Halloween in Utah




Tonight is Mischief Night and thankfully, Utahn teens have apparently never heard of it.  We are not treated to car windows being soaped, toilet tissue being thrown up in the trees (well, having no trees to speak of helps), or other forms of even more malicious mischief.

Haunted corn mazes, houses, and horror shows are really popular out here as the above posters demonstrate.  The Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus is particularly disturbing and, therefore, a huge hit:  seventeen eighteen-wheeler trailers hooked together with clown/circus torture themes for your viewing pleasure.

I’m still trying to figure out why Halloween is such a big holiday/event out here in Utah.  Yes, I get it: Halloween is a huge celebration on many levels across the country.  We hear the numbers each year about how much money is spent on candy, costumes (children’s, adults’, pets’) and it’s staggering.  I guess there are adult Halloween parties out here, but I don’t hear of too many.  Charlie, our corgi, will have to endure his hot dog costume for a third straight year.

The puzzlement is that out here in heavily Mormon-land, where other religions, even mainstream, if you’re LDS, remain somewhat mysterious and pagan-based religions are real no-nos, a holiday with its roots deep in early pre-Christian beliefs seems like something that wouldn’t be stressed/ encouraged as much as it is.

The interesting thing is, ask most locals (read: Mormons) about the origins of Halloween and most people haven’t a clue.  They don’t connect it to any pagan, earth goddess beliefs, nor do they attach it to the night before All Souls’ Day (November 1), where on All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en) the veil between the earth and heaven is supposed to be at its thinnest, allowing the departed easy access to returning to the earth.  All Souls’ Day is when we remember the departed (who probably just visited those who stayed behind on earth).  Did these returning spirits–ghosts–want treats, threatening tricks if no treats were forth-coming?

When I ask the Halloween visitors to our door what their trick is if I don’t hand out treats, they have no Idea what I mean.  To them, “Trick or treat” is just a catch phrase.  When I was a kid and out on the candy circuit, I, as did my friends, had a trick ready, just in case!  We weren’t taking any chances.

Now, these candy hunters have already been through a round of their LDS church ward trunk or treat parties last weekend.  Church members decorate their car trunks and hand out candy in the church parking lots to young ones in gender correct costumes.  I’ve mentioned this before, no cross-dressing for the young folks.  Girls can’t be Superman and boys can’t be cheerleaders.  Please.  Dress appropriately to your sex.

It’s a big candy food chain: get your candy and then within the week after Halloween, take it to your dentist and convert it to cash.  You get $2.00 for every pound of unwanted candy brought in.  And where, you ask, does all this candy go?  To the food banks and women’s/children’s shelters so those folks (who probably don’t have dental insurance or even get to a dentist regularly) get to eat it and get cavities!  Go figure.

Oh well, who am I to spoil Halloween?

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hoodoos and Road Kill


Two odd and somewhat disturbing news stories have been playing out here in Utah, and one nationally, since last week and they are upsetting enough to deserve a comment or two.

I’m sure by now–since it’s made multiple national news broadcasts–you’re all aware of the 3 mindless idiots that recently, as scout leaders no less, toppled over a hoodoo, a mega million year-old rock formation in southern Utah, all in the name of “public safety.”  They filmed themselves performing this geologic vandalism and then were stupid enough to post the video on YouTube!  What did they expect to happen?  Applause?  Accolades?  Thank you notes from a grateful public?

Of course their exploits went viral and it wasn’t long before the state authorities took notice.  These hoodoos are found mostly in Goblin Valley State Park which remained open during the recent government shutdown, hence the scout troop’s access to them.  Watching the video clip it’s obvious that the rather large hoodoo is stable and still attached to the rock base below it.  Now, granted, red rock formations will fall, break, or collapse as part of their natural “life” cycle, as erosion doesn’t stop.  Several years ago, Arches National Park lost one of its more well-known long-span arches after it finally collapsed under its own weight; but no one helped it along in the interest of public safety.

As these incidents often do, this case is getting stranger all the time.  It seems the guy who did the heavy pushing filed a lawsuit recently for an auto accident from 4 years ago because he suffered “permanent impairment and disability.”  Yet he risked his health because he was concerned about the random hiker walking by who might be injured by this particular falling hoodoo.  It now seems the insurance company he’s suing might want to have a chat with him.

Of course, the Boy Scouts registered horror and disgust, publishing a public statement on the incident.  And as of the noon news today, October 21, all three men have been relieved of their Scout leadership positions and responsibilities.  Just think what would happen if every visitor pushed over a rock formation or erased a petroglyph.  This is vandalism in one of its worst forms.  In case you missed the video clip, here’s a link:


As for the road kill item, Dixon Pitcher (R-Ogden), a state legislator would like to get a law passed that would give people the option of putting road kill on the dinner table should they have the misfortune of having a vehicular accident with a big-game animal.  Other legislators are a bit wary, as they fear this might lead to more poaching.  Now, the current law allows a driver who has hit a large animal to keep it if they get a permit from the Division of Wildlife Resources.  But the deal is once the permit is obtained (not sure how long that takes), they have to surrender the antlers.

