Making money is not the object. Ward Hicken has put a little away for a rainy day. His car should last him indefinitely. He has means enough to, knock on the wood he built his house out of, be set for life.
I should also mention he is 90.
So he isn't publishing his poetry for fame or fortune or to become Utah's next poet laureate.
He's publishing it for one reason because he thinks there might be someone out there it can touch.
"There's too much depression these days," he says by way of explanation, citing the results of a recent survey that shows that Utah ranks as the most depressed state in the country, with 14.5 percent of Utah adults reporting serious psychological distress over the past year and 10.1 percent reporting a depressive episode.
"I think this can help," he adds.
"This" is a collection of poems with the following titles: Happiness, Positive Attitude, Cheerfulness, Enthusiasm, Optimism, Gratitude, Kindness, Patience, Service, Initiative and so forth.
Here's a stanza from "Enthusiasm:"
Enthusiasm is the spark that lights the fire
That enables athletes to run faster and jump higher.
It is what makes the difference between losing and winning.
It changes expressions from frowning to grinning.
"I believe in cause and effect," says Hicken, a God-fearing man who spends five days a week in his retirement years working in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. "I think (God's) commandments aren't just commandments, they are practical principles with real benefits. They have worked for me and I've seen them work for other people.
"That's what my poems are about. Every stanza has a hopeful thought."
Ward Hicken has been around, I discover as I sit in the front room of the comfortable home he built just off Holladay Boulevard.
He owned his own plumbing business for over 30 years and owned and managed an apartment building on the side. Before that, he was an insurance salesman, bookkeeper and auditor. And before that, he worked on farms, in road construction, in a sugar factory, a smelter and a shipyard. During World War II, he spent 2 1/2 years in the Merchant Marine, deployed from coast to coast.
He is a voracious reader. He has subscribed to National Geographic and Reader's Digest for 50 years and counting. He attended LDS Business College and the University of Utah. He has traveled extensively, all over Europe, South America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Canada, and has been in 40 of the 50 United States. He is an avid hunter and fisherman. He plays the trumpet, saxophone and clarinet, and in his younger days, he was in a dance band. He has sung in the Tabernacle Choir and been a Scoutmaster, a choir leader, a missionary and bishop of his church. He and his wife, Afton, had been married 59 years when she died seven years ago. They had five children, who have had nine grandchildren. One great-grandchild is on the way.
It is a life that he acknowledges has had its ups and downs, and still will, but definitely more ups than downs and, as Hicken notes, "I'd do it all again, I don't see why not. There are some experiences I wouldn't look forward to re-living, but overall I've enjoyed it."
It pains him to think of too many people these days who might not make the same response.
"Most of the old people I know, they don't have depression," he says. "It's mostly young people."
He lets that thought hang in the air. Maybe the reason is because old people have learned to accept life on its own terms, or maybe it's because times are different now. He admits he's not sure.
Whatever the case, he's fighting back. His poetry is available to anyone with access to the Internet. It can be linked at www.wardhicken.blogspot.com.
"I started writing these poems about three years ago," he says.But as for the content, it goes back a lot longer than that.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.