I drove down to the Sanpete Valley early on Sunday afternoon, heading south on a relatively empty Interstate 15. The sunset was pretty spectacular with the sun streaming through huge cumulus clouds over Utah Lake. Crossing into Juab County, I was struck, as always, with the beauty of Mt. Nebo. Earlier this summer, a large wildfire had spread from Santaquin Canyon southeast up the slopes, charring the scrub oaks and stripping the mountainside bare of grasses. There was a vague, postapocalyptic feeling that continued into Nephi Canyon, which my daughter says is the ugliest canyon in the world.
But even Nephi Canyon has its charms. Perhaps the driest canyon in Central Utah, Nephi Canyon looks closer to the edge of the Mojave in California, where sandy slopes rise into pine-covered peaks. At one spot, you can look up a side canyon, and the barren sandy hills of Nephi Canyon frame majestic peaks of red sandstone, bordered by aspens and pines. My daughter says the cliffs near the top make the mountain look like a sandcastle.
Over the low pass into Sanpete County, the valley spreads out ahead, the lower peaks of the Manti-LaSal mountains hemming in green expanse of wheat fields and shiny aluminum turkey sheds. One abandoned shed is now used for paintballing, with a sign outside broadcasting that it is also available for wedding receptions and banquets. Ewwww.
As we passed the sheds, thousands of turkeys milled about just inside the fence, with a handful standing bewildered outside the fence, pecking and prodding at the wire. If turkeys weren’t so stupid, I’d imagine that they had been yearning to get outside the fence, to experience just a few moments of freedom, but once outside, they realized that food and shelter and comfort were back inside. It always takes a little courage to break free of the comfortable; it’s more dangerous outside the fence, but it’s usually more rewarding.
At my daughter’s apartment, she rolled her eyes at her roommate’s leftover bowl of ramen noodles and can of Coke sitting on the living room carpet in front of the TV. I noticed that my daughters get along much better now that the oldest has moved on to college. Having just one difficult roommate has helped to see that her sister isn’t all that bad, after all. They sat together at the BYU football game on Saturday and seemed to have a great time together. Just like the turkeys, she had to get outside the fence to appreciate what was inside. But she can’t go back, and I hope she never wants to.
I drove home in silence, my only company being Karl Pilkington, who wondered how on earth they had cloned a man and a moth. I passed the turkey sheds again. It looked like they were all safely inside again. A while back I might have envied them. Not anymore.