Life lessons learned from recent rafting trip

By Randall Thatcher



As I consider the many first-time experiences I’ve encountered since moving to Sanpete County, and all the many horizon-expanding lessons learned in the process, I can now add one more: rafting down a river.

A local friend, and rafting enthusiast, had been eager to get me out on a river; a thing he knew I’d never done before (unless you count the times, as a kid, I floated in a two-man rubber-raft down a nearby irrigation canal, which he didn’t).

The first time I ventured with this fellow was fairly disastrous, as I wound up piloting my own inflatable canoe, and seemed to spent more time in the water than in my actual vessel.  I was, during the whole of that day’s rafting expedition—quite literally—in over my head.

The second time I ventured (which took more than a little persuading on the part of my friend), I was assured of a nice, relaxing float down a very tame and placid San Juan River.  Nothing to be done, really, but drift leisurely downstream with the current, enjoying the red rock splendors rising up from either bank.

We put in at Sand Island, a three-day float from our destination of Mexican Hat. And the first two days of this excursion were exactly as advertised: a nice, relaxing sail, in my own little pontoon-boat, down a lazily tranquil river, with new and increasingly astonishing sights to behold around every succeeding bend.

But then came day three…

I was soberly admonished, by my vastly more experienced friend, to remain alert and vigilant when we encountered those formidable “Eight Foot Rapids” that would be coming along that morning.

“Wait… What?!” I thought in a rising panic.  “Rapids?  What happened to ‘tame and placid?’ Where was that ‘nice, relaxing float’ I’d been promised?”

As I continued to psyche myself out, imagining the terrifying sight of eight-foot high rapids menacing my little craft (which rapids, of course, are not really eight feet high, but only a designation of their gradient), I tried to calm myself by reviewing the advice I’d been given to successfully navigate these approaching rapids:

First: Keep to the right of the big rock.  (“Which big rock?”  “Don’t worry.  You’ll know it when you see it.”)

Second: Don’t attempt to out-maneuver a wave, but steer the bow of your boat—against your natural instinct—directly into it.

And, third: Never stop paddling.  Even if you think the cause is lost, keep paddling!

I mused and mulled and meditated upon these three rules for running rapids, trying to etch them so deeply into my brain that they’d become automatic when the critical moment came.

And then it came… Shouts from the big raft ahead were warning of the approaching rapids.  I didn’t need such bellowed alerts; I could already hear the roar.

Coming round the bend, and catching sight of my foaming, whitewater foe, those all-important rules flew instantly out of my head.  For several critical moments I sat there in my little boat, completely inert, just staring in wild and wide-eyed panic. Finally, however, spotting the big rock I was told to stay to the right of, I began paddling madly, barely skirting the boulder’s right flank, my left pontoon glancing off of it, and throwing me into the path of the largest wave in the rapid.  My instinct told me to take evasive action.  Wrong.  I tried to avoid it altogether; to paddle around it. Wrong. I was now sideways to this threatening wave; and as it came fast upon my starboard side, I assumed all was lost, and stopped paddling altogether.  Wrong.

I had abandoned myself to my fate, assuming there was no viable option but to surrender to this heedless river, and abandon myself to an inadvertent swim in its chilly waters (while wearing every single stitch of dry and warm clothing I’d brought with me on this trip).

It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I did take that frantic, flailing, shocking swim, requiring a mid-water rescue from a larger raft in the vicinity.

Later that afternoon, while clad entirely in borrowed clothing from my friend’s own duffle, I was shown the video, taken by my friend’s wife, from their own raft, which had been following behind, of my ill-fated attempt.

It was hard for me to watch this video, so painfully glaring were my mistakes.  In my panic, I’d broken those two cardinal rules: to steer directly into any oncoming wave, and to keep paddling.

I don’t yet know whether I will ever again come up against those same Eight Foot Rapids of the San Juan River.  If I ever do, I will not forget my lesson.

But, even if I never run rapids again in this lifetime, I will still not forget what they taught me: to be bold in facing challenges head-on, and to never stop paddling, no matter what.

