Saturday, May 17, 2008

Frogs Chorus and Mule Bray at Short Creek

East of the Hurricane Fault and tucked up against the South West corner of the Vermilion cliffs that surround Zion National Park lies a quiet little community that has recently found its way into the world's spotlight. The twin cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona straddle the Utah-Arizona border as a single community. Formerly known as Short Creek, it was settled in 1913 by a group of people looking for a remote place to live the religious practice of Polygamy. Historically hounded and driven, they live in a somewhat closed society. Their shyness, born of the intense scrutiny and curiosity that follows them--is a bitter irony since they shun the spotlight that pries into the practices they hold sacred.

In my Optometry practice, I have had a unique opportunity to know them personally in a way that outsiders rarely enjoy. Over the past 10 years, I have taken care of many hundreds of them, including several of those who were rounded up in the Texas raid last month. In many circles, these are fighting words, but contrary to popular opinion they are among the finest people you can find in this world. The institutional child abuse and pedophilia wildly assumed to be part of their culture is in fact isolated and rare. The FLDS children and adults I have known over the years are genuinely happy people. The children are uncommonly gracious, respectful, and inquisitive--most showing obvious signs of good parenting. They live simple, devoted lives and follow strict guidelines regarding modesty and morality that defy what the media reports as fact.

Unfortunately for them, outsiders like me who know them well are counted on fingers. As a result, the dehumanization and marginalization of the FLDS people has been far too easy. So here we sit, Americans who cherish Constitutionally guaranteed liberty, pursuit of happiness and due process, cheering Texas as they strip my neighbors of theirs because they dress like pioneers and live a hated religious lifestyle. Sadly, few dare to openly stand up for them. To my dear friends in Short Creek, I wish you God-speed.

Hildale is the gateway to this week's mule trek. I hear the top of Canaan Mountain has quakies and a beautiful small lake, so my boys and I packed up and headed that way with a verbal description from one of my next door neighbors who has been there. Sorry Elvin, but you lost me. I had to call on Lawrence Steed of Hildale who came to the rescue with Topo maps and an experienced guide. That got us to the trail head and a mind's eye view of the terrain we were facing. The only way up with horses is the Squirrel trail, we are told, and even that might be very risky. It was. When we got to the final ascent, I tied the pack mule, left my boys below, and went up to see what the top looked like by myself, then made my way back down. The boys were delighted to go back down to the grassy narrows for the overnighter we had planned.

Its a beautiful canyon. As we rode towards the head of the stream lined narrows, we began to hear a chorus of frogs. The canyon walls offered an incredible acoustic that magnified their already big voices. We struck camp in a pretty meadow with a watercress filled spring that fed the central stream and the boys spent the rest of the evening chasing frogs.

As I lay wrapped in my bedroll, looking through the narrow star-filled gap above me--my three sons worn out and dreaming, the world went away for awhile. I was in a grand tabernacle with a chorus of frogs, in sharp harmony against the constant babble of the brook. My young mule, worried about where she was tied, offered her lonely bray in rounds of four pretty evenly across the entire movement. Finally at 4 or 5 am, the last encore was over and only the brook had the energy to continue. What majesty!! The Master of all conductors has performed a brilliant piece just for me!

Next morning the boys slept in for a while before going back on the frog hunt. As we finished up somewhere around noon, it was obvious that summer has finally arrived. The canyon wasn't bad, but we knew coming out was going to be warm. No matter. One of the great secrets in Short Creek is a little pizza and icecream place called Craigos. Our family makes it a point never to travel anywhere near Short Creek on a full stomach. Jared and Lil make the best Pizza Bombs (Calzones) you will ever find. My boys probably came on this trip, mostly on the promise that we could have lunch there on the way out. There is no where to sit, but the food and cheerful help are worth far more trouble than that.


sharebear said...

Craigos. Maybe we'll have to take a trip down there just for the pizza.
I'm sure those people in Hildale and Co. City appreciate your kindness and unbiased judgements. We need more of that in this country. Thanks

Paul said...

Its worth the drive all by itself. We could go together if you wish, but be'll never pass that way again without stopping. :)

BonBon said...

Yum! Sounds good.

Once again thanks for taking me with you on another of your fun outings.

You don't have to convince me about the unfortunate families involved in Texas. From day one I was upset with Texas and their UNCONSTITUTIONAL approach to this situation. I have thought that if they took the same size group from anywhere, they would find the same ratio of abuse that they claim is so rampant there. There is a major injustice going on and if it is allowed to continue then we all have need to worry that if we are different than everyone else and our neighbor screws up then they can come and take us all. Or if the government doesn't like our religion then they can come and gather us all up and deal with us as they wish without any reason.

Ok climbing down off of my soap box.

Thanks again for the wonderful trip through God's great country.

Tamster said...

Beautifully written, as usual! Amen to all that's been said, and thanks for the tour. Nice pics! :-)

Huck Finn & Co. said...

Amen Paul! The slippery slope is in our path. Unbelievable that an entire group can be rounded up on the basis of a prank call. I hear now that all these children will be permanantly taken away unless the mothers denounce polygamy. I am sure there are some men invloved who are not innocent, and some young girls forced into marraige by Warren Jeffs- so prosecute the offenders, dont punish the mothers and children. I have really learned over this past year that you can barely believe a word of what the media says. And I do believe as you have said that by and large, these are very good people. Do you think that their leaders are abusive from what you are aware of. My thoughts on Warren Jeffs are not positive in any way. Curious about what you know of him...

Huck Finn & Co. said...

By the way, once again I am blown away by your writing talent. You really should write a book or do some freelance stuff for magazines or newspapers. I almost feel too simple to leave a comment, what with the unbelievable skill you employ with words and all...

Iditadad said...

Another glorious experience - thanks for sharing. Love WoW