Lily, the Clydesdale mare, and Kathy Roberts, the carriage driver, share their love and cheeriness with another newlywed couple in Manti.

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Is that really Willie Nelson’s ranch?

 

By Randal B. Thatcher

Dec. 14, 2017

 

I like to keep an eye out whenever I go traveling around Sanpete Valley for those big, iconic ranch gates that dot this agricultural county. I love to read the names of these sprawling ranches on the big gate-signs that hang over the entrances—names like “Lazy 8 Ranch” or “Hill Top Ranch” or “The Double-D” or “Choice Acres.”

While spotting all these ranch gates and reading their respective gate-signs, however, one particular sign on one particular gate has always intrigued me more than all the others.

This gate can be seen along U.S. 89 at mile marker 298 as you pass through the tiny, unincorporated community of Birdseye, which is about 10 miles north of Indianola.

As ranch gates go, it’s pretty simple—lengths of pipe and wrought-iron welded together and painted white.

But it’s the ranch insignia that has always captured my attention and my imagination.        Just two letters: W.N.

Not long after moving here, I was told those letters stood for the initials of the famous country music singer, Willie Nelson. Subsequent inquiries confirmed that this much of the local lore was true.

I then heard that this “WN” ranch was, in fact, owned by Willie himself. Also true.

I subsequently learned that Willie had been obliged to sell the ranch, some years ago, to raise money to pay some back taxes. An internet search quickly revealed the sad proof of this part of the story, as well. (Which means, I suppose, that I can finally stop looking for Willie’s trademark red bandanna at the local grocery store.)

But then came the most disappointing rumor of all—that Willie never even visited his ranch and that it was merely a financial transaction on paper, arranged by some clever money manager.

This part of the story was more difficult to resolve. No one seemed able to conclusively refute or confirm the claim.

But in my dogged desire to know, I finally discovered the one person who was able to persuasively settle the question.

I happened to ask my cowboy neighbor, recently, what he knew about the history of that fabled “WN” ranch, and he promptly introduced me to his longtime friend, Kal, a resident of Mt. Pleasant, who proceeded to give me the following firsthand account, which I paraphrase:

Kal had once been a horse trainer and occasional stunt double for the actor Robert Redford, who introduced him to a friend who was looking to buy some horses. Kal said this would-be buyer did not have the look of a traditional horseman, with his scruffy, white beard, and his dingy, red bandanna tied around a head of long, strawberry-blonde hair.

The buyer turned out to be none other than the famous singer, Willie Nelson.

They instantly hit it off, and before he knew it, Kal was looking for property for the famous singer somewhere in the Central Utah area, where Willie could keep his newly acquired horses and bring friends to visit.

Kal crisscrossed the state from St. George to Spanish Fork looking at over a dozen available properties before finally settling on the 95-acre ranch in Birdseye.

When Willie’s Learjet landed at the Salt Lake International Airport, Kal was there to meet him in his mud-spattered pickup truck, squiring him down I-15, along U.S. 6 (stopping for a cheeseburger at “Big-D’s,” which, sadly, is long gone), then turning onto U.S. 89 and down those few more miles to Birdseye.

Willie approved immediately, declaring the surrounding countryside to be every bit as scenic as that of his beloved Luck, Texas.

Kal took up permanent residence, as the caretaker of Willie’s new ranch, where he soon undertook to build the white-brick ranch house in 1983 you can still see on the property, and to assemble, paint and install that simple, white ranch gate with those two prominent letters—WN—at the top.

Willie owned the property for nine years, during which time he visited the ranch on three separate occasions, always aboard his signature tour bus and accompanied by various members of his band.

During one of these visits, my neighbor had stopped by the ranch to see Kal and wondered aloud, “Who is that old hippie standing out there in the stalls?”

I asked whether Willie had ever considered the prospect of actually living on his WN Ranch during part of the year, and Kal said he likely would have done so at some point if he hadn’t been forced to sell it and that he really had come to love this scenic mountain valley.

Willie’s old ranch gate has become such a significant local landmark for me that it would’ve been heartbreaking to learn he’d never actually been there.

But, as it turns out, I now watch even more eagerly for that familiar “WN” every time I drive through Birdseye.

And, in fond tribute, I never fail, as I pass, to belt out his most famous refrain: “On the road again!”

 

Comments welcome at ahalfbubbleoffplumb@gmail.com.

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus

visit Spring City as part of KSL

Quarters for Christmas drive

 

Scores of children came out to see Santa as he landed during the Spring City event on Saturday. Spring City Events Director Yvonne Wright said the participation was amazing, and the final total of money raised in donated change is still being counted, but she says she already knows it’s better than they expected.

