Saturday, October 13, 2012

Peteetneet Academy - Payson, Utah

The Statue Doesn't  Have a Happy Face
Dave Nielson, the owner of Wasatch Pallet (see: You Never Know....), said if I liked architecture I should check out the Peteetneet Academy in Payson.

I arrived at 4:30 p.m. and the school, which bills itself as an art center, was closed.

As in Springville and Canyon Road, I sought shelter in the cleft (it's a Freudian proclivity) in the mountains. It was serious dark by the time the sign for Maple Bench Campground beckoned.

Campgrounds mean noisy children, barking dogs and slamming vehicle doors. I avoid them, but every now and then....

A bit of hope blossomed when I read the sign at the bottom of the hill: Vehicles with trailers not recommended beyond this point. Encouraged, I drove up the steep, winding road to find a small, sparsely populated camp. James Taylor, the host, came over and our conversation ended up lasting nearly an hour. When he left it was with strong threats to return in the morning when we could more easily peruse a map.

True to his word, next morn' he and his daughter gave me a lengthy list of places to visit. After she left the conversation segued into metaphysics. James told about being in Viet Nam and how the tank he was to go out in got hit and everyone died. There was also a 120 mm shell that went off less than 40 feet away without harming him. He said he came back angry and it took him a long time to work his way back to nice. This year of hosting had been the best of his life; he'd met so many interesting people. We exchanged addresses and I, having made a friend, headed into Payson.

There's a bronze blurb outside the rear doors that intimates at the school being  built in 1913 to convert the heathens. The indirect reference seemed like a thinly veiled attempt to downplay the Mormon conquest. Judging by the look on the guy out front (see face on statue above), the "heathens" weren't overly thrilled.

Art center is a complete misnomer. One large classroom on the main floor is almost completely filled with glass cases displaying family memorabilia related to the Mormon incursion. In a corner there's a poster of one of the school's teachers who died on the Titanic. There are some late 19th-century domestic kitchen tools, a cobbler's form for making lasts and a few similar things. The "art" is a three-month-long display (also in glass cases) of ceramic birds, the kind of figurines you get at Fambly Dolla or Walmartz.

In the office were two crude of a former chief of a local tribe; the other, of his wife, was crassly titled: "His old lady." The quote marks made you wonder.

This time it was still daylight when I headed for the hills. The early-Autumn light put a glow on everything and I was all set to enjoy it when I remembered it was Memorial weekend. As I toodled along I noticed folks already settled into the available spots. The area is popular and side roads are few. People camp on the edges of meadows near the highway. If it weren't for the trees you'd be hard-pressed to tell it from a suburb.

Uinta Cul-de-Sac - CLICk on image to Largen
The sun was setting as Lucky Herrmann pulled over to decide if the wide space on the side of the road was gonna be "it." While taking the measure of my new domain, I chanced upon a spot about 300 feet up the highway. It was in a small hollow complete with fire ring...and right next to the highway too! I hurried to stake my claim.

Highway Noise & Reek of Cow Pies are Major Distractions
Friday night was uneventful but Saturday was worrisome. People slowed and some nearly stopped as they (I surmised) debated over whether to crowd in with me. Forced to think, I got the (brilliant!) idea to scatter around old plastic bottles, beer cans (found in the bushes behind the fence) and my own styrofoam plate from the pork steaks. A prominently positioned Lord Calvert whiskey bottle completed the installation. People still slowed, but, or so it seemed, they now resumed speed much more quickly. Sunday evening, chuckling with self-satisfaction, I picked it all up.

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