Friday, June 26, 2015

Coney the Traffic Cone & Plush Kokopelli Locate and Disarm the Wild Burro of the West

Coning-in and Saving the Wild Moab Burro
Coney the Traffic Cone and Plush Kokopelli narrowly
escape death, when the Moab Burro's chain saw rips
through the streetcar in which they were riding.

Chapter 3 -

"Coning-in" and Saving the Wild Moab Burro

Coney the Traffic Cone & Plush Kokopelli Locate and Disarm the Wild  Burro of the West

Moab, UT, May 12, 2015 Author: Jim McGillis
For many years, the Moab Burro Crane had stood on a railroad siding at Seven Mile, near Moab, Utah. Five times each week, the Train of Pain brought nuclear waste from the Moab Pile past that spot, ultimately contaminating the Burro Crane and causing it to lose its mind.

Now, the Moab Burro was running wild on the railroad tracks of America. Using a huge chainsaw, he was cutting down every tree that his articulated lattice-boom could reach. Once the Super Heroes at Moab Ranch had discovered the problem, Silver Girl convinced Coney the Traffic Cone and Plush Kokopelli to go forth and retrieve the errant burro.

Not knowing where to find the Moab Burro, Coney and Kokopelli had hopped on to an old streetcar that was heading downtown. While riding slowly along the rails, Coney explained to Kokopelli what might have happened to the Moab Burro. "Do you remember when I got that bit part in the TV series, Madmen?" asked Coney. Since Kokopelli has no voice, he only nodded.

"I think it was in Madmen Season 3", Coney reflected wistfully. "Don Draper and Lane Price were in the break room, deciding what movie to see. As usual, Lane Price mistook me for a bottle of liquor, so I had to jump out of his hands and on to the table. There I was, trying to help them make a choice. Having had a bit part in the original Japanese movie, Godzilla, I convinced them to go see it."
Remembering his time on Madmen and a bit part in a movie, Coney realizes that the Moab Burro has experienced nuclear contamination, just like the original Godzilla.

Coney remembers his role in the original Godzilla
movie, thus solving the mystery of the Moab Burro's
nuclear contamination.
Wondering why Coney was rattling on about his movie credits, Kokopelli sighed and then looked out the window. Undeterred, Coney kept talking. "Remember when Godzilla came out of the ocean and wreaked havoc on Tokyo?" To keep Coney on track, Kokopelli nodded affirmatively.

"When nuclear radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs infected Godzilla, he grew to enormous size and came up out of the ocean, itching for a fight. Well, the night he came out stomping and screaming, I was doing traffic cone duty on a Tokyo freeway overpass."

Coney went on, "When I saw how huge he was, I was scared silly and could not move. Before I knew it, Godzilla had his big-clawed foot on me, squeezing the life out of me. By luck alone, I was able to pop out, just as the freeway overpass fell. Then he blew me away with his hot, nuclear breath, which gave me my signature orange glow."

Kokopelli looked at Coney quizzically, as if to ask how all of this related to the Moab Burro. "Well", said Coney, "other than Godzilla being my first movie credit, I learned that nuclear radiation can create monsters and increase their size and power by a quantum leap. When I popped out from under Godzilla's claws, it was the turning point in the movie. Godzilla lost power and soon the army was able to shoot him with carbines and a howitzer. I hope that doesn't happen to the Moab Burro."

Kokopelli knitted his eyebrows and looked at Coney as if he was crazy. Then, out of nowhere, the Moab Burro, sporting his huge chainsaw, appeared outside the streetcar. Not seeing the chainsaw coming toward them at high speed, Coney took umbrage at the face Kokopelli appeared to be making at him. "All of this is true," said Coney petulantly. In a huff, Coney left his seat and exited out the back door of the streetcar.

Just as the Moab Burro slashed its chainsaw into the streetcar, Kokopelli used his magical powers to follow Coney out to the sidewalk. Realizing that Kokopelli had not been making fun of him, Coney turned toward the Moab Burro and coned him in, thus stopping the destruction of the streetcar.

"Wow that was close", said Coney. However, coning-in the wild burro had created another, unexpected effect. The once huge and dangerous, the Burro Crane suddenly shrank down to the size of a toy. Within moments, the Moab Burro had become as docile as he had been prior to his contamination by nuclear radiation.

"See?" said Coney. "It is the reverse of what happened before. When he had his troubles, Godzilla became enormous. By using string theory and an energy bridge to the past, I was able to reverse the plasma flow within the Moab Burro. That is why he shrank down to toy-size."

Kokopelli rolled his eyes, as if to say, "I knew that and helped you do it."

For once, Coney became practical. "Now that the Moab Burro is docile again and about our size, we can hitch a ride on his flatcar. We can take the Potash Branch Line past Arches National Park. That way, we can all get back to Moab Ranch, at Seven Mile, where the Moab Burro belongs".

With a twinkle in his eye, Kokopelli boarded the flatcar, and then helped Coney up on to the top of the burro's cab. "Off we go," yelled Coney, as the Moab Burro sounded its horn and headed down the tracks toward home.

"Only one problem", Coney yelled to Kokopelli over the clinkety-clank, clinkety-clang of the Moab Burro's wheels. "How are we going to get the Moab Burro back to normal size?"

As they traveled past the sign for Arches National Park, Plush Kokopelli smiled his inscrutable smile and played his flute. He knew how to reconstitute the Moab Burro, but he would not say.

To be continued... (Chapter 4, Below)

(Return to Chapter 1

The Moab Burro Comes Home to Seven Mile
Frank J. Cullen, the father of the Burro Crane, gives
Silver Girl the password (swordfish) to reconstitute
the Moab Burro back to its normal size.

