, Utah. Being a rookie I was assigned to the ‘extra board’. This meant that I was on call with my name working up a list of other extra-boarders to fill in as needed in a train crew to run the SPRR freight trains from Ogden to Carlin, Nevada. As with any new job there are ‘things’ you need. Some jobs need pencils, some need hammers, but a brakeman needed good boots (not safety shoes in those days), overalls, warm shirts, a lantern, the ‘Book’ (safety rules to literally live by), extra clothes (the run to Carlin was an overnighter) and ….. a CASE to carry the clothes in.

My Case

Well…. here’s my CASE! I tied a strap to it so I could lug it over my shoulder while climbing ladders on locomotives and cabooses. I don’t remember what I paid for it, but it couldn’t have been much. It was metal (thin) with a decorative paper lining and had reinforced corners and stout latches. The metal was so thin that it was easily dented and just as easily bent back into shape (Click on it and you’ll how remodeled it has become). As you can see it had a lovely faux bamboo grain finish that was beyond durable – it was permanent and not easily scratched. Once on the train it remained tucked in a corner in either the engine cab or the caboose depending on my assignment for each trip.

Four years later following countless round trips to Carlin with a few week-long assignments thrown in on a work train building the new fill across the Great Salt Lake, I finished engineering school and my boss, the Trainmaster told me to leave the railroad and go be an engineer. He said, “He didn’t need any educated brakemen.” So off I went to seek my fortune so to speak as a Mechanical Engineer and retired my CASE!

Less than a year later Barbara and I were home, home on the range back in Utah for good with mountains and skiing and most of all with family. I soon found a great use for my CASE – a holder for ski stuff. It was an easy way to keep gloves, mittens, wax, sun glasses, scarfs, sun screen and goggles all together for frequent ski trips. I took a bit of abuse and teasing over the years over my ‘stylish’ CASE, but, to say the least, it was very functional. It was sturdy enough to sit on while putting on ski boots and just right size-wise for all the ‘stuff’ I needed.


Here’s an inside view showing the paper lining – had to point this out so you wouldn’t mistake it for real oak or some other exotic wood.

This CASE was approaching it’s 55th anniversary with me this year when, I almost accidently stumbled on a worthy replacement. I was wandering through a Harbor Freight store a couple of weeks ago and saw a positively wonderful case that was better in almost every way – an anomaly for typical Harbor Freight merchandise. As I pulled if off the shelf and opened it up to inspect it, a young man said to me, “Those are great cases; I have three of them.” But wait a diesel whistle minute – my CASE is part of ME! I walked the floor of the store for ten minutes trying to decide if I truly had the …. courage… to part with my old friend.

Well another ten minutes and I walked out of the store a proud owner of a NEW CASE! I was excited to show Barbara my NEW CASE, but my reluctance to part with the old one was evident. Barbara asked me if I’d like her to throw the old one away (it wasn’t really worthy of a D.I. offering) so I wouldn’t have to, obviously sensitive to my emotional attachment.


Here’s the NEW CASE! So much better in every way. No more dents, stronger latches; sturdier to sit on, just as roomy for my stuff. No more pretending to be constructed from ‘real’ bamboo/wood, just a strong, no nonsense case no longer the subject of derision but rather a focus of envy by those not owning a superb case such as this.

But then…….. it hasn’t earned a place in my soul. It hasn’t served me well (yet). It hasn’t stood the test of time. It’s …. not my friend.

As the newreels used to say, TIME MARCHES ON and over time I’ll get used to my NEW CASE and maybe I’ll forget about my old friend, but then again……. maybe not.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Train Whistle

I guess this is what you do when you like to ‘tinker’ at being creative. I made a TRAIN WHISTLE!

Mom says I should make twenty-one, but for now there’s more to come and probably much better than this one.


Here’s how it sounds: BLOWWW……

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Broken / Fixed

imageAll kinds of things get broken – toys, clocks, appliances, windows, cars, trees, hearts…..people. Some of my earliest memories are being interested in what makes ‘things’ tick – literally – I took an old clock that belonged to my grandma apart. I was six and…I only knew about the taking apart, not the putting it back together. Thank goodness the clock was a goner before I got a hold of it.

Since then I’ve had a life-long interest in fixing, building, repairing or improving everything. From home-made skateboards (before there were such things) and tree-houses to “Whizzer” bikes, Model “A” Fords, rental houses, cars and cabins, I built, fixed and restored more than I can count. I’ve plumbed, sawed, nailed, wired, glued and in the process gathered a fairly impressive, albeit amateurish set of tools, some of which I inherited from my grandpa Mortensen.

I decided to write this ‘Watts Happenin’ update in well over a year for two reasons.

First is about a shotgun.

