Early Recollections of John Arnold and Felix Louis Lauper
By Ivan Lauper
[Originally dictated to Viola Lauper Johnson.]
In recalling memories of two of our brothers who left us rather early, I can remember John as a little red curly-haired boy. He never liked the red or the curls. I recall that during John's baby years, mother would give me the 'sewing machine parts' as a toy of amusement to play with him as help while she combed the heavy mat of curls. His complexion was very fair, allowing many freckles, a few of which fortunately faded some with the years. John never liked the farm life; and he certainly had the least aptitude, of all the brothers, for the type of life we were in. John had deep thoughts, somewhat secretive --or at least not always revealed. He was of artistic temperament, learned to play the trombone, and was scholastically inclined. John didn't verbalize too much. I had many conversations with mother on this subject and agreed we never completely knew his innermost thoughts; but could recognize he had dreams, far away ambitions of artistic nature. He was a determined person in his aim to break out into some life of his own choosing. For this purpose, after a scouting outing, he left the group and did not return home. The Scoutmaster could offer no explanation or information, and many months later, we received the sad report of his accidental death, the result of a horse kick. John had found work with a merchant and farmer in an area in which we had once lived --Tremonton, Utah. We believe his dreams were toward further schooling. He died alone, in much pain after internal injuries, after two days of suffering. John was six feet tall, 185 pounds, and unblemished. His death on September 4, 1923, having just turned 19 years of age, for he was born on August 18, 1904.
|John, 3 year old, 1907|
John liked athletics, was studious in whatever opportunity he had, and was above average in scholastic ability. He was neat and tidy in appearance and liked to keep his personal items very nice (a recollection comes to mind of how he waxed and polished some leather cuffs until they shone). He acquired trapping knowledge and skills. He also was interested in scouting, and was a good boxer.
John kept a 'Box' along side the house, which was in the weather, but was so constructed that it kept dry inside. This was a cache for his personal belongings, about 30 x 30 inches, two feet deep, with a lid that covered the top allowing the rain to run off. Whenever he had spare time he could be found sitting beside this box pouring over and going through his 'things'. The contents was a source of wonder to the younger children, always wishing they could get into what resembled a treasure chest, but John was a quiet type, and careful about his possessions.
My earliest recollections of the appearance of Felix, who was born April 17, 1907, was that he was a sturdy little fellow and really fond of milk. His body was full and firm, his complexion fair, having lots of blonde tousled hair. When the cows were being milked, Felix would come with his little cup and drink two full cups right there --of fresh, warm milk. He always insisted upon a goodly share. Little Felix was not bugged by the same problem of light complexion to the extent that was John. He sunburned some, but was not nearly as tender-skinned, nor given to as many freckles. Both brothers grew to similar statures, they were almost three years apart in age ---- 2-2/3 years actually; and died 3-1/3 years apart. Felix was especially clean-cut in his appearance. He was much interested in athletics and participated as much as possible. I don't think be did much boxing as did John (John rather excelled in this sport and almost came to par with our older brother Serge, who had also learned a great deal of boxing). Felix did not seem as much of a deep thinker-dreamer type, as John, but had a scholastic bend, doing well in school. He also picked up the same trombone and learned to play. Felix played football, and his aspirations received enough encouragement that he wanted to stay in-town at Delta, during the Christmas holidays, to be on hand for all practices. Mother would send provisions to him through the younger children or who-ever went into town. Dennis recounts that when he went to Felix's room at the old Cooper Hotel, with a large bottle of mother's peach preserves and a loaf of bread, he found only an empty fruit jar and a small crust of bread on hand. It seems he subsisted on that and little else. But he, too, was determined to work and sacrifice for whatever education and training possible.
John and Felix trapped together. All of us, except possibly Serge, studied carefully the skills of trapping through magazines --especially in the Youths Companion, and tried to learn as much of trapping as possible to serve as a form of livelihood. I was the first to start in this project having trapped muskrats at Penrose, and we always looked for coyotes for they were plentiful and carried a certain amount of bounty, but John and Felix trapped much more extensively and skillfully.
I here recall my first bountied coyote, which was the same year I won an Agricultural award for best 1/2 acre of corn on the dry farm at Penrose. I went on a long tedious trek, with a team and wagon, to Brigham City to receive my award ---which, of all things, was a pigpen. It was an odd pyramid type of thing with a shelf at bottom to bring safety for the little pigs when the mother would lie down, she wouldn't be able to lie on the little ones. There was a removable bottom to aid in cleaning. This was my County Award! I remember the trip involved my leaving home early in the morning, before daylight, and I was well on my way when I discovered “Old Dot”, our favored dog had followed, so she then had to go the whole way. Upon arrival at Brigham City, I marketed my first coyote hide for bounty.
