Homesickness was a common ailment for Eldon.
He wasn't used to the tightly knitted streets and narrow yards of Orem, and often dreamed of the open spaces of Teasdale, where his father had struggled for years to make a living for the family by trucking coal in from the mines in Carbon County to sell to the locals for cookstoves and heating.But in the long run, the coal business hadn't worked out as his dad had hoped it would, and he finally took a job at the steel plant. That's when the family moved to Orem. Eldon was in the fourth grade at the time.
What he missed more than anything was his Grandpa Jackson's sawmill, where he had worked from the time he was 6 years old. Grandpa had started him out on a grand salary of 50 cents a day. His job was to pile lumber, one board at a time, in tall neat stacks as it came out of the mill, and though the work was hard for a boy, it never bred into him a distaste for the environment.
On the contrary, the high-pitched whining of the big saw and the smell of sawdust carried with it a warm and pleasant sense of belonging. The sound of the big diesel engines that ran the mill was like music, music that echoed in his memory long after leaving Teasdale and Grandpa's sawmill, music that would fill his mind in the middle of the night and fill his shy soul with longing.
Every summer vacation he would return to Teasdale and work with his grandfather. He savored the long afternoons sitting next to him on the huge Caterpiller that dragged logs down from the mountain. Over the years he learned every job there was to do and came to know the mill's operation almost as well as his grandfather did.
The years passed, and Eldon grew into a young man, torn between the pull of a world that offered growth and change and a world that beckoned back to what always had a ring of home, a sense of comfort and belonging.
Always, his heart returned to Teasdale, and the high pine valleys where his grandfather moved the sawmill from one location to another. Grandpa's age was telling on him, though, and he was becoming anxious to pass the business on to someone who could manage it after he was gone.
It was probably the most difficult decision of Eldon's life, trying to decide whether to take up his grandfather's offer to go with him on the mill and take it over. In the end, he decided against it, fearful that he was still too immature to cope with the responsibility.
And so an era passed into memory. The mill and its legacy died with his grandfather, and today only memories of it remain, and a few weathered planks and rusted bits of machinery that Eldon points out to his kids when they return for a visit to the old home.
Eldon married a girl from Birdseye whom he met through her brother when they were in the National Guard. He got a job with Western Electric working on telephone equipment and began to raise a family.
Though he had never been comfortable in a schoolroom environment, his rapport with complex telephone machinery was intensely fulfilling and seemed to satiate the urges that had driven his love for the sawmill. His wife would often comment that if he were to get cut, she wouldn't be surprised if he bled oil.
Currently a maintenance engineer for US West, Eldon tackles complicated circuitries as comfortably as if he were playing with an Erector set. To watch him at work is akin to watching a skilled musician interacting with a fine instrument, moving together in a harmony difficult to describe but beautiful to observe.
From time to time, though, the memory of Grandpa's sawmill returns. It can be triggered in an instant from the smell from a table saw, and is always present in the sound of engines, a music that brings his grandfather's world back in sharp, clear focus, as if it were still there, tucked against the side of a hill in the mountains outside Teasdale.