John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 18, 2008

The second fastest-growing community in the country — Greeley, CO. is no. 1 — St. George (pop: 68,000) is popular with retirees for its relatively inexpensive living and year-around sunshine. (In midsummer, however, temperatures have reached 118 degrees). About 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas on I-15, it’s a pleasant place for vacation.
– St. George, Utah

THE MAN WHO first recruited Sarah Palin for the Wasilla City Council in 1992 now lives in Ivins, 11 miles northwest of here, and he is not pleased to note her new eminence. Nick Carney recalls that his daughter and the woman then known as Sarah ‘Barracuda’ Heath played basketball together and although Palin did well at first on the council, when she ran for mayor, she injected politics into the race for the first time in the town’s history. Then, he alleges, in her first year of office Palin used $55,000 of city road maintenance funds to remodel her office without city council permission;  and fired many long-term city employees, appointing the Alaskan Republican Party’s former lawyer to be the new city attorney, settling a political debt.

CONTESTS NEVER HEARD OF elsewhere, are part of the Huntsman World Senior Games which brought almost 10,000 athletes from 60 different countries — every competitor over 50 — to St. George in early October.  The games close today. In addition to familiar golf, swimming, and volleyball, competitors battled in the game of Pickle Ball, a type of miniature tennis with smaller rackets, which got its name from the first time it was invented when a dog called Pickles ran away with the ball.

LOCAL TEENS have been innovative in hiding their drug use writes Cami Cox in Today in Dixie as part of a report on growing drug use in local high schools. Disguising the smell of marijuana inside tinfoil and dryer sheets and using eye drops to hide bloodshot eyes were commonplace among teenagers she explained, adding that business was booming for hallway drug pushers. “Almost everybody’s doing it now — even Mormon kids,” she was told by a 14-year-old informant who referred to such ‘code words’ as have you got my herbal? or have you got the stuff? “Cause ‘stuff’ could mean anything and so they can’t accuse us.”

WHEN BATTLING RIVALS Utah State (‘the Aggies’) and Brigham Young University (‘the Cougars’) met last weekend, the latter won the football game 34-14, notching their 15th successive win. But in another contest, the situation was reversed according to the Salt Lake Tribune which reported on the “taste-off” between the creameries of the two colleges, among only 15 in the country that make their own ice cream. USU’s dairy history dates back a century to the date when it began as a teaching and research laboratory. It makes 1,000 gallons of ice cream a week, the favorite being Aggie Blue Mint. BYU makes 200,000 gallons a year, stemming from 1948 when its College of Agriculture needed to handle the milk from its dairy herd. Earnestly Chocolate, named after a former college president, is the favorite. The Tribune enlisted 40 volunteers for the blind tasting which the Aggies won.

AN INNOCENT-LOOKING green plant, the tamarisk, has proved to be such a menace in Southern Utah that after years of trying to eradicate it by mowing, cutting, and root plowing, local authorities have turned to a living predator — the salt cedar beetle. This tiny “ladybug-like” insect loves to eat the leaves of the tamarisk which grows in almost impenetrable thickets as much as 25 feet high; it not only creates saltier soils but a single plant can consume nearly 200 gallons of water a day. The west, according to estimates, is thus losing as much as four million acre-feet of water a year from this pesky plant, enough to supply 20 million people.

LOCAL ELECTIONS HERE are likely to hinge on an increasingly common issue in the West — the water supply. In this case, the subject is the proposed 169-mile pipeline which would funnel water from Lake Powell to southern Utah. Estimated to cost as much as $1 billion, it is opposed by the Democratic candidate for a seat on the three-member Washington County Commission, Lin Alder, who says his party has not been represented on the Commission since 1958. “We have to convince 19,000 voters who traditionally vote for a Republican (to change sides),” says Alder, whose website has the banner His incumbent opponent, Alan Gardner, claims that the pipeline is vital. “People think there are all these resources of water we can get to, and that is just not the case. If we don’t build the pipeline we’re going to be without water in the future.”

WHATEVER THE MERITS or otherwise of the Mormon religion, its leader Brigham Young (1801-77) was a formidable man and his winter home in St. George is a major tourist attraction. Taking over at the death of Mormon founder Joseph Smith in 1844, he led his flock by wagon train from Nauvoo, IL, across the plains and deserts to the new base in Salt Lake City where, in the words of the English writer Harold J. Stepstone, he  “dug canals, imported plants and animals. built railways and telegraphs, established industries and banks. constructed theaters and universities, and encouraged literature, music, and art.” In 1861 he sent 300 of his pioneer flock to St. George where they briefly grew cotton (hence the local name for the region, Dixie). Young also fathered 57 children which may explain why his winter home here (summer temperatures have topped 118 degrees) has so many beds.

IN BRIEF: One of Brigham Young’s cousins, George Smith, urged his fellow settlers to eat raw, unpeeled potatoes with their high level of vitamin A to cure a bout of scurvy. It worked and Smith was thereafter known as ‘the potato king” by grateful survivors who named the town after him…..At least half a dozen motels, most with swimming pools, have rooms for less than $30 a night in St. George, a town where almost everything costs 10 or 20% less than California…..In a letter to the local paper, a reader suggested that one way to save $90 million a year would be to fire all the members of Congress….Sign in a local soft ice cream store: ‘STRESSED’ IS ‘DESSERTS’ BACKWARDS…..The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians was the subject of a talk at last month’s St. George Book Festival by its author Carla Morris….After a recent haul of 20,000 marijuana plants, some 14 ft tall, 30 miles north of here in Pine Valley, Washington County police have warned hunters and other visitors to watch out for “booby traps and snares” when visiting the area. It is wise for us to forget our troubles, there are always new ones to replace them.” — Brigham Young (1801-77)