Mark: apocryphal stories

This is the last post I have for now of stories with or about Mark.  More will likely come back to me over time.  These stories are stories I did not personally observe but were recounted to me in some detail, either by Mark or others.

Mark and some of his friends put a sheep in our High School, for which Mark was expelled for a few days.  My Mom referenced this when I was expelled for putting a photocopy of Rich Miller’s butt on the podium of my calculus teacher as something she didn’t want to have to go through again.

Most of the student governments before me (I was student body president my senior year) had various keys to the high school, allowing them to explore the air vents and tunnels that ran under the high school.  We gained access to some temporarily, but Mark and Danny both explored the tunnels under the school extensively.

Mark played football and wrestled a couple of seasons, but also ran track.  He qualified for state most years.  He told me about one race at state track that was particularly memorable.  He had qualified for the final in whatever it was he was running (typically sprints, as that was his strength), but forgot or wasn’t clear as to when the final race was going to happen.  He left to get dinner.  Just as he got back to the stadium where the races were being held, he heard his name being called as they were waiting for him to hold the final race.  He rushed to get ready and had a full stomach, but made it to the starting point in time to race.  With no warmup and a full stomach, he took second.  That’s how fast he was.

Apparently he was always fast.  My Mom recounted an incident that happened when we lived in Porterville (I was 1 year-old when we moved to Mountain Green, where I grew up).  My Mom had just finished giving Mark a bath when he disappeared.  Apparently he had seen the mail person deliver the mail.  He ran, lightning fast, out of the house and down the long drive way, naked (apparently this starts young), to the mailbox to retrieve the mail.  My Mom couldn’t keep up with him he was so fast.

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Mark: staying at the Liston’s

Mark and I worked in the cherry orchard (mentioned previously) owned and run by my Uncle Al when we were young.  Harvesting cherries is pretty demanding.  Sweet cherries have to be picked by hand because they need the stem to stay fresh.  And they need to be harvested early in the morning to maintain their moisture.  We’d get up around 5:00 am, get dressed, eat, and head out to the orchard where we’d work all morning, wrapping up around noon.  We’d have our haul for the day weighed and get paid by the pounds of cherries we picked.  Pie cherry harvesting is different.  It relies on tractors and follows a different schedule – 10:00 pm to 10:00 am.  Mark and I worked out there from when we were about 6 until we were about 16.

A couple of things we did were very memorable.  We would stay at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Pleasant View (driving out every morning would have been crazy from where my parents’ lived, almost 45 minutes away).  Since their kids (my cousins) had all grown up and moved out, though some still helped with the harvest, we largely had the basement of the house to ourselves.  We typically tried to sleep during the day during the pie cherry harvest, but during the sweet cherry harvest we’d have most of the afternoon to blow.  We’d often play Uno.  We amassed massive Uno decks numbering in the hundreds and would play marathon Uno games lasting hours.  We’d also ride our bikes down to a local convenience store where we’d buy treats.  A favorite during the hot Utah summers was Icees.  However, we couldn’t spend all of our money as it was also the money we would use to purchase our ‘school clothes’ for the upcoming school year.

I put together a little Google Map with some of the prominent locations:

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Mark: late night canasta

One thing my family loves to do when we get together is play Canasta.  We have our own version with our own rules.

We used to play Canasta with our friends when we were teenagers as well.  We often had Mitch Johnson and one or two other friends over for late night games of Canasta up in the attic.  I recall one game that had run long into the night.  At some point, Mark accused Mitch of cheating and proceeded to pull a dozen or so cards from various places Mitch had hidden them.  Mitch was caught.  We laughed and he was duly punished by taking away points or Mark wrestling him until he cried (which actually happened at times, despite Mitch being much bigger than Mark, Mark was incredibly strong).  Eventually we got too tired to play any more.  Mitch left (he lived just up the street) and Mark got up with him.  That’s when I found Mark’s stash of cards – he must have had hundreds of cards hidden.  Lucky for us, despite having all those cards, he wasn’t very good at cheating.  I don’t think he won!

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Mark: on the soccer field

We were close enough in age that Mark and I did get to play on the same soccer teams, though not all the time (Mark played other sports too; I was a soccer-only guy).  I played goalkeeper from about under-12 through high school.  Mark was a blazing fast forward.  Sadly, I don’t have many photos of us together on the field.  The only photo I could find was this really terrible photo from my high school yearbook:

I indicated where Mark and I am. I was a sophomore; Mark was a senior. (click for full size)

Mark didn’t get a lot of play time because, as I mentioned before, he wasn’t particularly good with ball control.  But he was lightning fast.  He and Mitch Johnson, who is standing on the back row in the photo, were reserve players brought in for very specific reasons.  Mitch was a giant.  If the other team had someone who was playing too aggressively, hitting our players, Mitch would get sent on and proceed to run their player over.  That would end the aggression.  And if the other team was playing an offsides trap, Mark would get sent on.  His speed would unsettle them as he could outrun pretty much anyone on the field.  It wasn’t what you’d call “elegant” soccer, but it was pretty effective.  Basically we’d just kick long balls past the defense and watch Mark outrun everyone to get to the ball.  I recall seeing him blow past defenders who had 20 and 30 foot head starts on him to get the ball.  He wasn’t very effective at scoring, but it forced the other team’s defense to reconsider their tactics.

