May 22, 2015

"Ride 'er Careful, Joe"

By Joleen Kartchner

Published in Utah Heritage Remembered in 1996

by the two Blanding Stake Relief Societies for the State Centennial

The year of our Lord was 1905,
His job was to carry the mail.
At age 15 he had yet to learn fear
He’d been down more than one dusty trail.

He would leave Cortez at 4 AM
And at 6 he would ride into Bluff.
For this long ride of 14 hours,
A dollar would be payment enough.

Tying a bundle onto the saddle,
The young man was ready to go.
Jess Majors, the Boss, tipped his hat and said, 
“Ride ‘er careful, Joe.”

The Trail was long and tiresome,
The raven’s cry would set his mind adrift.
A windstorm to break the monotony
Gave the boy’s youthful spirit a lift.

Thunder and lightning were his favorite,
He’d holler while the rains pelted down.
After one such storm, folks heard him say
“If it weren’t for my hat, I’d have drowned.”

From the top of the cliff there were switchbacks
Leading down to the valley below.
If you choose to stay in the saddle,
“Ride ‘er careful, Joe.”

A fiery buckskin was saddled,
Stamping the ground while her eyes followed him.
She loved to bite and would bolt and run
Whenever her mind got the whim.

She was spooked by lizards and blowing leaves
And spirits inside of her head.
Her craziness nearly cost him his life
So he ran her until she was dead.

If we were to walk through those Pearly Gates
And watch a Spirit Rodeo,
You can bet we’d hear the angels say,
“Rider ‘er careful, Joe.”

When the trails seem rough and rocky
I must travel along on my way,
When I cannot see the goodness
Amid the wickedness of the day.

When I feel my burden is heavy,
The weight too heavy for me to bear,
When I seek for help and knowledge’
And someone who’ll love me and care.

My answer comes in a whisper,
A spirit from long, long ago.
“Go to the Lord in fervent prayer,
And ride ‘er careful, Jo.”


by Patricia Black Shumway

Published in Utah Heritage Remembered in 1996
by the two Blanding Stake Relief Societies
for the State Centennial

The Ancient cliff squatted heavily
in the burning sun
Gently cradling the rocky ruin 
in its thick tired arms.

Stiff canyon walls stand as sentinels
Guarding the steps of all who enter their domain.

Tumbled walls with smoke dimmed pictures
Soundlessly whisper an eloquent story
Recorded by an unnamed author.

Where are those who's
Quiet remains display
An unremembered glory?

Questioning eyes watch
As changing shadows once again people
the abandoned rooms.

Mute answers echo in melancholy stillness
Sounds of vanished loves unheard.
Emptiness seems a haven for time
Holding forever all that has happened
In the old ruin.


By Susan Dyer

Published in Utah Heritage Remembered in 1996
by the Blanding Stakes Relief Societies

for the State Centennial

Mother tramped through hot sand
in a nearly deserted land.
She climbed red rocks
without shoes or socks.
She searched for pottery and arrowheads
in unearthed Anasazi bed.
Played under the blazing sun,
says she's never had such fun.
When hot, she swam in a deep pool
to keep herself fresh and cool.
Mother had a young and free spirit
I hope to inherit. 

The Trek to Bluff

by Mildred Bayles Palmer 

Published in Utah Heritage Remembered by the Blanding Stakes Relief Societies
in 1996 for the State Centennial

The wagons move slowly across the wilderness.
Eyes are reddened from sun and wind.
How much further must we go?
Day after day go by, blurred and dimmed with weariness.
Thirst and hunger always present.
The children suffer most.
Go on, we must; one step and then another , mile after mile.
Are we almost there?

Days grow shorter -- nights are cooler.
We must hurry onward.  Prayers are offered in supplication for guidance and survival.
Down the impossible treacherous rock hill
the wagons are lowered slowly.
Then out across the hills of desert sand.
The way seems easier now.
What shall we find there?
Will we survive there?
How many souls will die there?

A valley lies ahead.
Walls of ancient sandstone guard it well.
A river slices snakelike through the valley;
Along the southern cliffs,
Prayers of thankfulness are offered.
Here we will build our homes.
Live out our lives and spread the word of God.

July 30, 2013

Walter C. Lyman, A Man of Vision

by Albert R. Lyman

A youth heard a voice from the wilderness
And he thrilled with what it said,
for it sang of work for him to do
In the wondrous times ahead.

