Category Archives: My stories

Right place at the right time

Harold Hall, and grandson Josiah Hall, 10, pose in the home of Harold and Micki Hall in Roseburg, Oregon on Monday, July 6 2015. (AP Photos/The News-Review, Mike Henneke)

Harold Hall, and grandson Josiah Hall, 10, pose in the home of Harold and Micki Hall in Roseburg, Oregon on Monday, July 6 2015. (AP Photos/The News-Review, Mike Henneke)

By Mike Henneke Story first appeared on on July 7, 2015

Near the top of the Callahan mountain range west of Roseburg, while standing next to a mountain climber who had life-threatening injuries, Harold Hall had a crucial decision to make Saturday.

Either send his 10-year-old grandson, Josiah Hall, down a steep, dangerous trail by himself to get help, or leave Josiah alone with the climber clinging to life, with multiple fractures and no feeling in his legs, while Harold set out to alert authorities to the accident.

Harold Hall, a 63-year-old experienced climber and semi-retired dentist, asked Josiah to stay with injured Daniel Cooper a little more than an hour while Harold traveled down the steep trail for help.

Alone on a mountain forest trail next to Cooper, Josiah prayed for the first time in his life.

“I prayed that he would live,” Josiah said.

For Harold and Josiah Hall, the plan was simple that Saturday morning. Harold would take three dogs and Josiah, who was visiting from Salt Lake City, to the top of the Callahans, where they would sip cold Dr. Peppers while enjoying a sweeping view of Douglas County.

It wouldn’t be an easy hike. The trail is on private Weyerhaeuser land, includes many switchbacks and climbs 1,200 feet in elevation in a little more than a mile. Harold Hall, who helps Greg Orton teach climbing classes at Umpqua Community College, said students refer to the trail as the “trail from hell.”

Harold and Josiah parked near the locked gate and set out on a dirt logging road with two fox terriers belonging to Harold and Micki Hall and a 12-year-old, overweight cairn terrier named Clifden that belongs to Harold’s daughter.

Next to the gate was a car with California plates. The car belonged to Daniel Cooper. An avid climber from California, Cooper came to the Callahans to climb on his own. At about 8:30 a.m., he texted his wife that his ropes were all set. lists the Callahans as “a series of sandstone crags that sit 1,500 vertical feet above the Flournoy Valley below, on a beautiful fir tree covered hill formation.” The land is owned by Weyerhauser, according to the site, but the “access is open for climbers.”

Weyerhauser, however, has tightened restrictions on the area, requiring a permit for anybody choosing to hike or climb.

Harold Hall said he chose this hike because he knew other sites would be much more populated on the Fourth of July.

As Clifden continued to struggle on the hike, Harold Hall shortened their intended route. The decision would move them closer to where Cooper was climbing much sooner than anticipated.

The Halls were within 200 yards of the top of the Callahans when they heard a noise that sounded like a yell and a “big thud.”

Harold Hall at first thought a rock had fallen, not suspecting it had been a climber.

As Harold and Josiah came around the bend, they saw Cooper, bleeding and lying with his head below his feet on a steep incline, approximately 20 feet off the trail. Cooper, who could barely talk, complained of severe neck pain and what would turn out to be multiple fractures.

That’s when Harold Hall decided to leave Josiah to watch over the injured climber while he went for help.

The forested trail reminded Josiah of “Predator,” a science-fiction horror film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that he had seen a few weeks earlier with his dad.

“… I’m not used to being alone for an hour and 10 minutes,” Josiah said Monday. “Especially in the forest when you are afraid the Predator is going to come at you and kill you.”

The possibility that Cooper might not live also concerned Josiah.

“And I was really scared,” Josiah said. “I didn’t want to see someone die.”

Harold Hall headed down the steep terrain, walking along the treacherous trail as fast as he could. Because he has two bad knees from years of climbing, running was not an option.

“If I had been younger, I could have run down the trail.” Harold said later.

He forgot to bring his cell phone, something his wife Micki Hall said he will remember next time.

“Grandpa always forgets his phone,” Micki said. “Maybe not anymore, but he did that day.”

