Stories from the Muddy

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Clarvid Arthur Lewis

This story was told by Lillian Condie Lewis.

Clarvid Arthur Lewis, (His mother made up his name from Clarence David) was the second child of Clarence Arthur Lewis and Naomi Dove Henderson.  He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 27, 1918.  When he was almost two years old, his dear mother died.  Her three children, Lorean, Carolyn, and Sonny, lived with relatives until their dad married Lillian Condie, June 29, 1923 and restored them to the family.

              Sonny called Lillian “Auntie” as a little boy.  She tells of being at the picture show with Clarence, Sonny's dad.  She said, “The cutest little boy she’d ever seen, with big brown eyes, and a little turned up nose, and the sweetest mouth—and a face surrounded by a mass of honey colored curls landed in Clarence’s lap.”  Clarence said, “Where did you come from?”  Lillian said she was surprised.  She didn’t know he had any children.

              When Clarence and Lillian came back from their honeymoon, they picked Sonny up from his Grandma and Grandpa Arthur and Rosalie Lewis.  That night, he wanted a story and Auntie Lillian was a wonderful storyteller.  She told one, then when she finished, he started to say, “Sing it again,” but knew that wasn’t right, so he said, “Talk it again.”  They were all so happy to be together and Lorean and Sonny had many happy hours playing together.  Lillian was a school teacher and Clarence took her and Lorean to school, then Sonny spent the day with Clarence working.

              Early on, Sonny had a mind that loved to study out how things worked.  Lillian tells of the time they were alone on the farm and the engine that ran the wheel to the washing machine broke.  She was in despair.  She looked out the window and saw Sonny coming around the granary.  She called to him and asked if he could see what was wrong with it.  He could see what she was up against and always liked to be helpful, so he worked on it.  He tried this and that, then she says, his eyes lit up and he said, “Here’s the problem.”  He was only five years old, but the wheel was going around and she was happy.

            Lillian tells of a time after Sonny started school.  In those days, he walked home.  He had hardly reached the porch when they saw the water from the creek come up to the pecan trees.  (After the dozen young trees were planted, it was Sonny's job to carry water to them.  He and Lorean carried water one bucket at a time to the trees, and the orchard was a long way from the house).  They smelled the smell that always came with a flood.  Sonny heard a noise when he crossed the bridge over the creek.  The water came down in a wall, and if he had been a little later, he could have been washed down stream.
            Another time when he was young and it flooded, the river was so high that Clarence and Lorean couldn’t get home.  Lorean was staying at Coopers on String Town Road and Clarence was in town.  As evening came on, baby Richard started to cry for his bottle.  Lillian wondered what she would do for milk.  She knew she couldn’t get a drop from a cow.  She looked at Sonny and asked if he could get some milk for the baby.  He had never milked a cow, but he said, “I’ll try.”  Off he went with a bucket in his hand.  When he came back, Lillian said his eyelashes were stiff with milk.  He was milk top to toe, but the bucket was full.  She strained the milk twice and heated it and the baby had his bottle.  Later, when Sonny milked the cows, it was his delight to squirt people in the eye when they were in range.  Auntie even got a liberal dose one time.

            The night of the flood, as it got dark, Lillian was glad Sonny was there to be her bedfellow.  They heard stories of the outlaw Indian, Mouse, (there's more about this outlaw in the story of Osborne Gentry) and Auntie was nervous.  She said she didn’t sleep much that night and was sure glad when dawn came.

            Late that afternoon, neighbor Milton Earl who lived on the south side of the river, was coming back from St. George, made it to their house.  That night, they slept outside and he told Sonny stories about the stars.  Sonny loved hearing about the stars.  The next night, the water had gone down so that Clarence and Lorean were able to come home.  But Lillian was glad of Sonny's company and comfort when they were stranded alone out on the farm.

            Sonny always wanted a little donkey of his own and one day when his dad was in St. Thomas, Nevada, he found a baby one and brought it home.  Sonny was in seventh heaven.  He built a little pen near the chicken coop, and spent hours playing with it.  Clarence told him that donkeys liked mesquite beans, so Sonny gathered a pile of them.

            One day when they were playing, the donkey nipped him.  It scared him to death.  He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, the donkey on his heels. Sonny started to yell, “Auntie, Auntie open the door, open the door.”  She did, and he piled in just in time.  "I thought it was going to eat me alive," Sonny said.

            After Sonny's mother, Naomi died, he lived with his Grandpa Arthur and Grandmother Rosalie Lewis.  His cousin, Rodney Leavitt, lived next door, and they were the same age, so they grew up together.  Sonny called him Wodney.  Even after they started school, he still wanted to be with Wodney.  Whenever he was late from school and someone had to come get him, he excused himself by saying, “Wodney told me to.”

            One birthday party, Sonny received quite a lot of money in gifts.  Rodney and Sonny sneaked away to town and left the rest of the party there.  When the folks asked him later why he’d done it, he said, “Wodney told me to.”  He used that excuse for other things too, so “Wodney told me to,” became a favorite family expression.

