The owner of Brigham Implement has passed away.

That may not mean much to people in Nantucket, but to the people of Brigham City it means the end of an era.

Bill Davis was one of the most cherished LDS leaders in Box Elder County. His talent for being in the trenches with the faithful, yet also above the fray directing the battle, was, well ... spiritual genius. One reason for his spiritual range was he lived more than a few years as a self-confessed "rascal."

He told everyone, so I don't mind telling you. He once joked he was 30 before he realized whiskey also came in pints. He called that character in his life "Wild Willie." The later Bill, he called "Sweet Willie."

At some point in late middle-age, something clicked in Bill's head — a celestial light I suspect — and he set out to make up for lost time. When he was named bishop of the 5th Ward, the ward buzzed. The stake got the chance to buzz when he was named stake president.

He was a natural. He had a high-minded earthiness about him. The high-mindedness had to do with his legendary faith. The earthiness came from him owning Brigham Implement — an outfit that kept farmers in machinery.

In ancient times, farming was simple and lent itself to parables. There were the "sowers" who tossed seeds around, and the "reapers" who gathered the harvest and cast the chaff into the fire.

By the time Bill came along, however, things had gotten more complicated. Sowers now had a dozen machines to help them prepare the soil and set down seeds. And the reapers, well, they drove around in air-conditioned, fully carpeted combines that cost the same as a small house.

Still, when I think of Bill, I can see a "parable" about him in every "implement" he sold.

He was a tractor. Even as an old man he'd never shuffle. He'd pick up his feet and chug around the cemetery and through the neighborhood. Snow, weariness — even disease — couldn't slow him down.

He was a plow — an expert at taking a dry, hardened soul and turning the soil over so it could receive something green and growing.

As a seed drill he'd always plant a new thought down inside of you, where it would germinate for days.

And finally, he was the combine. He didn't think in terns of "missionary work." It was broader for Bill. It was about helping friends get out of the rain, about getting the wheat to the barn before the winter set in.

"They came and got me," he'd tell people, his cowboy boots and hat filling their kitchens. "Now I've come to get you."

At his funeral last Monday, children and grandchildren told story after story about him. Nobody had to think up something nice to say. They had to keep themselves from going on and on. And I thought that would be a good way to learn how to live — attend the funeral of someone you admire, then list the good things said about him and try to live so people would say the same about you.

After hearing a hundred kind things said about "Sweet Willie," I can see I have my work cut out for me.


Jerry Johnston is a Deseret Morning News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in the Mormon Times section. E-mail: [email protected]