The Deseret Clarinet

By Barbara Yates

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    Happy 50th Anniversary Deseret Industries!

    When the Deseret Industries was established by the Church fifty years ago, it set four main goals: (1) To encourage those who have to share with those who have not, (2) to reduce waste by recycling donated items, (3) to provide employment to the unemployed, and (4) to make available good quality items at low cost. Today the Deseret Industries is still successfully meeting those goals as well as providing job training for the handicapped and unemployed. Last year 690 people trained by Deseret Industries were able to take jobs elsewhere.

    I snatched my roller skates out of the box marked “Deseret Industries,” where Dad had just tossed them.

    “Not these!” I cried. “These are mine!”

    “But those skates don’t even fit you anymore,” Dad replied. “By donating them to the Deseret Industries you’ll be—”

    “No. They’re mine!” I interrupted.

    For a minute Dad didn’t say anything, but I could tell that he was thinking hard. Then he looked at me.

    “You’re right,” he said. “They are yours. And you should be the one who decides what happens to them. But,” he continued, “before you decide, I’d like to tell you a true story.”

    “What about?” I asked.

    “Well, it’s a story about a boy and a broken collarbone and a clarinet,” Dad answered.

    “Who was the boy?” I asked. “Was it you?”

    “No, it wasn’t me,” Dad said, “but it’s someone you know, someone who has red hair.”

    “Uncle Max!” I cried. “But what does Uncle Max and a broken collarbone and a clarinet have to do with my roller skates?”

    “I’ll tell you,” Dad said, smiling. “When Uncle Max and I were boys, we loved to play baseball. Every chance we got, we would be outside hitting and pitching and running the bases with the other kids in our neighborhood. Uncle Max loved baseball so much that sometimes he would even roll over in the middle of the night and shake me until I woke up, then tell me about some great play that he’d just made in his dreams.

    “One day when we were playing ball, Uncle Max was hit on the collarbone by a fastball. It hit him so hard that it broke the bone.”

    “Did it hurt?” I asked, feeling my collarbone.

    “Yes, it did,” Dad continued. “But the worst part was that the doctor told Max that he couldn’t play any more baseball until his collarbone healed, which nearly broke Max’s heart. Day after day he’d sit on the porch, wearing his favorite catcher’s mitt and watching us play.

    “‘It won’t be long till you’re as good as new,’ Grandma would tell him. But it was long. The bone didn’t heal like it was supposed to, and as the weeks dragged on, Uncle Max stopped coming out on the porch to watch. He didn’t seem to want to do anything. It was like the happiness had gone right out of him.

    “Then one day the screen door flew open, and Grandma came bustling into the house with something in a brown paper sack.

    “Max was sitting in the rocker, staring out the window. Grandma held the sack out to him and said softly, ‘Max?’ When he finally looked up, she said, ‘This is for you.’

    “Uncle Max reached up with his good arm and took the sack. Inside was a small black case, and inside the case was a shiny silver clarinet. Next to my Roger Maris baseball card, that clarinet was just about the finest thing that I’d ever seen.

    “As Uncle Max lifted the pieces out of the case, his eyes lit up. ‘Is it really mine?’ he asked Grandma.

    “‘Yes, Max, it’s yours to keep.’ She beamed, then sighed. ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’

    “‘Wasn’t it expensive?’ Grandpa asked, a little anxiously.

    “Grandma smiled. ‘That’s the best part,’ she replied reassuringly. ‘It was only five dollars, and it’s already paid for. Do you remember the money that I have been saving in the sugar bowl for something special? Well, today as I was looking around at Deseret Industries, I saw it, and I thought, This is it. This is something special—something to put the sunshine back into our Max.

    “After that,” Dad continued, “the air was often punctuated with the sounds of Max learning to play the clarinet. At first it sounded pretty awful. But as the weeks passed, it began to sound more and more like music.”

    “But what about baseball?” I asked. “Did he ever play baseball again?”

    “Oh, he still loved baseball, all right.” Dad smiled. “But by the time his collarbone was healed, he loved music just as much. In fact, when he attended high school, he was the best clarinet player in the band.

    “But you know,” Dad said, looking straight at me, “that clarinet wouldn’t have been sitting on the shelf, waiting for Uncle Max, if someone hadn’t been generous enough to give it away.” He smiled. “Have to get going,” he said, picking up the box for Deseret Industries and heading toward the door.

    For a second I just sat there, holding my skates. Then I jumped up. “Dad!” I called. “Hey, Dad! Don’t forget these!” I tossed my skates into the box and hopped onto the front seat of the car next to him. For a minute I thought that he was going to say something, but he just smiled at me and squeezed my hand.

    Illustrated by Shauna Mooney