By Cordell and Janice Vail
29 June 2003
A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail
Seeing A Person's Countenance
Eldene told me this last week that she knows very little about Uncle Anzel the brother of Grandpa Ammon W. Vail. So I thought I would try this week to include a little history in the Sunday Sermons of what I know about him.
The very first time I remember seeing Uncle Anzel was in an apartment where he lived in Salt Lake. I have no idea where that apartment was but I would guess it was somewhere near 45th South in Salt Lake. It only had a kitchen a bed room and a front room. He owned a Phillips 66 gas station (correct me if I am wrong there). I doubt he owned it. Probably leased it. I remember seeing him there and we have a picture floating around with him standing in front of it. I remember that is the first time I saw a television. It was that old round tube one that is at Bonnie's place. I remember sitting there with Eldene and maybe Mary Jean watching Hop Along Casidy and some cow boy show with three good guys in it. One of them had a pinto horse... How is that for memory. That was the first time I ever saw a Television. Aunt Joy let us watch those two shows.
I heard lots of stories about Uncle Anzel from my dad on fishing trips with him and uncle Ike. I do not remember of Uncle Anzel ever going on any fishing trips with us over to Snake River in Wyoming. We just told stories about him ha ha ha...
Back in the days when Ike, Anzel and Ammon were young men (about 1915 to 1925), dancing was the main form of entertainment. If you could see my parents or Aunt Mary and Uncle Ike dance... you would know what I mean. They were the best of the best at ball room dancing. Just like Fred Astare or better. I never saw Anzel or Myrtle dance but I am sure he could just like the others. So when the week end came they all went to the local dance just like you see on TV. The old barn dance kind of thing.
Dad said that Uncle Anzel started drinking at a very young age. Anzel was a real mean person when he was drunk. So when he was a young man he would get drunk and then go to dances and start fights. Dad did not drink so after Anzel got drunk at the dance, dad, even though he was younger, would put his arms around Anzel so he could not fight and drag him home. Uncle Anzel was about the same size as dad so he was able to handle him. Now Uncle Ike - that was a whole different matter. He was a lot older than the other two boys and a lot bigger. He drank just as much as Anzel., however Ike was a semi professional fighter so dad never messed with him when he got drunk and started to causing trouble. In those days all the fighters, professional as well as street fighters fought bear fisted. Back in those days there were no boxing gloves. You probably have seen that on TV about Jack Dempsey and some of the other very early fighters. Ike beat some of the best professional fighters in the country bear fisted. The professional fighters would travel around the country fighting for money. When they came to town, they challenge anyone in the town to fight them and the winner took that purse. That is how professional fighters made their living back in those days. They pretty much stopped coming to Star Valley because they all knew they could not beat Isaac Vail. They stayed away because they knew if they came to Star Valley they had to fight him. Ike was about the same size as Sherron but bigger in the chest. Just know my dad did not mess with Ike when he was drunk, and neither did anyone else. No one messed with him drunk or sober. One time when he was 80 I was kidding around with him and offered to fight him. He got up out of the chair. I backed off..... (But that is a story for another time)..... So because Ike had a reputation as a fighter, Anzel thought he was tuff too, and he was very wiry and not afraid of anyone especially when he was drunk. He was very "tuff". A fearless fighter with lots of scars. Because he was so little, all the big guys who were afraid of Ike would beat him up to take out their anger they had for Ike. So Anzel took the beatings. That is why my dad would drag him home when Anzel got drunk because they knew because of his temper he would start a fight and get beat up again.
Another story that I heard my dad tell of Uncle Anzel and his temper was when they were out with tourists. Great Grandpa Vail (Ammon Lewis) had a tour guide business. Ike and Anzel normally would go with great grandpa Vail to take rich tourists out into the mountains of Wyoming hunting trophy animals. They were mostly rich Layers and Doctors who came from the East. Aunt Mary was the camp cook and my dad was the horse wrangler.
As my dad told the story, this one day Anzel stayed in camp to help Marry cook. They were cooking fish. Anzel tried to turn the fish over in the frying pan and it would not turn over. He got so mad after a few tries he just shoved his hand in the pan and grabbed the fish and turned it over by hand. It burned his hand very bad. Another story they tell of his temper was when he was at his service station in Salt Lake fixing a car. He was trying to put a radiator back in a car that he was repairing. It was a brand new radiator. It would not go. It would not go. It would not go. Finally he was so angry that he kicked the radiator to pieces. The reason my dad used to tell me these stories about Uncle Anzel' temper was because he could see I had the same kind of temper. Some times when he saw me get mad he would wait for a teaching moment and then later around the camp fire or in the meat market at the store in Hyde Park or where ever we were he would tell me about Uncle Anzel's temper and how much trouble it got him in all the time. My dad would then always tell me that he had just as bad of a temper as Anzel but when he saw how it cause him so much trouble he learned to control it. I honestly can remember only one time of ever seeing my dad lose his temper. One of our cows go out and would not go back in and he picked up a big rock and threw at it and called it "A DIRTY CURR". That is the only time in all the years I ever heard him swear or lose his temper, and I went everywhere with him. So I think he did a pretty good job of learning to control it. I hope to some day be as he was.
