Moroni Walker Pratt (My Father)

Written by Mabel Elizabeth Pratt Van Orden

As I sit down to try and write about the things I remember about my father, I seem so small and words seem so inadequate when I try to put on paper what is in my heart.  Sweet memories.  Yes, the dearest sweetest memory of my girlhood days were not of beaus or girl friends, sisters or brothers, but of my father, who seems now as I look back upon those days as being almost my whole dream.  I think I can say very truthfully that my father’s influence on me in my youth has influenced almost every act of my life.

He had a gracious manner, a warm, sincere, yet tender smile, a manly bearing, and tremendous energy.  He seemed never to tire, he possessed a deep loyalty and devotion to his church and family, and to the country in which he lived, and he had the highest respect and devotion to those in authority over him.  Never did he speak any unkind word about the authority of the church, and never would he allow anyone in his presence to do such a thing.  He taught his children never to criticize anyone who held that authority since they were always right.  He testified that to his knowledge they had always been and would always be right.  No in between with father.  It was either wrong or right, as it should be with more of us.

Father set high ideals for his family and expected them to be followed.  He would appeal to the best in everyone, never to their weakness if he knew them, never correcting in anger, but with love and patience. He would say, “I know a daughter of mine would never be seen in any but the best company” or “Always remember who you are.”  He never preached to anyone, but taught as he saw the need.  One day Esther and Laura were playing with some cards the hired men had left in the granary where they slept.  Upon seeing them, he picked up the cards from the floor, opened the lid of the stove, and put them in.  Stopping only a minute, he said, “Never soil your hands with cards, they are a gambler’s tools.”  Only a minute’s correction, but that teaching lasted all of my life through.  When I first began going out with boys, I came in one night after a dance and father was sitting by the big window watching me.  When I came in, he took me in his arms and said, “Stay clean as you are.  Rather than have you come home to me any other way, I would rather put you in a box and lay you beside your mother yonder.”  That, too, took only a minute, but lasted for a life time.  I would have given my life rather than to betray his confidence in me or cause him one minute of worry.  Many the time I stayed home from places other girls my age were going because I knew it would please him.

He seemed to be the only person who completely understood me or who has every understood me.  Could that be the reason for my love for him.  I don’t know.  I only know I loved him to a fault.  In him there was no guile as far as I could see.  Everything he did seemed to be the best he could do under the circumstances or at the time he did it.  He was full of good humor and did enjoy a good joke.

He was so tender-hearted that he never met me or any of his children but that he would take us in his big arms, give us a kiss and the sweetest smile, sometimes I used to think a little sad.  Then he would say very little, but tears of joy would drop from his handsome face and he could be on his way.

When Roy was called on his mission, I wasn’t well and Grandma Van and family were wondering if it would be better for Roy to wait until the baby was born.  Father called in one day on his way to the old mill in Lewiston.  Mrs. Van said, “I’m glad you came in as we were wondering what to do about Roy leaving Mabel now.”  “Well”, said Father, “Mabel’s sending him on his mission, no question there with her, of that I am sure.” That was the way it was.

Father often told me I was like my mother, only without her jealous disposition.  Her only failing was that she sometimes seemed to be a little jealous.  Father was an inventor, could see far head of his time, and had vision of the future.  One Sunday I was walking to church with him.  He looked down at me as we went out the gate and said, “You are lovely today.”  Then he looked more closely and saw I had a dress on with a little over lace yoke.  He stopped and said, “Go back and get something to cover up your nakedness, and never wear such again.  When a girl loses her modesty she loses her all and has nothing left of womanhood.”  Only a minute – but a lesson for life.

I heard only one swear word pass his lips.  One morning as we were all in the barn milking cows, one big cow stepped on a sore corn on his foot.  As he pushed her off he said, “Oh damn” and just as soon, he apologized for having said such a word in the presence of his girls.  He was always very polite in manner and was at home among the every elect.  He couldn’t remember his father in life, but said he had seen him very plainly in a dream or vision when he was in his teens.  I can remember whenever I left home for a day or month, I always knew he was praying for me every morning, as he always kneeled around the breakfast table to offer his thanks to his Heavenly Father.  Never once as a child do I ever remember missing this practice, no matter what the hurry.

Father sang or whistled as he worked and always sang beautiful songs as he rode with his family.  Songs I remember he sang were “Annie Laurie”, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Cathleen”, “How Firm a Foundation”, and “O, Say What is Truth?”  He played his fiddle, with Ellis at the organ, for dances.  He came down one afternoon to a children’s dance and taught me to waltz as he did most of his girls, I believe.  He was a lover of music and had a great talent.  He once said if anyone of his children couldn’t carry a tune by the time they could walk, he would spank them, and said he, “I nearly had to spank my Hazel.”

He sang, played the fiddle and played the little organ (first one in Fairview) in the evening as we gathered as a family in our beautiful parlor.  My mother had worked so hard to make it a lovely room – lace curtains hung a few inches over the beautiful red states carpet, with red plush chairs and sofa, a large picture of the Salt Lake Temple was on the wall, and a crystal hanging lamp hung on a pull chain from the middle of the ceiling – three rows of lovely dangling crystals hanging in three tiers.  They sparkled like diamonds.

Father whistled as he worked, such a sweet, clear sound, so soothing to the person who listened.  He sang as he rode in his buggy or wagon, always such inspiring songs, uplifting and elevating to the soul.  He seemed never to be troubled.  Although he had many responsibilities, he carried them in a dignified manner and no one knew his inner thoughts.  He thought deep.  Few people enjoyed good books as did he.  Like his father, he loved to read and often would spend the better part of the night in study while others slept.  I well remember coming home from a dance or party and seeing the bedroom light on and Father still reading.

His life was such a busy one.  Never, never did anyone see him idle.  He did things worth while, but never was too busy to stop and say something very nice and encouraging to his family to keep us happy and teach us the true meaning of life.  What a way of life.  If we could only follow in his footsteps what a beautiful, wonderful place this world would be to live in.  He seemed to live on a higher plane than most people.  My father, God bless his memory.  I loved him.

[transcript courtesy of Shirley De Hart]

Return to histories of Moroni Walker Pratt