If the new law is passed, Utah Highway Patrol officers could issue a free permit on the spot, thereby fast-tracking the paperwork.  The person could keep the antlers and process the meat.  Of course there are concerns that a person will hit a big-game animal intentionally (I guess the car is an older model and expendable).  Out here in Utah, big game goes beyond deer; you can add big-horn sheep, bison, and moose to the list.

Sigh.  Is this possible only in Utah?

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

At a Loss for Words

This posting may be short.  For the first time since I started this blog almost 4 years ago, I have nothing.  There’s not any weird Utah news to comment upon, the Chicken Chronicle stories have dried up, the obituaries are no longer as entertaining as they once were, I’m out of garden updates as the frost has been nipping at the plants,  and the government seems to be ready to open again (full of smiles, aren’t they proud of themselves!?).

The only item I can mention, and it made the national news, was a woman in a close-by town was trying to evade the police and ran the railroad tracks in her car, getting hit not once, but twice, by 2 different trains and she walked away from the crashes!  She’s now in jail for resisting arrest.

We’re ramping up for Halloween and the Trunk or Treat parties, usually hosted by the local LDS Ward churches are dropping off their circulars announcing the festivities.  All neighborhood children and families are welcome, but remember, all kids must be in gender appropriate costumes: no cross-dressing cheerleaders and no female Spidermen!

Election time is almost here and in 3 weeks, the Utah voting machines will be open.  Our super mayor, Jamie Nagle, is not running again for election.  Issues in town council were so contentious, that I guess she figured she had better things to do with her time.  So we have a slate of good old boys and one write-in candidate who’s a bit goofy and odd; my kind of candidate.  I may just have to vote for him.  If he got elected, I have a hunch that he would be a real thorn in the side of the rest of the council members and that would be fun!

Syracuse council still won’t grant a liquor license for a restaurant, so all the nicer eateries are 2 towns over, up in Layton, taking the valuable tax dollars away from us.  And then residents complain about having no funds for street repairs and other infrastructure projects.  Because Syracuse is trying to promote itself  as the “Gateway town to Antelope Island” the town needs to have reasons for visitors to stop.  The few paltry pizza shops and a RIb Shack plus many empty storefronts are not reason enough.  Council needs to get past its holier-than-thou Mormon mind-set and allow alcoholic beverages to be served in food establishments.  What’s a pizza or ribs without a cold brew?

Are you bored yet?  Well, I am out of comments for this week, this is a slightly shorter post.  Hopefully, I’ll have something more clever by next week.

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 6:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Padlocked Parks

I’m sure we’ve all heard how the Veterans’ groups successfully “stormed” the WWII National Memorial in Washington, D.C. recently after it was barricaded when the government shut down.  I enjoy thinking that if they could storm the beaches of Normandy, they could certainly break through some metal barriers, even if many were in wheelchairs and using walkers!

Besides almost countless national monuments and historical properties in the US,  there are 59 National Parks in 27 states and two territories–all padlocked and closed to the public at the moment.  What a pity.  I’ve heard TV news reports that it’s costing taxpayers more money to keep them closed compared to the money that would flow into the national, state, and local coffers on a daily basis if they were open.

Okay, National Parks like Carlsbad Caverns (where the bats fly) or Mammoth Cave can more easily be shut to the public as both are fairly closed environments.  But how does one “close” the Great Smoky Mountains?  Or the Grand Canyon?  Or Yellowstone?  Or a volcano in Hawai’i?

Utah, having 5 National Parks, is really feeling the pinch.  The 5 parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Capital Reef are clustered in the southern part of the state and are huge contributors to the local economy (lodging, tour guides, restaurants, etc.).  And there are many National Monuments here as well like Grand Staircase-Escalante, Dinosaur Park , Flaming Gorge, Four Corners Area, Monument Valley, and Lake Powell that are all closed too.  October is one of the favorite months for tourism as it isn’t so hot, the weather is usually predictable, and the heavy snowfalls haven’t started yet.  So the local folks who depend on visitors are really hurting.  It would be like the federal government blocking access roads to the Jersey Shore at the height of the vacation season.

Bryce Canyon Arch after an early snowfall.

One of the Utah counties involved, San Juan, has been hit really hard.  It’s an unusual situation; only 8% of the county is private land.  You can do the math; that means 92% of the county is federally controlled parkland.  With the parks being shut down, basically no revenue is coming into the county in the form of taxes or fees.  So, a San Juan County commissioner has decided that he will defy the shutdown order and forcefully remove the barrIcades as soon as possible.  And he has the local sheriffs on his side!  This could get interesting.