Harold Hall reached the locked Weyerhaeuser gate in about 30 minutes, then went to the nearest house to call for help. He pounded on the door until Greg Suhrstedt, 19, answered the door. Within minutes of the call to 911, Greg’s father, John Suhrstedt, and his wife returned home. John Suhrstedt, 59, a retired paramedic and already dressed for hiking, left immediately up the trail with Greg until rescue teams could arrive.

“I think there was a lot of divine intervention in that whole thing, I got to tell you,” John Suhrstedt said Monday.

Harold Hall stayed back at the locked gate to direct rescue teams once they arrived.

After more than 30 minutes, Josiah continued to do his best to keep Cooper talking. He asked him what happened, but Cooper could remember very little.

“Too bad you don’t have a phone,” Josiah Hall said to the injured climber.

“It’s in my back pocket,” Cooper told him.

When a search of Cooper’s pockets revealed nothing, Josiah searched the nearby ground until he found the phone under some sticks. Despite Cooper having fallen an estimated 30 feet, the phone still worked.

Josiah moved back to the trail and called 911.

“Hi, my name is Josiah and I am 10 years old,” he told the dispatcher. “An injured climber needs help.”

“Are you Harold Hall’s grandson?” the voice on the other end asked. “Yes,” said Josiah.

Help was on the way.

Once the Suhrstedts arrived, John examined Cooper and made a startling discovery. Cooper’s arm was pinned under his side and had lost all circulation. Even though moving Cooper meant the risk of inducing paralysis, John Suhrstedt knew he had to get Cooper off of his side or risk losing the arm.

John and Greg Suhrstedt painstakingly adjusted Cooper onto his back and kept him stable until help arrived.

“We had no choice, because I know we’d lose that arm if we didn’t,” John Suhrstedt said.

The Steep Angle Rescue Team from Douglas County Fire District No. 2 arrived along with members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Douglas Fire Protection Association. Because of the steep incline and the severity of Cooper’s injuries, stabilizing him and preparing him for transport proved to be a complex process.

Rescuers moved Cooper approximately 200 yards to the top of the mountain where he was loaded into a waiting Life Flight helicopter at about 1:30 p.m. and taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield. As of this morning, Cooper was listed in critical condition.

Three days later, Josiah Hall is taking it all in stride about his adventure on the Callahans.

“I know a lot of 10-year-olds, but I don’t know any who have actually saved a person,” Josiah said Monday. “I only know that my best friend saved a baby bird.”

Rob Bullock, battalion chief for Fire District No. 2, said Josiah deserves praise for staying with Cooper for more than an hour.

“Not a lot of 10-year-olds that could have stayed with him for that length of time,” Bullock said.

Suhrstedt said Cooper is lucky that Harold and Josiah Hall showed up when they did. Because of the remoteness of the area, it easily could have taken much longer before Cooper was discovered. Suhrstedt said the injured climber could have lost his arm or even his life.

“These guys here saved this guy’s bacon by showing up when they did,” he said.

‘We’re going to have to get this guy’

How a Roseburg man helped subdue a suspected terrorist

By Mike Henneke First appeared on on Aug. 21, 2015

When Alek Skarlatos heard what sounded like a gunshot and breaking glass on the train ride from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, he nudged his friend next to him.

Something wasn’t right.

An innocent vacation in Europe, involving two buddies since childhood, was about to take a terrifying turn.

A gunman armed with a Russian-made assault rifle, handgun and a knife opened fire on the train, wounding two people before Skarlatos, 22, and Spencer Stone, 22, from Carmichael, California, took action.

“We’re going to have to get this guy,” Alek told Stone, as the story was related later to Alek’s parents, Emanuel and Karen Skarlatos of Roseburg.

Both friends were in the military — Alek had returned home to Roseburg in June as a member of the National Guard Charlie Company unit, and Stone is on active duty with the U.S. Air Force.

As the story was related later by Emanuel Skarlatos, both young men said they reacted on instinct.

“When the clip malfunctioned, they took their chance and bum-rushed the guy,” Karen Skarlatos said.

Once the clip jammed in the gun of the suspect, later identified as a 26-year-old Moroccan, Stone charged at the gunman first, with Alek following close behind. Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University who was traveling with Stone and Skarlatos, also joined the effort to subdue the assailant. Stone tackled the gunman while Alek was eventually able to secure both of the guns. According to Emanuel Skarlatos, Alek struck the gunman on the side of the head repeatedly with the butt of the AK-47 until the three Americans, who were joined by a Briton, could “hogtie” the suspect for police, who met the train at the next stop.