John and Felix were much alike; they went to school together and shared things along with much confidentiality. Felix emulated John; this was proven when John passed away, Felix tended to follow in his brother's footsteps, took over his personal belongings, including his traps, his BOX, even the trombone (they were the only two who engaged in even this meager musical education). True, Dad had played trumpet in his young days, and later was proficient on the harmonica. If anyone knew of John's possessions in the BOX, it was Felix, no one else. John had even saved a sum of money from his fur marketings, etc., which was unknown to anyone in a bank deposit. It had taken some doing to aggregate the amount he had saved, something near a hundred dollars. This didn't come to light to other than Felix, until after John's death when evidence was found in the BOX.
I had been working away from home for about three years previous to John's death and was at the Bingham Mines when word reached me. I was able to connect with the Sugarville Ward Bishop, Wells J. Robertson, who had driven his truck to Tremonton, and together we brought the body of John home. Here the body was laid out in the front room, on a door, with ice packed around the body. There were no mortuaries in those days as such, but the necessary embalming had taken place before the release of the body in Tremonton. A few relatives arrived and we had the chore of finding lodging and food, but neighbors and Ward members rallied 'round as they usually do. Even a collection of money was brought ---the acceptance of which proved to be an almost impossibility for our mother. Nonetheless, the kindnesses proved how much our brother John was esteemed. The funeral was held at the Ward meetinghouse in Sugarville with a large attendance. There were also a large number who accompanied us on the long dusty, windy, trek to the Sutherland cemetery.
|Felix, 18 years old, 1926|
Then it was in the third year following the above when our family was called upon to go through a repetition of this sad experience, when our brother Felix's passing occurred. Felix was almost three years younger than John, so his passing came at near the same age --actually 19-3/4 years. On January 1, 1927. This was at holiday time, near the end of year 1926, when I went from Los Angeles on a visit to be with the family at Delta, Utah. In honor of my coming, Felix had planned a little duck-hunting spree. Actually, I had not been hunting in nearly fifteen years ------while yet on the farm, I received an eye injury a result of a pitchfork wound, which I always felt had affected my ”aim eye”.
My trip home had been long planned and looked forward to. Although I was now helping Serge in the mission field, and also continuing payments on the lot we had bought together, I had managed to save a little money to allow for this trip. I had been away sometime, and mother was constantly longing to see me and 'gather her children 'round'’. I arrived from Los Angeles, and on the second or third day following, Felix had arranged for this little hunting jaunt down at the river bottom, about seven miles away from where we lived, and about six miles or so from town of Delta.
Felix had invited his best school friend, Ed Heiss, to go along that day. They each had their own guns, but Felix gave his to me and used a borrowed one. This was a pump shot gun, loaned by a neighbor, and it was later learned it had a tricky nature, with rather a faulty safety device. Upon arrival at the riverbank, and as we were alighting from the car, Felix placed his gun on the running board of the old model T Ford, while he used both his hands to button up his sheepskin coat. As I stood a very short distance, facing Felix, I suddenly saw the gun commence to slip, and then fall the approximate twelve inches from running board to ground. As the butt of the gun hit the ground, directly at Felix's feet, it exploded.
This one thing I remember absolutely clear to this day. It is impossible to explain, even to myself; and yet as I saw that gun commence to fall, a lifetime of experiences passed through my mind, for I definitely knew this was the end for my brother. All of our lives we had each known of the deathly fear our mother held for all guns. She was, from our earliest days, constant and repeated, in her cautions and warnings to us --always asking, "is that gun loaded?" She had an abject horror of guns which was sort of an imprint on my mind, and whether or not this influenced my thinking that day, I knew full well this was a fatal accident, even though I continually prayed for Felix for the next day and a half, at which time I then prayed that he would be taken.
The miraculous speed, in which the mind is able to see a panorama of your whole past life and the life before you, is unexplainable, but it does and did happen that day to me. In that short minute, I experienced our mother's agony, and remorse, as it flashed through my mind.
When the gun exploded our brother reeled forward, the impact carrying him nine or ten feet, but he came up holding his throat, and was able to get into the car almost independently. Ed Heiss then held him while I drove; and Felix even directed us with hand motions for he knew the territory.
I realize there have been many war experiences parallel to this injury, and the injured has recovered with modern medicine and know-how. I am certain that under different circumstances his life would have been spared, for his physical stamina was unusual. He remained sitting up, while giving directions to the Delta Hospital. Then we had to round up the two doctors who eventually prepared to operate. His throat was shot away and he was bleeding profusely. We had been holding wadded-up handkerchiefs, also cramping his neck, attempting to stop some of the bleeding while we were waiting. As we were holding, we tried to keep ourselves to the side, breathing away from him, in an effort to eliminate contamination to these open wounds. He had great difficulty in breathing, and no ether could be administered.
