Updated: Apr 27
The first opportunity I had to leave Salt Lake, I took like the witness protection program. I moved to an all Mormon town in the podunk hills of Central Utah.
I was 17, just graduated high school, and I wanted freedom from my parents. I was still legally a “child” and by federal law under their custody. The only choice my parents and I agreed on was a scholarship at an all Mormon college in the middle of nowhere, Utah.
I got a full-ride to Snow College on a Service and Activities Committee Scholarship. My parents loved that it was free, and I loved the freedom from my parents. The purpose of my scholarship was to do charity, plan/execute events, and bring people together. It’s what I was born to do and it literally took up 5% of my time. The rest was free!
I loved it.
I didn't mind living in a 95% Mormon place when I was not a Mormon. The only weird thing about living in this high-a concentration of young folk, is that hormones for the opposite sex fly faster than satellites connect to an iPhone. Mormon courtship is like watching 12 year old’s date, and get married 3 months later. Believe it or not! I know a dude in Service and Activities that got married 1 month after knowing his wife. The cross pollination of young marrying Mormons was a little bizarre, but I was willing to look past it.
I was excited for a fresh start in a new town.
Snow was small and humble. In fact, the biggest attraction was a Walmart. The town had a Main St. a Maverick gas station, a Willie Wonka-esq ice cream/candy shop, and a pizza parlor upstairs!
The most ris-kay thing I saw happen was a game of Twister. The 2 in the middle of the pic below were trying real hard to touch or “tangle” into each other.
We’ve all played the game, Jenny… There’s more than enough yellow dots for everyone.
Of all the people I met at Snow College, this guy in front is the one I remember the most: Andy. Andy had Cerebral Palsy, but you'd never know if "Enter Sandman" came on.
I’ll never forget.
Andy came over to my house one night - shocked that I was torrenting music. He asked if I could get “Enter Sandman”, so I played it. It only took 4 chords to lift Andy out of his leg braces, and rock hard to Metallica. I had witnessed anything like it.
I used to get high all the time and trip out on Andy. He was funny and he had a great personality.
One day, Andy asked me to Homecoming and I wasn't sure how to take it… Did he like me? Did he want to go as friends? Did he just want to go to Homecoming? I didn’t want to lead him on and I didn’t want to stand him up, so I invited my best friend Dani to come from Cedar City and surprised Andy with not only one, but two dates!
I had a good life at Snow. I had an education. I had my own living space (free from my parents). I had my own car. Dani’s mom gave me the old Mazda 626. I couldn’t believe it. It was the most I felt I ever had in my life, and it felt like it was mine.
My only downfall (in the eyes of others)
was that I smoked weed.
I'd smoke in the privacy of my own bedroom, listen to music (headphones), dance, and do homework. It was my routine, and I had a system down pat: I'd stuff a towel to block that gap beneath the door, blow smoke into a toilet paper roll stuffed with dryer sheets, and spray perfume after every hit. I thought it smelled excellent, but I wasn’t the only one living there.
I lived with 5 Mormon girls. All age 18-22. All innocent, I thought, except one who recognized the smell of weed.
Out of the blue…
My roommates called a meeting. The moral: "Don't burn things" with a stove pot and squiggle flames illustrated on a dry erase board. "Good!" I thought. "That bitch Katrina boils chicken all the time and that shit STANNNKS." It felt great to finally get that off my chest. I let these girls talk for an hour and NO ONE said ANYTHING about marijuana, pot, or weed. I honestly thought the meeting was about that nasty, burning, rancid chicken smell. I lived with 5 funky bitches that needed a chore chart. If there was any reason to call a meeting it’d be to discuss the dirty dishes, drinking of my orange juice, and allergies to refilling toilet paper. I left with a completely different message.
I continued to smoke weed. I continued to volunteer on scholarship for the Services and Activities Committee. I even picked up a part-time job tutoring kids at the local elementary school.
On a Cold Daylight Savings Tuesday in November…
I walked home from a full day of school, and said "hi" as I walked past my roommates gathered in the living room watching a bad CW sitcom. I called a friend, we smoked a bowl, and by the time I walked downstairs all my roommates were gone. My friend and I crossed the sidewalk into the community clubhouse and played a game of pool. Halfway through the game, a door opened, a shaft of light lit the stairs, and stirrup by stirrup step revealed a county sheriff in uniform.
"Are you Valerie?" He asked.
My heart dropped. I wished I was anyone but Valerie.
"Come with me." He said. We walked back to my apartment, he pulled an empty bag out of the trash and asked, "Is this yours?" I gulped hard and responded: "I have no idea what that is." His lips pursed: "Cut the crap." He spit a little. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way." I shook my head screaming
On the inside.
His wife was the Property Manager and she gave him permission to search. She stood by the door eagerly peering in all disappointed and offended. I wish I could explain: I am not harming anyone. I am peaceful, calm, and gentle on marijuana. I come from a broken home. I use this to think positive thoughts. I have a scholarship. I tutor children. My mom is going to be pissed. My dad is going to use this against me in court.
My mind was racing a million miles per hour.
Everything pieced together in this moment. The roommates. The peculiar disappearance of roommates who typically spend all day in front of a Tv. The meeting. "Don't burn things." Oh, shit… Is that what this is about? What a pansy ass Mormon way of communicating!?! If only they were straight up and said, "We know you're smoking weed your room, and that's the thing we don't want you to burn." I would have been shocked to stop. I thought they were oblivious and that's my bad. If only, I could go back 1 hour in time.
The Sheriff searched my bedroom high and low. He found a pipe and an empty bag that I used to load my last bowl. I got charged with possession and paraphernalia. I lost my scholarship. I lost my job.