“Let’s go see Mr. Whiskers,” Dad said. My brother Clark and I followed him outside to the back of our white house. There in a rabbit hutch was our large white bunny, Mr. Whiskers.
Dad, Calvin Hutchings, had grown up on a farm in South Jordan, Utah. His parents were Joseph Nephi and Elizabeth Annie Bird Hutchings. Cal was born 12 September 1923, the youngest of six boys, and two twin sisters who passed away soon after birth. Being a farm boy, Dad loved animals and had wonderful stories about his furry and feathered farm friends. Dad had a way of mesmerizing us kids with his tall tales. Let me tell you, he was a master story teller! I recall many nights sitting at the table after dinner begging Dad to tell us a story. They were usually about the made-up characters he had fabricated out of his little boy imagination. We would push the plates out of our way, and then get comfortable, putting our elbows on the table to rest our head in our hands. We were a captive audience for Dad. His stories seemed to revolve around the animals he had encountered growing up on the farm. One of our favorites involved the adventures of a tiny character named “Honey Bee.” Our imaginations would soar as the sound of Dad’s voice carried us into another world.
“Do you want to hear about the time, Honey Bee traveled to Egypt and visited the pyramids traveling in the ear of a camel?”
And then there were the adventures of “Snowflake the Wild Stallion.” His stories often included vivid accounts of his own boyhood adventures. He liked to imagine himself as Robin Hood with his homemade bow and arrows. His best friend was the boy next door, Dez Shields. The two of them would concoct some interesting schemes. One time these two archers decided they would send messages back and forth to one another’s yard via arrows. This went on until Dez shot an arrow that narrowly missed Nephi, Cal’s father. He immediately put an end to such shenanigans. Cal also liked to pretend he was Tarzan as he swung from ropes tied in the trees over the canal and jumped into the murky water below.
I don’t recall all of the stories, but I do remember the sound of my father’s voice as it rose and fell with excitement or sadness as the story developed. I remember his demeanor, his animated facial expressions, how he raised eyebrows and widened his eyes during the suspenseful parts. He pulled us in and made it seem so real, as if it were actually transpiring. Once he brought home the Call of the Wild and read it to us each night after dinner. I felt like I was really there. In his own way he taught us to love literature.
I remember very clearly when Dad arrived home at night. There was a distinct medicinal smell from the dentist office that wafted through the house. I grew to love that aroma because it was tied to my dad. When we were very little, Dad let us “climb the mountain,” as he called it. Facing Dad and holding his hands, we would climb up his legs and when we could go no higher, he would swing us back down. I was disappointed when I grew too big to do it any longer.
I recall our days in San Diego when Dad was finishing up his Naval tour. We made regular trips to the beach. It was one of our favorite spots to play. Dad would take Clark and I by the hand, and lead us out into the small breakers, as the waves became higher, he would lift us up by our arms over the water. Playing on the beach, I recall the squishy feel of sand beneath my feet as I stood in the water. Little ripples swirled in and out around me, the sand washing out from under my toes and heels causing me to sink deeper into the wet stuff. The bright sun glared off the water and caused me to squint my eyes. The only part of the beach I dreaded was the rub down Mom gave us with the towel. It scratched and hurt so because of the sand and salt on our bodies. Regardless, it was great fun. Some days we would pack a lunch and head to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. This was another favorite spot. It was a large beautiful park with a number of museums on the grounds. The zoo was such a large place that we often rode the touring bus around. I recall the driver always stopped to throw bread to the bears. Dad especially loved watching these furry critters with their amazingly long tongues. He told us they used their tongues to get inside a beehive and lick out all the sweet honey. Then he would tell us to stick out our tongues to see if they were any where near as long as those bears. My dad was always a fun-loving, character. He liked to kid around and tease us. He could tell you a fictional incident so soberly that you weren’t sure if it were true or if he were only “pulling your leg.” I was so gullible that I always believed him. He got quite a kick out of his own antics. I can hear my mother now,
“Oh Cal, why do you do that?” she would say shaking her head. He would only smile at us and raise his eyebrows. Sometimes he would come up behind her in a playful way and try to hug or kiss her, but Mom would seldom let him get away with it.
A glimpse of his fun-loving personality is shown in a short note he wrote to us just before Christmas one year, it begins —
“Dear Weber Family,
Ho, Ho, Ho, Santa here,
Newsflash – Unable to make trip to Merino, Colorado this season.
Team trouble – Donder has a tech of arthritis in his antlers and Blitsen says he’s too old “to mount up” and fly over the Rockies. Dain govt won’t give me enough gas for my old “gas guzzling plane” — So to be sure you hear from the Utah bunch – uncle Samy promised he would deliver early — Mom and Dad,
Thank you Love Santa”
That was my dad, always a character.