Lillian Condie Lewis
(Photo courtesty of Dianne Leavitt)
            Albert Jones found a market for quail in Salt Lake City.  He noticed quite a few around the Lewis farm and said he’d pay 12 and a half cents each.  So Lorean and Sonny built some traps.  One time Lorean caught eight at a time.  So Sonny built a huge trap and strung twine to reach from the orchard to the porch, which, as I said, was quite a ways, and perched on the porch to watch.  When the quail were in the trap, he pulled the string.  He sure bought a lot of presents with his quail money.  Lillian said he had a genrous nature.
            Sonny was a born farmer.  He loved the soil from an early age.  When he arrived home from school, he always looked around to see what needed to be done.  He heard that mules were better than horses to plow with, so Clarence bought two from Alfred Frehner.  The mules were a delight at first, but one day, Sonny was plowing below the ditch by the house and Lillian was watching, so he decided to show her what prizes they were.  Sonny set the plow in the ground and gave them the “Go” signal.  They wouldn’t budge.  He tried every way--coaxed them, tried to lead them, push them, but the stubborn mules wouldn’t move.  Finally with tears pouring down his face, he even threw gravel at them to scare them, but they wouldn't move.  Lillian couldn't remember the outcome, but said she thinks Clarence came to the rescue.  From then on, Sonny only relied on the horses, old Cap and Brownie.

            Mrs. Bean, his sixth grade teacher told the family that “Sonny may not lead out in history or other subjects like other kids, but if a terrible calamity hit our classroom, it would be Sonny’s thinking that would save us all.”  In High School, Sonny liked his Ag classes best and always took pride in raising turkeys or crops. 

Clarence and Lillian Lewis
            After high school, Sonny went to California and worked for awhile for Howard Hughes at his airport, but his country blood was too strong and he came home.  He worked for the sand mines and bought a Ford.  How he loved it.  It was the best-taken-care-of car anyone ever saw.

            War was coming, and Clarence and Lillian prayed their sons, Sonny, Richard, and Paul, wouldn’t have to go, but the call came and Sonny was the first to leave.  His parents were proud of his attitude and loyalty.  They were still hoping for peace when he called to tell the family he was headed to the Pacific.  Clarence didn’t sleep much that night.

Sonny in the US Army
(Photo courtesty of
Bruce Perkins)
             Sonny was in the war for four years with no leaves.  A Captain in Hawaii found out about his ability with machinery and sent him to training school.  That shop saved the day for him, because he loved doing things.  He wrote letters home about Army life.  But when he came home, the family could see the toll it had taken.  Lillian prepared his favorite dishes, but he couldn’t eat.  When the soldiers arrived back in San Francisco, the boys that ate steaks got really sick.

            When Sonny saw his car, parked in the shade of the palm leaf car port, he smiled.  It was layered with the dust of four years of neglect.  He polished it.  Working his muscles made him feel better.  Finally, he was satisfied.  He sailed down the long lane leading to the Lewis farm and headed for town.  He met his Cousin Rodney and they had a great reunion swapping stories.  Sonny was in Hawaii, an island paradise, but never saw the beauty of it.  He was too busy keeping airplanes safe for the pilots to fly their missions.

            As Sonny and Rodney rode down the main street of town, a willow of a young woman caught Sonny's eye.  She had the most beautiful chestnut hair bouncing and shining in the sunlight as she walked along the road in her long-legged gait.  "That's the woman I'm going to marry," Sonny said, smiling.  "Who is she?"

Betty Louis Gentry
             Rodney tapped him on the head.  "You don't waste time.  That's Betty Gentry.  You better get in line though, she's engaged," his cousin told him.

Betty said she didn't know why she got over Alkie Perkins, but she did, and then Sonny had his chance.  He asked her many times to marry him before she finally said, "yes."

            Sonny saved his money while in the Army and at the time he came home, there was land for sale in the Upper Muddy, so Sonny, Clarence, Milton Earl, and Ver and Orrin Perkins decided to buy it.  Clarence and Sonny bought the McKay place, Milton the Baldwin place, and the Perkins boys, the Doty place.  The ranch cost $50,000.  They all started dairies and Clarence was the President for a long time.  Sonny wanted to show his dad what he was made of.  Clarence always praised him.  After a day of work, h e went home and told Lillian, “That poor boy has as much to do yet as I have done all day.”  Sonny worked many days and nights running the ranch.  His dad and he were kindred spirits.  They liked to have things done right.  Sonny invented a bailing machine to pick up bails of hay.  Word got around and pretty soon Alyss Chalmers, the farm equipment manufacturer, came around to look at it.  They patented it and the next year they came out with it and made a lot of money.  Sonny never saw a dime.

            Sonny's ability to fix machinery on the farm rather than take it to the garage like his neighbors, Lee Earl and the Perkins boys, meant the difference between success and failure.  His was the only farm left on the Muddy after awhile.
            After Clarence died, September 17, 1957, Lillian says Sonny was always fair with her.  Sometimes it was very hard to make the finances go around, but he always made his payments for the ranch on time.  If she wanted something done, Sonny was the one who seemed to get around to it.  He fixed a lot of people’s machines in his shop and they came to him for advice about their problems and he tried to give a helping hand.  Lillian says Sonny reminded her of the poem about Abou Ben Adhem:

About Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”  The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of sweet accord
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou.  “Nay, not so,”
Replied the Angel.  About spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.”
The Angel wrote, and vanished.  The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo!  Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest!


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