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Mark: water skiing

I mentioned in an earlier story that Mark was very athletic.  I’ll write more about that as well.  However, his athleticism wasn’t always highly coordinated.  He could run like a gazelle, but that didn’t necessarily translate into amazing coordination.  And, at times, he relied too heavily on his speed and strength rather than on finesse.  Water skiing was a good example.  My family would vacation at Lake Powell when I was growing up (those living in Utah still do so).  The first few times we went down to Lake Powell were with the Carruths, who taught both Mark and I how to water ski.  That would have been when I was about 10 or so.  My Dad, sold on the idea of Lake Powell, eventually bought a small ski boat and purchased a share in a houseboat, so we could go on our own.

It was a couple years after Mark and I learned to water ski, when I was about 12, that I learned to slalom (i.e., ski on one ski).  I picked it up rather quickly.  I probably tried three or four times on different days before I managed to get up.  And, here’s the rub, I managed to do it before Mark.  That, of course, was unacceptable.  I think I picked it up around 1:00 pm.  I skied around a bit, then decided I was done and would practice more the next day.  Mark was not willing to let me learn to slalom before he did, so we spent the next three hours or so out in the main channel at Lake Powell while Mark tried and tried to get up.  I don’t know how he had the strength to try that many times, but he did.  Even so, he still didn’t get up that day and finally had to call it quits.  He did, however, get up the next day.

Did I mention we’re competitive?  Another good example – I vowed to get my Eagle Scout as early as possible so I wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to drive.  I got it at 13.  Mark was awarded his Eagle Scout the same day, at 15.  He vowed I wouldn’t get mine before he got his.  He even insisted that he be handed his actual Eagle Scout Award before I was handed mine. 😉

Nah, we weren’t competitive!

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Mark: Easter on The Rock

My Grandfather, Earl Budge Cragun, had an orchard and owned a lot of property in Pleasant View, Utah.  The orchard was passed down to a son-in-law and has since been demolished for development.  But when the orchard was in the family and I was growing up, we had a yearly Easter egg hunt right next to the orchard.  The land where the orchard was located was actually littered with large rocks (which were worth far more than the orchard, much to my Grandfather’s chagrin).  The orchard and surrounding area were referred to collectively as “The Good Earth.”  Right next to the orchard were several very large rock outcroppings, the largest rising about 15 feet into the air.  The rock field made for a particularly challenging Easter egg hunt as candy and treats could be hidden all over the big rock and surrounding rock fields.  I always recall the Easter hunts with fondness as they really were a lot of fun, particularly once Mark and I were teenagers as the most challenging rocks to scale were reserved for the athletic teenagers as their hunting ground.

I tried to find an areal view of the large rock where we used to hunt for Easter treats, but it appears to have fallen prey to rock excavation and development.  It was right about here.  I did, however, find a picture of me and Josh on top of the main rock:

me, Josh, Brian Belnap, and Nate Belnap

This actually jutted out of the ground about 15 feet or so.  Mark and I, along with our cousins around our age – Brian and Nate Belnap – were very competitive in trying to gather the most loot.  We would also occasionally have competitions to see who could climb the face of the rock the fastest.  Good times!

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Mark: my scarred finger

My Dad has long been an entrepreneur and small business owner.  As such, he typically hired his kids to work for him.  That included Mark and I.  He also used our very large garage as his shop, on and off.

Mark and I were helping my Dad in the garage one day when this happened.  I was probably 8 or 9.  We were told to pick up a thick, heavy piece of steel and move it.  It was thick… and heavy!  I don’t know what that means for 8 or 9 year olds, but I know both Mark and I struggled to get it up.  As we were walking across the garage, Mark’s grip started to slip.  He started to let it down, forcing me to do the same, but before either of us could put it down, Mark dropped his side.  Unable to hold it up myself, the piece of steel crashed to the ground with my middle finger on my left hand underneath it.  It smashed the tip of my finger bad enough that the bone was clearly visible and a large flap of skin was loose.  I ended up getting stitches.  I still have a nasty scar on that finger and the scar is sensitive.  You can see my scar in this photo:

scar traced so you can see it

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Mark: punched in the face

Probably because we were so close in age and so competitive (Craguns are all competitive), Mark and I didn’t always get along.  In fact, I’d dare say that the bulk of our childhood was spent in a rather high tension state with the slightest provocation leading to open conflict between the two of us.  This tension eased off as we entered our teen years.  I’m not sure why, though I think it may have had to do with the fact that we were no longer directly competing: I had gone the academic/intellectual route and Mark had gone the athletic/popular route.  It was clear he was the better athlete (more on this in another story or two) and I did better in school.  Mark’s perspective, and probably mine toward him, had changed.  He took me under his wing and offered me a variety of very helpful advice, particularly regarding women, that I still believe to be accurate (but probably shouldn’t be repeated on a family-friendly blog).

