My Daddy, Floyd Otto Spencer
“Like all the arts, the Science of Deduction and Analysis
is one which can only be acquired by long and patient study,
nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain
the highest possible perfection in it.”
Arthur Conan Doyle
Shortly before Daddy died, I saw a change in him. His visage fairly glowed, and he had become much more loving, relaxed, patient, kind, and happy — such that I no longer feared so much being in his presence. He had become more pleasurable to be around.
It was as though he’d undergone an epiphany — a life-changing experience, though I was not around him enough nor on comfortable enough terms with him to inquire as to any such experiences he might have had. Furthermore, I was married then, and very busy taking care of my six-month-old baby at the time he was nearing death … then died.
During his lifetime he had always done a lot to help others. Being an all-around handyman and Jack-of-all-trades and Master of a few, people often came to him for advice or called on him to help them fix something.
He never turned them down, that I know of, much to Mother’s frustration and dismay. More than once I heard her complain, “Daddy, why don’t you turn some of these people down?! There are things piling up around here to be done while others impinge on you to work for them for free!” (Mother generally called him “Daddy” just as we kids did.)
Yes, he had plenty of his own work around the house waiting to be done. But people appreciated and respected Daddy for his knowledge and know-how when it came to being “Mister-Fix-it-Man,” and he enjoyed his revered reputation, too. He was no Scriptorian, though … unlike my mother’s brother, Ervil LeBaron, who often called on Daddy to fix things for him.
Uncle Ervil, who many of my readers may know of or will soon hear about, was just the opposite of Daddy. He spent most of his time studying Scriptures and Mormon religious works, writing some — and preaching a lot. I don’t recall him ever doing any manual labor. He managed to get my father and others to serve him, instead.
I don’t know how much money religiously-stalwart Daddy also put toward supporting Uncle Ervil and all Ervil’s many wives and children, as well as my other uncles and their families, at times, when they were hard up for money and food.
I only know he certainly paid much more than his 10% in tithing, despite the large family he, himself, maintained. And he did this right up until the day he died at about seventy years of age! There was never any retirement for him — my hard-working papa!
Like everyone else, dedicated and diligent, conscientious Daddy liked feeling special and needed. And he enjoyed serving God, all the while being able to put to use his skills and ingenuity as he helped repair others’ broken equipment, or advised them on how to build something — or taught them how to do some of these things for themselves. Thus, he employed many of the things he had learned how to do … right up until the day he died.
So where he lost favor with people due to his judgmental temperament and sharp tongue, he gained respect and popularity by being otherwise naturally unassuming and willing to lend a humble, helping hand. And he benefitted from that respect, acceptance, and connection. It was a wonderful interchange of mutual love and appreciation.
*Other facts about Daddy that I didn’t bring up earlier:
*He was very sensitive, astute, and strong-willed. Therefore, as a young man, he abandoned his parents in Michigan, due to fallings-out with them — never again to contact them nor to return home for a visit.
His aunt had raised him since he was around four or five, I believe, as I related in an earlier blog. I’m not sure how young he was when he left his aunt’s home and took off to make it on his own. I’m only sure he was a true survivor. And what didn’t kill him made him stronger!
*Once he proudly told me:
“At age twenty-eight, I gave up smoking and drinking when I joined the Mormon church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). I was able to quit “cold turkey!” I simply decided to quit. And I never smoked again!”
And Daddy said, of his past smoking habit:
“People who will smoke will drink, and people who will drink will chase women.”
He also informed me:
“I gave up square dancing, too, because I found that it led to fornication when men and women danced with other than their own spouse or partner.”
*Once, when I was twelve years old, he caught me looking up the word “sex” in the dictionary. He reproachfully admonished me, proclaiming: “The words “sex” and “fun” should be cut out of the dictionary!! Sex is only for procreation! And people shouldn’t be wasting their time playing/ having fun. The Lord’s Kingdom won’t get built up that way!”
I disagree with him in some of his misconceived conceptions. But we all are in a process of learning and growing during our lifetimes. I bring up these above points to simply show what a stoic life he, I, and other true-believing fundamentalists lived.
