According to researchers, 20,000 square-mile Lake Bonneville was once the largest lake in North America. It had no outlet to the sea and covered much of central Utah and parts of Idaho and Nevada. In some places it reached a depth of 1,000 feet. Today, some of the beaches of the two thousand mile shoreline can be seen on the sides of some Great Basin mountains.
As the climate changed and the area became more arid, the lake receded until all that is left is the much smaller Great Salt Lake and a couple of other remnants. The shoreline of Lake Bonneville forms a high bench for mostly residential development. In fact, the Universities of Utah, Brigham Young, Weber State and Utah State are all located on beaches or “benches” of the ancient lake overlooking their respective towns and cities.
It was on the “east bench” of Salt Lake City back in the 1950s that my father was putting the roof on a house. He had cut the rafters and leaned the 2X6 boards against the house walls in preparation to pull them up for assembly. He was standing on the ground when one of those little dust devils or whirlwinds came a’calling. One of the boards blew down and hit him squarely on the head, cutting a pretty large gash.
“Mac,” said one of the brick masons, “you had better go have a doctor check that out; you might need some stitches.” Sure enough, the doctor shaved and cleaned the immediate area and sewed him up. “Now, Mac,” said his doctor, “I’m going to give you a tetanus shot and I want you to sit in the waiting room for a few minutes to make sure you don’t have any reaction to the injection.”
As my father sat there looking around, he noted that all the waiting room occupants were women—most appeared to be pregnant. Perhaps, he thought, it was the good doctor’s usual mid-morning clientele.
He saw a table in the middle of the room that was covered with magazines and decided that he would peruse one. Now, it was summertime and the weather was hot. He was wearing carpenter’s overalls that sported a lot of pockets for a variety of nails, a tape measure and other necessities. The garment was held up by suspenders that went over the shoulders and fastened to a bib in front. The bib held pencils and other small tools of his trade. In his haste to get to the doctor’s office, he had foregone emptying his pockets. He was wearing a shirt under the overalls but, due to the warm weather, was otherwise unencumbered by any clothing but his underwear.
Much to his chagrin, when he stood to retrieve the magazine that had caught his eye, he quickly discovered that, while slouched in the chair, both suspenders had become unfastened. Over went the bib, spilling its contents, while his overalls fell around his ankles, dumping nails and other assorted flotsam and jetsam onto the waiting room floor—some of it rolling under the seats of the other wide-eyed patients
“I didn’t know whether to grab for the nails or my pants,” he said. “I managed to hitch up my britches enough to be able to duck through a door where I almost knocked over a nurse. When I finally got myself put back together, I re-entered the waiting room where I found every one of my ‘fellow’ patients hiding her face behind a magazine trying desperately to suppress her giggles.”
Whenever I think of Lake Bonneville’s “east bench,” I can’t help but smile when I consider the above incident involving my otherwise dignified father. It kinda makes me wonder what incident might define people’s memories of me. For what will I be remembered? Whatever it is, I hope it will bring a smile to someone’s face.