Stone received cuts from the knife during the struggle, including severe damage to one of his thumbs, but his injuries are not life threatening.

Sadler told The AP that they saw a train employee sprint down the aisle followed by a gunman with an automatic rifle.

“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ And Spencer runs down the aisle,” Sadler said. “Spencer makes first contact — he tackles the guy. Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”

Alek’s father and stepmother were at their Roseburg home Friday when they received the cell phone call from Alek in Europe. Emanuel was working in the yard when he heard his wife screaming from the house for him to come to the phone.

“She was a little bit annoyed that I wasn’t coming quick enough,” Emanuel Skarlatos said.

Even after Alek relayed the story to his father, the reality of what happened didn’t sink in for Emanuel. His son and his friends were heroes.

“I didn’t think it was as big as it was,” Emanuel said. “But it’s a world-wide thing.”

Very much so, judging by the global media attention received by the Skarlatos family in just a few short hours.

A “Good Morning America” crew was en route to their home late Friday night. Journalists were calling nonstop from across the state and beyond.

While two local reporters were at the home speaking with the Emanuel and Karen Skarlatos, the phone rang again.

It was a call from a journalist in France.

Karen Skarlatos stood in the room next to the fireplace as the evening sky turned to darkness and told the story again.

As she talked, tears came to her eyes. Emanuel walked up next to her and put his arm around her while she spoke.

Can I speak with Alek, asked the voice on the other end in English. Everybody wanted to thank Alek, because he is considered a national hero in France.

After the call, Karen Skarlatos began to cry again, causing her to share an embrace with her husband.

They’re tears of happiness, not sadness, she said.

“Because I’m so proud of him,” Karen said, “and I’m so happy that he’s good, that he’s safe.”

As Emanuel sat down to tell the story one more time, the phone rang again. And yet again.

Emanuel said the three friends almost delayed their trip to Paris, because they were having far too much fun elsewhere.

“It was lucky for the people on that train that they were there,” Emanuel said, tears welling up in his eyes.

“And it’s not to brag about my son and his friend,” Emanuel said. “But it was fortuitous for the people on that train.”

Emanuel paused, his voice choking with emotion.

“I’m proud that he’s my son,” he said.

Karen Skarlatos couldn’t resist one Facebook message to her son following his heroic efforts.

Alek Skarlatos wants to be a police officer.

“I don’t think you’ll have any problem getting a job,” she wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Terror in the credit union

By Mike Henneke

REXBURG – At first Grayson Sabin thought the chilling words behind him were part of a drill.

He was in line to cash a check inside the East Idaho Credit Union on Wednesday, when he heard a male voice behind him say the following that he won’t soon forget.

 “Nobody move. I’m robbing this bank. If anybody moves or calls the police, I will shoot you.”

Sabin, 24, a communications student at Brigham Young University-Idaho, turned to see a short, stocky man wearing a black coat with a hood, baggy jeans and a black ski mask. In his hands, held an AK-47 full automatic weapon.

The masked man took a couple of steps toward Sabin and pointed the assault weapon with its distinctive drum magazine directly at Sabin.

“If you move, I’ll shoot you,” Sabin recalled the masked man saying.

This wasn’t a drill, but something much more serious.

More than 24 hours later after Wednesday’s armed robbery in Rexburg, Sabin recounted details from the terrifying minutes inside the credit union — from a manager and employees who acted calm under pressure to the masked man FBI now believes is the AK-47 Bandit, a serial bank robber responsible for numerous robberies in at least three states.

Sabin told what happened that Wednesday afternoon one more time, even while admitting he’s grown weary telling it over and over again to his friends.

“It’s probably a story I’m going to tell my whole life,” Sabin said by phone Thursday night.

It was shortly before 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday when Sabin parked his Jeep near the East Idaho Credit Union on Grand Loop in Rexburg. He told a friend he planned to run in and cash a check and asked her to wait outside in the Jeep.

He took his place in line and was next to approach a teller when the masked man walked in, uttering the words heard by Sabin.

The time was 4:19 p.m.

With his hands in the air, Sabin moved to the side and watched as the masked man walked around to clean out cash from each teller station.