Chapter 4 -

The Moab Burro Comes Home to Moab Ranch

Later, at Seven Mile, the Moab Burro Faces an Uncertain Fate

Moab, UT, June 8, 2015 Author: Jim McGillis
Back at Moab Ranch, Moabbey the Coyote was trying to connect his centenarian Remington portable typewriter to a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor. Since the typewriter was not electrified, displaying images on the CRT was a problem. With both forepaws, Moabbey hit the top of the monitor.
After coning in and shrinking the Moab Burro, Coney and Kokopelli ride back with him to Moab Ranch.

After saving the Moab Burro from a bad fate,
Coney and Kokopelli ride back to Moab Ranch
"Now I can see them. There they are", Moabbey said as the display flickered to life. As Silver Girl approached, she could see an image rolling vertically, like an old TV set. Moabbey continued, "Coney the Traffic Cone and Plush Kokopelli are coming back to Moab Ranch. You will not believe this, but they are riding on the Moab Burro."

"You mean 'Burro Crane', don't you?" asked Silver Girl. Then the CRT stopped rolling and flickering. "Isn't that the same old self-propelled railroad-crane that once-upon-a-time resided on the railroad siding at Seven Mile?"

"Yes, of course", said Moabbey. "But something is strange about the image on my 4-D chromatic-hypersphere display. Either this old CRT is out of whack or the Moab Burro has shrunk down to the size of Coney and Kokopelli".

Looking closely at the phosphorescent display, Silver Girl concurred. "Now they are all toy-size."

By fate alone, the Union Pacific Railroad Potash Branch ran along the south side of Moab Ranch. At the last moment, the Burro Crane and its tender car switched on to the railroad siding at Moab Ranch .

Through an open window, Moabbey and Silver Girl heard a train horn. "Too-whoot, too-whoot", it seemed to say.

Almost busting through the ranch house door, Moabbey and Silver girl rushed out to greet the little Burro Crane. "Clinkety clank, clinkety clang" sang the Burro Crane as it approached Moab Ranch. Before it hit the derail, the little Burro Crane lurched to a stop. Coney remained on the flat car and Kokopelli stayed on top of the little crane. It looked like the Moab Burro was wearing Plush Kokopelli as a hat.

When he saw the tiny Burro Crane, Moabbey cried out, "What happened to the Moab Burro? He shrank down to almost nothing".

For once, Coney was ready with an answer. "As you will recall, the Moab Burro had been irradiated by the Train of Pain, as it hauled radioactive waste from the Moab Pile out to the nuclear depository at Brendel, Utah. Once he gained control of that giant chainsaw, the irradiated Moab Burro went wild. We have video of him cutting down trees all over America. He even cut into the old streetcar that Kokopelli and I were riding in".

"How did you shrink him down from crane-size to toy-size?" asked Silver Girl.

"Luckily", said Coney, "Kokopelli and I departed the streetcar just in time. Using my traffic-cone martial arts training, I 'coned him in'. Once I immobilized him with my extreme coning technique, the Moab Burro shrank down to this size. By then, I was tired and hungry, so we jumped aboard and rode back here with the Moab Burro."

"How are we going to get the Moab Burro back to normal size?" asked Silver Girl.

Neither Coney nor Moabbey had an answer for that question. Plush Kokopelli started to blush his multicolored glow, but none of the superheroes noticed that he might have an answer.

Just then, the Other appeared. As he arrived, the brim of his hat cast his signature shadow on the gravel below. "There is only one way to get the Moab Burro back to normal size", the shadowy figure said. "I'll call Frank J. Cullen. Some folks call him the godfather of the Burro Crane. If anyone knows what to do with an errant Burro Crane, it would be Frank".

Moments later, the Other placed a telephone call to Frank J. Cullen, in Chicago. Almost as soon as the Other hung up the telephone, the Father of the Burro Crane appeared at the Moab Ranch railroad siding.

After paying respects to all of the superheroes, Frank J. Cullen narrowed his gaze on the little Burro Crane. "He has 'reverse Godzilla syndrome'", said Frank. "As we know from the movie, radiation made Godzilla huge. The Moab Burro was already huge. When Coney coned him in, Coney's superpowers shrank the Burro Crane to toy-size".

Coney looked incredulous. "You mean I really do have superpowers?" he asked.

Silver Girl looked at Coney with exasperation, and then blurted out, "If you do not believe in yourself, then your powers will ebb. If you just believe in yourself, you will have all of the power that you need."

Stammering a bit, Coney said, "I'll try to remember."

As soon as Frank J. Cullen saw the concerned look in each superhero's eyes, he knew how to handle the situation. First, he looked directly at each one of them. Then he softly said to the group, "All you need is to invoke the Burro Crane password. Then, the Moab Burro will reemerge in his normal size".

Frank J. Cullen, President of Cullen Friestadt Corporation ands godfather of the Burro Crane gives Silver Girl the password to reconstitute the Moab Burro to normal size.

Frank J. Cullen, godfather of the Burro Crane
brings the Moab Burro back to normal size.
"What is the Burro Crane password", asked Silver Girl.

"I cannot verbalize it, but I will write it down for you", said Frank J. Cullen. Soon, he passed a handwritten note to Silver Girl.

"The password is 'Swordfish'", declared Silver Girl. Just as she said the word "swordfish", the little Burro Crane reemerged in normal size.

As Silver Girl watched, Frank J. Cullen, Coney and Plush Kokopelli clustered around the newly reconstituted Moab Burro. It was a proud, yet poignant moment for Frank J. Cullen. As the godfather of all Cullen Friestadt Burro Cranes, he was uneasy. Frank knew that the Moab Burro was one of the last surviving members of its breed. Burro Cranes, it seemed, did not live well and prosper in humid air.