For, in the end, until we’ve abandoned hope and given up, nothing is ever truly lost.

Keep paddling!


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Grand marshal profile: Pat and Alan Justesen of Manti

By Ryan Roos

Staff Writer


Pat and Alan Justesen are proud to serve as grand marshals of Manti’s July 4th celebration this year.

Pat and Alan Justesen never dreamed they’d be selected by Manti City to act as Grand Marshalls for the 4th of July celebration, but the couple couldn’t be prouder to serve.

“I’ve been so touched by the ceremonies on the Fourth, as well as those on Veteran’s Day,” said Pat, whose veteran’s ancestry can be traced directly through both the Revolutionary and Civil War. “I’ve heard their stories and they’ve touched me deeply. I’m so proud to be an American.”

Alan’s fondness for our founding fathers shines brightly when he speaks of the heroic events leading to 1776. “I’m proud that our patriots had the courage to stand up and fight for what was right,” said Alan.

Pointing out that had the patriots been unsuccessful, their acts would have been considered treason, Alan said he hopes that today we can draw from their spirit of bravery. “They knew they would be forfeiting their lives if they were caught” Alan observed. “I hope we can have the same courage today to maintain our freedoms.”

Alan, who was raised in Ogden, Utah, has deep pioneer roots in the Sanpete Valley. His grandfather, Daniel Olson, was a founder of the Moroni Feed Company. Many of Alan’s family stayed in the valley, and his boyhood memories are full of warm summer visits to relatives in Moroni and Spring City.

Pat spent her youth in the small South Carolina town of Seneca. It was while serving as missionaries in Ireland under the supervision of noted author Stephen R. Covey that Alan and Pat would first meet. Pat’s mission ended six months prior to Alan’s, but President Covey had a feeling about his two prized missionaries and suggested Pat continue to write Elder Justensen after she returned home. The pair courted during Alan’s senior year at BYU and the rest is Justensen family history. Today, that family has grown to include five children and 13 grandchildren.

Alan spent his professional life as a mechanical engineer in the energy field, a career that took him from Arkansas to Houston, and finally back to the western plains of Wyoming. While supporting her husband’s career, Pat’s pride and joy was raising their family from the home, as well as serving in various church callings.

Upon Alan’s retirement, the couple felt called to return to Alan’s boyhood stomping grounds. They purchased a home near the Manti Temple and together served in that temple for over 20 years.

When asked what the future holds for the America they love, the couple simply said, “we’re optimistic, and we have faith.”

Grand marshal profile: Mark and Laura Beck of Mt. Pleasant



Lifetime residents of Mt. Pleasant, Laura and Mark Beck, have been selected as the grand marshal of the parade this year.

MT. PLEASANT—Lifetime residents of Mt. Pleasant, Mark and Laura Beck, owners of Beck’s Home Furnishings on Main Street, have been selected as the grand marshal of this year’s Mammoth Parade.

The Mammoth Parade is traditionally held on the Fourth of July each year. It is a highlight of the Hub City Days Celebration. The parade starts at 11:30 a.m. and is followed by a multitude of fun activities at the city park, a rodeo and fireworks.

The Becks are a perfect match as this year’s grand marshal as they bring a long and historical lineage to the area. Both Mark and Laura have lived in Mt. Pleasant all of their lives. Ancestors from each of their lines have lived in Mt. Pleasant since its original founding and names of several of their ancestors are listed on the Pioneer Monument in front of the library building in the center of town.

They were married in the summer of 1976 in the Manti Utah Temple. They are the parents of five children, four boys and one girl. Their children are Cade and Becky Beck, Fairview; Cody and Laci Beck, Mt. Pleasant; Brian and Kathy Beck, Mt. Pleasant; Brandon and Chelsea Beck, Milburn; Aubree and Kip Larsen, Vernal. They are the grandparents of thirteen grandchildren, with one more coming this summer.

