Leah Pratt Call

by Helaman P. Call

I have been asked to say a few words about my darling Mother. She was an angel of mercy. I can never remember a time when she wasn’t more concerned about other people than she was about herself. My earliest recollection of her would be a call from the Bishop to let her know that someone from the Ward had passed away or someone was sick. She was always on hand to prepare food to take care of the people who would come for the funerals. She often went in the middle of the night to lay out the dead and prepare them for burial, this was before the morticians did all of that.

There are two or three incidents that I would like to refer to that show the kind of an individual she was and show the love that she had for everyone who came in contact with her. During the early years, after we came out of Mexico, things were a little rough. We weren’t poor, we just didn’t have any money. The things we needed to have, my Mother largely provided. She would go out and glean fruit. After the farmers quit using their tomato patches she would pick tomatoes, both green and ripe, take them home and make pickle relish out of the green ones, and bottle the ripe ones so she would have food for winter. I remember her going into the cherry orchards after the harvest and glean from the tops of the trees. All this so that her children could have some of the nice things of life. On one occasion I went with her over to Fred Zesiger’s cherry orchard. She was on a ladder at the top of a tree when the ladder broke. Mother fell and I’m sure she injured herself seriously. One of the Zesiger boys helped me get her home, but Mother didn’t have time to go to bed or rest because those cherries were ripe and needed to be bottled. This shows an insight into Mother’s life and how she cared for her children.

I remember on one occasion and I think there was more than one, Mother called Anson Waddops and found out that the threshers had been to his place and Mother asked for permission to come down and get some straw (Anson lived in West Bountiful). She had made new ticks in the beds and we took them down in a little wagon. We filled the ticks with new straw and carried them home in the wagon. This had to be done late at night, because she was a proud woman and didn’t want other people to know the conditions under which we were living. But we had fresh straw to sleep on all winter as a result of the thoughtfulness of my Mother.

The summer before I was 8 years old, we were living in Bountiful on 4th East across from Zesiger’s and there was a farmer on Pages Lane who had a large patch of watermelons. We boys had been watching those melons ripen all summer long. When they got to the point that we thought they should be ripe, my brother Aaron, John Day and myself couldn’t wait any longer. We went down there, about two blocks from our home, and found the melons that looked perfect for us. We went through the fence, across a couple of rows of corn, into the melon patch. We each picked a nice big melon, almost too big for us to carry. At this time the owner of the patch, who had been watering the upper part of his field, came toward us with his shovel over his shoulder, He took one of the melons and broke it open on a fence post, it was green. Another of them he cut open with his shovel, it was just starting to turn pink. The third one was almost ripe enough to taste good, hut he didn’t let us eat it. He said “You fellows just sit right here, I’ve got to go up and turn the water, I’ll be back in a few minutes and we will go over to my home and get in the car and go to jail.” We knew that he was a Deputy Sheriff in Davis County. Bert Randall was his name. He took us to his home and before he went into the house he said, I want you fellows to start the Ford. It’s a little hard to crank.. He showed us how to crank so that it wouldn’t kick and break our arms. We cranked and cranked and cranked some more, I’m sure he hadn’t turned the magneto on, it never would have started under those conditions. When we couldn’t get it started. he said “Lets jack up the hind wheel and it will be easier for you to crank.” He jacked up the hind wheel and we all three took turns cranking, but the car never did start. Finally he came out and said that it was too late and he had some other things to do. “I want you boys to go home, tell your Mothers exactly what you have done and tell them that when I get time, I’ll pick you up and take you to jail.”

This hurt me. My Grandmother Pratt was visiting us from Mexico. She had brought me a little tin pocket knife which I prized. To have to tell Mother that I was a thief, and in front of my Grandmother was “sore affliction to me. But Aaron and I went in and told her that Brother Randall had caught us in his melon patch and that we were going to jail when he found time to take us. Mother got the picture that he was trying to paint. She said “Well I’m sorry about this boys, you have been taught better than this, hut no boy of mine is going to jail dirty. Go in and have a bath, but on some clean clothes and be ready when Brother Randall comes.” When we came from the bathroom Mother had prepared two small suitcases with a change of clothes for each of us and they were placed in the front hall closet so as to be ready.

Every time I saw a car come up that dusty road that summer, I knew we were on our way to jail. It must have been Thanksgiving before I figured out that it was a game he was playing with us. He never did come but he taught me a lesson. Years later when I was in the Bishopric, I was invited to go to Centerviile to speak. I had prepared a speech but as I locked down and saw Brother and Sister Randall come in, I put my notes in my pocket. I told this story and how much I appreciated the lesson that Brother Randall and my Mother had taught me about honesty. Then from that time forth when my friends said, “Lets go steal a chicken, cherries or peas out of a garden that wasn’t ours,” I wasn’t interested. I had had enough punishment. I had learned that honesty was the best policy for me. This lesson has stayed with me all my life. Other people’s property is not interesting to me unless I can afford it. Unless I can pay for it, I learned to get along without it.

Now let’s skip forward a few years. On December 6, 1946 I was in the Bishopric of the Bryan Ward in Sugar House Stake. We had had a carnival that Friday evening, after which we took the children home and drove to Bountiful to give a blessing to a sick friend. We stopped in to see Mother for a few minutes and were on our way home when we met with an accident. Three people were killed and my wife (Merle) was critically injured. We were both taken to the St. Marks Hospital. As she started to recover and with Christmas approaching, Merle insisted on going home. There were five children at home and she had made no preparation. On December 24 she was released and driven home in an ambulance by her brother Dee, a highway patrolman. That same day my Mother along with my sister Leah came to our home (actually they had been there since the accident).

Baby Sylvia was in Ogden, but Mother took care of the rest of the family. Every two hours day and night, she rubbed warm olive oil into the cuts on Merle’s face to alleviate the scarring. Merle’s leg had been broken and she had to learn to walk all over again after he long confinement in bed. Mother stayed for months caring for Merle and the family in their time of need. She was certainly an Angel of Mercy and at an advanced age, only 6 years before she passed away. She was 67 years old. Every one of the children who were old enough to remember that she gave them good training. Neal remembers how disappointed she was to find playing cards in his room.

My Mother was an Angel, it couldn’t be said any other way. I love her dearly, she gave me training that I’ve been able to pass on to my children that certainly will bless the lives of her posterity for generations to come.

All I can say is God Bless her memory and bless me that I may be able to develop into the kind of an individual with a loving heart that she displayed to everyone she met. I pray humbly in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

(From a book on Leah Pratt Call)

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