With Coney and Kokopelli still aboard, the Burro Crane rambled along the siding at Moab Ranch and then on to the old Potash Branch. "For many years, the Moab Burro had lived peacefully out at Seven Mile. At one time, you could even find him on Google Earth", Frank said. "I hope he finds a good home". After thinking for a moment, Frank said, "Just across Utah Route 313 from the Moab Burro's old siding, the new Moab Giants museum is opening soon. Perhaps they could help".

Moabbey the Coyote chimed in, "Maybe the museum could build a short piece of railroad track, just out back. Then the Union Pacific Railroad might donate the Moab Burro to the new museum. Living out his old age in the dry desert air, the Moab Burro could entertain and enthrall generations to come. After all, he is as big as the biggest dinosaur and he sort of looks like one, as well."

As he headed off with Coney and Kokopelli aboard, "clinkety clank, clinkety clang" was all that the Moab Burro said. Even though he put up a good front, the Moab Burro knew that his fate was tenuous. He could end up in a wrecking yard, bound for China or he could live out his later years in peace at Seven Mile, near Moab, Utah.

To be continued, we hope.

(Return to First Chapter)

The Great Burro Crane Mystery

The Great Burro Crane Mystery
The Moab Burro - disappears from Seven Mile, at
Moab, Utah. Plush Kokopelli and Coney, the Traffic
Cone set out to find the "Wild Burro of the West".

Chapter 1 -

The Great Burro Crane Mystery

Out at Seven Mile, the Moab Burro Goes Missing...

Moab, UT, December 20, 2014 Author: Jim McGillis
It was quiet at Moab Ranch; too quiet. Moabbey the Coyote could not find another living soul. After searching from room to room, he finally found Silver Girl.

"Where are Coney and Kokopelli?" he asked.

"Coney", she replied, "was mumbling something about going out to Seven Mile. He heard that the Moab Burro was missing from there. He thought that Kokopelli might help him find it."

Moabbey looked startled. "The Moab Burro has been standing on a railroad siding out by the Union Pacific Railroad Potash Branch for years. Where would it go?"

"Beats me." Silver Girl replied. "But if anyone can find the Moab Burro, it will be Plush Kokopelli, not Coney the Traffic Cone".

Meanwhile, out at Seven Mile, Coney and Kokopelli were not having any luck. They had looked everywhere at the intersection of U.S. Highway 191 North and Utah Highway 313, near the entrance to Seven Mile Canyon.

Coney looked concerned. "Last time we were out here, the Moab Burro was right over there, on that railroad siding. He had a pile of old railroad ties nearby and some sections of old bent-up rail that he had replaced. If he had not repaired the Potash Branch, the Train of Pain might have derailed and spilled nuclear waste all over the New Industrial Desert."

Kokopelli, as was his tradition, said nothing. He did, however raise an eyebrow and smile.
Coney &
 Kokopelli looking for the missing Moab Burro at Seven Mile.
Coney, not noticing Kokopelli's sly smile, jumped to the worst conclusion he could think of. "You don't suppose that the Moab Burro got contaminated by nuclear waste from the Moab Pile and ran away, do you?"

As Kokopelli remained silent, Coney went into despair. "The Moab Burro may be out there somewhere, riding on the railroad tracks of America, lost, hurt or even worse, contaminated with nuclear waste."

While considering such horrible news, Coney stumbled and then sat down by the railroad tracks. In mock sympathy, Kokopelli sat down too and then reclined against Coney. The Moab Burro was gone, but that was all that Coney knew. As the sun set at Seven Mile, Coney remained motionless, deep in thought. Then he said quietly, "This may be the Great Burro Crane Mystery."

Of course, Kokopelli knew exactly where the Moab Burro had gone, but he did not plan to help Coney solve the mystery. He thought it would be much more fun if Coney had to figure that out for himself.
To be continued... (Chapter 2, Below)

The Moab Burro Runs Wild
Contaminated with nuclear radiation by the "Train
of Pain
", the Moab Burro is running wild, cutting
down trees within the La Sal Range, near Moab.

Chapter 2 -

The Moab Burro Runs Wild

Coney and Kokopelli Plan to Retrieve the Wild Burro of the West

Moab, Utah, January 31, 2015 Author: Jim McGillis
As the sun set at Seven Mile, near Moab, Utah, Coney the Traffic Cone slowly came to his senses. The Wild Burro of the West, also known as the Moab Burro Crane, was not coming back any time soon. "We'd better hoof it back to Moab Ranch", Coney said, not noticing that he had no hooves or feet.

Plush Kokopelli was "living in the now" and felt no such remorse or regret. He simply smiled and then seemed to disappear. Shaking his head from side to side, Coney said, "There he goes again, using his fifth-dimensional superpowers to travel wherever he wants".

Refusing to believe that he had any superhero powers of his own, Coney began the seven-mile cone-walk back to their home at Moab Ranch. Two hours after dark, when Coney finally tripped through the gate at Moab Ranch, Plush Kokopelli was already there, sitting on the bunkhouse porch and playing his flute. "You are going to have to teach me how you do that", said Coney. With a twinkle in his eye, Kokopelli said nothing, and then went back to playing his flute.

Hearing Coney moaning about his long trek, Moabbey the Coyote and Silver Girl came out to see what Coney was up to this time. When he saw them, Coney started gushing information. "The Moab Burro is gone from Seven Mile. I think he may have been contaminated with nuclear waste from the old Moab Pile. He was sitting there on the railroad tracks for years and the 'Train of Pain' may have contaminated him with nuclear radiation. I think he might be out on the railroad tracks of America, sick or injured."