But other points in his favor are that while Daddy was living in Arizona, and raising a large family with his first wife Eva, he was a Boy Scout Master, which position he enjoyed and was very proud of.
And he was even Mayor of a small city for some time, I was told. But I’m not sure what city that was, let alone the dates. My daughter checked and couldn’t find his name listed as having been Mayor of the city where I thought my parents said he’d been Mayor. So who knows! More family lore?
The Writer’s Prayer:
“Make this tale live for us
in all its many bearings, oh Muse.”
The War of Art
While married to his first wife Eva,* for some time Daddy owned a small Mercantile shop. Then World War II removed his main source of income, rubber tires:
“The war efforts needed all the rubber to build war equipment. Selling tires for the Model T Ford, and other such, was how I covered my overhead. So I was run out of business when I couldn’t sell rubber tires anymore,” he explained.
“While I still owned my store, a woman would come in daily and hit on me. I finally told her, ‘I haven’t got caught up to home yet!’ That sure put a damper on things!”
Daddy loved to tell that joke. One great thing about him is he was good at ad-libbing jokes and getting a laugh — a natural comedian, he had a wonderful sense of humor. Sadly, he tried to curb this special talent once the LeBaron cult started cracking down on light-mindedness — considered a sin. (They didn’t know “Laughter is the best medicine.”)
I never spent much time around Daddy. Highly sensitive me avoided being in the same space with him whenever possible.When I had to be around him, I hid in the shadows. When I could do so without being noticed, I would escape to my attic room, especially after I became a teenager because his anger and abuse doubled toward me by then.
I already mentioned a little about this in previous blogs: He had a terrible temper that I got the brunt of more than all the rest of his children put together. I was the scapegoat of the family, so was glad he was usually away from the house working all day. That lessened the stress I endured because of him — and because of Mother. She would get me in trouble with him every chance she got — like every day, once I became a teenager!
But on Sundays, he did not work — which meant he was always home keeping the Sabbath. After our daily morning prayers were said in the big family circle, breakfast, and our family Sunday School service was over, Daddy would sit in his overstuffed armchair in the living room and read the newspaper and comic strips in front of the fireplace he had built and decorated with petrifiedwood rock work.
Hidden out of his view and reach, I loved watching how he would sometimes laugh till he teared up reading the Little Orphan Annie comic series. As a child, I especially loved it when he would throw me the “Funny Papers” after he got through reading them.
Then I would lie on my stomach on the carpet, a distance from him, and try to read and understand The Funnies. But try as I may, as a kid, I never could figure out what Daddy found so funny about his favorite comic strip, Little Orphan Annie.
I lacked the maturity and experience to comprehend such things. Daddy was twenty-six years older than Mother, and about fifty-two years older than I — old enough to be my grandfather.
But other than being around him on Sunday mornings so I could get the funnies once he was through with them, mostly I avoided being in the same room with him. I was afraid of him.
By the time I was 14, almost every day he would lash out at me, both physically and verbally. And, often, he would make fun of me and put me down in front of my family or friends … or whoever else happened to be around when he found a reason to ridicule me and “put me in my place.”
Because of this, I developed a confused love-hate feeling for him, though I never realized it till much later. Mother always told us what a saint Daddy was and that he was the very best man in the whole wide world! Needless to say, I never got to learn a whole lot about my father, due to it being so miserable for me … so threatening to be around him.
But I remember, when I was four years old, he took an oil painting class. I recall him sitting out under the backyard trees with his easel and paints, copying some nature scenes that included our house he had bought around two years before when it was not much more than a shack.
He was remodeling it to make it a livable home. He would buy a run-down ramshackle of a place, fix it up into a fairly decent abode, then, before we had much time to enjoy the better living conditions, we’d end up moving, for one reason or another, to a new ramshackle abode. And the whole damn scene would start all over again — we Spencers living in a mud adobe abode or whatever, till he fixed it up into a half-decent place to live — and then we would move. “Why couldn’t we ever stay in the home once it got fixed up and had running water, a shower, electricity, and a flushing toilet?” I used to wish and wonder.
