Her Name in Gold
by Ruth Hammond Barrus
"Gladly Meeting, Kindly Greeting" came to a joyous close as Retta struck the concluding chords on the organ, causing her long braids to give a sympathetic rhythmic bounce. She thought how much fun this piece was to play now as compared with the first time she tried it three years ago, at the age of nine, when she was sustained as Primary Organist of the Smithfield Ward. Then, frightened tears had almost blotted out the concluding chord. She turned to take a seat near the organ when Sister Roskelley, President of the Primary, arose to make the announcements.
"We have something very special to tell all you children today," tall, alert Sister Roskelley was saying. "It concerns every boy and girl in the whole church. The Juvenile Instructor is offering a prize of a large leather-bound Book of Mormon to any young person who can make the finest bouquet of artificial flowers. The winner's name will be printed in gold on the Book of Mormon.
Retta's deep brown eyes sparkled with anticipation. She had been making flowers since she was five years old. Colored gum and candy wrappers had been saved, then fringed on top of stocks to make daisies. Her sisters - - Grace and Katie - - could mold wax flowers that you couldn't tell from real ones; and there wasn't anything her mother didn't know about flowers. Since colored tissue paper could now be bought, she herself had learned to made flowers that even brought praise from her older sisters. She had taken the real flowers and had carefully torn them apart, so that she might see how they were put together; and using the real petals, leaves, calyx, and centers as patterns, she had cut and molded together the artificial ones. Her mother had even figured out a way to put veins in the leaves. She folded the leaves length-wise in the center, placed them inside a folded handkerchief so that the folds came together; then she set the palm of her left hand firmly on the fold, and with the right hand pulled the handkerchief circularly toward her. When the leaf was opened - - there were the veins, all naturally formed. Retta's heart beat with pride over the floral accomplishments of her family, and somehow she felt that she was going to make the best bunch of flowers of anyone in the whole church.
That day, primary seemed unusually long to Retta, as did the three-mile ride home behind Billy. She finally reached home and bursting into the house, she called to her mother as she clambered upstairs, "I'm going to win me a Book of Mormon."
When she had reached her room, she dropped on her knees beside her bed and pulled from under it a long low box which contained her supply of precious colored tissue paper and wire.
Mother Hale had curiously followed her young daughter upstairs, and sat on the bed smilingly awaiting the explanation to so much excitement. Seeing her mother's puzzled expression, Retta laughed, hugged her mother, then told her about the contest and the wonderful prize.
Mother Hale listened approvingly, but reminded Retta that much planning must go into such an accomplishment; that it couldn't be done just this minute. Supper had to be made, and certain tasks performed; then later there would be time for plans. Reluctantly, Retta pushed the box back under the bed. She was going to do those "certain" tasks in a hurry tonight.
It was dark before the long low box could be brought to the dining room table, and by lamplight Retta sorted her colors. First the size of the bouquet had to be decided upon, and then the kind of flowers that best suited that size. Next the colors for the flowers were carefully chosen that they might harmonize. Retta decided that there would be roses, carnations, and a few daisies in her bouquet.
Every night for ten days, she labored over her flowers. Each rose petal was gently curled with the aid of a dull knife blade. Too firm a movement tore the delicate tissue paper. Each leaf was carefully wrapped on the wire stem with the long narrow green wrappers. Many imperfect flowers were discarded; but finally the perfect ones added up to a colorful array of pink and white. Many hours were put in their arrangement. A fairy-like touch was added when she put a few white fluffy pom-poms, made from the centers of milk weeds, among the varied pinks. When the last flower was added, she clasped her hands together tightly and whispered, "It is beautiful! It is beautiful!"
The flowers were carefully lowered into a 14x14 inch box, and on the top was labeled, The Juvenile Instructor, Salt Lake City, Utah. Accompanying the box was a letter stating that she, Retta Hale, desired to enter the artificial flowers' contest. She was twelve years old, and was organist of the Smithfield Primary.
Then followed four long weeks of waiting. Each night after school she rushed to the post office to see if there were a letter for her. So much time had elapsed that she was sure she had lost the contest. Mother Hale assured her it took a long time to decide such matters. Days after she had abandoned all hope, the letter arrived stating that her flowers were nicer than any that they had received, and that she was the winner of the book.
Later, the Book of Mormon came - - an eight by twelve inch, leather bound book, decorated in gold - - and at the bottom right hand corner was the name, Retta Hale, all in gold!
Father Hale's congratulations to his daughter included an additional prize - - $2.00 when the book had been read completely.