MEMORIES OF GRANDFATHER JOHN LEHI BUSHMAN
by John K. Carmack Presentation at Bushman Family Reunion July 23, 1988
Much of Grandfather John L. Bushman’s life has been reviewed as we reviewed Etna’s life. I will make his sketch a bit more personal.
I doubt that John L. ever met anyone he did not like or who did not instantly like him. All you had to do was to see that smile and feel the warmth of his David 0. McKay like personality and you were his friend. And John L. always had time for you no matter how busy. He would take me to visit all the relatives in Joseph City and brag about his first grandson, John K. I was to them John K., wherein others called me Kay in my youth. “Feel his muscles,” he would say. Then he would tarry for an hour to engage his relative or a neighbor in earnest conversation about irrigation, the harvest, the size of his melons, or his beautiful ears of corn.
I can still see him in my mind’s eye walking stiff-legged up and down the fields of corn, melon and beans repairing one furrow for the water or slicing off a noxious weed growing near a precious plant.
“John, have a taste of this melon:” A slice from the heart of a beautiful watermelon or cantaloupe would be the reward for an afternoon of hoeing weeds. Then we would harness old Bell or Flicka and go for a little horseback riding.
There was little in Joseph City to interest a city boy (if you can call Winslow a city), but to grandfather John L. it was life itself. one of the terrors of my early years was the promise, “John, this farm will be yours when you grow up.” It was many years later that I discovered he made the same promise to all of his grandsons with little real intention of follow through. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found that I would not have to be a farmer after all.
Grandpa Bushman came to visit and stay a few days regularly after we started our own family. We could visit away an evening enthralled with his Indian stories, his missionary stories, and also the recounting of his early Arizona life.
It always seemed that Grandpa Bushman had an Indian helping him on the farm. There was, for example, Eric who lived in a little room in the barn. Grandfather could speak their language and knew well how to make their work productive. His life was wrapped up in Arizona, missionary work, farming, Indians, and family.
He could sing Indian songs, speak phrases from their languages, and dealt with them in kindness and a spirit of love.
That stiff leg made him stand out. At age fourteen the right leg was crushed between two railroad cars leaving him with a shortened stiff leg, a severe handicap for a farmer who walked behind a horse and pulled a plow his entire working life. There was no pity or grumbling about pain, but rather it was the object of his good humor and natural cheerfulness.
After dinner I can remember Grandpa Bushman catching the nightly news on radio and discussing the events of the day with his host of friends. Another evening memory is watching him eat hot chilies until beads of perspiration would appear on his forehead. He was proud of his legendary capacity to endure and even enjoy hot chilies.
One of his ways of showing a grandson that he was loved was to put his arms around him and rub him with his prickly five o’clock shadow. He would laugh uproariously at our reaction.
His mother was John Bushman’s second wife, Mary Ann Petersen, but it was not his privilege to know her personally. She died of a tumor (undoubtedly cancer) when John L. was two years of age. John’s first wife, Lois, raised him with the assistance of his two older sisters, Lily and Adele. He loved those sisters and thought of Aunt Lois as mother.
We have already recounted his courtship and marriage to Etna Cooper. We have also spoken of his mission to Tennessee. His memories of that event in his life were shared often with me. He would then promise to pay for my mission as he instilled in me a firm desire to emulate his missionary experiences.
Grandfather, unlike his father, was not the ward bishop. Only one at a time was needed and those called served for decades. He would have been a natural bishop, but it was not to be. He served, nevertheless, as a Sunday School President, Chairman of a Ward Recreation Committee, President of the P.T.A., member of the Joseph City Irrigation Board, filled stake missions totaling four years among the Navajo and Hopi Indians, filled a full-time mission among the Navajos and Zuni Indians, and was active in every good cause he was asked to serve.
He loved his daughters. Sorrow must have remained long with John L. and Etna in the loss of those two daughters within 20 days.
Grandfather John L. was generous, hospitable, patient, kind and loving–a one-man welcoming committee for Joseph Smith. He loved the gospel and was a wonderful teacher and a spellbinder when spinning stories at the pulpit. He was patient, kind, and generous to his beloved wife Etna. Their discussions often became heated, but he never lost that patience and respect for his wife, even when irritated.
His second wife, Alice Despain, was also treated with the utmost love and respect. We went to see them near the end of his time on earth and could see how happy he was to have someone share his home, his farm produce, and his life with him. It was a brief marriage, but it brought him some happiness.
The last time we saw grandfather alive was in the hospital in Winslow. We could see his labored breathing, but the big smile and warm welcome were also there. A part of me died with him. An era, a simpler and in many ways a more righteous era, passed. We truly loved our grandfather, John L. with all our hearts. I think I hear him occasionally with his manly advice and his pride in his grandchildren. Everyone should have a grandfather like John L. Bushman.