We moved around twelve times from the time I was born in a mud adobe abode in Mexico till I turned fourteen! Then we moved back again, “fool” circle, to another mud adobe abode in the Mormon fundamentalist cult where I first started out: Colonia LeBaron, Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico!
Then, wouldn’t you know, no sooner did Daddy do a complete makeover of our new mud adobe abode in Colonia LeBaron, but what I was married off at age sixteen in an arranged polygamous marriage! And that entailed moving again, this time to my own home … and another mud adobe abode!)
“An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Plato … quoting Socrates
In the Previous blog, I mentioned that when I was around four years old, Artist Daddy, with easel and oils, used to sit beneath the big green shade tree in our front yard and paint the nature scenes around about him. Often he used our home as a backdrop for his paintings. Mother kept these “Masterpieces” hanging on the wall in our home, proudly showing them off to visitors.
But, sadly, Daddy didn’t continue for long with his oil painting hobby and venture. Though oil painting had been a lifelong dream and yearning of his, he was in his late fifties when he’d finally had the where-with-all to try his hand at it. But, sadly, he soon discovered oil painting or water coloring pictures — or even sketching — took a lot more time and money than he could devote to his beloved hobby, Artist though he was … better still, “frustrated Artist”!
What it boiled down to was he had to give up his artistic drive and dream because it conflicted with what he believed was his higher calling: To bring little spirits up in heaven down into good Mormon fundamentalists homes; i.e., to have all the kids he could have! He was devout, to be sure. Whatever his faults, there was a lot of good and good intentions in this man.
After he sacrificed his painting hobby, due to conflicts of interests — God, his family, and religious beliefs came first — Mother gave him piano lessons because around about that time he had finally bought trained–concert-pianist Mama a piano!
But when he saw four-year-old me could sit down and play by ear whatever I heard him practicing as he struggled to learn to play by note, he was humiliated and felt cheated that it should come so easily to me, a little kid, what he had to work so hard for as an old man.
So, just like my older sister … and for the same reasons, I suspect … they both soon gave up for good and forever any attempt to learn to play the piano. But Daddy qualified it with some truths when he said:
“Bein’ an artist and playin’ musical instruments is for rich people. It takes an awful lot of time. And I have to spend my time and energy makin’ a living to support my family.” Then he added, as an afterthought,“Rich people get rich off the backs of the poor.”
However, I would qualify it with:
“The Haves” and “The Have-nots”
can usually be traced back to
“The Did’s” and “The Did-nots.”
For example, the “Haves” did not have a lot of kids and wives! They chose “Quality over Quantity.”
Even so, Daddy had learned to play the harmonica as a young man. When I was 10, he taught me how to play “Home, Sweet Home” on it. From there, I was off and running, easily picking out by ear other tunes on the harmonica.
But something I could never do was whistle, though Daddy could whistle like a Pro — the only one in our family that could ever do that, far as I know. Though we all really tried hard to learn how to whistle.
In fact, when I was nine years old, it was quite a funny sounding scene around our home and yard, there for a while: All of us kids and even Mother went about trying to “whistle a happy tune,” when, at best, we weren’t blowing much more than our lips, hot air, and a lot of strange sounds!
But whenever Dad was at home and working around the place, he was his own radio — and ours too! His whistling could be heard throughout the home and yard. And I loved it — loved his beautiful whistling of tunes that were always right on pitch.
In fact, one breezy spring morning in Hurricane, Utah, when I was around eleven, I was blown away when I heard Daddy out in the barn milking Bossy, our auburn Jersey cow, exquisitely whistling the hit tune from the 1950s Musical Oklahoma!: “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!”
Mother was a trained concert pianist. But Daddy’s musicianship was that of a gifted, born Whistler! I never realized, back then, what an asset and talent it truly is to be able to whistle — whistle any melody beautifully! Oh, how I would love to be able to do that myself.