Moabbey growled and then said, "If I hadn't sold my Apple Power Mac G4 Cube, we could have found him in a minute. It had a 4-D chromatic-hypersphere display, like the one that the Wizard of Oz used in that old movie. My display could tune in anyone, anywhere at any time."

Super Girl frowned and then said, "So for $75, you sold one of our superhero superpowers?

Moabbey sighed and said, "It seemed like a lot of money at the time. But now, I wish I had my Mac G4 Cube back".

"There is no use moping around", said Super Girl. "We shall improvise. Do you still have that hundred-year-old Remington typewriter that you found down at the Moab Pile? It was from the office at the old Atlas Uranium Mill, so it surely got a good dose of radiation back in the day. Maybe we could rig up a screen on it and tune it to the whereabouts of the Moab Burro".

Coney looked up admiringly at Silver Girl. "You always are the smart one, aren't you?" he said.

When she said, "Why, thank you for the compliment, Coney", as he blushed a particularly vibrant orange color.

"OK, here it is," said Moabbey, attaching a  4-D chromatic-hypersphere display to the ancient typewriter. "Look, it's working already. Isn't that the Moab Burro out there on the railroad tracks? What is he doing? He looks like he is running amuck with a giant chainsaw, cutting down every tree in sight".

"This is worse than I thought", cried Coney. "If we don't stop him, he could cut down every tree for miles around. What should we do?"

With a knowing look, Silver Girl turned to Coney and said, "Isn't it about time that you became the superhero that you always wanted to be? Kokopelli used is fifth dimensional powers of travel to get from Seven Mile to Moab Ranch in an instant. You, on the other hand, trudged overland for hours to return to Moab Ranch."

"Yes", said Coney, "but no one ever said that I could transport myself like Kokopelli does, using worm holes and string theory."

"There, you just said it. You understand the theory. If you ask Kokopelli nicely, I am sure that he will help you find the Moab Burro before he destroys the entire Manti La Sal forest". Then Silver Girl turned to Kokopelli to see his reaction.

Kokopelli dropped his flute for a moment and then blushed in his brightest multi-colored blush.

Silver Girl looked at Coney and said, "There. That proves it. He is ready to go. All you have to do is ask".

Coney hesitated, shuffling from side to side on the floor. "I'm not sure I can do it", he finally said.

"All you have to do is believe", said Silver Girl, smiling at Coney.

That was enough for Coney. He stood up tall and asked Kokopelli, "Will you please help me save the forest and bring the Moab Burro back to Moab, where he belongs?"

With a twinkle in his eyes, Kokopelli put his flute to his lips, and blew some cool jazz. Before anyone could move, both Kokopelli and Coney disappeared from the room.

Turning to the old typewriter and display, Moabbey said, "Look, there they are, out on the railroad tracks looking for the Moab Burro. Now the Burro is wielding a brush-cutter and he is still going wild. Do you think they can stop the Burro before anyone gets hurt?"

To be continued... (Read Chapter 3)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"They Took Out All The Trees and Put Them in a Tree Museum"

Portrait of Jedediah Strong Smith (

"They Took Out All The Trees and Put Them in a Tree Museum"

