Allen M. Swan- A Tribute

There is something about a river as it leaves the mountains.  The cold water infused from recently melted snow as it seeps into brooks and springs and settles in the deepest ravine flows with just enough sediment to provide minerals for living things such as caddis fly nymphs, stone fly larvae and other critters, but not so much sediment as to cloud the water into a milky soup.  Such was the water in Henry’s Fork of the Snake near it’s junction with the Warm River and the Fall River as it flows out of the Yellowstone area.  The aforementioned insect larvae supplied thousands of land-locked salmon relatives like rainbow and cutthroat trout.  And it was these fish that kept my Uncle coming back to these waters summer after summer.

Me with Allen and Verla

Me with my Uncle Allen and Aunt Verla

My Uncle Allen was born on Main Street in Tooele, Utah.  He grew up in family of grocers where he and his two brothers would help in the store, as well as the garden and chicken coops which supplied the store.  Allen developed a love of music as did his brothers Karl and Bob and he could distinguish the sounds of Tommy Dorsey from the Glenn Miller Band and was known to disappear into “Allen’s World” to listen to his music.  Also a lover the symphony, he was also an athlete in high school and college and would follow sports teams his whole life, especially the University of Utah and the Utah Jazz.

Allen’s life covered a broad spectrum of interests and commitments, ranging from his religion, to his profession as an attorney, as a father of four, grandfather of  8 and a great grandfather of 11.  As a husband to his wife Verla of Ashton, Idaho, he had a long and successful and mutually supportive marriage.  He served his religion, the LDS faith as a mission president in Adelaide, Australia as well as served in other capacities throughout his life.  As an attorney, he represented the LDS Church on numerous occasions working for Kirton, McConkie and Bushnell.

My experience with my Uncle Allen was immeasurably enhanced by a mutual interest in music and fishing.  On numerous occasions, I was able to use his season tickets to the Utah Symphony when he was unable to attend, and I enjoyed many excursions over the years, travelling with him to Ashton, Idaho to fish in the Fall River and Henry’s Fork.  Allen till fairly late in his life was navigating up and down the Fall River climbing over jagged basalt, a feat that still amazes me when I contemplate it.

Swan Boys

Allen, Bob and Karl growing up on Main Street in Tooele

I learned a lot from Allen over the years as he would tell stories about Tooele growing up and about long dead ancestors and relatives he knew.  I doubt he heard much of my side of the conversation as his hearing was always very poor.  But he did a good job and nodding and acting like he heard every word.  But every once in a while, a follow up question you might make would expose the extent to which he was hearing impaired.

Allen liked to golf and in his later years, many of my experiences with him had to do with golfing.  His language, unlike his golf game, was impeccable.  The worst thing he would say when his shot went awry was “oh Allen.”  Luckily, he likely didn’t hear some of the more colorful language which came from my mouth.

Golfing in Tooele

Me, Rick Heap, Karl Swan and Allen Swan (in Red)

Allen was loved, honored and respected by many.  During my career as a tax administrator, many times I ran into people within the legal profession who asked if I was related to Allen.  An affirmative response from me bought me some much needed credibility which was most appreciated.

My Uncle Allen lived a long and good life.  His wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will all miss him terribly.  As his nephew, I felt privileged to have spent so much time with him over the years.



2015- What a Year

Looking back on it, I can hardly believe I fit in as much stuff into a single year as I did in 2015. At age 53, I ran my first marathon and did an another one to boot. I did eight half marathons, 4 10K’s, a bunch of 5K’s and really had a blast running from Portland, to Boise, to St. George, Tooele, and the Wasatch front. Between running and hiking, I put in around 1,600 miles and climbed over 100,000 feet in elevation.

Me after the Freaking Fast Half in Boise.

Me after the Freaking Fast Half in Boise.

There were several firsts this year, as I hiked up Flood, Pass, Murray, Swenson, and several other canyons. I hiked to Kolob Arch, Angel’s Landing, Deseret Peak, South Willow Lake, and even Stansbury Island.

And I still had time for several rounds of golf with my father and with my credit union friends at various charity tournaments. And though my golf game was not that great, I have learned to enjoy the sport never the less.