“In the course of my life,
I have often had to eat my words,
and I must confess that I have
always found it a wholesome diet.”
Winston Spencer Churchhill
In the previous blog, we were talking about some more of my father’s accomplishments and sacrifices. Among other such memorabilia is the following: He was a proud Veteran of World War I. He fought with the 308th Engineers from Ohio to the Rhine. There are videos of his Platoon on YouTube, showing them constructing a bridge, among other things.
While with his Platoon in France, during his WWI Service, Daddy got to meet Winston Spencer Churchhill! So he had double the reason, on January 24, 1965, for taking three days off work to keep his ear tuned to the radio all day and into the night when Churchhill died.
Yes, for three days he listened to the constant end-to-end radio broadcasts about world-famous leader Winston Spencer Churchhill as Radio Broadcasters expounded upon the many great accomplishments and services this icon had performed for society. Daddy could especially relate to Churchill’s accomplishments when it came to World War I and World War II. Sadly, I didn’t even know who Winston Spencer Churchill was!
It figures, as, at the time Churchill died, I was eighteen years old, had been married off in an arranged marriage at age sixteen, and held captive in the LeBaron doomsday cult in Mexico since August 1960.
August 1960 was the unfortunate date my parents uprooted our family, locks, stocks, shocks, and barrels, to move to Zion “to gather and mingle with the Saints and avoid the calamities that were coming very soon to wipe out the wicked. (Colonia LeBaron was “Zion.”) In hindsight, I see it was really quite the other way around: Gathering to Zion was nothing but a calamity!
I had barely graduated from eighth grade, in Hurricane, Utah, before we left for this “Zion.” My parents walked us right into a ready-made viper’s den and cult calamity, thinking they were doing just the opposite — preparing for the end of the world that was due any week … if not sooner.
Well, it WAS the end of my world! Their man-made CALAMITY wiped out and ruined my hopes for “The good life.” I have been trying to do catch-up ever since.
As cult-fate would have it, there was plenty of wickedness going on in so-called Zion “to mingle with.” It turned out to be quite a little colony of “Saints” — or a “Little House of Horrors”!
I’m just glad it wasn’t another Jonestown! At least my self-proclaimed Prophet Uncle Joel never asked us to drink the Kool-Aid. However, self-proclaimed Prophet Uncle Ervil was quite another story.
As my Memoir unfolds, you shall hear what I mean. Because I intend to unmask the Colonia LeBaron Mormon fundamentalist cult life I endured while stuck living eight years in Mexico down past the Rio Grande — a life I barely survived to blog about. It was about fifty-eight years ago, as of March 2018, that my family “gathered to Zion.” I have been trying to get over it ever since.
Their prophet, my Uncle Joel LeBaron, had prophesied: “The destructions foreseen in the Book of Revelations are coming any day now to rain down upon the United States! Mexico is the land of refuge for the Saints.” Mother claimed she, too, had seen this “end of days” in a dream!
Go figure: The sky was falling … another Chicken-Little story … or LeBaron story? If you want to get power, claim you’ve had a revelation, a dream that shows the world is coming to an end. You’ll most likely get some followers.
The truth is, yours and my world IS coming to an end: We never know the hour of our death … the end of our OWN world. (Maybe that’s what scares people to death so much!) But the world, itself, and new life will continue on, as it has for thousands of millenniums.
If you claim “the sky is falling/ the world is coming to an end, some Millennial’s (i.e., Messianic apocalyptic dooms-dayers who believe the end of the world and “the Millennium” is imminent) will likely believe and follow you. Chicken Little sure got his following … if you recall that children’s fairytale.
But now back to reality: After being pulled out of school and moved to that secluded and barren, Chihuahuan Desert wilderness, I had no chance for further education.
That was a calamity in itself! Quite the end of my world — at least as I had known it. I, a Bookworm, wasn’t even allowed to read, let alone have any contact with the outside world, in any way, shape, or form. So, no: I wouldn’t know who Churchhill was.
Before I was married, while living in LeBaron’s “Zion,” all my family-of-origin had, as far as connections with the outside world were concerned, was Daddy’s little battery-run radio — which only he was allowed to use!