The KSL news helicopter brought Mr. and Mrs. Claus to pick up donations made towards KSL’s long-running Quarters for Christmas fundraising program, which Spring City Hall and many members of the Spring City community participated in this year.

Ephraim Christmas light parade

During the Ephraim City Christmas Light Parade on Saturday, students from Ephraim charter school Athenian Academy passed out Pop Rocks to parade attendees.

This float in the Christmas parade was sponsored by the Kammy Mae Foundation, a newly-formed nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness of domestic violence. The float’s purple lights are the official color of domestic violence awareness.

Now in its third year running, the Ephraim Christmas festivities, which were held on Saturday, had a full complement of stunning fireworks, firing off to the sound of Christmas music.

Jordan Rittmeyer of Ephraim and his colorfully-lit pooch made their way down the Ephraim Christmas parade alongside the bright floats and cars decked with Christmas lights.

Guardsmen from Manti prepare themselves, even on city streets, before shipping off to the Philippines.

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Jessica (L-R) and Kyra Durfee and Sophia and Deana Lebaron, a pair of North Sanpete sisters and their children, paint positivity rocks—decorated rocks with a message of kindness. The pair of moms and their little sidekicks hide the rocks around the community as small gestures of kindness toward strangers. With their Facebook group “Positivity Rocks (SCU),” Jessica and Deana have harnessed the power of social media to recruit more participants. The group is only two months old and already has nearly 300 active members spread countywide.

[Read more…]

Ruth Kjar with two ceramic pilgrims she made and painted.

 

Ruth Kjar of Mt. Pleasant

is woman of many talents

 

By Emily Staley

Staff writer

Nov. 23, 2017

 

MT. PLEASANT—Ruth Kjar is a woman of many talents.

Ruth Kjar was born in Provo, Utah on September 23, 1919 to Eric Olaf Bylund and Sophia Johansen Bylund. On her 98th birthday this year, she wished only to “live to have another birthday”.

While growing up, Ruth lived in many homes around Provo and Orem. During her teenage years, the Great Depression (1929-1939) impacted her family. She remembers her father working very hard to provide for them.

After graduating high school, Ruth worked her way through Brigham Young University for two years, and then moved to Salt Lake City to be close to her new job at an insurance company.

Here Ruth met the love of her life, Ben Kjar, who was staying at the same boarding house. The two were married on Halloween; October 31, 1941. Ben and Ruth had many adventures together. One of which consisted of following a bandit and getting kidnaped, then miraculously returning home safely.

The Kjars had twins, Curtis Bylud and Maxine. Later two daughters Maree and Lila Dee and a son, Steven,were added to the family.

Ruth worked at a parachute plant for a couple of years until she landed a job at the Manti City Bank (now Zions First National Bank), working as a bookkeeper, teller, secretary and Operations Officer. She worked for about 30 years until retiring in 1986.

Throughout her life, Ruth has brightened the lives of those around her. She has served as president of the Ladies Literary Club, as the president of both Relief Society and Young Women’s programs in her church, and countless more leadership and altruistic activities. She loved genealogy and spent many hours searching her family lines, as well as helping others do theirs.

“She could never be idle and sit without doing something” her daughter Lila Ericksen recalled; “After she got off work and the kids got out of school, we’d run to Provo to buy material. Then we’d come home; she’d cut it out and sew all night. We’d wake up and she’d have us a new dress for school. We always had Christmas dresses and birthday dresses, and they were very pretty; a lot better than store bought dresses.”

Ruth used her talents to make her own wedding dress. Later she sewed her daughters’ prom and wedding dresses too.

Ruth’s talents don’t stop with designing and sewing clothing. She crocheted, tatted lace, and loved to play around with ceramics. “We made lots of ceramics and painted them and everything.” Ruth says. Some of her interest in painting came from her mother who was also a talented painter.

When asked about her yard, Ruth’s eyes would light up; “Oh my goodness! We had such a big yard! We had deer that stayed in the back yard a lot. We had peonies and roses and everything!” Daughter Lila said that her mom could “grow anything.”

Ruth kept up her beautiful yard by herself up until she was in her 80’s.

“There were good times and bad times.” Ruth explained. “It was a good life.”

Ruth lived in her own home until 3 months ago, and now lives happily in Mt. Pleasant. Her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild love her dearly. She is looked up to and admired.

Her son, Steve Kjar explained in a simple statement; “She is the most perfect woman.”

