my personal utah

When you hear the word UTAH, what’s the first word that comes to mind?

Is it Mormon?

Actually, as of a 2004 count, only 62.4 percent were Latter Day Saints as they prefer to be called, with every county showing a decrease nearly every year.

Perhaps it was Polygamy?

The church ended the practice of plural marriage officially in 1890. There is that splintered fundamentalist group, FLDS, who still take several “spiritual” wives even though they may already have a legal wife.

When we announced our intention to move to Utah, I can’t tell you how many of our Las Vegas friends teased me about Hubby looking to take on several more wives–that’s why he wanted to live here. But move we did, in 2005, and it didn’t take us long to discover there was much, much more to Utah than Mormons.

The following year, as friends arrived from Nevada and other states to visit us, we did ride around looking at some of the enormous houses along the mountain benches and speculating that they were certainly big enough to hold more than one family, but that got old pretty fast.

Then we discovered Antelope Island State Park close to the Great Salt Lake, about 25 miles north of here. As a wildlife refuge for all sorts of wildlife, you can see all kinds of animals and birds there, and now it’s one of the first places we take our visitors to see.

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Before we moved here, the only places I’d ever seen Bison were in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming–and on a few of those really old buffalo nickels when I was a kid. Three years ago when we were visiting the island with friends from Las Vegas, we saw this handsome fellow. He caught our camera’s attention because he was separate from the rest of the group among these pretty wild sunflowers.

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As our friend crept closer and closer with her fancy SLR digital camera to get as up close and personal a shot as possible (that resulted in this picture) he looked up with a little too much interest directed her way for the comfort of us waiting in the car.

Watch out! Looks like he may be looking for a girlfriend! we yelled, whereupon she turned and ran like crazy to hop into the car. No use saying NO to a fellow as big and strong as this one.

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We sat there in the car cowering for awhile and urging Romeo to not go away mad, but just go away. Finally he gave up and walked across the road, taking his good sweet time. Thank goodness our car was a mite bigger with four nondescript but noisy critters (us) inside.

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In the meantime, not far away, this cute little fellow was out looking for dinner, and had something in his sight–most probably a poor little field mouse–when I took this picture.

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A little later, over at the Fielding Garr Ranch on the island, we met this little doe, who was orphaned earlier that year. Free to come and go, she came into this barn every day for food and shelter provided by the docents at the ranch. I don’t have a picture, but there was also a barn owl living there too, in the rafters.

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A horse is a horse of course, of course, and a ranch isn’t a ranch without them. These are wild mustangs who live there, though technically they’re not wild anymore. Nor free I might add as the fences behind them attest.

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Rest up, fellows! I have a feeling you’re going to be very, very busy for a couple of days or more come Saturday.

Those bison, you see, have few natural enemies here except the coyote and I think he’d go for the little critters before he’d bother fighting with a bison. We don’t have grizzlies here, and the last wolf reported here was in 2002 when they were reintroduced to the west, but he was repatriated back to Wyoming as far as I can tell, so the bison are left to reproduce as much as they want.

The only way to keep the herds thinned out then, is by rounding them up. They’re going to be doing that on Saturday, October 31, beginning at 8:00 in the morning and the public is invited to witness.They’ll be weighed, blood-tested, inoculated and the microchips implanted behind their ears as a permanent identification and health history will be scanned. And close to 200 will be culled out.

I witnessed a bison roundup few years back. It was old west all the way watching those volunteer cowboys galloping behind a herd of bison, whooping it up and having a fine time. But witnessing the roundup was bittersweet, just as growing up an animal lover on a farm was. Excess bison, you see, are sold at auction to keep the island’s available forage at capacity. I understand that, but they’ll be sold to whomever wants them. I suspect that some will wind up in buffalo burgers.  Maybe Romeo met the same fate in the 2006 roundup that took place later that year.

Now tell me, next time you hear the word UTAH, or the next time you sit down in front of a plate loaded with french fries and a buffalo burger, what’s the first thing you’ll think about? If you want to see the roundup, hop on a plane and get on over here.

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12 thoughts on “my personal utah

  1. Mormon missionaries used to come around our house in the seventies and my sisters and I were big Osmond fans. That’s where we got the impression of Utah as being a ‘Mormon’ state. Ony four per cent Mormon? How misled can one be? Lovely post, Alice, I loved the wildlife photos.

    • Thanks, Gaelikaa. Actually the number is 62.4% but more like 40% or less here in SLC. And it doesn’t surprise me at all that they visited you in Ireland.

  2. Utah: LDS….oh, yes, I do. For G’s brother, wife, three nephews and a niece plus their kids are all LDS and feel very strongly about it. There community is at 50% LDS now. They live far away up in the corner of the state near Flaming Gorge and Dinosaur National Monument and the Green River at Vernal. All of which are marvelous, but the only way to get there is to drive….endlessly. If I had known you when we were there last, we could have had a quick lunch in passing.

    • I knew you had kin here was always a little fuzzy about where they lived. I’m sorry we missed the opportunity to meet, but now that you know, you’d better put me on the list next time you’re through here! That would be super.

  3. First, I am so glad you called them Bison! I worked for The Nature Conservancy for many years in California and in particular on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve where many bison were released to enjoy. I love these photos – they’re awesome. And Utah deserves more PR like you are giving it – I never knew it had such rich flora and fauna even though I know it is surrounded by other states with such natural beauty.

    • I’m glad you liked the photos. Utah is undersold, but everyone I know–transplants that is–came here for one reason or another and discovered it for themselves and decided to either come back or stay. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen in this country and as you probably know we have no dearth of naturally beautiful places across the U.S. I hope you’ll decide to visit someday. A list of must sees for nature lovers: Farmington Bay in spring for the bald eagles and pelicans; great salt lake anytime; any of the numerous hiking trails in the Millcreek and Mount Olympus area; trails along the Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood in mid-to-late summer for the wildflowers; Park City and site of 2002 winter olympics for skiing in winter; downtown around temple square during Christmas holidays, especially on a snowy evening. The horse and buggy rides and the people all bundled up to ice skate or check out the LDS holiday displays at the tabernacle will make you feel like you’re in a Dicken’s christmas tale.

  4. Since we’re still enjoying warm breezy days here in the Gulf South, I got a little shiver when I thought of a ride through the snow. It sounds beautiful – I love the big bold landscapes of the west – even while my soul is nourished by the colors of the bayous and the fecundity of flora that comes from living with your feet always wet. One time in driving back from New Orleans to California, we did a drive by of almost nine national parks – I still remember Four Corners and the awesomeness of each. Maybe one day we’ll house swap and relax in each other’s backyards.

    • We did the four corners area more than ten years ago. We’ve been thinking about doing it again next year for our annual road trip. It’s desolate but beautiful and I have a wonderful story about an old Navajo man I met there who fell when he was building his hogy; he hurt his back and we drove him to the hospital. You know how they say you “the kingly you” can be the best thing about someone’s visit to another state or country, well, HE was the best memory that came from that trip.

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