In the bank with Sabin were a father with two small children, a Hispanic adult male customer, the branch manager and three or four tellers.

Once he was done, the robber ordered the bank manager to get all the money from the back of the vault.

As he waited, Sabin sensed the man in the ski mask had done this before, by the way he carried himself and the strict time schedule he was following.

“He was definitely a professional,” Sabin said.

As the bank manager continued to retrieve the money from the vault, the robber became agitated over the time delay, at one point angrily pounding his fist against a glass door.

As he waited, the robber talked to the people in the room about a previous robbery in California and how he had shot a police officer.

As the bank manager brought the money back from the vault, Sabin said the masked man inspected the money before ordering everybody at gunpoint into the vault.

Once everybody was inside the vault, Sabin said the man known as the AK-47 Bandit swung the vault door shut.

The large vault door slammed shut and then bounced open just a little. Sabin said the masked man immediately ran off leaving them in the vault.

After a minute or so, the branch manager and Sabin checked to make sure the outside was safe before everybody exited the vault.

The time was just after 4:30 p.m. He walked outside and told the girl he just met two days earlier what happened. Sabin asked her to take his Jeep back to his apartment, knowing he would be tied up with law enforcement for the next several hours.

The next few minutes were a blur, bank employees locking the bank with everybody inside, police surrounding the bank with heavy weapons and clearing everybody inside.

More than two hours later, Sabin and others were allowed to go free.

As for the check he planned to cash on Wednesday? Sabin had to return to the Rexburg branch on Thursday to cash it where he relived the experience with several bank employees, now very much friends with him.

Sabin won’t soon forget what happened on Wednesday, especially having an AK-47 style weapon pointed directly at him.

“Having one pointed at me was quite a traumatic experience,” Sabin said.

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Friends pay tribute to fun-loving man killed in crash

Brian Hymas

In an image from his Facebook page, Brian Hymas is shown working on his own truck at Hymas Repair a week before his death.

By Mike Henneke

Brian Hymas woke up early Saturday morning with a busy day ahead of him, according to what would be his last Facebook post.

First it was off to appear on the “Peak Performance Show” on a local radio station. Then it was a quick plane trip to Jackson, Wyo., to repair some fuel tankers. Then back to Idaho Falls to work on his weekend list of chores.

Hymas, 43, never made it home. The mechanic with ties to Rexburg and BYU-Idaho, was killed when the twin-engine aircraft crashed a few minutes after taking off from the Idaho Falls Regional Airport.

In addition to Hymas, Mark J. Schell, 64, of Idaho Falls was also killed. A 13-year-old boy also on the plane was listed in stable condition Saturday at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

Hymas was officially listed as from Rexburg. His Facebook page lists his residence in Idaho Falls where he owned Hymas Repair with his wife, Ann.

Idaho Falls Police Department spokeswoman Joelyn Hansen said the pilot of the Piper Comanche was apparently circling back toward the airport when the aircraft went down about a mile south of the airport in a vacant lot. No one on the ground was injured.

“Protocol is that if they have a problem with takeoff they come back,” Hansen said. “He was in the process of doing that when they crashed.”

“We’re not sure on who was piloting the plane at this point,” Hansen said.

She said the air traffic control tower at the airport was manned and cleared the flight with three people aboard for takeoff at about 1:35 p.m. The craft was airborne for only a few minutes before the crash.

Hansen said emergency responders with the Idaho Falls Police Department and Fire Department, as well as from the airport, responded quickly and that the three victims had to be extricated from the wreckage.

She said local officials are staying at the crash site until an investigation team with the National Transportation Safety Board arrives.

A FAA registry site search for tail number N830SS lists Schell as the registered owner of the 1969 Piper Comanche PA-30. A photo dated May 17 on Hymas’ Facebook wall shows Schell working on what appears to be the same Piper Comanche.

Patrick Bjornn, a longtime acquaintance of Hymas and his wife, Ann, learned of the news late Saturday night.

“Still can’t believe it,” Bjornn wrote on Brian’s Facebook page, next to numerous other tributes. “Hard to comprehend that such a caring and generous man was called home today.”

Bjornn remembered Hymas as an excellent mechanic, willing to help anyway he could. It didn’t matter if it could potentially affect the bottom line of his business. With Brian, it was people first, Bjornn said.