On July 21, 2008, a dry lightning storm of unprecedented size and activity swept over much of Northern California, igniting over 1000 separate wildfires throughout the area.  Within two days, the smoke had drifted as far south as Los Angeles and affected air quality throughout the Western U.S.  By July 25, 2008, there were over 12,000 people working to suppress these fires.
On July 28, 2008, we headed north from Simi Valley, (home of the Wildfire Smoke, Simi Valley, California ( Reagan Presidential Library) to Red Bluff, California, a distance of 500 miles.  While descending “The Grapevine” on California Highway 99, we encountered smoky haze far thicker than that we had seen in L.A.  As we transitioned to Interstate I-5 North, the visibility dropped to less than ten miles.  The farther we traveled, the thicker the smoke became, reaching as low as three miles visibility.
The following day our eyes were dry and our throats felt like we had smoked cigars all night.  Reaching Medford, Oregon in the afternoon, we discovered that the smoke had preceded us there, as well.  When, we asked, would our lungs get the opportunity to breathe freely?
Campground, Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, California ( that day, we proceeded southwest on U.S. Highway 199, heading back into California, as we traveled.  By early evening, we had reached our destination, Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.  
Jedediah Smith was a mountain man and explorer of what later became known as the Spanish Trail, crossing the Mojave Desert at Needles, California.  On his 1827 trek, before reaching Los Angeles, Jed turned north and explored the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, both of which we had traveled through just the day before.  Smith’s status as the first white man to explore the Oregon, California border area earned him such immortality as the naming of a state park affords.
The Smith River, which is the last major free flowing river in California, Old-growth Redwood Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, California ( the park’s old growth coastal redwood ecosystem.  Almost all of the parkland is watershed for the Smith River and Mill Creek, one of its major tributaries.
Upon arriving at the park our first feelings were of relief.  The dense redwood forest limits one’s view, so if there was smoke in the area, we could not see it.  It was a case of “Out of sight, out of mind”, as the saying goes. 
Unlike other more arid western forests, a coastal redwood forest retains a great deal of moisture.  Although little rain falls in summer months, fog often envelopes the coastal valleys and river canyons.  Directly absorbing much of that moisture, allow coastal redwoods to grow taller than capillary action alone would allow.  Some of the moisture that is not directly absorbed by the redwoods drips from their branches, thus replenishing the local groundwater.
The Author, Jim McGillis at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park ( factor in our respiratory relief was the effect of photosynthesis, which removes carbon dioxide from the air and replaces it with life giving oxygen.  When one reflects on the sheer mass of plant life in an old growth coastal redwood forest, it becomes obvious that it is a very efficient scrubber of what we call “greenhouse gases” and an equally proficient oxygen generator.
According to scientists, the oxygen content of Earth’s atmosphere peaked at around 35%, during the Permo-Carboniferous period.  With current oxygen levels at around 21%, one wonders how much oxygen depletion may have occurred on Earth during our current industrial age.  Although my evidence is anecdotal, the sweet, clean air of this forest elevated our moods and made everything seem all right with the world.
Unique to the Northern California coastal strip, these redwoods are a Redwood Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, California ( of vast forests that covered much of the temperate zones of the U.S. West Coast and Asian East Coast.  As such, they are a living museum of the way life used to flourish on Gaia, our Mother Earth.  Older than any living thing, other than the ancient Bristlecone pines of the White Mountains in Eastern California, the coastal redwoods appeal to us visually through their magnificent size.  Not only among the oldest living things, at up to 378 feet, they may also be the tallest trees on Earth.
Although the battle to save the redwoods is not a politically hot topic today, when Ronald Reagan successfully ran for Governor of California in 1966, it was.  Although he did not say, “When you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all”, he did say, “I mean, if you’ve looked at 100,000 acres or so, of trees – you know, a tree is a tree; how many more do you need to look at”.  In 1967, as governor, he visited an old growth coastal redwood grove and said, “I saw them; there is nothing beautiful about them, just that they are a little higher than the others”. 
The king of the conservatives was obviously not the darling of conservationists.  With Reagan’s stubborn refusal to help protect these unique and special trees, loggers felled all but the last three percent of the old growth coastal redwood forests during the balance of his life.  Although his lack of environmental consciousness does not make him a villain, I would like to know what we gained by destroying most of that unique environment, other than some nice looking redwood decks some short-term profit for the forest products industry.
Treasurers of Joni Mitchell - The "Big Yellow Taxi" Album Cover ( Joni Mitchell sang in the 1970 song, Big Yellow Taxi,
  • “They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum. 
  • Then they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em. 
  • Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you’ve got ‘Til it’s gone?”. 
As it turns out, the coastal redwoods are not all gone and it is free to see these forest giants at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.  Its verdant groves are the best place on this Earth that I know to take a deep breathe and feel at peace with All that Is.
As it turned out, the coastal redwoods are not all gone and it is free to see these forest giants at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.  Its verdant groves are the best place on this Earth that I know to take a deep breathe and feel at peace with All that Is.
As a postscript to this article, The Los Angeles Times reported on July Young Coastal Redwood, growing from the trunk of a fallen giant (, 2008 that "the Mendocino Redwood Co. (controlled by the founding family of Gap Inc.) paid more than $550 million to creditors (of Maxxam Inc.) to gain control of 210,000 acres of timberlands in Humboldt County, California and a sawmill owned by (Maxxam's subsidiary) Pacific Lumber, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2007".
In 2008, the Gap Inc. website declared,  "Our business operations rely on our planet’s natural resources. We believe that our success should not come at the expense of the environment, so we strive to operate in a way that is mindful of long-term environmental sustainability."  
Author's Note: By 2015, the above quote had disappeared from the Gap, Inc. website. Has a gap developed between Gap Inc.'s founding family's promise to "walk the walk", or will they simply "talk the talk". 
Email James McGillis
Email James McGillis

Monday, June 1, 2015

At Lions Park, Moab, Utah - Eight Heirloom Trees and the MOAB Sign Destroyed.

The Big Yellow Taxi, owned by Moab Sign & Tree Removal visited Moab Lions Park in 2012, promoting removal of all historically significant signs and trees at that location - Click for larger image (

"Empty Garden"

- I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
- Who lived here
- He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
- Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
- And now it all looks strange
- It's funny how one insect can damage so much grain

(A song by Elton John)

In March 2012, Grand County, Utah received funding from the National Park Service "Connect Trails to Parks" program for projects to enhance the Moab Lions Park Inattention to the Lions Park project led inevitably to what we now call the "Moab Tree Hubbub" - Click for larger image ( and Trail Hub. Over the previous four years, individuals from Grand County, Moab City, NPS, BLM, the Lions Club, Trail Mix, and the Moab Trails Alliance had collaborated to develop Lions Park as a trail and transportation hub. The various groups worked with a consultant hired using the NPS grant monies. The ground breaking for the Transit Hub was in September 2012. As planned, the hub would include interpretive and trail signs, all to be installed during 2014.

Starting with new energy applied by the Moab Lions Club in the 1970s and 1980s, public, private and nonprofit agencies and individuals poured countless hours into planning “Lions Park: Gateway to Moab”. By April 2015, the new Lions Transit Hub was in operation just across State Route 128 from the old Lions Club Park. Decades of planning and construction around the old park were almost complete. Careful redevelopment of the quaint but aging Moab Lions Park was all that remained undone.

Historical signage once stood at the edge of Lions Park in Moab - Click for larger image (, a successful outcome for Lions Park was not to be. Before lunchtime on March 31, 2015, an ill informed demolition crew erased one hundred sixty years of history at the birthplace of Moab, Utah. Working from faulty plans, uninformed contractors used mechanized equipment to bulldoze every visible remnant of what once was Lions Park.

Gone from the site were the stately Fremont Cottonwood trees whose ancestors once shaded the 1855 Elk Mountain Mission, and later shaded twentieth century picnickers. Gone were the familiar parking lot, walkways, picnic areas and water fountains. Gone was any trace of Moab Lions Club work performed over most of the late twentieth century. Gone from the southern terminus of State Route 128 were the classic wooden highway signs that once pointed the way to Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.

In 2013, a collection of historical signage from Utah State Route 128 was dumped in a scrap pile behind the original "MOAB Sign" - Click for larger image (“Even after all that effort, it just went amok,” Community Development Director Dave Olsen said. According to Olsen's estimates, some of the eight trees were 80 to 100 years old, and perhaps even older. It is possible that several of those eight trees shaded the 1855 Elk Mountain Mission during their first days in Moab.

The Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management, The Archiplex Group and Advance Solutions Group accepted responsibility for the mistake and plan to make up for it, Utah Department of Administrative Services Public Information Officer Marilee Richins said. “Everybody is joining together,” she said. “We just want to make it right. It's just an unfortunate situation.”

Ultimately, the U.S. 191 highway bridge at Moab's Lions Park was deemed to large to dismantle and was allowed to stand - Click for larger image ( Moab City Engineer Eric Johanson said, “We don't want to be blamed unjustifiably.”

Both Olsen and Johanson said that the demolition plans were missing a “tree-protection layer”. “We were shocked, because for years, we've been meeting with the architects and engineers”, Johanson said. “Everyone is very aggrieved,” he added. “It saddens everyone.”

“Ultimately, we thought that given the complexity, it should have at least elicited a phone call to the architect or the city before they started cutting everything down,” Johanson said. “It is a park, after all.”

“The damage was done before we could stop it,” said Olsen, who also serves as the city's arborist.

The original 1912 Colorado River bridge abutment was omitted from the the Lions Park demolition plans and still stands at the scene - Click for larger image ( immediately, Olsen switched gears and denigrated the recently removed trees. “Although stately Fremont cottonwoods are native to Utah and much of the West,” Olsen said, “they aren't the best choice for the site. To me, Fremonts are rickety". Their loose limbs also pose potential hazards in recreational park settings, he said; especially if they are situated above benches, picnic tables, playground areas and other “targets.”

Did arborist Olsen ever consider providing drip irrigation, pest control or tree pruning at Lions Park? The United States Congress established Zion as a National Park in Utah on November 19, 1919. Many Fremont Cottonwoods standing throughout Zion Canyon predate the 1925 establishment of Zion National Park Lodge. In Abraham Lincoln's parlance, that would have been "four score and ten years ago".

After inspecting the collection of dehydrating cottonwood stumps, Olsen continued his assault on the concept of replanting native trees at Lions Park. Almost immediately, Olsen  found signs of decay, including hollowed-out trunks. “They have a substantial amount of rot,” he said. “Termites and carpenter ants have been doing their job to decompose them over time.”

Drought and neglect had taken their toll as well, yet the majestic Fremont Cottonwoods shook off decay, hosting carpenter ants and termites in a symbiotic relationship that lasted more than four score and seven years.

In 2013, the original "MOAB Sign" and the stately Fremont Cottonwood trees still stood at Lions Park in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( the whole episode into a lesson in public safety, Olsen told the press that it would have been just a matter of time before he made a recommendation to remove the trees. Then, resorting to bureaucratic “double speak”, Olsen said that he would not have given permission to remove the trees now, within three months of the park's grand reopening.

Despite the danger that the old Fremont Cottonwood trees might pose to the public, Olsen would allow park visitors to picnic beneath them for an indefinite time into the future. As Moab's arborist, it was Olsen's duty to inspect and determine any future risk that the existing trees might represent. Only in post mortem did he fulfill that task.

Before the "MOAB Sign" disappeared, it started displaying new text about its eventual fate - Click for larger image ( with his anti-native tree theme, Olsen said that he would like to replant the new Lions Park with a combination of Bur oaks and Austrian pines. At the park, which by then looked like an extension of the nearby Moab Pile, Olsen said, “We wanted to make sure that it looked like a park, and not a barren desert".

“When we have our grand opening, we're probably going to roast in the sun like bacon,” Olsen remarked.

Once upon a time, people thought that Tamarisk (salt cedar) trees would make a nice frontage to the Colorado River in Moab. For the past twenty-five years, 

In a brief 2014 effort to save itself from the wrecking ball, the original "Moab Sign" posted this message on its board - Click for larger image ( and government organizations have struggled to eliminate that ubiquitous and invasive tree species. Before any Lions Park task-force approves replanting with non-native species, I hope that the powers that be in Moab will pause long enough to complete their due diligence.

I pose the question, "What is the potential for Bur Oaks and Austrian Pines to become invasive species downstream, along the Colorado River? In the future, will Bur Oaks propagate and dominate the tree hierarchy in the soon to be re-exposed Glen Canyon?

Replanting Lions Park with Fremont Cottonwood trees and then nurturing them in perpetuity is the right thing to do. By replanting with Fremont Cottonwood trees, future generations will have the benefit of watching Lions Park once again become what it once was. In the year 2102, four score and seven years hence, Lions Park may well be back to where it was before its 2015 destruction. I am sorry to say that unless I live to be 154 years old, I will not be present there in person to celebrate. I will, however, be there in spirit.

From 2008 through 2014, the original "MOAB Sign" was in obvious distress. In 2015, as part of the rejuvenation of Lions Park in Moab, Utah, it was maliciously destroyed - Click for larger image ( 2008, when the new Riverway Bridge opened nearby, I visited Lions Park and photographed a few historical features around the site. Most interesting to me was a masonry and wooden sign that faced out toward the intersection of U.S. Highway 191 and State Route 128. Lovingly hewn from Navajo Sandstone, its masonry structure was built to last for eons. Against its dark brown background, the word “MOAB” stood out proudly in white block letters. Below, the fading text told the story of Moab, from prehistory right up to the 1980s. This original Moab sign's first internet appearance was on, as a photographic print for sale. Later, I included the Moab sign in one of my blog articles.