The cover of author David Mackey’s new book “Temple Light and Train Tracks: The Almost Forgotten History and Lore of Sanpete” shows the Manti Temple. The book focuses on the temple’s construction and the following decades until 1929.

‘Temple Light and Train Tracks’

is coming to local book outlets

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

Nov. 23, 2017

 

Author David Mackey has released his second volume of Sanpete history, Temple Light and Train Tracks.

In his first volume, Rattlesnakes and Axe-heads, Mackey uncovered the county’s beginnings to about 1879.

In this second volume, Mackey zooms in on details and historical nuggets usually overlooked in broad-brush community histories dealing with the five decades from the building of the Manti Temple to 1929.

The book, he says, will help people come to understand the contributions and sacrifices made during these significant years.

What these people labored and sacrificed for sometimes is no longer visible and can only be seen when placed in the spotlight, such as Sanpete’s ghost towns and abandoned farming communities.

Mackey said, “These are incredibly significant decades in this area—as they were for much of the country, but the contributions and personal sacrifices people made for this place at that time, not only for their own families but their towns and the county at large, warrants study by people living here today.”
According to Mackey, Sanpete was a booming place from the mid-1890s well into the 1920s. Railroad trains ran not only to and from Nephi and Thistle but connected with Salina, Richfield and Marysvale.

He said, “By the early 1900s, five trains arrived at Manti on a daily basis, as it was the main hub along the line for both the San Pete Valley and the D&RG railroads.”

Mackey said he initially believed it would only take him two or three years to adequately deal with these fifty years of Sanpete’s history. Yet he came to realize he would either have to end with the year 1900 or be willing to give more time to adequately cover topics involving the later decades.

He admits, “The work has taken me a lot longer than I had expected. This book is basically two volumes in one, but it is full of stuff that I not only found fascinating but I feel and genuinely believe is extremely relevant for our time.”

He said a primary focus of Temple Light and Train Tracks has always been centered on the construction and early years of the Manti Temple.

Yet the book also provides an overview of Sanpete’s political and railroad history for these fifty years and deals with a wide range of topics, such as the area’s connection to bandits and the Outlaw Trail, ranching, farming, mining, inventions, industry, area education and schools.

Mackey says he was surprised by how intrigued he became with material for other chapters, including those dealing with Sanpete’s military history, athletics, drama, and the county’s changing natural environment.

“The chapter I least wanted to tackle ended up being one of the most interesting to me personally, and that was the one dealing with plural marriage,” he said.

In his view, “the pot simmered and boiled over” with so many “strong-willed and determined” individuals involved in plural marriage in the county and beyond.

Mackey says he also enjoyed discovering accounts about early residents and their interactions with wildlife, including remarkable tales involving everything from grizzly bear to magpies.

He adds, “Between 1885 and 1910, a considerable number of newspapers surfaced in Sanpete’s towns that dramatically increased the amount of written information that has been preserved about the area.”

In addition to ransacking newspapers for nuggets and detailing the political persuasions and editorial predilections of each county newspaper, Mackey also conducted oral interviews and pored over primary records, books and photos.

Copies of Temple Light and Train Tracks will soon be available at Anderson Drug and the Co-op in Ephraim, Skyline Pharmacy in Mt. Pleasant, the Corner Station in Fairview, the Conoco in Moroni, General Store in Fountain Green, Gunnison Family Pharmacy in Gunnison and at Harmon’s and Lindel Book & Gift in Manti.

Well-Situated Sanpete
Gateway to Scenic Splendors of the World

 

By Randall Thatcher

Nov. 9, 2017

 

Convincing friends from faraway places to come visit us here in lovely Sanpete is usually not a difficult proposition. But, for the more reluctant, I tend to sweeten the proposal with two further inducements: First, I offer to make them waffles every morning; and second, I casually mention the fact that we are less than a three-hour drive from some of the most breathtakingly beautiful spots on earth.

After overhearing me repeat this alluring fact to an out-of-state friend during a phone call last week, my wife took the opportunity to repeat to me my own words—that we are, indeed, closely situated to such singularly stunning places as Cedar Breaks, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion—and it shouldn’t require out of town guests to promptly to go see them.

So convincing were her blandishments that we impulsively tossed our camping gear into the back of the car and were soon motoring merrily down scenic U.S. 89.

As we rolled along through the pastoral farmlands of south Sanpete and Sevier counties, we considered our many tantalizing options, resolving finally upon a several-days’ adventure in Capitol Reef National Park.

Less than three hours later, we were pitching our tent in the Cedar Mesa Campground, inside the park, and preparing for an exploratory evening hike into Red Canyon.

