Postcard From Dead Horse Point

Yes, that is droppings from an obviously live horse at the
entrance to Dead Horse Point Park. Sometimes you find
the picture and sometimes the picture finds you.
32 miles outside of Moab, Utah is Dead Horse Point State Park. The park is 5,362 acres of isolated high desert with breathtaking views overlooking Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River. The view from Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed in the world and was used in the movie Thelma and Louis as the spot where they drove over the edge of the Grand Canyon instead of filming the actual Grand Canyon as the view was more spectacular.

From the lookout point at the end of a narrow neck of land, you can see layers of ground representing 300 million years of earth's history. Look down the vertical walls of rock to the valley floor over 2,000 feet down. From the same spot you can look out and see the snow topped La Sal Mountains rising 12,000 feet.

In the 1800's, cowboys used this narrow finger of land sticking out over the valley for capturing wild horses. Fanning out in a u-shape, they would chase the animals onto the point and then block off any escape by piling up brush & dead tree's across the narrow neck of the plateau which is only 30 yards wide. This formed a 40-acre natural corral and the cowboys could then cull out the best horses for breaking and eventual ranch use. The old, young and small-in-stature mustangs (called "broomtails") would be left behind to find their way back into the wild.

The Colorado River 2,000 feet below the point
In the late 1800's, a large herd of wild horses were driven to the point and the "gate" of brush and dead tree's was put in place. For some unknown reason, several hundred horses were trapped on the point and kept circling and circling until they died of thirst. They could see the Colorado River with its life-sustaining water, but it was 2,000 feet straight down. Nobody seems to know the reason the horses were trapped - some say a sudden storm came up causing the cowboys to leave with the intention of coming back but for some reason never did; some say the cowboys got lazy, left only a narrow path through the "gate" when they departed and the remaining horses became confused and couldn't find the small opening. Whatever the reason, the name "Dead Horse Point" came about when several riders found hundreds of horse skeletons on the waterless point of the plateau, scattered in and about a large circle of hardened ground where they kept on the move looking for a way to get to the water until, one by one, they fell exhausted and died.


Postcard From Utah

One of my favorite roads in Utah
Having traveled in every state in the U.S. except Alaska (on my bucket list), other than my native Texas, one of my favorite places is Utah. The 10th least densely populated state, it is home to only about 3 million folks and the vast majority of those reside in and around Salt Lake City. That leaves the rest of the state to small towns, open spaces and long stretches of road winding through some of the most wild an beautiful landscape you will ever see.

While Utah has the wooded mountains of the Wasatch Range and the Unita Mountains with their snow-capped peaks rising over 13,500', the region I prefer is the scenic southern and southeastern area's with its rugged, stark landscapes of weathered sandstone. Here is where National Parks such as Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef and Zion can be found. There are also numerous state parks such as Dead Horse Point and Monument Valley.

Best of all are the seemingly hundreds of remote hiking trails where you can go for hours without seeing another person; where you can be awed and totally transfixed by the power of nature and its beauty; where you can be standing in a shallow, gurgling stream of crystal clear water in between two sheer canyon walls rising hundreds of feet and feel  as if you are nothing more than a little ant lucky to live on this amazing planet. You don't need to go to a huge, beautiful but impersonal cathedral with stained-glass windows and it doesn't have to be on a Sunday morning, stop and look, stop and listen, this is where you meet God.

Hoodoos (also called Fairy Chimneys) in
Bryce Canyon National Park

The start of another great day...

...and the end of one.

Big Bo Head

On one of my little road trips, I found myself rather aimlessly driving south out of Mount Pleasant, Texas on Highway 271. It was a good day for aimless driving on backroads - late spring before the heat becomes uncomfortable for even us native Texans, just me in the pickup singing along to music I grew up with (songs the middle-age adults call "Oldies, but goodies" and the teenagers call "old timey stuff") and raising an index finger in greeting to the few oncoming cars I encountered. You never know what you might find when you drive off the interstate, but I was still a bit surprised when I starting seeing numerous poultry processing buildings, but no chickens to go with them. Just a few more miles down the road and before hitting the town limit signs for Pittsburg, I came upon a large, white-columned pavilion topped off with the bust of a man wearing a big, black Pilgrim hat complete with a buckle. I knew right away what I had stumbled upon - the headquarters for Pilgrim's Pride, the largest producer of chickens in America.
Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim and his brother Aubrey, started Pilgrim's Pride in 1946 as a feed store right there in little Pittsburg, Texas, population just a bit over 4,400. One of the brother's successful gimmicks was to give a live baby chick with every order of feed. The local farmers and children loved the free chickens, which were very cheap to provide, and to raise them required feed. In effect, the more cheap baby chickens they gave away, the more higher-profit feed they sold.

Bo capitalized on his last name by wearing his signature Pilgrim's hat wherever he made an appearance. As he became more famous through personal appearances and TV advertising, Pilgrim's Pride became larger and larger. Eventually they became the supplier of chickens and chicken parts to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's, Wal-Mart, and Publix among many other large sellers to the public. There are now about 38,000 employees selling 36 million chickens each and every week. In a year's time, Pilgrim's Pride provides 9.5 billion pounds of live chickens which earns the company over $8.1 billion per year. Not bad for a little small-town feed store!
In the pavilion under the 37-foot tall Bo head is another sculpture depicting a younger Bo Pilgrim seated on a bench reading his Bible. Scattered around on one end of the bench are "Good News For Modern Man" pamphlets which the devoutly religious Bo has had printed in many different languages and distributed around the world. The Bo statue holds his Bible and is reading the five loaves and the two fishes story from the Book of Luke. On the other end of the bench is a statue of Bo's pet chicken, Henrietta, who was a regular feature in Pilgrim's Pride advertising."

Strangely, there were very few workers around the plant and the beautiful mansion-looking building across the street was for sale. And what about those missing chickens? Well, after getting back home that evening, I did a little research and found that controlling interest in Pilgrim's Pride had been purchased by a Brazilian multi-national company and the headquarters moved to Greeley, Colorado. A good number of the local folks lost their jobs and evidently the missing chickens were all being raised somewhere else. It wasn't bad news for old Bo though. At last report, he is still with us and very comfortably retired. Living in a large mansion on the outskirts of Pittsburg which the locals call "Cluckingham Palace," he is occasionally spotted around town - always without the hat.