“He was willing to bend over backwards, even if it put him in the hole,” Bjornn said.

Before he left home early Saturday, Brian wrote one final Facebook post, this one in the third person.

“Life chapter four paragraph three. Brian woke up this morning and realized how old he is getting,” the post read. “His eyes just opened and his brain said get up you have to much to do today to just lay around here and hold the pillow down with your head.”

And then the last line:

“I’m starting to slow down and I don’t like it”


Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Master storyteller still has the touch

Bill Cosby entertained the crowd from this chair on stage at the Hart Auditorium Thursday night at Brigham Young University-Idaho. EMMA FORREST/STANDARD JOURNAL

Went and saw my old friend the other night. Sat right in his living room with the rest of his few thousand friends.

Like the rest of you, I focused directly on him as he spoke for two hours. Very few people can command that kind of attention from me.

Not with Bill Cosby. For the last few weeks, I wondered if the master storyteller still had it, if advancing years would take a toll on his game.

It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t the case.

Soon after Miles Blaine, Center Stage student director, offered the customary opening prayer given at Brigham Young University-Idaho events, he walked off stage with co-host Meg Shaver. He wasn’t ready for Cosby to bring both of them back on stage.

“He just grabbed me and said, ‘come back up here with me,’” Blaine said later.

Bill walked on stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Dressed in a white BYU-I sweatshirt with the words “Hello Friend” in rainbow colors, Cosby motioned for Blaine and Shaver to stand next to him.

Surely not accustomed to having somebody open his act with a prayer, he still found an opportunity for comedy.

It seems the night before that the crowd of mostly students had said “amen” with much more fervor, he told the crowd.

As for Thursday’s audience, “That was pitiful,” he said.

After instructing the two next to him to say, “In Thy name,” the repentant audience responded with a more thunderous amen.

And so went the theme for much of the night. While Cosby focused on familiar themes of aging, marriage and family, much of the night included a religious tone.

It’s like he knew where he was or something.

Atheists would be wise to leave themselves some wiggle room, Cosby said while sitting in a comfortable chair with a large bottle of spring water and a box of tissues next to him.

“You can’t get in by saying, ‘I was just kidding.’”

Only Cosby could spend nearly an hour mining comic gold from the story of Adam and Eve.

When the audience, made up of mostly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, incorrectly referred to the “tree of knowledge” as the “tree of life” during the story of Adam and Eve, Cosby hung his head in his hands in exaggerated fashion.

“Is the president of the college still here?” he asked looking off stage.

Cosby, with his hair completely white now, showed his usual impeccable comic timing, facial expressions and delivery.

He marveled at the logic of Adam and Eve going into “God’s garden” to “hide from God.”

“Obviously the fruit had not kicked in,” Cosby said.

Perhaps what makes him so impressive is his ability to identify with the common man.

In short, he gets me.

When he spoke of wives leaving notes everywhere before they leave, I thought of the notes on boxes still piled high in my living room — with instructions from my wife not to open them until she got there.

When he talked about the plight of the father of the bride, I smiled to myself, for that had been me just a few short weeks ago.

“The house is not my house,” Cosby said. “I live there, but it’s not my house.”

In the end, I was glad to be in his house. Even if it was for only two hours, I was a better person for it.

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Close up to a nightmare

By Mike Henneke

Rexburg couple were sleeping two blocks away when explosions happened in Boston

When Paul and JoAnn Eddins landed in Boston early Monday for a work conference, the Rexburg couple had no idea that they had arrived on the same day as the Boston Marathon.

Little did they know that they would have front row seats to the latest national tragedy to strike America.

Two bombs exploded in the crowded streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 140. And the Eddins are two blocks away.

“It was kind of surreal,” said Paul Eddins from their hotel late Monday night. “Is this really happening?”

JoAnn, who is the director of the Madison Memorial Hospital Surgery Center, flew to Boston for a work conference. Paul, who owns an auto repair shop in town, accompanied her on the trip.

Their room wouldn’t be ready unti later that day. Despite their exhaustion from traveling all night, they knew they couldn’t pass up a chance to see the historic Boston Marathon.

From about a half block away from the finish line. they saw examples of the human spirit, while enjoying the friendliness of the crowd packed around the finish line along Boyleston Street.