Mother and Father and other members of the family had arrived at this little hospital by now; and all of us being inexperienced in these matters, were almost insisting that the doctors operate, but because of his delicate situation and nature of his wounds, there wasn't much operating that could be done safely, for it just might terminate his life sooner. The doctors conferred with each other and deferred surgery. Gangrene set in and it was just a matter of hours until the medics let us know that Felix had only hours to live. He was transported quickly to Salt Lake City hospital where he had all the attention possible, and was given every help the doctors felt could be given.
Because of Felix's near-perfection in strength of body, he succumbed very violently ---so much so that even at the very last, he had strength enough to raise to almost sitting position, while mother and I tried to hold him down. He was in a semi-coma, was gasping for breath, still he fought, trying to get up, and he was still able to voice a few words, even though according to experts this would be an impossibility. I still know that, with his throat shot away, he spoke on two different occasions ---the most distinct was when, after arising once, and I forced him to lie back, I heard him say audibly “Don't lay me down, I'll die". It is true that immediately following the accident, he directed us all the way to the doctor's office, but this was mostly without verbalizing. So, here was a young man so healthy and strong as a result of clean living, that he lived after receiving the blast of a twelve-gauge shotgun, hitting about midway into his chest and ripping away his neck and throat; some of the bee bee lodging in his tongue and all through his mouth and up into his face under the eyes. About three days following the accident, Felix passed away early New Years morning, January 1, 1927. He was brought from Salt Lake City back to our near-Delta home for funeral, and for burial in the Sutherland cemetery alongside our brother John.
Before leaving Salt Lake city, Uncle Harry Madsen as well as Grandmother Madsen and Uncle Julius Sorenson, were contacted, also mother's friends, the Elswoods in Ogden. Some of the family members from that area came to the funeral. Alice and I got together on some buying of food and arrangements for the visitors. Again the Ward brought a donation of money and I supplemented, and we were able to put the family up for a few days with slightly less embarrassment than at [the] time of John's burial.
After all this, I was short of money. My stay had been lengthened [and I lost the value of my return ticket, time-wise. Something that I can never forget must be included here. The father of Felix’s friend, Ed Heiss, came up to me and asked if I needed money. He was a very decent man, and because he had a job as Waterman, he was in a position as having a regular income, which few of the people thereabout had. I guess it was because of his son's personal involvement in this accident, that Mr. Heiss approached me with this offer of a loan, and I accepted. As a side item here, when I had returned to Los Angeles, and my affairs were just beginning to reshape themselves, (I had brought Alice back with me -- it had been a serious question in deciding which to take first, mother or Alice, inasmuch as both were so deeply despondent), but right soon after, I received a letter from Mr. Heiss asking that I send him his money. At first reading, I was considerably annoyed; but as I read further, it said, "The banks have gone broke, every cent I had was in them, I need the money badly, and I wish I had given you more".
An important part in the life of Felix's friend, Ed, is that I met this same fellow, who had gone through this experience with my brother and myself, came to see me, many years later in Southern California. Ed was living in Redlands, California, and it was a joy to learn he had become a member of the Church, and he told of this having been the result of direct influence by our brother Felix. Then a very sad commentary on the Heiss family came to mother's attention in the mid '50s. She found an obituary notice in the newspaper (this was a source of a good deal of information for mother, which would have otherwise been missed). This notice told of Ed Heiss having died at his own hand ---a former employee of Bingham Copper Mines, where he had been a foreman. I don't know that the article spelled out that he had committed suicide, but later, in the mid '60s, when young Marc Lauper was at the Y, his room mother at his dormitory turned out to be Enid Heiss, widow of Ed. She recognized the Lauper name and stated her husband had been a friend to Marc's uncle; also admitting that her husband had committed suicide and how hard life had been for her ---stating also that she never knew why her husband had been led to end his own life. (What a mystery, to try to figure what amount of courage or what amount of imbalance it takes to destroy oneself).
So that is my story of the two brothers of the "Ten Tribes". Each left us at near the same age: John had just turned 19 years, and Felix was 19-3/4 years at time of death. Both were the same size and stature, six feet high and approximately 185 lbs, different temperaments, but a good many things in common, and a great brotherhood between them. Their bodies repose in the rural cemetery of Sutherland, Millard County, Utah. (It is quite a trick to find that place ---going out, off the main road, it seems you proceed through private property, through forsaken, jackrabbit country. Several of us have lost several hours of the best disposition of our wives in trying to locate this spot. Not long ago we were invited to contribute to perpetual care for these grounds. I am greatly amused by the words 'perpetual care', though they did put in a water supply. But the cemetery is 'out there somewhere'. I know this, for another time, when not even trying very hard, I found it! The two graves do have a marker, although the ground around has sunk somewhat, and the cement cracked. But ---this is only a memory of the two brothers, for we truly know where their spirits are.