Bill Martineau was a happy man. Jobs were scarce in Utah during the summer of 1963 and he was elated at having found work as a lumber jack in the high Uintah Mountains. He worked very hard during the week and commuted back to Provo on the weekends. That commute took him through the beautiful dairy farming community of Heber City nestled in a green valley in the shadow of snow capped Mount Timpanogas.
One day while passing through that town in his dilapidated used car, he ran into a little jersey milk cow that had somehow gotten through the fence and wandered onto the highway. The owner arrived in time to see his little cow breathe her last.
“You have killed a prize jersey cow!” exclaimed the farmer. “Your cow has wrecked the grill and headlight on my car!” Bill retorted. Thereupon they commenced to gesticulate and accuse each other of malfeasance. “You should have been more careful!” declared the farmer. “You need better fences!” said Bill. Realizing they were getting nowhere with each other, they decided to exchange information and pursue the matter with more calm at a future time.
“Where are you from?” asked the farmer. “I’m from Chihuahua, Mexico,” said Bill. “Mexico? You don’t look like a Mexican,” said the farmer. “I’m from a little Mormon settlement called Colonia Juarez.”
“Colonia Juarez? Do you by any chance know some folks down there by the name of McClellan?” the farmer asked. “I sure do,” said Bill. “In fact, Keith McClellan is my roommate at BYU in Provo.” The farmer flashed a big smile and said, “Why, Keith McClellan is my nephew. His mother is my sister. Come on to the house—we’ve got to talk.”
When Bill returned to the apartment that evening he informed me that he had accidentally caused the demise of some farmer’s cow on the highway and told me that he was treated really poorly. “Why, that old farmer took me to his house and made me sit down to his wife’s cooking. They forced me to eat second helpings of fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. After that I was obliged to eat fresh baked cherry pie hot out of the oven. It was just awful!” he declared.
“Where did this happen?” I asked. “In Heber City,” he told me with a grin. “Seems the guy knows you. Said he and your mom are brother and sister.” “Vern Price!” said I. “I do believe you’re right,” he replied.
Over the years this incident has come to mind many times. And many times I have asked myself, “What is the moral of this story?” For one thing, I think it demonstrates the power of relationships. The two were antagonists until they found some common ground between them.
Ann Landers said that “the true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” I think it takes a lot of class to treat everyone with the kind of respect and understanding that you would want for yourself.
I came across an interesting quote in The Winner’s Manual for the Game of Life, by five time national champion coach, Jim Tressel. It is titled “Do it With Class”:
“Class is respect for others. It is a deep and genuine respect for every human being, regardless of his status in life. Class is having manners. It is saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’ It is complimenting people for any and every task done well.
“Class is treating every other person as you would want them to treat you in a similar situation. Class never makes excuses for one’s own shortcomings, but it always helps others bounce back from their mistakes. Class never brags or boasts about one’s own accomplishments, and it never tears down or diminishes the achievements of another person.
“Class does not depend on money, status, success, or ancestry. The wealthy aristocrat may not even know the meaning of the word, yet the poorest man in town my radiate class in everything he does.
“If you have class, everyone will know it, and you will have self-respect. If you are without class—good luck, because no matter what you accomplish, it will never have meaning.” (p.204)
I think when all is said and done, Bill and the dairyman both showed a lot of class in being able to resolve what could have become a very litigious matter. Of course, I would claim some credit myself, but since that would tend to show a lack of class, I will say no more.