As more runners crossed the line, the crowd became more like a mosh pit. They were in danger of getting separated.

They agreed it was time to return to the Boston Marriott Place Copley Place a few blocks away.

Two blocks away from their room on the 25th floor of the Boston Marriott Copley, the Eddins watched a little more of the race from their window before settling down to rest from flying all night.

The first explosion woke up JoAnn. The second one came about 10 seconds later, much louder than the first. The Eddins thought it was part of the celebration from the holiday atmosphere down below.

“And then the sirens,” Paul said.

From their window, they could see smoke rising from the finish line below. Memories of 9/11 came rushing back for both of them.

As they watched events unfold in front of them, the Eddins realized the origin of the second blast happened right across the street where they were standing earlier that day.

Had they not moved, the Eddins may have been directly in the blast zone. It was a sobering thought for both of them.

“We spent the afternoon thinking about our families,” Paul said. How easy it was to take things for granted.

Despite the tragedy, the Eddins watched people come together, strangers helping each other and even finer examples of the human spirit than what they witnessed earlier that day.

As for her conference? It might be canceled. No matter what, Madison Hospital officials are encouraging JoAnn and her husband to leave town early. Because their safety is far more important than a work conference, they said.

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The last word on the dog


Our dog Shalaya still hasn’t forgiven us for this photo.

You’re so lucky here in Idaho, because you haven’t heard all our stories about our dog.

You weren’t at our house in Oregon when my wife insisted our black lab retriever perform her tricks for you, whether you wanted to see them or not.

Here in Idaho, you probably haven’t heard about her magnificent sniffer, known for its ability to find tennis balls hidden clear on the other side of the house.

You probably don’t know about her legendary eating habits, and how her subversive diet would have killed more mortal dogs. This is a dog that ate entire loaves of bread when we weren’t looking – more than once. This is a dog that carried a large butcher knife in her mouth and once tried to chew through an unopened can of chili, turning it into a twisted mass of metal. Amazingly, she did both without losing a drop of blood.

In one of her rare displays of aggression, she broke our large picture window going after the paperboy – most likely because she thought he had Doritos on his person. As for the paperboy, I’m not sure he ever came back. Again, the dog escaped with a minor scratch on her paw.

Shalaya (Shuh-LAY-uh) made us pay if we left the house and forgot to put the garbage can up. More than once, we would come home and find piles of wet garbage strewn through the living room.

I bristled at first when my wife referred to me as the dad to the dog. “Do you want dad to take you for a walk,” she would speak to the dog in a syrupy voice.

“I didn’t help conceive her,” I told her with a smile. It’s not like dogs are people.

There was a time when our dog walked everywhere with me, tugging at her leash with her body corkscrewing every time she saw a cat or a bird.

As she grew older and her body began hurting more, those walks decreased in length until they lasted less than five minutes in duration. During those last few months with me, Shalaya would walk slowly around the block, limping along the way. As she approached the front of our house, the leash stiffened. She knew she was home.

She was the best friend of an autistic boy that we know. When his father died unexpectedly in his sleep, we brought the boy to our house later that morning. As he sat with no expression on the couch, the dog walked over and put her head on his lap.

Somehow she knew.

I think it was for that reason that we could never smell her perpetual dog smell, we allowed her to sleep with Mrs. Henneke and me and turn the backyard into her personal poop minefield.

Only a few weeks ago, the moving truck was loaded and it as time for us to move to Rexburg. Even though we had hours to drive that night, I walked over and sat down next to my dog watching us from the front porch. It was time for Dad to say good-bye.

I’m not embarrassed to say that I talked to her or that I believe she listened to me. My 14-year-old son took his turn before he left, also speaking to her while stroking her fur.

She’s only been a gone a day after we had her put to sleep on Friday. Old age was finally too much for her. When she couldn’t climb on the bed anymore or get in the car for a cherished ride, we knew it was time.

I won’t ever forget watching my 14-year-old son retrieve his camera Thursday night, purposely loaded with pictures of our dog.

I sat next to him on the couch as he clicked through each one. As we shared memories, tears came to us both. To hear him talk you would know without a doubt how special she was, that she was more than just a dog.

So listen up, pooch, wherever you are in heaven. Stop eating peanut butter from the cafeteria Dumpster long enough to hear this.