In 1974, Mark started running Beck’s TV, a television sales and service business that his father started in 1959. Laura soon joined him running the business after they were married in 1976. Over the years, the business expanded to include a full line of home appliances, furniture and mattresses. The name of their business was changed in the 1980s to Beck’s Home Furnishings. In 1994, their business location moved from its original location of 140 W. Main Street to 14 W. Main Street, where it remains today.

Throughout their married lives, they have both served in many leadership callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2013 they served a church mission together in the Russia, Novosibirsk Mission. Their church service has been a central part of their lives here in Sanpete County. Mark also served a term on the Mt. Pleasant City Council in the 1980s and has been involved in the Mt. Pleasant Main Street business district for many years.

Laura has served on the Mt. Pleasant Library Board and local PTA and currently enjoys her membership in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. They are both proud to claim Mt. Pleasant as their lifetime home and are proud of their pioneer heritage.

Mark and Laura both enjoy travelling the world and experiencing different cultures. Mark said they love the people and beauty of the world, but truly realize that there is no place like home. “The mountains of Sanpete County are very special to us and we love to enjoy this mountain paradise all seasons of the year,” he said.

Grand marshal profile: Jan and Ruth Christensen of Gunnison

By Thamina Christensen

Staff Writer



Ruth and Jan Christensen are being honored for their community service and have been selected as the grand marshal of Gunnison’s Fourth of July parade.

GUNNISON—After fulfilling a lifetime of community service, Gunnison residents Jan and Ruth Christensen are being honored this year as the grand marshal of the annual Fourth of July parade.

Jan and Ruth met at Brigham Young University in the 1960s. Jan was pursuing a degree in chemistry with a pre-med emphasis and Ruth was working on her master’s degree in education. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1970 and moved to California, where Jan started medical school at Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

A residency in family practice medicine brought Jan and Ruth and their three children to Charleston, South Carolina. Living in the south introduced the family to new cuisines and cultures.

Jan relates, “While growing up in Southern California, visiting Grandma and Grandpa Dyreng in Manti was often our destination for a summer vacation. I often thought to myself during those summer visits that if I ever had some control over my future home and family that I’d like to live in Sanpete County. The Gunnison hospital offered me the invitation that allowed that to happen.”

Ruth, who was born in Idaho and raised in Idaho, Nevada and Utah, also liked the idea of moving to Gunnison as it aligned closely with their goal of living near family and raising their children in a close-knit community. By summer’s end in 1978, the Christensens settled in “the pink house” next to the Gunnison Hospital.

Since returning to Gunnison, Jan and Ruth have dedicated their time serving and working in the Gunnison community. Jan managed his own medical practice, retiring in 2012, and working in different capacities at Gunnison Valley Hospital, including time as Chief of Medical Staff.

Jan and Ruth also volunteered their time and musical talents to local theater productions as members of the GVHS
musical orchestra with Jan on trumpet and Ruth on the piano. They also founded a fifteen member stage band “All That Jazz.”

Jan and Ruth have actively served in numberous callings as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Christensens are quick to acknowledge the great blessing of our free nation.  “The events that we commemorate on the Fourth of July, the founding of this great nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights, are of enormous consequence in the history of the world,” Jan said.

The Christensens have eight children, Suzy, Richard, Melissa, Kathrine, Thamina, Lucille, Annette and Paul and 32 grandchildren.

Grand marshal profile: Paula and Mark Jorgenson of Moroni

By Ryan Roos

Staff Writer



Paula and Mark Jorgenson are honored to serve as Moroni’s Grand Marshal for Independence Day this year.

MORONI—Being honored as the Grand Marshal of Moroni’s Independence Day Celebration this year is truly a calling that Mark and Paula Jorgenson have taken to heart.

Ask the longtime Moroni couple what they look forward to the most each Fourth of July holiday, and the thought of family returning home to Sanpete County will always top their list.

“It’s our children’s favorite holiday to come home for,” says Paula. “My Grandfather served in World War II and my husband was a proud National Guardsman for 14 years. We’re very patriotic and so incredibly honored that the city of Moroni would think of us.”