I inherited an Ithaca Model 37 U.S. Army issue 12 gauge pump shotgun. My dad first let me shoot this gun in the backyard of Colin Peterson’s farm in Tremonton. He said, “hold it tight against your shoulder.” That didn’t help a bit. It knocked me right on my back. After lots of black and blue shoulders from hunting pheasant, quail, grouse, mourning doves and ducks, I shortened the gunstock end and added a recoil pad. The years have gone by and the gun has been relegated to a gun rack in the furnace room. I recently took it out to go trap shooting with the Boy Scouts from our ward. Age had finally caught up to the old gun and a crack in the stock became a split

After some searching I found a source for an unfinished gunstock machined as an exact replacement for a Model 37 Ithaca, circa 1940’s. Good ol’ internet….there’s lots of info on how to finish a gunstock. So, here’s the result:


I wish I’d taken a before picture, 'cause it looked pretty bad. Besides the new gunstock, the barrel, chamber and pump sections have all been re-blued as they call it. Here’s a picture of the finished gunstock.


Well now that I've shown it off, it's back to the gun rack in the furnace room.

The second reason I began to write was to express how glad I am that people can be ‘fixed’.

We went to the 3D movie ‘Hugo” the other night. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, the presentation and the story about how some people simply need to be ‘fixed’. There are moments in my life where I came out of adjustment, my self-governor failed and I malfunctioned. I shall be eternally grateful to the ultimate fixer, Jesus Christ, who makes it possible for me to be ‘fixed’. I am not sure I’ll ever be a perfectly working model of a disciple of Jesus Christ, but I’m better than I once was and I’m trying to be better still.

I have much to be grateful for – a wonderful wife of 52 years and counting. Together we have woven the tapestry of a wonderful life with beautiful children who have married well and given us 21 wonderful grandchildren (two incredible missionaries) and one great grandson. Wish I could have a daily hug from each.

May your lives be full and happy and may you need little 'fixing'. Love Dad

Monday, October 25, 2010

Touch The Temple

P1010909 Last Friday, 15 October, we went to Manti to begin a truly lifetime adventure.

On Saturday morning the Utah Watts’ family (23 strong) gathered to “Touch The Temples” from Manti to Logan in a one-day 400+ mile trip.

This was a trip to be remembered – complete with decorated cars, T-shirts alike, games and snacks – on a perfect fall day – bright sunshine and fall colors.

At each temple we gathered to touch the sacred walls and listen to a brief talk by one of the group who was assigned to tell us about ‘their’ temple.  We learned lots of interesting facts including Moroni (as shown above) at the Jordan River Temple is one of only five temples where he is holding the gold plates.

Here’s the whole gang.  Click on the picture if you’d care to look at more pictures of our trip. P1010882

We concluded our day at the Logan Temple where seated near the temple front door we shared thoughts about our day and testimonies about temples and families.

It was a Great Time!!!

Best wishes to all,

Grandma & Grandpa

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recognizing the Obvious


West of central London on Cromwell Road the pavement (or ‘sidewalk’ to many of us) widens just before you get to the corner of the Tesco store. The pavement is sloped from both sides to the middle where there is a row of curved blocks to allow for rain water to flow. Down the middle of these blocks someone has painted the word “Drainage.” It is good to see this, because, for sure, without this word…. in utter confusion the rain would go somewhere else.

It is much like this in life. Sometimes, in spite of careful written directions, we go somewhere else.

Clearly, our written directions say:

  • Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good[1] - then we forget to pray, disbelieve and have problems in our lives.
  • Love one another …. that there should be no contention[2] - then we treat others badly and contention begins.
  • Forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you[3] - then we hold a grudge and still expect forgiveness for ourselves.
  • Bring ye all the tithes… you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing[4]then we withhold our tithes and struggle, and not just financially.
  • Strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life[5]then we wander to another path that leads to destruction and misery.

In our Family History Centre there are films of documents that are centuries old that have damaged pages that are evident when viewed, and yet the film itself has a written note to say “damaged page”. One might think that implies that without the note the document would be just fine.

I know that without the written directions of the words of God I would not be just fine.

I have a testimony of the truth in the written directions of the words of God. The list above is but a small sample of these wonderful truths. My life is better, happier and more fulfilling when I follow the directions of a loving Heavenly Father.

I shall ever be grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ that gives hope in spite of me, all too often, missing the obvious.

[1] D&C 90:24

[2] Mosiah 18:21

[3] Matthew 6:14

[4] Malachi 3:10

[5] 2 Nephi 31:18

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Closing Bell


Our mission is soon drawing to a close. Since time immemorial, bells have signaled the opening and/or closing, so it seems appropriate that we visited the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Whitechapel has been making bells since 1570 (some say 1420) and the foundry makes bells just as they were made over 500 years ago. Small ones, big ones, low tones, high tones…they made the Liberty bell and the 13 1/2 ton bell that chimes in London’s Big Ben.

The bells are cast from molten bronze (copper-tin) in a mold that is made of a loam material that consists of sand, clay, horse manure and goat hair. About the only change in the process from medieval times and church friars is the use of electronic equipment to test the pitch and resonance and a huge jig bore machine to remove material to tune the bell.


Buckets of (L to R) manure, clay, sand, sand, goat hair.


Small hand bells are made in the same way as the large cathedral bells, one at a time only polished and prettied…. as our tour guide said, “If they look good, they must sound good.” The bells we played at Christmas last year came from Whitechapel. A set of 12 bells on offer (that means on sale) go for £2,875 or about $4,700.

So unless I squeeze in another blog or two, here’s our ‘closing bell’. Turn your sound way up and listen.

Wishing you the best of everything.......

Elder & Sister Watts