And let’s talk travel. I made it to St. George 3 times, Zion’s Park twice, and I travelled by car through Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Oh and did I mention a trip to Maui with my oldest daughter Emily. It was there that I got to run my first marathon. At 53 no less.

Me and my dog Kobey at the top of Deseret Peak.

Me and my dog Kobey at the top of Deseret Peak.

I have always been fortunate to have a good group of friends and associates during my life. This year has been especially good in the friend department. I have made so many new acquaintances and so many of these have turned into friendships. Whether through running, my association with other non-believers, or with my friends in recovery, I have indeed been enriched.

The drought we are in meant my garden wasn’t quite as productive as I would have liked, but even so I had an abundance of kale and swiss chard for my smoothies, as well as a good assortment of berries (though the birds got more).

This year I saw rattlesnakes, mountain lion tracks, tons of turkeys, deer, eagles, hawks, pheasants, chukars and even two rare and endangered nenes. I saw the Columbia, Snake, Willamette, Owyhee, Virgin, and many other rivers and streams. I got to see Mt. St. Helens up close for the first time and I got to see the Columbia drain slowly into the Pacific Ocean.

So what didn’t I do this year? First of all, I watched very little television. Except for some sporting events and some documentaries and news, I really did not watch much television. I have to say I didn’t miss it. I also didn’t see any movies. Perhaps I’ll catch up this winter.

It truly has been a wonderful year and I have much to be grateful for. I have a family I deeply love, a job I truly enjoy, and my health has rarely been this good. I truly am living the dream.

Praise Bomb- Sandra Woodland Hadlock TRC-CEO

Thanksgiving morning, a significant number of locals headed to Middle Canyon Elementary School.  Dressed warm and carrying bags of food, the group came with running shoes, iPhones, garmins, and sufficient layers to stay warm on a brisk late fall morning.  The “Side Dish Sprint” was the brainchild of the CEO of the TRC (Tooele Running Club) Sandra Hadlock.  Combining the need for exercise on the day of feasting with the need to provide important food  for the Food Bank for those families that are struggling financially, this race has become a Tooele tradition.TRC Side dish

This event raised over 2,000 pounds of food for the foodbank.  But equally important, it brought runners together to celebrate the great camaraderie so important to runners as each would run a distance comfortable to them.

I first became familiar with the Tooele Running Club in early 2014.  Sandra and her helpers would organize group runs early in the morning on weekends when only crazy people would run.  A friend of mine told me I should join them.  On a whim, I did one morning, and found that I was a tortoise running with a group of hares.  Even so, I kept running and made more group runs.  In my own process of working on my running, I became familiar with Sandra and her hard work to build TRC to what it is today.  And like so many runners, I gained a circle of new friends whose encouragement I have used to push myself to bigger things then I would have imagined.

One of TRC’s most iconic events was a tribute to the Boston Marathon on the one year anniversary of the bombing that took place.  It was a giant event that brought our little community together to show solidarity with the people of Boston.  It was also used to give encouragement to Tooele’s marathoners who would seek to qualify to run that august event.

Sandra addressing attendees at the Boston Marathon tribute.

Sandra addressing attendees at the Boston Marathon tribute.

Between group runs, a Facebook page, TRC apparel, decals, etc., this group Sandra has headed up has made a tangible difference in the lives of Tooele County runners and even runners with just a Tooele County connection. Sandra admittedly has had a lot of help. People like Tracy Shaffer, Karrie Middaugh, Charlie Roberts and many others have contributed mightily to this organization, but Sandra played an important role in getting the organization where it is today and I felt it important to articulate how much her efforts are appreciated.

Sandra’s creed is “mother first, wife second and then athlete, and she lives this paradigm to the fullest. Sandra is married to Wade Hadlock and is the mother of three kids, Josh (10), Aunika (5) and Lila (2). She goes by a handful of nicknames including “Sandra Dee”, “Coach”, and “That One Lady That Makes Everything Happen.” She is part of a group of loonies who get up twice a week around 4:00 a.m. and run the roads of Erda and Stansbury. She also swims regularly at Pratt Aquatic Center and has several marathons, half marathons and a boatload of triathlons to her credit.

And though she has given me grief for my liberal political views, the fact that she has opinions and is thinking about the problems facing our federal and local government shows that she is educated and committed to her community. With a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Utah in mathematics, I would assume nothing less. Because of this contribution to the community and recognizing its impact, I thought a “praise bomb” was overdue.


Hi, I’m David and I’m an alcoholic. Hi, I’m David, I’m a runner. Hi, I’m David, I’m a __________ fill in the blank. So are labels helpful? Are they meaningful in any sense? To what extent are they destructive, divisive or alienating? I’ve wondered many times. Labeling ourselves sometimes allows us to forge solidarity with other like-minded individuals. But by so doing, this can separate us from those who may have a disparate opinion or world view.

We define ourselves on so many levels with labels that we often don’t see it. Whether it is religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or other characteristic, we define ourselves with labels. Sometimes we allow our malady to label us. Those suffering from various addictions often consider the first step in recovery would be to accept the label of their addiction. A person may consider themselves a diabetic. Perhaps even a smoker may label themselves this way.

One of my goals during the past couple of years has been to build bridges with people who wear different labels. Whether religion, world view, sexual orientation, you name it. I have found labels useful at times in evaluating who I am, but I have learned the hard way that labeling others is often counter-productive and often inaccurate. Without understanding the totality of someone’s experience and outlook, my attempts at labeling usually fail at some level.

Now realizing that humans are pattern seeking animals, I recognize that instinctively despite my best efforts, I will try to put people into boxes to make sense of the society I live in. But I also try to think of people outside the box. As individuals with a complicated and sometimes contradictory set of characteristics and beliefs. And whenever possible, try to judge people favorably.

We live in a beautiful world full of amazing people. There are those who struggle and there are people who believe in some dangerous and destructive ideologies. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate just how many incredible people I dwell among. And just so you know in full disclosure some of the labels that certainly could apply to me.

Father, husband, uncle, friend, son, brother, bureaucrat, runner, hiker, fisherman, atheist, democrat, naturalist, alcoholic, Ute Fan, Vikings fan, Red Sox fan, Jazz fan, skeptic, American, Caucasian, male, heterosexual, socially awkward, excessively wordy, and some others I’ll think of later.

Eleanor and the Things I’ve Learned

Me and EleanorMy daughter Eleanor is a remarkable girl. She looks at the world different than most people and sometimes I’m baffled by her. Eleanor is autistic and she sometimes lacks a tolerance for disappointment. She also sometimes holds on to grudges or resentments, like many of us do. But what I really want to write about is one of the most remarkable qualities she has.

She’s friendly. Yes friendly. The world needs more of what Eleanor has. When I take Eleanor anywhere, she loves to chat with people and complement them. She’ll come up to complete strangers and complement them on their shirts, their hats, how cute their kids are, how cute their babies are, etc. Sometimes people don’t know how to take it, but most people say thanks and it almost always brings a smile to their face.

We all want to feel good about ourselves and that autistic girl of mine figured out that going out of your way to be nice to someone makes you feel good. It is a life lesson I have learned the hard way. So often, we assume people just want to be left alone. We never know what people are thinking or what they are going through. Who knows, someone who is feeling down on themselves may really need that “hey I like your hair” or “I like your sweater.” I believe we owe it to ourselves and others to become more judgmental. Judgmental in a positive way: to see the good in everyone.

I find it interesting that I have learned so much from people with disabilities. From my cousin Jenny Medford who has downs syndrome, I learned the importance of loving others without judgment and the incredible power of a hug. From my daughter Eleanor, I’ve learned the importance of giving out complements and to go out of my way to let people know they matter.

So if you see me wander into the local Walmart with my daughter Eleanor, don’t be surprised if she comes up to you and finds something positive about you to point out. And I hope you all learn that yes indeed, you have positive qualities worth mentioning. And let us all become more judgmental, and judge people favorably. Each act of love creates its own ripple. Let’s keep the waters choppy with open expressions of love and encouragement. Love my Eleanor.

Praise Bomb- Barbara Barlow- For Love of Family, Community, and the Good Green Earth

Barbara BarlowYesterday, Barbara Barlow turned 83 years old. I’ve known and admired Barbara for a very long time and I will admit a certain bias here. Barbara is a distant cousin. Our common ancestors George and Janet Lyon Speirs are the reason we both live in Tooele. They arrived in Tooele in the early part of the 1860’s when Tooele was just a struggling little pioneer town and they served important roles in the building of this community.

George and Janet Lyon Speirs

George and Janet Lyon Speirs

Living on her family’s ancestral farm land, in 1993 Barbara created a labor of love in honor of her ancestors in what is called the Speirs Farm. Built around the log cabin built by her Great Grandfather George Speirs (my Great Great Grandfather), it is a remarkable place. This is a public park where you can go and take a walk way through a beautiful garden of flowers, trees and bushes as well as a central green lawn. There is also a meeting room with pictures and artifacts from pioneer times. This area is used for many functions, often at no or little cost.
Speirs Farm walkway
It is my biased view that this place is the most beautiful place in Tooele and I have taken my daughters many times to enjoy the sights and smells of nature. The only drawback has been going back to my own yard and not feeling as good as I had previously about the results of my efforts. In 1997 it was dedicated by Elder Loren C. Dunn, and important ecclesiastical leader within the Mormon faith.

In addition to creating this remarkable place, Barbara is a much loved and revered matriarch of a large family. Her four children Teri, Barry, Cecil and Jody, 12 grandchildren and a growing number of great grandchildren all look to Barbara as an example of love of family, community service and a dedication to gardening.

Barbara is involved with Daughters of the Utah Pioneers as well as Master Gardeners and her little park has been part of the annual Master Gardeners Tour for countless years. And all this activity seems to keep Barbara, how can I say it, active. To live a long and active life of service to her family, community and the good green earth is an example of what it is like to live the dream.

Tribute to a True Villager- Rex Bennion

Rex Bennion
Hillary Clinton as first lady made the statement “it takes a village to raise a child.” How true it is. As I stand somewhere between middle age and senior citizenship, I look back in awe of the quantity and quality of individuals who positively influenced my life. One such villager who left an indelible impact upon my life just passed away recently and I would like to write a short tribute to this individual.

I got to know Rex Bennion when I was very young and I don’t really remember when our paths first crossed. I was friends with his son Gary and spent a fair amount of time at the Bennion house. Rex was in the ward I attended and was involved in many activities in the ward and seemed to relish opportunities to engage with the youth of the ward. Rex led by example. If things needed to get done, he would be the first to get his hands dirty and get to the task at hand. But what I remember most about Rex was his kind and patient demeanor.

There were a couple of instances I recall when he showed remarkable patience with the obnoxious kid that I was. One such event occurred when a bunch of us members of the priest quorum were at a dirt-bike trip near Moab. Having hiked to the top of a cliff overlooking the camp, some of us thought it might be fun to see how far we could through rocks off the cliff. Well, the rock I picked was a poor choice with flat edges which caused the rock to curve—right into the corner of Rex’s truck. Having left a pretty significant dent in the corner of the cab of the truck, I apologized profusely. Rex’s reaction was to ask me “did you learn something from this event?” Every time I saw that truck, it still had that dent, and I thought both of the lesson, and Rex’s reaction.

The other event was a bishop’s interview he was waiting on having with me after a church basketball game we were playing in. Now let me preface this by saying I have always had a hard time with authorities and I have always been willing to express my disagreements with officials. About mid-way through the second quarter, I received not one, but two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. Bishop Bennion proceeded to ask me to clean up and we’d have the interview. As I sheepishly entered his office, he closed the door, and confided in me that he felt I was right and that the call was in error. He also talked about his own experience and how as a younger fellow, he had a hard time with his temper and what he learned later in life. He also pointed out that the officials were volunteers and were giving of their time freely and we should always remember that. Again what it came down to with Rex was “what have you learned.”

I can say affirmatively that I learned a lot from Rex Bennion, as much by how he was than what he said. The many positive words of encouragement he gave me and others showed me how to be the right kind of villager. And I know both his family and his village will miss him.