The Jorgenson’s love of family, country and community make them a natural choice for this year’s Grand Marshal. Mark’s Danish pioneer ancestry entered the Sanpete Valley during its earliest and most treacherous days of settlement, while Paula’s heritage can be traced to the historic Willie and Martin Handcart Companies as they crossed the plains in search of religious liberty. The Jorgenson’s family lines run deep with those who have struggled and died for their freedoms.

It was during a fateful summer night dance in central Sanpete that the couple first met. Though Mark was attending North Sanpete High School, and Paula was attending Manti High School 26 miles to the south, the undeterred pair quickly became high school sweethearts.

After living in Provo during their early years of marriage, the Jorgenson’s felt the security of their Sanpete upbringing drawing them home, and soon moved back to Moroni to raise their family.

“We wanted to raise our children in the same environment we enjoyed as kids” says Paula. The couple has been active in keeping that family friendly environment alive, a goal which led them to coaching youth summer league activities such as softball and baseball.

Professionally, Mark’s work as a skilled machinist took him north to Springville until he retired, and Paula’s career spanned time at both the Moroni Light and Power as well as Moroni Feed.

Today, the Jorgenson’s are the proud parents of six children and 18 (soon to be 19) grandchildren. It’s a posterity that the couple knows will be affected by the direction of our nation. “I hope that our country will never forget its traditional, family oriented values,” says Paula.

When asked if she believes that Sanpete County will continue to hold firm to the traditional family values she cherished as a child, Paula offers only one word: “absolutely.”

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A Half-Bubble off Plumb: Acquainting visitors with our unique mountain valley

By Randal B. Thatcher



I guess it must be that time of year…

Over the past 10 days, we have hosted four separate groups of people at our place: a Russian fellow, a couple from Salt Lake City, another couple from Seattle, Washington and a family of seven from El Paso, Texas. (That totals an even dozen, if you’re keeping a tally!)

And it’s been a treat, as it always is, to shepherd these visitors around our historic little town of Spring City, and our surrounding Sanpete environs, and to witness their reactions, and listen to their comments, as they encounter all the myriad sights, sounds and splendors of this bucolic mountain valley for the very first time.

Our Russian friend (who’s a big fan of John Wayne and western movies) wanted to hear all about America’s “Wild West,” and about real-life tales of actual “Cowboys and Indians.”

We were able to spellbind him with stories of skirmishes between early pioneer settlers of the mid-1800s, and members of the local Ute and Sanpitch tribes, and how these skirmishes eventually turned into the Black Hawk War, concluding with the Spanish Fork Treaty in 1865. We thrilled him with pictures of the old defensive forts and bastions of Ephraim and Manti.

The fellow from Seattle had really done his homework, researching the history of this area extensively on Wikipedia, and wanted to hear more about the Mormon Pioneer influence, and why Brigham Young had deliberately sent so many Scandinavians to settle the region.

We explained that the Scandinavians of that era brought many useful skills with them from the old country, which would come in very handy in building a new civilization here in the Sanpete Valley. He also wanted to see the house and grave of Orson Hyde, an LDS Apostle who lived here during that period, which we were very happy to show him.

Those who drove up from points southward, commented on the unexpectedly eye-popping sight of the Manti Temple, looking like some “ancient citadel” or a “medieval castle on a hill.”

As the late-night bonfire in our backyard fire-pit began to burn down to embers, the woman from Salt Lake City glanced up into the nighttime sky and gasped out loud at the brilliance of the stars overhead, inquiring whether the Milky Way was always so clearly visible down here in our neck-ofthe-woods. We assured her that, yes—barring cloud cover or ambient moonlight—our nocturnal skies always offered us an astonishingly glorious star show.

Since all of our adult visitors were accustomed to big-city congestion, they all commented on the relative lack of traffic around the valley. We concurred; explaining that traffic only becomes an issue on annual celebration days, when crowds of people are drawn to the area, or when a local rancher happens to be herding his sheep down the middle of an arterial roadway.

These same adults from bigger cities also commented on how quiet it is around here, excepting the occasional barking dog, whining lawn-mower or souped-up motorbike.