Even worse, all we ever heard about from Mother was mostly cult dogma and propaganda. And how great she and her family heritage was: Her father, mother, brothers — especially her brothers, Joel and Ervil, the “prophets” of the cult! Mother had to be number one. So, sadly, I never got to know how special my father’s Spencer heritage was. For some reason, Daddy never mentioned it either. Or maybe he did but I wasn’t around to hear.
NOTE: Though there is more to relate, as to my father’s history, I will relate it in the context of my own continuing Memoirs.
For now, I conclude my nine-part series,”My Daddy,” (Renamed with the lyrics of the following comical song I wrote. There is a verse in it about my amazing father. But first this Intro:
Dearest friends and fans: Please note:
This “sorta” silly song I wrote
Is half-finished so I won’t gloat,
And pray my poem won’t get your goat.
But it’s late — my blog’s due “mañana.”
If you check this song later on … uh …
You may find it’s been partly “re-wrote;”
“I know it needs work” is my last quote.
Even so, hope you enjoy what I wrote.
And, now, I humorously emote:
Hi! I’m a hack who’s written a hit
Called “Pretty City Chick.”
It’s a Hee-ha comedy song —
A bit o’ bio in verse,
Fer better or worse —
With truth ‘n’ exaggeration
Pretty City Chick
(By Stephany Spencer)
Hey, they say
I’m a pretty city chick.
And Hillbilly music
makes some sick,
But, my Hillbilly ways
Are here to stick;
So we may as well
Get over it —
And join in
And sing a bit,
‘Cause I’m a city chick,
But shit-kickin’ music
is my shtick.
Born in Mexican sticks
I’ve dual citizenship,
And I’m a city chick.
I’m an all-American-mongrel,
Apple-pie girl —
A Hines-57 mixed-up mutt,
With apple pie stickin’
To my butt ’n’ gut.
Ain’t my thing.
I came for music
And to sing!
Yeah, I’m an
With Welch ’n’ English,
So, sure, I’m a Brit;
With French, German,
And Mohawk Indian a bit.
If there’s no Tom Slick
Hidin’ in the pit,
Far as I know,
That’s about it —
That’s my story
And I’m shtickin’ to it!
My father was
A proud Veteran
Of World War I.
Those Vets were
For what they’d done!
Pa was an artist, creative,
Master of a few —
Good at so many things,
There was little
He couldn’t do.
Ma was a creative,
Author and artist,
thru ’n’ thru;
Trained concert pianist —
She loved to discuss
Religious principles, too,
And read religious Lit,
Old and new —
Long as it agreed
With what she
She graduated with a BA
In Journalism too.
Quite an accomplishment
‘Cause Ma was sixty-two!
She was running me
For I was still in College too,
Strugglin’ to make it up
From the cult
She’d put me thru …
If she only knew!
But her motto was:
“Anything you can do,
I can do better;
I can do anything
Better than you!”
(And she meant it too!)
Hey, they say I’m a
Pretty city chick;
Though Hillbilly music
Makes some sick,
My Hillbilly ways
Are here to stick.
So you may as well
“Git” over it
And join in
And sing a bit!
‘Cause I’m a city chick,
And shit-kickin’ music
Is my shtick.
Born in Mexican sticks
I’ve dual citizenship
And that’s pretty hip.
Well, that’s my story
And I’m shtickin’ to it:
“I’m a pretty city chick!”
The following is an iPhone video of me at the California Writers Club, March 2017, performing the above song I wrote, “Pretty City Chick (before I recently re-edited it):“
I love to write. But it’s “icing on the blog” when I have readers who devour it, on top of my cooking it up!
In future blogs, I’ll tell you a little about my maternal grandparents and Mother — How she and Daddy met, some of their adventures together, etc. —
That is, I may tell you about the beginning of my father’s Mormon fundamentalist cult saga that culminated with his bringing me into the world — along with many other kids and events — which culminated in my creating this Blog. Chain reactions? That’s life!