The next day brought an eye-popping drive up and over the fabled—and still unpaved—Burr Trail Switchbacks (not quite as vexing to us, in our little subcompact car, as it must have been to early stagecoach passengers, but somewhat hair-raising, nonetheless.)

We hiked the Lower Muley Twist Canyon, ambling through its labyrinth of rock walls and cottonwoods aflame with autumn color, before looping back to the car to continue along the famous Burr Trail. The surprising scenery along this stretch of rough, unimproved road more than makes up for its tooth-rattling ruts and washboards. Even when these bone-jarring obstacles finally give way to blissfully smooth and welcome pavement, the scenery only intensified, as Burr Trail turned into legendary Highway 12.

Search the internet for the ten most scenic roads in America, and on any list that comes up you’ll likely find “All-American Road,” also known as “Scenic Byway 12,” which ushers lucky motorists through stunning orange and red canyons, silt cliffs, and plateaus covered with forests of pine, fir and spruce, with a national park at either end, and historic pioneer communities along the way.

One of these communities is the “unspoiled and untamed” town of Boulder (though tame enough to offer the passing sojourner a cheeseburger and fries).

Then more of Highway 12, until I began to think I could not possibly absorb any more grandeur. Turns out, however, that I could—and did.

Having passed the point of no return on this particular route, we determined to complete a scenic loop known as the “Patchwork Parkway” (named after a group of pioneers who, trying to get to Parowan from Panguitch in order to get supplies to save the town during its first winter after a failed crop from the summer before, were able to traverse deep mountain snows only by placing quilts under their feet so they could walk without sinking into the snow).

At Cedar Breaks National Monument we reached the lofty elevation of 10,567 feet, making it one of the highest paved roads in the state.

Robert King behind the cash register in Monster Camo’s new Ephraim store.

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Members of the Snow College Theatre Department rehearse in advance of this week’s production of “The Rivals,” which has been adapted to a Wild West setting. Pictured are (L-R): Jessie Castleton, Hannah Romney, Thomas Dye and Christopher James. The production runs Nov. 8-11 at the Eccles Center.

‘Rivals’ face off in Snow Theater

comedy that places 18th-century

play in Wild West setting

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

Nov. 9, 2017

 

EPHRAIM—This week, the Snow College Theatre Program began a production of a comedic reimagining of “The Rivals,” written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in the late 1700s.

But in the theatrical remix Snow is presenting, playwrights Andrew Nogasky and Andrea Yassemedis’s transplant the setting to the Wild West, replacing powdered wigs for cowboy boots and moving from England to 1878 California.

“We wanted to make something relatable and exciting for the community,” Nogasky said, “to put up a traditional show that instantly communicates with the area. I think we succeeded. I think we found something hilarious. If you like comedies, westerns or musicals, you will love this one.”

Nogasky will direct the performances, which will take place in the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on Snow College’s campus from Nov. 8-11, at 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

This not only marks the first performance of The Rivals, reportedly George Washington’s favorite play, at Snow College, but is the world premiere of this adaptation, written with the area in mind.

“It has been both an absolute joy and undertaking bringing new life to this old classic,” said Nogasky who originally worked on the show during his time spent in London. “The reimagined characters are so vivid, the balance between wit and silliness so fun, and the visuals are stunning. We may have moved it to ‘the Wild West’ but didn’t lose a bit of the opulence. It is a truly beautiful play. Candy for both the eyes and the ears.”

The new version and the original both focus on the plight of love. In the story, Lydia Languish, heiress to a fortune, may have read too many romance novels and now wants to marry a penniless corporal. She, however, doesn’t realize that he is the wealthy Jack Absolute scheming to get into her good graces.

With Lydia’s oppressive aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, disapproving of Lydia’s impoverished suitor and an outrageous cast of characters, love letters land in the wrong hands, lines are crossed and many uproarious mistakes are made.

For tickets, call the box office at 283-7478 anytime from noon-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Special discounts are available to all students.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.snow.edu/academics/fineart/theatre.

The Manti City Library, shown here just after sunset, will be the setting for a haunted library tour this Saturday. Before the library was built, the land was the site of the Council House, where many funerals were held.

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Gunnison Mayor Bruce Blackham points to a map where there may be proposed solar development on the outskirts of the city. Blackham will have 20 years as an elected official when his term ends in December. He has many accomplishments under his belt, and a few regrets, but he gives all credit for his contributions to the love and understanding of his wife.

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Wagons are a family affair for Steve Martin (pictured here with his daughter Jamie Nordell), his wife Patty and their three daughters.