Each year, from 2008 to 2015, I revisited the site and photographed what I dubbed the “MOAB Sign”. As with most signs that face south in the desert, the white lettering weathered and flaked off a bit more each year. Behind the sign, trucks, trailers, paving equipment and cranes that serviced bridge, road and facilities construction came and went. Since 2008, there had been nonstop construction within a quarter mile of the MOAB Sign. By 2011, the historical text on the MOAB Sign was flaking away. So too was the physical history of the old Lions Club Park. In late 2014, the flaking word “MOAB” still clung to the upper face of the sign.

Author James McGillis was too late to save the original "Moab Sign" - Click for larger image ( on a photographic mission to Lions Park in August 2013, I discovered that something was missing from the area. As it turned out, all of the historical highway signs that once stood at the corner of State Route 128 and U.S. Highway 191 North were gone. Searching around the construction area, I found some grim remains.

With complete disregard for Moab history, all of the old highway directional signs had been ripped out of the ground and dropped like so much scrap metal and plywood. As a preview of what might someday happen, that scrap pile was partially hidden behind the original “MOAB Sign”. Perhaps the myriad consulting companies involved at Lions Park should have provided a "Sign Protection Layer" on their plans.

The MOAB Sign - Was it only a mirage? In loving memory of Greater Canyonlands, as once we knew it - Click for larger image ( April 2015, I visited the Lions Park and Transit Hub. Construction equipment and supplies still covered the historical birthplace of Moab. The equipment blocked my view of the old park, which was at a lower elevation, near the riverbank. Not until I read later news reports did I realize that Lions Club Park was already gone.

To have bulldozed and scraped away every concrete block and tree from the old park was not enough. As their last act of publically sanctioned vandalism, the destroyers of old Lions Club Park surreptitiously toppled and removed the original “MOAB Sign”.

As the old monument crumbled to the ground, Moab closed one hundred sixty years of current-era history at the "Jumping off Place". To future visitors of the Moab Transit Hub, interpretive signs and faded photos will be their only link to a shady oasis that once flourished in Moab, by the bank of the Colorado River.

We are proud to present the first photo of the New Lions Park in Moab, Utah - Click to see new image ( of this writing, Google Street View still shows a 2012 view of the intersection at State Route 128 and U.S. Highway 191 North. If you look closely at the linked image, you will see the original MOAB Sign. In the future, a Google camera-car will autonomously drive through that intersection, uploading digital images as it goes.

Someday, Google will replace their old images with the new ones. On that date uncertain, the original MOAB Sign and historical Lions Club Park will exit three dimensional time-space reality (3DTSR), henceforth living only in memory.

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. To read Part 1, click HERE.

Email James McGillis
Email James McGillis

Current-Era History in Moab, Utah Began at the "Jumping Off Place"

For decades, the MOAB Sign stood at the southeastern corner of old Lions Club Park - Click for larger image (

Current-Era History in Moab, Utah Began at the "Jumping Off Place"

On Sunday, June 10, 1855, members of the Mormon Elk Mountain Mission crossed the Grand River at a place near Moab, Utah. After crossing that torrent, their likely first camp was at a place that we now call the Moab “Lions Park Transit Hub”.
In the 1850s, there was no graceful concrete highway bridge or steel-truss pedestrian bridge at the site. Instead, the settlers found a “jumping off place”, which was a perpendicular ledge standing twenty-five feet above the river. In 2009 view of the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve after a human-set fire burned many native Fremont Cottonwood trees there - Click for larger image ( to make the crossing, the men of the Elk Mountain Mission were obliged to “take their wagons to pieces” and lower them down by ropes. After ferrying their wagons and supplies across the river, the settlers made their first camp. Soon after, they built a stone and wooden fort in what is now the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve.

During their spring and summer in Moab, misunderstandings between the Elk Mountain Mission and local Paiute or Southern Ute Indians escalated into a shooting war. Before the beginning of winter 1855, the Mormons lost several of their members to Indian bullets, clubs or arrows. With looming crop failure, unexpected flooding and a plague of mosquitoes along the river bend, the remaining members of the mission abandoned the area and high-tailed it back to Green River and then on to Salt Lake City before year's end.

This 1880 survey of the Moab Valley shows the ferry crossing near the "jumping off place"  and current U.S. Highway 191 bridge - Click for larger image ( the 1880s, the commencement of ferryboat operations across the Colorado River at Moab enhanced the riverside location’s status as a “transit hub” for the humble settlement. Operating near the site of the present U.S. Highway 191 Bridge, the original, oar-powered ferryboat was only twenty-eight feet long. To prevent capsize, wagons were dismantled at the riverbank, ferried across and then reconstructed on the far side. Perhaps this is why early travelers called Moab "The Far Place". Until the early twentieth century, ferrying, fording or paddling remained the only modes of transport across the Colorado River at Moab.

Ironically, the Moab survey map dated 1880 appears to show a bridge across the Colorado River almost exactly where the current double-span highway bridge now stands. According to conventional Moab history, it would be thirty-two more years before the 1912 highway bridge spanned the river near the "jumping off place".

In 1912, "slightly radioactive Vanadium" (having a half-life of >3.9×1017 years) was discovered in nearby Cisco, Utah. Also that year, the Utah state legislature authorized funding for a triple-span steel bridge across the Colorado River at Moab. With a length of 620-feet, that first highway bridge In 2009, old and abandoned mining equipment still dotted the landscape in Cisco, Utah - Click for larger image ( up commerce from Moab to the north. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad siding at Brendel, thirty miles to the north became a transit point for agricultural and manufactured goods. By the time refrigerated rail cars became available, Spanish Valley peaches, many larger than a softball, became famous in Eastern cities.

Although accurate flow measurements of the Colorado River were not available in 1912, locals knew from previous floods that the highway bridge should stand high above the river. As a testament to their prudent planning, a sandstone bridge abutment still stands on the north bank, as high and strong as the day it was finished, over one hundred years ago. On the south bank, the 1912 highway bridge terminated near the same spot where the current Riverway pedestrian bridge begins its own 620-foot span of the river.