On top of all this, federal land management in Utah is a touchy subject out here.  Many Utahns who have ATVs and want total access to all Utah land rail at the control over what they consider “their” land from the powers to be far away in Washington, D.C.  Trails are strictly monitored and off-roading is denied.  On one hand, I can see the need to protect delicate formations, plants, and Native American ruins, often easily accessible on ATVs.  The other side, argued by locals, is that the federal government has taken over too much of Utah’s land and should give it back.  Did you know that the federal government owns 64% of the state of Utah?  I don’t know who’s right, but it’s a heated issue.

And with the feds owning more than half of Utah, you can appreciate how much of an impact the shutdown has had.

Published in: on October 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Calling All Scouting Enthusiasts!

Some of you readers may recall when I shared that the Islander newspaper was ceasing production at once about a month ago.  I had submitted an article on the new feature exhibit at the museum on scouting.  Regrettably, it never got published.  As I had done extra research on it, I was proud of how it turned out and, even though scouting is not everyone’s experience (mine included) I have decided to share it here, so it will at least see the light of day.  So indulge me, as this will probably be the true end of the run (Actually, I do have one more article about a pump organ that would work at Christmas–we’ll see….)

“Be Prepared”–Scouting Exhibit Now at Syracuse Museum

No one–especially here in Utah–would dispute that Scouting can be an integral part of growing up, especially for boys and girls who are troop members.  We all look forward to Girl Scout cookies each spring and Boy Scouts doing their service projects are always visible in the community.  Thanks to the generosity of several local residents, a new exhibit looking back on the history of scouting to the present is now on display in the Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center.

Case of patches

This exhibit is timed perfectly to coincide with the celebration of 100 years of sponsorship by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  In 1913, a mere three years after Boy Scouting was established in the United States by William D. Boyce, inspired by the British model, the LDS church became the first chartered partner of Scouting, adopting the program as part of the church’s Mutual Improvement Association for young men.

Since 1910, when it was founded, to roughly the present, more than 110 million Americans have been members of Boy Scouts of America.  According to the most recent figures, from 2011, of the top 10 chartered organizations who sponsor troops, the LDS Church as a whole in the U.S., has by far the most troop units: 37,882 with youth membership totaling 420,9977 boys and young men.

With the stated goals of responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance, it is easy to see how these ideals dovetail into church involvement and support.  The different levels of Boy Scouting: Cubs, Scouts, and Eagle Scouts all demand time, effort and dedication from participants to be successful.  Over the years Scouting has been in existence, over 2 million Americans have earned Eagle Scout status including many notables: Astronaut Neil Armstrong; President Gerald Ford; Academy Award Winning (2002) film director Michael Moore; Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York (2002–present); and the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Included in the BSA Centennial Timeline booklet, published in 2010, are several interesting facts many may be unaware of:

* In 1913, artist Norman Rockwell began working as an illustrator for Boy’s Life magazine.

* Scouts planted thousands of gardens in 1917 to support the WWI effort.  Members also sold almost $200 million worth of bonds and savings stamps.

* In 1928, Sea Scout Paul Siple journeyed to Antarctica with Admiral Richard Byrd.

* Throughout WWII Scouts volunteered on the home front for the war effort and assisted the American Red Cross, as well as the Office of Civil Defense.

* In 1952, the BSA initiated a get-out-the-vote campaign to encourage Americans to fulfill their citizenship duties at the voting booth.

* New tan and green uniforms, designed by fashion icon Oscar de la Renta, were unveiled in 1982.

The exhibit was made possible by several local residents who cherish the importance of Scouting and graciously loaned personal items, collections, and memorabilia.  Eric Squire of Clearfield provided his collection of many early editions of the Scout Manual, other related publications and a pup tent.  David Pearse of Syracuse provided three generations-worth of merit badges, Eagle Scout badges and pins, as well as commemorative patches, including the new one marking the LDS Church’s centenary of sponsoring Scouting.  Cleone Cook, also of Syracuse, loaned her jacket whose lapel proudly sports 21 silver Eagle Scout pins touting the accomplishments of her sons and grandsons.   The Lawrence Cook (Cleone’s husband) family also loaned some personal items to help round out the exhibit.

Although by now, Syracuse boasts other Scout troops, many of the personal items reflect involvement in the local Syracuse Troop #152, “Eagle’s Nest,” which marks its beginnings in 1923 and is still going strong.  There is a presentation a museum visitor can view which introduces one to the early Eagle Scouts in Syracuse.

Anyone with a connection with Scouting would do well to stop by and relive some memories as well as share stories.  The exhibit will be on display through December.  This would also be an excellent opportunity for area Cub and Scout Troops to visit the museum.  The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on October 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment