Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monuments and Markers - Shadrach Roundy

Photographer: Christopher Light
Taken: July 17, 2007
Caption: Trail route markers

date: Sat, 15 Feb 2003

Hi, and thanks:

We're not kin. But it's nice to meet you anyway.

Here's my little story, which I think is sort of fun. I grew up in the small town(Pop. 11,000--back then) of Fremont, Neb. Practically every day on the way to and from school, I'd walk past a monument in the park marking the Mormon Trail. I never read the monument until one night in 1953, when I was 17 or 18 years old.

My oldest brother came home on leave from the Navy. At sunrise one day, after talking away the night and sipping on a few beers, we found ourselves leaning against the monument. At first light, we read what it said. There was the name Shadrach Roundy[1788-1872]. Something about the name struck us as funny and we had a good laugh.

Fast forward to 1967, when I was appointed to the faculty of the School of Journalism at the University of Nebraska. One of my jobs was to invent make-believe "facts" from which students would compose practice news stories. So I began using your fourth great-grandfather's name in my newswriting exercises. First he would be the sheriff, then the major, sometimes the victim of an auto accident, sometimes a football star, etc.

Faced with the many "lives" of Mr. Roundy, students would ask where the name came from. I never would tell but would challenge the students to find out for themselves. I promised extra credit to students who could uncover this "mystery." (This was before the Internet, of course...today it would take any student with a computer about 10 seconds to find the answer.)

Many students became so obsessed trying to uncover the secret that they actually neglected their real assignments. Those few who found the monument in Fremont were so proud they'd often have themselves photographed in front of it. Many sent mounds of information about Mr. Roundy to me.

A faculty colleague of mine at Nebraska resigned and took a job teaching at the University of Minnesota. Soon I began fielding calls from his students--because he had copied my use of Mr. Roundy as the ever-changing news source--and extra-credit assignment.

Now fast forward to about 1991. I'm head of the Journalism Department at the University of Arizona (in a region where many LDS folks live, and that's part of the story). Unaware (at first) of the Mormon connection in Arizona, I continued my little game with Mr. Roundy's name.

Then one night, on the last class of the semester, a student began acting peculiarly. Even though everyone was eager to leave and get the semester over, she kept urging me to stall and not dismiss the class. She said it was important. Puzzled, I stretched the class as best I could, even as students rolled their eyes at me as if to say "let's get out of here, the semester's over."

Finally, after I had held the class for about 10 minutes past the bell, the door opened. The student who asked me to stall beamed with pleasure and introduced me to one of her professors, Chad Roundy. Chad Roundy, as it turned out, was, like you, a grandchild of Shadrach Roundy. I think probably he was a third great-son, if you're a fourth. He was a professor (in agriculture, as I recall) like me, teaching at the University of Arizona.

I thought my goose was cooked, that Chad Roundy would think I was making fun of Shadrach Roundy (which I wasn't). Instead, Chad Roundy gave the class a fun little lecture on Mormon history (was there an incident in which Shadrach Roundy saved some people from drowning? I seem to recall Chad Roundy mentioning it). He said he was honored that I was carrying on the name and keeping it alive with many students.

It was a delightful evening, a pure pleasure, that mixed my interest in Mr. Roundy, teaching, and students.

So that's the story. The only thing I changed was Prof. Roundy's first name. It may or not have been Chad but for simplicity in the narrative I used that name. I do know for sure that his son, then 13, I believe, was truly named Chad.

I just checked the university phone book and there's no longer a Prof. Roundy on the faculty. I don't know what became of him.

So from a night leaning against the monument in 1953 until another night, nearly 40 years later, I've been involved with the Roundy family.

I hope you enjoyed this tale.

I'd be interested in your reaction.

Sincerely,

Jim Patten
Tucson, Arizona

2 comments:

cskelton said...

What a fun story. I love that he found you and sent it to you. Thanks for sharing.

Lark said...

It wasn't me. I found this on the internet. I enjoyed it and wanted to share it because we are related.