Heading north

Judy and I are heading north to Lake Superior for a couple of weeks. I’ll be doing some research on the fur trade in that region, and working on my next history columns while friends take care of our house. We’ll be enjoying the cool weather around the big lake. We may even engage in some of this:


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Kayaking on Lake Superior in 20124. That’s Judy paddling in front while I was taking pictures.

Late July tough on 1869 Powell expedition

Things weren’t looking good in the middle of what we now call Canyonlands National Park in the summer of 1869.

Jack Sumner, the second in command of the John Wesley Powell expedition to explore the Green and Colorado rivers, expressed his concern in his journal.

“July 17th – 18th – 19th – and 20th. In camp taking observations and repairing outfit; examined our stores and found we were getting very short as we were compelled to throw away 200 pounds of flour, that had got wet so often it was completely spoiled.”

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They were camped just below the confluence of the Colorado River (then called the Grand) and the Green River. They hadn’t yet made it into the fearsome Grand Canyon, and they were already seriously short of food. There was grumbling about Powell’s leadership and debates about how and whether to continue.

Most of the expedition members would survive the trip, arriving at the Virgin River at the end of August. But Sumner would harbor animosity toward Powell would for decades.

Even so, the 1869 expedition remains one of the most spectacular tales of exploration of the American West. You can read more at the links above to my history columns. Or pick up a copy of Powell’s book, “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons,” or Wallace Stegner’s biography of Powell, “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian.”

Hall of Fame

The Colorado Plateau Horseman’s Hall of Fame is holding our second annual induction ceremony at the Mesa County Fair this coming Thursday, July 14.

Representatives of the Ute Indian Tribe from Utah, officials from Dinosaur National Monument and family members of two longtime horse-breeders from western Colorado and eastern Utah will be present Thursday, July 14 at 6 p.m. for the ceremony, which will be in the main rodeo arena of the Mesa County Fairgrounds.HoF Logo

Colorado Plateau Horseman’s Hall of Fame’s mission is to recognize and honor those horsemen and horsewomen and organizations, as well as those special horses that have made a significant contribution to the equine industry in western Colorado and eastern Utah.

With that in mind, this year’s honorees include:

  • The Ute Indians, who were the first horsemen and horsewomen of western Colorado and eastern Utah, and who developed the first horse-breeding and horse-trading programs in the region, while also developing the first system of horse trails. They were one of the first Indian tribes in the United States to acquire horses.
  • The Carnegie Horses of Dinosaur National Monument, which collectively hauled more than 350 tons of dinosaur fossils from the monument to a railroad station more than 60 miles away. They were instrumental in the early development of the monument.
  • The late Ben Johnson, a nationally recognized Appaloosa breeder, horse trainer and horse-show judge from the Appleton area of Mesa County. He also helped establish horse programs locally and nationally, worked with young horsemen and horsewomen and became a renowned sculptor whose work depicted horses and the West.
  • The late Joe Taylor, a Moab-area rancher known for raising some of the top quarter horses in the country, including several world champions. He was a dominant breeder during the 1970s and 1980s. For many years, he also served as a judge for horse shows for multiple breeds.

The induction ceremony is made possible with the assistance of supporters such as Absolute Prestige Limousine Service Ltd.; Bud Signs and Neon; and the Mesa County Fairgrounds.

Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor

Reflecting on the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July is a timely tradition. After, the Declaration is the reason for the holiday. And those important early phrases are still critical, even if they have been applied imperfectly in this country throughout our history:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,”

But I have always been struck by the final lines of the Declaration, which don’t receive as much attention. After laying out their case for becoming independent from England, and laying out their case against the king of England, the Founding Fathers knew full well their words would be taken as treason by British authorities, and they could be hanged for signing the Declaration. So the final words of the document are especially meaningful:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.”

I wonder how many people today, myself included, would be willing to pledge their lives and all of their material fortune for this country.