Model of small-town friendship
4Ds meet for nearly 70 years in back room of store, then two of them die within six days of each other
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—For nearly 70 years, they met almost every weekday in a back room of what is now Main Auto & Truck Supply at 95 N. Main in Manti.
The group of lifelong friends—Dale Lund, Dean Lund and Don Simons, all of Manti, and Doyle Larsen of Ephraim—became known around Manti as the “Four Ds.”
At one of their last meetings on Dec. 11, 2019, they sat in four well-worn office chairs and in front of a work bench containing all manner of tools, screws and what appeared to be file drawers. At their feet, being used as a sort of coffee table, was a shipping box of “heavy duty oil stabilizer.”
Don was 93, Dean 91, Dale 88 and Doyle 87. At Dean’s side was Seely, a Brittany Spaniel who has been an ex-officio member of the group for the past eight years.
In earlier years, Don was the co-owner of Simmons Furniture and Hardware, which was located in the historic building on the northwest corner of Main and Union Streets in Manti. Dale founded the auto parts store, now operated by his son, Larry. Doyle was the owner of Doyle’s Hardware and Sporting Goods in Ephraim. And Dean worked on road construction.
Dale, Dean and Doyle were cousins. Their mothers were sisters, explained Sandra Smith, Don’s daughter, who sat in on the Dec. 11 gathering. Don had gone to school with the others and was a fellow Main Street business owner with Dale.
For decades, the Four Ds got together at 11:30 a.m.
“It’s not a scheduled time,” Dean said.
In a manner typical of the repartee among the men, Don countered, “I think it is. I’m always here.”
The men didn’t eat lunch together, at least not in recent years. One, or possibly two, of the Four Ds occasionally drank coffee during their gatherings. But don’t tell their bishops.
Their friendship extended far beyond the meetings at the auto parts store. They took trips together, went deer hunting together and spent time on property Doyle owned in Ephraim Canyon. “We went sleigh riding once when it was 30 degrees below zero,” Dean recalled.
At the get-together Dec. 11, they reminisced about a trip down the Colorado River on a rubber raft from Hites Crossing near Blanding to Lees Ferry in northern Arizona back in 1955 before Glen Canyon Dam was completed and before Lake Powell started to fill up.
The four men, three wives, and one young woman who got engaged to the fourth man during the trip traveled in two wooden fishing boats.
Doyle remembered when they pulled a rubber raft out of some driftwood on the river bank. “We expected to find a body in the vicinity of the raft,” he said.
Dean told about finding a case of dynamite during another of their outdoor expeditions. He said Doyle tried to explode it by firing a pistol at it. “But it’d been there so many years it wasn’t explosive,” Dean said.
Dale retold the story about the time the wrong Dutch oven got heated in coals from a campfire.
The Ds went hunting with another group of family and friends that called themselves the Larsen Army. The standard practice of the Four Ds when out in the mountains was to take two Dutch ovens. They let their campfire burn all night. The next morning, they filled one of the Dutch ovens with mutton chops and buried it in the coals.
“When we got back at night, the mutton chops would be so tender you couldn’t pick up a bone without the meat falling off,” Dale said.
But on this trip, “one old fellow dug the Dutch oven up,” he said. “We were all standing in the snow with our collars turned up. The Dutch oven looked like it had just come out of the store.”
When they opened the big kettle, it was empty. Upon further investigation, “we found the other Dutch oven (the one that hadn’t been cooked) was full of mutton chops,” Dale said. “We never did solve the problem, never figured out who the culprit was who carried the wrong Dutch oven to the fire.”
A perennial topic when the Four Ds gathered was what happened to Don’s “hang-it-all,” a rack with pegs that can be mounted in a garage, or anywhere really, that you can hang things on.
“I had one in my storage room,” Don said. “I kept it for years and years and years, and then I didn’t have it anymore.” He said he believed someone got hold of it and sold it at a yard sale.
“It was a valuable object,” Don said, “until one day someone said, ‘I’ll buy it for $3.’”
Sandra Smith demurred. “It was never sold at a yard sale; it just disappeared,” she said.
Typically after the Four Ds dispensed with matters such as the missing hang-it-all, they got to the serious stuff, such as politics. One of them volunteered that there was one Democrat in the group.
Dean, the target of the comment, protested. “You get accused of being a liberal if you even ask about the other side,” he said.
Probably none of the Four Ds who gathered on Dec. 11, a Wednesday 14 days before Christmas, could have imagined what would happen to their group in three weeks.
On Christmas Eve, Don Simmons died at home. On Dec. 30, Doyle Larsen died.
Other members of the Four Ds, their wives if living, and many of their children were at the funerals.
Dean Lund said losing Don Simons and Doyle Larsen was like losing family members. “Good friends are every bit as important as family,” he said.
Dean said the gatherings at Main Auto are continuing. He and Dale come, and “various other guys show up once in a while.” But, obviously, it isn’t the same.
But the Four Ds left an exceptional example of the friendships that can develop and endure in small towns.
The important thing about the Four Ds was not what happened to the hang-it-all or whether one of them was a closet Democrat.
“The main thing,” Sandra Smith said, “is the friendships that have gone on for their whole lives.”