Anyway, returning to the high-tension childhood period… I believe I was close to 10 when this incident happened, meaning Mark would have been about 12.  We were loading stuff into the small, enclosed trailer my Dad used to have.  I think we were going camping.  Mark was typically very good at disappearing when it came time to do work like that (honestly, I have no idea how he managed that, but I did most of the camping preparation and boat preparation when we were growing up).  So, he may have been particularly piqued because he was actually helping load the trailer.  I don’t recall all that was said, but as we loaded equipment into the trailer, the back and forth between the two of us escalated.  At some point I yelled at him, which prompted him to get right up in front of my face.  I recall we were standing right at the front of the garage.  I think he dared me to hit him, so I did.  I punched him right in the nose.

Mark had a remarkable tolerance for pain.  I doubt my feeble attempt at a punch really hurt him, but it clearly shocked him that I actually did it.  Frankly, it shocks me.  Aside from a couple of skirmishes at school (Nate Toon, Brody Eddington) and scout camp (I forget the name of the camp, but the guys who instigated it were rabble rousers and jerks), I was definitely not known for fighting.  And anyone who knows me today would not be surprised by that – I’m quite pacifistic.  Mark probably could have beat me senseless.  Danny and/or Mike may have been around, which might have prevented him from unloading on me.  Or maybe he just took pity on me and realized he would get in pretty serious trouble for beating me up.  In my own inner dialogue at the time, I recall what I was thinking, “I hit him so hard I scared him.  He knows not to mess with me anymore.”  Honestly, I have no idea why, but Mark just walked away.

I, of course, finished loading the trailer.  Maybe that was how he got out of work so often…


Since I mentioned them above, I should probably relate the incidents with Nathan Toon, Brody Eddington, and the scout camp skirmish.  These are probably more for me than anyone else, but I think they’re interesting.

I don’t recall the exact grade, but it was probably 1st or 2nd grade.  I distinctly remember it was Elementary School because the fight took place on the front lawn of the Elementary School.  I had just gotten off the bus and was doing something that had me preoccupied.  I was preoccupied enough that I didn’t notice my best friend growing up, Nathan Williams, had gotten into an argument with Nathan Toon that was quickly escalating.  When I realized what was going on, the argument had already started to turn violent.  Nate Williams was always a skinny little kid (with a quick wit and, often, the inability to determine when he should use it and when he shouldn’t).  Nate Toon, on the other hand, was a stocky, strong little kid.  I fell somewhere in between, but knew I had to protect Nate Williams.  So, I jumped into the fray.  I recall putting Nate Toon into a headlock, which I’m sure I learned from my older brothers who all wrestled and used me as a practice target.  I think my headlock was fairly effective as Nate Toon was unable to get it off and I was able to hold it on until he promised not to beat Nate Williams up.

Another elementary school incident involved Brody Eddington.  I’m pretty sure I was a little older, maybe 4th grade.  It also involved Nate Williams, but more indirectly.  Brody lived fairly close to Nate and I, but the bus picked him up first.  Nate and I typically sat together on the bus.  Some how that day Nate sat down and Brody sat next to him.  I asked Brody to move and he said he wouldn’t.  So I tried to push him out of the seat.  Brody didn’t budge.  I distinctly recall then trying to pry him out of the seat by grabbing his shoulders from behind and pushing my knee into his back.  Brody was a tough kid.  He didn’t so much as indicate it hurt.  I don’t recall how the incident ended, probably with the bus driver stepping in, but I don’t think I hurt Brody.

I think that was the only incident growing up where I was the aggressor.