And ever he looked and listened
Through changes of trying years
Nor paused from his cherished purpose
to nurse futile tears.

Then the voice called, "come hither,
and build in the wilderness,
A place where saints may gather
From poverty and distress."

He forsook all else and journeyed
Away to a wild dry place,
And spread thee a verdant City
On the desert's arid face.

He had answered the voice that called him,
Yet of wealth he had gathered none,
And he put him down in a borrowed home
When his work was done.

(This led to the settlement of Blanding in 1905)

July 13, 2013

Ride the San Juan

by Janet Keeler Wilcox

1st place winner, BYU Charles Redd Writing competition 2013


Lead me down your snaky trails
of twisting paths and flinty glaze
to ocher canyons etched in fire
by sunlight's lofty rays.

Ride me o'er your slate blue riffs
As canyon shadows fall,
Where night birds dance above the lake
And lonely eagles call.

Toss me high on rugged waves
Douse me 'til I'm blue,
Bounce me through the rocky course where voyagers are few.

Swirl me past your eddies
Etched by frothy hue.
Take me to your glens and coves
that Anasazi knew.

Wind me 'round your sandstone fjords
Of sandwiched mauves and grey,
Circle me with stony walls
That time has worn away.

Spray me down your waterfalls
Sooth me in your pools.
Shower me o'er your coral ridge
Where sandstone calmness rules.

Hide me in your tombs of jade 
Where elusive peace lies still,
And mirrored reflections tranquilize the agitated will.

Guide me to the journey's end
To canyons sprayed with gold
Where calm respite is heaven sent
And river tales are told.

March 19, 2010

On Exploring

--by Thales Hastings Haskell

[Included in the Journal of Thales H. Haskell prepared for publication by Juanita Brooks, printed in Utah Historical Quarterly Vol. XII January-April, 1944.  This song was written by Thales H. Haskell and was sung often among the pioneers. I have never seen the music written but have heard the song many times--J. B.]

We bid farewell to Gould's place-- Exploring we were bound
Instead of taking a straight course--We circle round and round

The rocks they are so high--The hills they are so steep
We can hardly find a level place--To lie us down to sleep.

When we find a level place--In rains so like sin
You might as well be in the creek--At least up to your chin

And when the rain is over--There comes the deuced guard
Who calls you out to duty--I think its rather hard.

This thing they call exploring--Looks pretty in a book
But if you follow it up boys--You'll wear a disappointed look

For the country is wilderness, There are no Indian signs
We have no trail nor guide, boys--We have to go it blind.

We've clambered up the clay hills--The compass we have boxed
We have traveled over mountains--And canyons full of rocks

This trip would try a Quaker--It cannot be denied
For the old gray horse of Pocketville--Has tumbled down and died.

Our bugler found a hornet's nest--Which caused him to retreat
But everyone acknowledged--He performed a quite a feat

For like a broncho rider--The sadlle he did stick
While the mule was whirling off with him--And seemed inclined to kick.

We have crowded thru the quaking asp--And over fallen pine
We have bursted up our cracker sacks--And strewed our flour behind

Our animals got off the track--The boys politely swore
That they never drove a pack mule--In such a place before.

When we got to Cedar--The Bishop took us in
And gave us all our supper--And bid us call again

But when we got to Parowan--The Bishop gave a bow
And said its not convenient--To entertain you now.

I wish I had a clean shirt--I wish I had some shoes
I wish my old mule was fat--And I didn't have the blues

If ever I get home again--Contented I'll remain
And never go exploring--Till called upon again.

—Thales H. Haskell--1865

[And of course, he was called upon again and again, and never said "No."]

February 25, 2010


Photo shows Kumen in the center, honored as the last surviving "adult" who came through Hole-in-the-Rock.  He is surrounded by others, who were children when they came through.

A Tribute written by Kumen Jones

Written about his mother: "SAGE TREHARNE JONES and his brother Lehi. His mother had no schooling. She was born Nov. 27th, 1832, Llanelly, Glamorganshire, South Wales, and died at Cedar City, Utah, March 20, 1897. She joined the L. D. S. Church with her family, both parents, three sisters: Mary, Jane and Sarah, and brother William. [She] emigrated in the year 1848 [with] all the family.