The younger children of the El Paso family were delighted in the extreme by herds of deer roaming through vacant fields of the town. They were equally delighted by the tinkling of sheep-bells from nearby pastures, and ecstatic to see little baby lambs following their mothers through the tall grass.

Their delight was compounded by the enthralling experience of feeding carrots to Blue and Buddy, two horses we’re currently boarding in our pastures; then feeding watermelon rinds to Big Suze, our neighbor’s lazy old mule; then feeding (or at least attempting to feed) a soda-pop can to Strawberry, another neighbor’s frisky she-goat.

Their 11-year old son asked me why there were so many “old looking houses” in this town. I told him that there were “old looking houses” in all the towns of this valley, and that they are mostly from pioneer days, when this region was something of a frontier for western expansion and migration. An avid student of American history, this young man seemed to appreciate the prospect of so many of these historic old homes and buildings being preserved for posterity, thus keeping our pioneer heritage and history alive and accessible.

The 16-year old boy from that same El Paso family, gazing admiringly up at the snow-crowned Horseshoe Mountain, asked me whether it was a nice feeling to wake up every morning to such a majestically beautiful view. I told him it was; and even better to hike the trail to the top of that particular mountain, which we could do together if he came back in late summer or early fall.

I love introducing people to our Sanpete Valley for the first time, and showing off its rural charms and unique singularities. And I suspect all of these visitors will be back again, in a year or so, to feed another can to Strawberry the goat, and to take a hike up the regal Horseshoe Mountain, and to gape, once again, at the spectacle of our nightly star show; and to have their blood pressure temporarily lowered in this idyllic mountain valley that we are all lucky enough to call home.

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Three Vietnam veterans will display art in Mt. Pleasant



Mt. Pleasant—Three artists who served in the Vietnam War, including Sanpete County’s very own Carl Purcell, bring their individual perspectives about the war and the country itself to an art exhibit on display at Hub City Gallery between June 14 and August 1.

The Hub City Gallery is located on the second floor of Mt. Pleasant City Hall, 115 W. Main Street.

Works included in the exhibit, entitled “Vietnam Veterans: Art Beyond Combat,” show images of war, images of peace and images of healing, stated Lisa Potter of The North Sanpete Arts Council in a press release. The artists served during a time of uncertainty, protest, and devastation, and each of them has a different perspective on returning to their lives and resolving feelings of unrest. Art serves each of them in a different way, and each has a different story to tell.

The three featured artists include: Carl Purcell is a Professor Emeritus at Snow College, where he has taught art for over 30 years. He served as an interrogator for the Air Force while in Vietnam. The fatalistic views of the North Vietnamese soldiers perplexed him, so when he returned home he chose to focus on moving forward with his art and his life. His paintings of rural barns, sheds and fences reflect the balance between future promises and forgotten dreams, while a lifelong interest in geology allows him to not only see, but to hear the rhythms of the earth through centuries of strata.

Dan Maynard only started to take his art seriously after his wife encouraged him. Although he initially focused on the people and landscapes of the Western U.S., he eventually began drawing scenes of the combat he experienced in Vietnam. When drawing those scenes, he can hear, see, and even taste the combat as he remembers it. His works don’t glorify or beautify the fighting, but illustrates it in all of its gritty realism.

John Steele, like many soldiers, documented his time in Vietnam through a camera. But only later in life did he begin to pursue photography as art, an interest sparked by wild horses. Eventually he returned to Vietnam, and during his four visits came to an understanding of the country as well as his own personal feelings about the war.

The Art Beyond Combat exhibition is curated by KUED. The Traveling Exhibition Program is a statewide service of the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. For more information, visit

The Traveling Exhibition Program is funded by the Utah Division of Arts & Museums and, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Spring City Arts hosting ‘Local Lenses’ photography show during Pageant

One of the photos that will be exhibited at ‘Local Lenses’ art show in Spring City, which will be open during the Mormon Miracle Pageant dates.

