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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