Mother lived to see all of her sons and her only daughter get married, and she felt pleased with the choice that each one had made. She saw all her sons chosen for responsible positions in the Church and state which repaid her, at least in part, for her sacrifices. When the time comes when the One Just Judge rewards His children for their loyalty to Him and to His earthly authority, we know that our faithful, devoted mother will be rewarded in full. May our Heavenly Father help all her posterity to so live that we may be worthy of our noble parentage when we all meet again."
"  MY BROTHER LEHI, born November 1854 at Cedar City, Utah, was 5 feet, 9 inches in height and was very light in complexion, followed farming, stock raising and general business. By strict economy, thrift and industry, he made his way up to a good success. Being the oldest son to live, he took very early in life the responsibility of the care of the family, in which he took a noble and intelligent part."
A Tribute

Had I my life to live again,
  when this good life is through,
Retaining all the best of this
   and adding to the new,
I'd start by being kinder to our good mother, left alone
With six small kiddies, under eight,
   and the work of home;
Left almost penniless too,
  with broken health and nerve,
The only asset left her
   was the iron will to serve.

Through this short, cruel story
  there is history sublime
Reaching up towards heaven
   to realms of the divine.
She drew much needed courage
  from the servants of the Lord,
In material help and counsel,
  from fathers of Cedar Ward,
Who always gave a kindly hand,
  a friendly word and smile.
Ye public servants keep this up, '
   Twill help us out the while;

There's one more family item
  that should be noted too,
To round the story out
   and make it full and true,
It is of a child turned man
   almost overnight,
Turned into a princely man
   and made a noble fight,

'Twas our brother Lehi
   made that character summersault,
Turned from childhood to manhood
  without one serious fault.
Though eighty-three he still plods on,
  in a slightly lower gear,
With wise and friendly counsel
  his life work has made clear.

I wish all men had brothers,
  just like this pal of mine,
'Twould make this a wiser world,
  much better and sublime.

February 3, 2010


By Mildred Bayles Palmer
Mary Ann was my great grandmother Mary Anne Durham Bayles who died in childbirth

South of here on a rocky bluff,
There is a grave.
It is not a lonely grave,
There are others there.

A lovely girl came to a lonely, barren place,
To make a home for the man she loved.
To follow the destiny of mother, wife.

She bore four children,
I wonder if she ever spoke of pain.
One day when her only son was five,
In childbirth she died.

Her grave is sand and rock,
A marble marker placed with love is there.
Even so, I wish she could be
By the one she loved
Where it is cool and green.

(The son was my grandfather Hanson D.Bayles Her husband is buried in the Blanding cemetery.

February 2, 2010

Song of Sorrow

By Mikki Bayles Palmer
Dedicated to the James Bean and Anna Maria Mickelsen Decker Family
Published 1980 in San Juan County Centennial Sampler

Decker story

Bluff December 15, 1901

My beloved husband died today.
The sickness is throughout the house.
My small young son lies pale and still.
He too is dead; he is only five.
Weariness and sorrow weigh me down.

Dec. 16, 1901

Today again a life is stilled.
My darling Mary, just approaching womanhood.
The sounds of carpentry fill the night.
Three coffins must be made for burials
In cold and frozen ground.

January 25, 1902
Did we have Christmas?
I remember not.
The cabin smells again of suffering and death.
My stalwart son of seventeen lies quiet now,
His song of life cut short.
The winter wind blows,
Echoing the sorrow in my heart.

January 26, 1902

My own dear son is gone.
The softness of his laughter stilled.
He was just past ten, awakened not,
After the long dark night.
Friends come to wash and dress my dead.
The sound of hammers once more fill the night.

The men must carry the coffins
Up the steep and twisting trail.
The open graves are waiting.
Here my loved ones shall lie side by side,
On this barren windswept hill.

Below me in the valley I can see
The tall white house newly finished,
Stark and lonely in the winter morn.
I shall never live there now.

A song of sorrow fills the air
As friends and family gather round.
A prayer of comfort quietly is said.
I turn, blinded by my tears and blowing snow.
Retrace my steps a second time
To the still empty cabin
at the foot of the hill.

Note: This poem is based upon the tragic events which befell the James Bean and Anna Maria Mickelsen Decker family during the winter of 1901-1902 when five members of the family died of diphtheria.