[Read more…]

“Medley of Fairy Tales” is the name of a book recently published, written by Sanpete contributors

 

Group of Sanpete writers publish book of retold fairytales

 

By Emily Staley

Staff writer

Sept. 28, 2017

 

FOUNTAIN GREEN—The North Sanpete Fiction Writing Group is celebrating the publication of a newly released anthology of short stories, all written by local authors.

The book, “Medley of Fairy Tales,” is a symbol, as well as the actual product, of action rather daydreaming, and following through to see something to completion.

“If you have something you want to do, do it,” Allison Bradley, the Sanpete Fiction Writing Group’s founder, says. “Don’t just sit around and say you don’t have the resources to do whatever you want to do. Go out and find your resources. When you reach out, there will be people willing to join you.”

Bradley speaks from experience, as she herself decided one day that she wanted someone to talk to about fiction writing. So, she went out and found that resource. Bradley was joined by experienced author Jenni James, a bestselling author of nearly 40 published books. They started started the fiction-writing club out of thin air.

“Having the group gets us to write fiction,” Bradley enlightens, “It’s hard to get yourself do something if you don’t have a reason to. … I enjoy writing, I wanted people to be able to get together, write together and help each other.” Bradley said, and she has accomplished exactly that.

Group member Marla Workman emphasized the value of the group to her. “The hardest part of writing is driving clear to the end, but having the group made it easier because of the support we were able to give each other. We would write, and then critique each other’s writing.”

James Mitchell joined the group at the beginning of its creation in November 2015 at Jenni James’ invitation. He said he could not be happier about the opportunity. “By joining the group, I found a new hobby that I never thought I’d have, and I made new friends as well.”

The group not only helped each other with their writing, but they decided to write a compilation of fairytales together. Each member chose a fairytale and wrote a retelling of the story. They worked together to revise and complete their stories.

“Compiling this book made us strive to improve ourselves to create this published work,” Bradley says.

The book has been a main focus of their meetings, which have been once a month. The book was published Sept. 12 and is now available for purchase.

The Medley of Fairy Tales is written by Jenni James, Allison Brown (Bradley), A. Shepherd, James Elliot, Marla Workman and Jenna Madsen.

“Medley of Fairy Tales” is available for purchase in paperback or Kindle Edition on Amazon.com.

The group is open to newcomers, with members coming from different backgrounds, and who range from all different ages and experience. If interested in joining, contact Bradley at anxbradley@gmail.com.

Thomas Dye (left) plays the Bishop of Lax in Snow College’s production of “See How They Run,” a British farce from the 1940s. To Dye’s right are Blake Verdel (back) playing Penelope Toop and Dakota Davis (right) playing the Rev. Arthur Humphrey.

British farce

‘See how they Run’

opens Snow season

 

By Max Higbee

Staff writer

Sept. 28, 2017

 

EPHRAIM—“See How They Run,” a British farce about mistaken identity, Anglican clergy and wanton drunkenness, is showing at the Eccles Center through Saturday.

The cast and crew have rehearsed the show since the beginning of the school year, memorizing lines, staging scenes and building sets.

“’See How They Run’ is a fun show, and that’s what drew me,” says Brad Olsen, theatre professor at Snow College and director of the play. “I just like when it’s a comic piece, it being a farce, which means it’s full of improbabilities… There’s one scene where a lady knocks a guy out with a toilet plunger.”

The play takes place in England in the 1940s, in the countryside village of Merton-cum-Middlewick. World War II has brought fear of Nazi invasion to the village, and the people are preparing for an invasion, but not at the cost of stopping their own small town drama.

As an aged actress seeks to expose what she suspects is an affair by the town vicar’s wife, an escaped German POW makes his way to town, all while the grandiose bishop of Lax visits the town vicarage. Intrigue and comedy ensue.

The play is performed in a box set. “We haven’t done a box set in almost two years,” Olsen says. “It looks good; we’ve got a really good production team. The designs are really nice. It’s been built well.”

The set is one level with two steps leading up to it. There are a lot of doors. And, Olsen says, a lot of action occurs offstage, but the audience gets to see it, which is unusual. “The garden doors, we leave them open, there’s a lot of capering in the garden, which is a fun bit,” he says.

Corbin Cantrell, a Snow student who plays a policeman in the show, says, “[People] should come if they like comedy, if they like seeing people get hit a lot, if they like a lot of running, a lot of physical comedy and a lot of laughs.”

Olsen advises patrons to try to get seats in the middle section. “It’s a little bit better,” he says.

“See How They Run” opened Wednesday and continues tonight, Friday and Saturday. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for youth (5-18), and $2 for seniors (65 and older) and Snow students with IDs.