Your dad says thank you.

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New missionary applications up dramatically for LDS Church

By Mike Henneke

An announcement two weeks ago by LDS Church officials about lowering the age requirement for its missionaries has already resulted in a dramatic hike in new missionary applications, a church official confirmed Monday.

Michael Purdy, spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Monday that new missionary applications initiated each week have climbed from an average of 700 to approximately 4,000 per week. Slightly more than half of those are women.

“As Church leaders had anticipated when the change was announced,” Purdy said, “the number of individuals who have begun the missionary application process has increased significantly.”

Purdy made the statement responding to rumors flooding social media about the increase in missionary applications.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced the change in missionary age requirements during the opening session of the church’s General Conference in Salt Lake City on Oct. 6.

Under the new guidelines, Mormon males can now apply to go on missions at 18 and women may apply at age 19. Previously the age requirement had been 19 for men and 21 for women.

“I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age,” President Monson said during conference. Rather, he said, the option is now available based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by local Church leaders.

Purdy said the numbers were early and could change in the coming months, but officials were encouraged by the willingness of members to serve.

“We recognize that Church members are interested to know additional details on the logistics of this change as discussed after the announcement and look forward to providing more details as the program moves forward,” he said.

According to a recent press release from the church, “58,000 missionaries are serving, and that number has been increasing in recent years and will likely rise significantly with this change.”

News of the dramatic rise in applications went viral on the Internet after Dale Cressman, a broadcast professor at Brigham Young University, tweeted the news he learned from his stake president.

“On average LDS Church had received 600 missionary applications per week. Last week it received 7,000,” Cressman tweeted.

Other Facebook groups reported the tweet, which was later reported by Utah media.

When pressed for the veracity of his tweet on Monday, Cressman tweeted in response, “Not in the habit of fact checking my stake president.”

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MHS banner debacle: Take a deep breath

By Mike Henneke

I never planned to write about the great Madison High School Banner Scandal of 2013. Compared to school massacres, substance abuse and broken homes, school bullying, crumbling facilities, funding woes, shrinking test scores and teacher morale issues that plague schools across America, this shouldn’t take much of our time.

But it has. And we should be a little embarrassed.

 In case you’ve lived in a cave, two students at Madison High School rigged a banner to unfurl at the end of the National Anthem during a recent basketball game. As fans waited solemnly for the giant American flag to recede into the rafters, a smaller white banner with the words “Cats kick @#!*% ” unexpectedly dropped down for all to see.

Judging by the YouTube video posted on, the initial reaction for many in the crowd was one of delight. But administrators at Madison High School didn’t take kindly to it. Not at all.

Make no mistake about it. The youth behind the prank deserved to be disciplined to some degree. Having one senior climb into the rafters to install the banner creates a potential liability issue for the school.

That said, let’s take a deep breath, slow down and remember a few things.

• Had this banner not included the A-word, I bet there would be less hand-wringing from Madison officials. Too be certain, it’s a word I consider to be vulgar and try to refrain from using. Still this doesn’t even register a blip on the Potty Mouth Scale for Teens. Did you really expect them to say, “Cats kick buttocks?”

• Senior pranks have been around since Moses. I guarantee some jokers tried to put the principal’s chariot on the roof more than once.

•  Discipline is by definition training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. If that’s true, the punishment for this prank seems excessive. While Madison High School officials won’t comment on the case, both seniors have been reportedly told they will be unable to graduate from Madison as a result of the prank. Among their limited options include Central High School for the rest of this year.

Hopefully school administrators will reconsider and lessen the punishment appropriately.

• If this is about sportsmanship or embarrassing the school, listen to some of insults lobbed at Rigby players from Madison faithful. Some might make you blush.

• Even if these boys did have earlier marks on their records, this prank did not injure anybody, break a law or disrupt the learning evironment.

• One of these times we’ll learn from events like this. Not how to pull off a similar prank, but how we respond. It would be a shame if we project a holier-than-thou attitude or judge others because of something like this. When they talk about Rexburg, hopefully it will be on a grander scale other than whispers of a “double standard” from time to time.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of we are better than everyone else,” said Andrew Mortensen on the Standard Journal Facebook page.

Our reaction as a school and community following a prank such as this is a chance to prove them wrong.

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