A favorite story of mine about Anzel was a deer hunting story Ike used to tell people this story once in a while. I have no reason to doubt it was true when I heard Ike tell the same story to many different people over the years and the story never varied. Here is how it went. Anzel went to the first world war. He was in France. When he came home he brought some rifle ammunition with him. But it was not just normal a munition. It was armor piercing ammunition. They used it in a rifle to try to penetrate the shell of a tank. it was made of hardened steel. Normal bullets are made of lead and when they hit a dear they mushroom to make a bigger hole so it will bleed to death if it is only wounded and not run away. So Ike and Anzel decided to try some of these armored piercing shells on a deer just to see what they would do.
They were up on the mountain side hunting and Ike saw a deer. He pointed clear across the canyon to where it was over on the other side hill across from them. Anzel said he could see it. Anzel had the gun and was a very good shot. So he put in an armored piercing shell and shot the deer. The deer dropped right in its tracks. So they started down the hill into the canyon below and then back up the hill on the other side to where the deer was. But as they started up the hill Anzel started to go over to the right and Ike said the deer was up higher on the hill. Both of them being very stubborn they could not agree on where the deer was so Anzel went to where he knew he had shot the deer and Ike went on up the hill to where he knew Anzel had shot the deer because he had seen it fall. When Ike got there he called back down the hill to Anzel that he had found the deer and it was dead. Anzel called back up the hill and said he could not have found the deer because he had found it down here below and it was dead. So Ike came down the hill to where Anzel was. Sure enough there was the deer Anzel had shot. But right behind it was a big flat rock with a bullet imprint on it. The bullet had gone right through the deer (of course) and hit the rock, rick-a-shyed up the hill and hit the other deer that Ike had seen. One shot killed both deer. Neither one of them saw both deer but by some "Daniel Boon" miracle the angle of the rock behind the first deer shot had been perfectly aligned where the bullet went through the first deer, hit the rock and then glanced perfectly up the hill to kill the second deer that Anzel had not even known was there.
Belive it if you want...... But I heard Ike and my dad tell that story a 100 times. I wish I had the rock ha ha ha...
The last time I saw Anzel he was in a bed in the front room of that little apartment. He was a chain smoker. He lit one cigarette right off the last one all day long. He never stopped smoking as long as he was awake. He was very sick because he had lung cancer and was dying. He was so sick that Aunt Joy had him out there in the front room where we could all help take care of him at night. I think that is why we were there so Aunt Mary and my parents could help care for him. Then he died a few weeks later.
I did not know much about Aunt Joy. She was a very short. She was very kind to me and I remember he being a very good cook. She would sit in the kitchen of that little apartment and tell me stories. I really liked her. But I could tell she did not go to church. But I never saw her smoke. She may have drank coffee, I don't remember that but I know she did not smoke and did not swear like Uncle Anzel or Aunt Myrtle or the others. After Anzel died I never saw her again. I did not even know where she lived. It was like she just sort of disappeared from our family. Years later when I was going to the University of Utah I had a strange experience. My friend John Teusher and I were at the University Village where we lived. We were talking about light and how when people live righteously they start to give off light that you can see. John said he had never seen that and would like me to show him someone who had it. I said that is easy, lets go down to the temple and I can show it to you.
We went down to the Salt Lake Temple and I told him to just sit down on a flower planter box there in front of the temple entrance. Sure enough in a few minutes here come an older couple out of the temple and down the street. You could see the light coming out of them like lightening. John was so fascinated that after they past our planter box he got up and went down the street two planter boxes and let them come past him again. Then he came up to the Temple gate again and waited for the next couple. When they came out and past him he went down the street two planter boxes and waited for them to pass him again so he could watch them and see the light coming out of them.
This second time I followed him down there to the other flower box and after they passed he said lets go back and wait for the next couple. As we started to get up, I saw this light off to the left coming up the street. As I looked in that direction, I saw an older couple coming up the street to go to the temple. I told John to just wait a minute and this other couple would come up the street and pass us and we could watch them.
We sat there for a minute until they came along. They were both very short and quite feeble so he was holding her arm and helping her walk along. The light coming out of them was so bright you could not miss it. As I watched them come closer and admired how kind he was to her and what light they both had all of the sudden I realized it was my Aunt Joy. I did not even know she was still alive. I guess she must have remarried this other man who was active in the church and she became active and started to go to the temple with him. It was that same wonderful little Aunt Joy that I had loved sitting by in the kitchen and listening to her read me stories. She had a celestial light coming from her like I had seldom ever seen before. I did not stop her to talk to her. I don't know why. I regret not going over and talking to her now. I was afraid she would not remember me and would be frightened by a stranger approaching her on the street so I just watched in amazement as she went past. That was my Aunt Joy. She became again a second time like the man she married.
I pray that some day in the spirit world I may meet Uncle Anzel. I have so many stories that I want to share with him about my life and my testimony. It is my hope that I can convert him and help him be a part of our family again.
That's it for this week...
PS Here is a picture of Aunt Joy when she was married to Uncle Anzel: