The Writings of LaVarr B Webb
When thinking of Chalk Creek and the many good times I enjoyed there, I think of one special fishing trip. I was the scoutmaster in the Crescent Ward in the southeast corner of Salt Lake Valley. At the time, I was living up against the mountains in an area that was known as Poverty Flat. The people living there were not particularly affluent.
My scouts had never had an opportunity to learn to swim, because there wasn't much water up on Poverty Flat, no streams, ponds, lakes, or swimming pools. I made a deal with them. I told them that if they would learn to swim and pass off their First Class swimming test, I would take them on a fishing trip to Chalk Creek.
I took them to a pool some distance from our homes, and there I taught them how to swim. After several visits to the pool, I thought they were ready to pass off their test. I lined them up along the edge of the pool, and asked, "Who wants to be first?" No one said a word. Then I said, "Look, you can do it. Who will give it a try?" Again we had complete silence.
Then Paul Sampson, the youngest and smallest boy in the troop, said, "I'll try." He slipped into the water, swam out the required distance, turned around, and started back. About fifteen feet from the edge of the pool, his feet started to sink, and he began to paw the water.
I thought I would have to go in after him, but he continued to struggle. Finally his hand touched the edge of the pool, and I reached down and pulled him out. He was gasping for air, but he turned over on his back, looked up at me, and forced out, "You know, Brother Webb, if I hadn't kept swimming, I'd a drowned."
One by one, the rest of the troop went into the water, and one by one, they passed the test, until we came to the tallest and oldest young man. He swam out, turned around, and started back. About the same place Paul began to struggle and paw water, my oldest and largest scout quit. Before I realized what was happening, he was motionless and sinking to the bottom of the pool. I went in and brought him to the surface. He didn't fight or struggle. When I got him to the edge of the pool, his brother scouts lifted him out.
When we had all of the water that he had swallowed out of him, and he was able to talk, I asked him what had happened. All he could say was, "I just couldn't make it."
Anyway, I took them to Chalk Creek, and I told them that because they had done such a good job passing off their swimming test, they could spend all of their time fishing. I would cook the meals and do the dishes.
They fished and fished. For two days, they drowned worms, but no one caught a fish. On the third day, disgusted and tired, they came back to camp, and Paul exclaimed, "There ain't no fish in this creek.
Let's go some place else."
I said, "There are fish here; you just don't know how to catch them." They laughed and hooted. I said, "All right, let's make a deal. I'll go out, and if I don't catch my limit, I'll continue to cook the meals and do the dishes, but if I catch my limit, you guys will be on KP the rest of the trip."
Again they laughed and hooted. They thought they had me because they had used up all of the worms.
Because of space limitations, and because I had intended to tend camp, I hadn't brought all of my equipment with me. However, I put together my pole, grabbed my creel, and started up stream. They wanted to go with me to watch, but I told them they would scare the fish, which was probably right, and I made them stay in camp.
On the way up the stream, I caught several dozen young grasshoppers. They were about one half of an inch long, fat and juicy. I dropped a hopper at the head of a pool. It floated a few feet, and bang, I had a battling rainbow. I was still a quarter of a mile from camp when I caught the last fish of my limit. As I approached the camp, my scouts came out to meet me, and they heckled me, "Haw, haw, you're going to have to do the dishes, aren't you. I'm hungry. You had better get back to your cooking."
I walked up to the camp table that we were using, opened my creel, and tipped out my limit. As those ten to eighteen inch fish came tumbling out, those scouts became bug eyed and awe struck. Within minutes they were catching grasshoppers, and I went back to my pots and pans as they went fishing.
I wish that might be the end of the story, but it isn't. Some years later, I met Paul Sampson at BYU. He was big, over six feet, and handsome. He had married and had several children. He told me that he had graduated some years before with a bachelors degree in agriculture.
He, then, had gone to work with his father on their farm, raising chickens. He said they had made a great deal of money, but he hadn't been happy. His desire was to help people. When I met him, he was working on a masters degree involved with teaching modern farming methods to people of the impoverished countries of the world. He was almost finished, and would soon be joining the LDS Church's world wide agricultural program as a work missionary.
Paul was still taking the lead. He was still swimming. But just a few years ago, Paul, his wife, and another couple were flying over south eastern Utah, heading back to northern Utah and home. Their plane went down, and all four died in the crash.
And now, I look back to a tow headed boy, the smallest in the troop, who would not quit, and I see him up on the green sunlit slopes of Chalk Creek catching grasshoppers--going fishing.