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!

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

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.

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.)

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.