Wasatch to Winnemucca
A Lost Flag, Wookie, and Truck Stop Tricks
Woodside, Utah, May 1. A kestrel sits on a bench outside the run-down looking gas station. He is tied to a falconry glove. His head rotates as he watches the German shepherd Wookie play stick with Claire. Roy Pogue, who’s son owns the kestrel, tells us about the cold water geyser out back. It is one of five such geysers in the world. This is true.
We decide to wait for the next eruption. Roy tells us about how his gas station came to be a post office and a town. It is the only stop between Green River and Wellington. It is not on the map, but it has is a U.S. Post Office. When Roy Pogue decided to re-open the old gas station and outpost, he discovered that he couldn’t get mail there because he was neither in the Green River or Wellington zip codes; he was in the Woodside zip code, which had been discontinued when the town died many years ago. Not being the type of man to be easily discouraged, Roy waded through the necessary paperwork and re-established zip code 84544 for his town. (Send them a card!)
So Roy and his son have a gas station/store, a post office and a geyser in the middle of a gray desert on the Price river.
The Price river is running full of muddy water, and Roy’s son is off doing a shuttle for a river rafter. They do what has to be done to live. It’s the desert way.
A couple on bikes arrive and we tell them about the geyser, which has now began to erupt. The girl (she is very young) walks with Claire and me across a dusty lot, through a gate, past broken farm equipment and trucks to the geyser. It is hot and bright.
The geyser erupts in the middle of a pool of water. White crystals surround the pool and a mustard stained stream runs away from it. The Southern Pacific railroad runs behind the geyser, and behind that are gray cracked-clay hillocks, bare of life. The sky is pale blue.
We stand and watch the geyser rise and fall 20 or so feet, (a small eruption we are told,) it makes unusual guttural sounds. We watch, and then we turn and walk away. We wonder at what we have seen.
There is an old cemetery out there, on one of those gray hillocks; forgotten desert rats. Something to come back for.
There are mysteries in the desert. One of them has to do with large paper cups filled with sand and placed at frequent intervals along this road. We ask Roy. It seems there is an old man who, every year in the summer, walks the 60 miles between Green River and Wellington picking up trash. He fills the paper cups, which he finds in the ditches, with sand and places them in lines up the road-cuts, to let him know where to begin picking again the next day. And yet he leaves the cups from year to year.
Roy is a Vietnam veteran, a sharpshooter, who has bad memories of what he had to do, and not a little anger at his government, and at a woman war protester who spit on him when he returned. And yet he is warm and open, friendly with strangers, and a good father to his son.
He is happy in the desert. So many are who might not be in a more socially demanding location. People are left alone to be themselves this far from town.
Desert rats live.
After we left Wookie and Roy and Woodside, we had bad side winds that turned to headwinds and hills. When we stopped here the first time it was only 60 miles, but we were beat.
Our day was not over.