Monday, July 01, 2013

Stories of Jeff Excell - A Hero Is Born

I worked at a hotel with Jeff's best friend, Will. One day Will came bopping in with a gleam of mischievousness in his eye. "Sarah! Has Jeff taken you to the polygamist house yet?"

Now. Let's stop right here. There's a strange thing about Cedar City that becomes normal after you've lived there a while. That thing is polygamists. A group of polygamists lives just outside of Cedar City, and you can't make a trip to Wal-Mart without seeing a slew of them. They are always so intriguing to watch. They never smile. The children file behind their moms so obediently. The women's hair is so crisply braided. They are so unknown to me which makes me feel a little unsure about them.

"What polygamist house?" I answered back to Will with hesitation.
"Oh MAN! He hasn't taken you yet?!? We gotta go. We gotta go THIS weekend." He then proceeded to tell me all the horror stories he's ever heard about polygamists with an eeriness in his voice.

I was scared at the idea of wandering into some abandoned polygamist house. But I did have this new boyfriend to impress. So I agreed.

We gathered a whole group of people, tallying up who had been before. There were about six girls -- none of them had been, and seven or eight boys -- all but one had been.

We caravanned over to the house. Everyone flipped their headlights off as we approached. "The house we are going in is abandoned." Jeff informed us, "But there are polygamists who still live near it. We don't want them to see us parking up here. And we have to be pretty quiet when we get out of the car."

What. On. Earth. Did. I. Do. To. Myself?!? I thought this was going to be some house in the middle of nowhere that would give me a glimpse into the unknown world of polygamists, and maybe held a few ghost stories. I didn't realize this adventure involved a potential run-in with the polygamists if we were less than stealthy.

The only thing that kept me going was knowing that Jeff and his friends had been to this house several times before. I took comfort in the knowledge that they had all survived earlier break-ins, so surely I was worrying unnecessarily. With a deep breath I tiptoed out of the car. Jeff grabbed my hand, looking calm and almost excited. "See those lights over there?" He pointed to what looked like a tiny village with lights flickering, "That's where the polygamists live."

"You're joking." I said, hoping Jeff would start laughing and tell me the gig was up.
"No. We really have to be quiet. We don't want them to see us. I don't even know what they would do if they found us walking around here."

Flashes of the somber polygamist women shopping at Wal-Mart whirled through my head. They didn't seem like the type of people to be very understanding of a herd of college-aged kids poking around in their abandoned property. I imagined guns pointed at me, screaming, and mobs of torched polygamists hunting me down. I gulped and continued on with my tip-toeing. Surely Jeff Excell would keep me safe.

We passed a shed and headed towards a building that was even closer to the dimly lit occupied village. I'm sure I was hyperventilating by this point, but trying to remain calm to prove myself to Jeff in case this was some kind of twisted initiation he put all his new girlfriends through. We got to the front door of the abandoned house.

Will busted it open without a hitch. We all filed in as Will and the other guys muttered, "Hey. This brick wasn't here last time we came." or, "Wasn't that picture hung up before? And the couch was over in that corner last time."

Their comments shot shivers up my spine as I processed their underlying message -- either someone besides Jeff and his roommates frequented the abandoned house, or it was not as abandoned as we once thought. Another gulp. Oh my gosh. I began thinking. Am I trespassing? Can the polygamists shoot me if I'm trespassing? Do they even live by the same laws as the rest of the world? I'm dead. I'm absolutely dead.

This thing happens when I get really scared. My knees shake. Violently. My whole body will be in a continuous, subtle shiver, but my knees. They go nuts. Up and down. Side to side. Uncontrollable. There have only been two times in my life when I have lost control of my knees. This was one of them.

Jeff moved on with such confidence that I again trusted his lead. We toured the top of the house and I was ready to get out. Then Will opened a door and led us to the basement. I muffled my urge to run back out the front door as I instead sunk further into the house. I remember nothing specific about the abandoned property except for the boiler room. Down in the very bottom back corner of the house. No windows. Just a tiny room that Will ushered us all into for some good old-fashioned abandoned polygamist house ghost stories.

This is such a bad idea. I thought. We are going to sit in this cramped room with no exit, trespassing, with no one standing watch while the polygamists barge in with guns, torches blazing, screaming at us to get out. I started making plans of action for every situation I may find myself in. Okay. If all goes according to plan, I get outta here as soon as I can and bolt for the car. If a polygamist does come in, maybe he will be reasonable and say, okay kids. You've had your fun. Now get out. But, realistically, he will probably come in with his mob and start shooting. 

I squeezed Jeff's hand as my face started to show my nervousness. But it was dark so I was still passing the girlfriend test if that was what this was all about. Knees started going crazy again. My nervous thoughts continued, Alright. If the mob comes in, where can I hide? There's a good spot underneath...

Then I heard a faint clunk, clunk coming from upstairs. Almost like footsteps. I did a quick scan hoping to see someone was missing and was wandering around upstairs. We had our whole group. Will continued on with his ghost stories, unaware of the noise I had just heard.

Clunk. Clunk.

Will shushed us all. "Did you guys hear that?" He whispered in a panic.

Clunk. Clunk. As the room shushed, I was able to clearly decipher what was making the clunking noise.

Cowboy boots.

The boiler room filled with heavy breathing. "Just be really quiet you guys!" Will urged us. I wanted so bad to think this was a joke, but everyone was right there in that room with us. I looked at Jeff and he looked scared. Oh. Crap. This is how I die. I told myself. My thoughts were interrupted by a burley voice coming from upstairs, "WHO'S IN HERE?!?"


Silence in the boiler room.

"I SAID who is IN HERE?!? WHERE ARE YOU YOU LITTLE TRESPASSERS. DON'T you KNOW ANYTHING about respecting someone's PRIVACY?!?" He sounded exactly like I imagined a polygamist to sound. This was the real deal. It was my worst-case scenario unfolding before me. And I hadn't even had enough time to fully devise my escape plan.

The man upstairs started talking to another man. We only heard enough to know they were talking, but we didn't know what they were saying. Will took the moment to bring forth a plan, "Jeff and I are going to go up and talk to them. We will tell them we are the only ones in here. Then you guys can run free after they do whatever they are going to do to us."

Jeff slid his hand out of mine and disappeared down the darkened hallway towards what I assumed would be a mob of angry polygamists. Knees shaking, I curled up in a little ball, sat in the dark and savored the last moments of Jeff's warm hand in mine. I was sure he had just walked to his death.

Yelling happened. I don't remember what was said. Then Will came back down, "Alright guys, they're letting us go. But go fast! They're mad! Hurry, this way. This way!"

We ran out of the house, terror on our faces. Sucking in the fresh air as we reached the outside world. I kept my head down to avoid eye contact with the polygamists. I didn't want them to remember me in case we were ever doing our Wal-Mart grocery shopping at the same time. Jeff came over to me. I shifted my eyes to meet his, and was surprised to see him smiling. What?

I scanned the rest of the group who seemed to be in better spirits. My eyes made it to one of the polygamists. He was smiling too. Then I realized it was Will's brother. I looked at the other polygamist. It was Will's brother's friend who also happened to be my home teacher. Both of the "polygamists" were in full polygamist wear. Plaid shirts. Wranglers. Boots. Shotguns. Hats. They looked the part.

"Oh. My. GOSH!" I screamed. The blood started making its way back to my fingers and toes and my heart began trying to regulate itself again. I'm pretty sure I punched someone, either Jeff or my home teacher, as I came to grips with the elaborate prank that left my life flashing before my eyes.

After some giggling and tears of relief, we piled back into our cars. "YOU LEFT ME!!!!" I screamed at Jeff.
"What??" He innocently replied, "I was being a hero. Didn't you like that I was willing to die so everyone else could be saved?" That argument took some more convincing, and a couple days of recovery from the shock me and my kneecaps went through.

Jeff Excell. My polygamist fighting hero.


Kim said...

It's been a long time since we've heard a Jeff Excell story from way back before you were married.

Jeff's my hero--for scaring you to death. Nice job, Jeff. What a plan he devised. Looks like it worked. See--he's still good at planning dates even after you're married. Or at least he used to be back when you both were taking turns thinking up fun date nights and blogging about them.

Kenzman said...

This whole post just made my day. I love Jeff Excell stories. And I believe your knees were still shaking when you came home later that night too. ;) Jeff was/is so awesome. Only the best for my BFF!!

jlthomas said...

I have never heard this before! Why didn't you ever tell me this? I would have liked Jeff even more if I knew about this.

I'm confused about one thing--were all the other girls in on it too? Were you the only one in the dark?

Oh--one other thing. What was the house?

sarah said...

Jacob - Only the boys knew what was going on. All the girls were left legitimately scared for their lives.

The house was really an abandoned polygamist house.

Rebecca said...

Great story! I love the great lengths that the guys went through to create this prank. Well done.

I also have a question - when was the other time your knees were shaking so uncontrollably?

The Stevens Family said...

The BEST freaking story jd and I have ever read! We could feel the intensity of your knee caps! lol We were rolling after at the end. I seriously think u should write a book. We are your # 1 blog fans! Lol! Good job Jeff!

Eric and Justine said...

I was on the edge of my seat the whole time! I did we'll to avoid such stories to happen to me. It was sure enjoyable to read your scary going through an abandoned house with boys story! Thanks for sharing. It made me lol!