SPRING CITY—Starting tomorrow, Spring City Arts is hosting “Local Lenses,” an art event that highlights the work of local photographers.

The show, which will run in the Spring City Arts gallery from Friday, June 15 to Saturday, July 6, features the artwork of approximately a dozen local photographers. An opening reception will be held for the show on Saturday, June 15 at 7 p.m.

The artists in the show are all members of a local photography club that began life as a Facebook group titled “Sanpete Photography Community.”

Sanpete Messenger Managing Editor Robert Stevens started the group hoping to encourage more interaction between local photographers.

The group has members of all different experience levels, ranging from beginners to seasoned cameramen and women, and Stevens says both photographers and lovers of photography are welcome to join.

“I love how everyone is helpful and supportive of each other as well as the willingness to share knowledge and help each other grow in their photography,” says Cindy Akee of Centerfield, group member and Local Lenses show artist.

Despite being an experienced photographer who specializes in wildlife and bird photography in addition to the fantasy children’s portrait she is known for, Local Lenses will be the first time Akee has participated in a gallery show.

“It has been exciting and fun choosing pictures and being able to share my passion for photography with the community,” she says.

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Granary exhibit features local abstract artist


By Robert Green




EPHRAIM—Richard Gate, an abstract artist who likes to create hard-edge collages from mixed media, will be presenting a retrospective of his life-long work at a solo exhibition called, Anthology, at the Granary Arts from now until May 10.

Gate, who lives in Mt. Pleasant during the winter, will be on hand to discuss his paintings at an artist’s reception on Friday, April 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Granary Arts Gallery in Ephraim.

As a boy growing up in Southern Utah, Gate liked to hike among the red rocks and search for Indian relics and petroglyphs; he developed a great interest in archaeology and cultures that go back a long ways.

In his art, he often incorporates images of tranquility against modern forces of aggression. “It’s not unusual in my collages to show a petroglyph next to a nuclear collider, signifying what the world has become,” Gate said. “All these things are mashed together and somehow related.”

There will be about 135 of Gate’s paintings displayed at the Granary Arts exhibit. Some of them will be for sale.

All of them present symbols that are important to Gate. Many will have petroglyphs, spirals, butterflies, swallows, fish and a three-headed flower, pulled from an Arabic design book Gate found in the Snow College Library when he was looking for symbolic ideas.

“All the pieces in the show are related to mixed media or collaging,” he said. “They are also influenced by hard-edge color painting from Los Angeles, or even pop-art. Most of my pieces are not like a typical collage.”

Some of the show’s art will go back almost 30 years, to a time when Gate was studying art at BYU. “The exhibition is really a nice survey of what I’ve been doing for much of my life,” he said.

Gate was born in Ontario and still spends his summers at the family fishing resort at Lake of the Woods. He comes back to Mt. Pleasant to work in the peace and quiet of winter. He lives with his wife Natalie, who teaches music at Wasatch Academy.

Gate never lost his attraction to the outdoors and continues hiking, fishing, boating and river running.

He has displayed his work for most of his life at the Ruth Bachofner Gallery in Santa Monica. The gallery has since closed and he has brought all his paintings home with him to Mt. Pleasant.

He received his MFA from Claremont Graduate School in California, where much of his work became colored by the Los Angeles art scene.

He served an LDS mission in Switzerland and the South of France, where he encountered the world and landscape of Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin. He received a BFA from Brigham Young University.

Recently his large piece Catfish – Serpent – Star was awarded Best of Show in the Utah Statewide Annual: Mixed Media and Works on Paper 2016 and is now in the State of Utah Alice Merrill Horne Collection. More information on him can be found at

Granary Arts is funded primarily by Ephraim City and supported in part by the Utah Arts and Museums and the National Endowment of the Arts.

“As a non-profit enterprise, our primary focus is to provide quality art and community events to the people of Sanpete County,” said Granary Art manager Adah Bennion.

In addition to art shows, Granary Arts offers classes on art and yoga and provides free family workshops on drawing, painting and other arts. They switch up exhibitions four times a year. For more information, go to

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