The last incident I mentioned took place at a Scout camp.  I mentioned in a previous story that my Dad was often involved in scouting.  He emphasized it enough that I got my Eagle at 13 (if we didn’t get our Eagle, we couldn’t get our driver’s license).  After I got my Eagle, I lost most of my interest in scouting.  I still went camping, but mostly for entertainment.  I don’t think I earned any more merit badges than I absolutely had to.  Anyway, my Dad was working with younger scouts at a camp one weekend (maybe 10-12) and asked me to join him.  I think we were teaching knot tying or something like that.  I went up with him on Friday night and we spent the night.  The next morning he sent me down to the car to get some materials.  The camp was probably 1/2 a mile from the parking lot, which meant about a 15 minute walk.  And the last 200 yards or so of that walk was down a sloped road with a relatively steep drop to one side (left side if you’re walking down).  The drop off was about 15 to 20 feet and steep, but covered with grass.  It dropped down to a meadow right next to a river that was being used as a frisbee golf course.  I wasn’t actually doing anything other than helping my Dad at the camp as I already had my Eagle, so I wasn’t with my Troop or anything like that, though some of the scouts from my Troop were there.

As I headed down the last couple hundred yards toward the parking lot to get the stuff my Dad requested, I noticed a Troop of boys coming up the trail.  I moved over to the left, near the dropoff, thinking they would simply pass on the right.  No such luck.  As I neared them, they spread out around me.  There were probably a dozen of them and they were at least as old as I was, some of them probably older.  I was oblivious to what was about to happen.  As the group of boys surrounded me, they started throwing punches.  I was shocked!  What was happening?!?  Not knowing what else to do, I started throwing punches back.  I recall landing at least a couple solid blows, one to the back of a kid’s head that knocked him down, but I was clearly losing in a fight with a dozen other boys.  Luckily, Wenn Chaston and a couple of his friends, who were in my Troop, happened to be playing frisbee golf just below the trail and, never one to run from a fight, he came running up the drop off and pushed his way into the fray, pulling the other kids off. I recall seeing Wenn pop up over that hill, yelling at them to stop, and thinking he looked like a hero – and he was to me.  I think Jeremy Lawson was with him, and some one else, but it was Wenn who pushed into the group and pulled them off me.  A leader also saw the commotion and came running.  The Troop of boys were known for causing trouble and, as is typically the case with bullies, they had been looking for someone they could outnumber and relatively easily attack.  However, probably as a testament to the fact I have four older brothers who played “rough”, I wasn’t actually hurt, physically.  Two of the boys in that Troop made out worse than I did with black eyes, cut lips, and bruises.  I don’t think I had any physical marks on me.  But I was an emotional mess.  I felt violated.  I had been minding my own business and was simply attacked.  I was victimized.  The leader took the other Troop up to the camp to find their leader and think about punishments for them.  Wenn and his friends walked me down to my Dad’s truck.  I told them I was fine, but once the adrenaline went away, I burst into tears.  I sobbed for about an hour.  The leader who had broken up the fight eventually forced the Troop to apologize to me, but I still couldn’t stop crying.  He eventually told me that I had cried enough and to stop.  I eventually did, and went back up to where my Dad was.  My Dad was okay about it, but also thought my crying excessive.  I convinced my Dad to leave early.

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Mark: the knife incident

I was around 7 or 8 when this happened; Mark would have been close to 10.  I don’t recall all of the circumstances surrounding this incident, but I do recall that it was summer (we were not in school) and I was feeling particularly depressed.  I had the feeling that no one in our family really cared about me.  It was probably the result of me being a middle child that occasionally got lost in the shuffle of 9 kids.

Anyway, I recall picking up an old steak knife from a set we used to have with wooden handles.  I was standing between the stove and the dishwasher in the kitchen and I put the knife up against my stomach.  Katie and Josh may have been in the kitchen as well, but I know Mark was there and was the oldest person in the room.  I said something to the effect of, “Everyone hates me.  I’m going to stab myself in the belly and kill myself and no one will care.”

I recall Mark showing some surprise on his face, but seem to recall that the way he talked me out of stabbing myself was something along the lines of, “Don’t be stupid.  Of course we care about you.  You’re just annoying sometimes.”  As he talked, he walked over to where I was and wrestled the knife out of my hands.  That was it.  My one verbalized threat of suicidal ideation curtailed by Mark.

(FYI, I don’t typically contemplate suicide.  The only other time I’ve really thought about it was just after my LDS mission when I felt I was doing everything I was supposed to be, religiously, was the most righteous I had ever been, and yet I was particularly unhappy and depressed.  If suicide was not considered a sin in Mormon thought, I think I would have more seriously considered it as I believed I was worthy to be exalted at that point in time.)

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Mark: blowing on/up noses

I don’t know where this tradition started, but people were always afraid Mark was going to blow on their noses.  From at least high school on, this was kind of Mark’s signature thing.  I did it for a while, too, after Mark graduated, but it took Mark’s craziness to really pull it off and not have people get infuriated as a result.  As the little brother, Mark regularly called on me to assist him as he violated people’s nasal passages.  I wonder how many people Mark victimized this way.

I shot a photo of one of his attacks at the 1992 state FBLA competition (which we both attended just to play):

Not sure who the victim was... Probably still suffering from PTSD.

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