Previously known to all as the Grand River, in 1921 Congress bowed to political pressure and erroneously renamed the The original 1912 Grand River highway bridge at Moab terminated in what would later become Lions Club Park - Click for larger image ( recognized river as the "The Colorado River". Although it is a longer and stronger tributary to what we now call the Upper Colorado Basin, the Green River received no credit in the history books. Instead, the Colorado River became the politically correct source of the mighty river well-known for its creation of the Grand Canyon. Red, green; if you plan to recreate history on your own terms, what is the difference?

According to Moab native Mrs. Verlyn Westwood (1936-2009), there was once a guard shack on the north bank, across from what later would become Lions Club Park. During World War II, two men took turns guarding the old Colorado River highway bridge. With little vehicular traffic crossing the bridge at Moab, nighttime guard duty was lonely and quiet. On a night uncertain, a large Jim Farrell's 1950 Chevy "Moab Truck" rests atop the original 1912 highway bridge abutment along the Colorado River at Moab, Utah, with the Riverway Bridge in the background - Click for larger image ( came loose from the canyon rim above. Without warning, the errant boulder crashed down upon the guard shack, crushing to death Mr. Otto Ellis, who was standing guard that night. Decades later, some local residents suggested the erection of a memorial plaque at that site.

If you research “Lions Club Park, Moab, Utah, there are few historical references to the place. For decades, a masonry and wooden historical sign stood at the park. The sign stood at a diagonal, facing the intersection of U.S. Highway 191 and Utah State Route 128. From its fading and flaking text, we know that the Lions were still adding improvements to the park well into the 1980s.

In this undated photo, a raven sits atop the welcome sign at old Lions Park in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( after its inception in 1940, the Lions Club of Moab adopted and named the park. With tacit blessings from the City of Moab and Grand County, the Lions Club installed pit toilets and built a kitchen building. From a paved parking lot, concrete walkways led to picnic tables, shaded by immense Fremont Cottonwood trees. With a natural water source nearby, the club created Lions Park Spring, which was lesser known than “Matrimony Spring”, just across State Highway 128. With its shady glen, lush trees and access to the Colorado River, it is easy to imagine many a local marriage celebrated at the park.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005, from 1 to 3 PM, the Moab Lions Club celebrated its 75th anniversary at Lions Park. By then, the word “Club” had disappeared from the official name of the park. On that fall day in 2005, former members and Lions from neighboring communities joined local Lions for lunch and a program.

In 2007, the Moab Lions Club was active in the area. News reports indicate that Moab Lions members conducted a highway clean up in both the spring and fall, picking up trash along the highway between Lin Ottinger's Rock Shop In 2008, traffic crosses the 1960's Colorado River highway bridge, heading for Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( the Colorado River Bridge. In addition, the Moab Lions Club worked to clean up the Lions Park area, removing weeds and trash.

Planning for reconfiguration of the area around Lions Park had been underway since 2001. In 2003, Utah State University produced concept drawings of the area. In 2007, Grand County created a task force to develop recommendations for the project area. With help from the National Park Service, the task force became the Lions Park Planning Group (LPPG). The LPPG included Moab City, Grand County, National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Sovereign Lands, Trail Mix, Moab Trail Alliance and the Lions Club.

in 2010, this adventurous retired couple visited Lions Park on their BMW motorcycle. Note the paved parking, Fremont Cottonwood trees and pit toilet facilities then present at the park - Click for larger image ( May 2010, Moab Happenings published an article about the upgrading and expansion of Lions Park. Soon it would extend beyond its tiny niche on the east side of the highway bridge. The long-term goals got a boost with the opening of the Colorado Riverway Bridge in 2008. That 620-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge took nine years of work, from concept to completion.

“Moab is about to lead the way in designing a ‘sustainable’ Lions Park at the Colorado River bridge,” Lions Park project leader Sharen Hauri, told a crowd. The reconstructed park was envisioned as an “oasis and gateway” to Moab. “We want to make this a world-class project that nobody will ever forget.”

Downstream from the Riverway Bridge, a new Colorado River highway bridge opened in 2011. That event added urgency to the redevelopment of the triangle of land known historically as Lions Club Park. The LPPG looked forward to trails, interpretive signs and facilities that would complete the central site, In 2009, the first of two new highway bridge-spans across the Colorado River at Moab was then under construction - Click for larger image (“It’s all going to be a showpiece,” Kim Schappert said. The project is referred to as “Lions Park: Gateway to Moab.”

“We want to allow people to connect to the Southwest and Moab in a way that is memorable forever,” said Reci Peterson, an interpretive planner and consultant for Psomas Design of Salt Lake.

The Grand County Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) proposed that the area be designated a historic district. HPC members argued for recognition of numerous cultural and archaeological resources and sites near the park. Included on their list were Matrimony Spring, the Moab Panel (Indian rock art), and the World War II bridge-guard station. Members of the HPC wanted recognition of a colorful history of river crossings by such parties as the Spanish conquistadors, early Native American traders, Anglo trappers, the 1855 Elk Mountain Mission and outlaws such as Butch Cassidy.

This concrete walled cave with a steel door stands near the spot of the ill-fated 1940's guard shack along the Colorado River at Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( said that the Lions Park transit-trailhead hub would have as its focal point a “signature building” with a plaza full of interpretive stories and other information. Other features would include picnic tables by the river, grassy and shady areas for play and relaxation, sand and volleyball courts, plus water features using nearby natural springs. Plans included several pavilions for group events, and a gigantic “walk-over” map that park visitors could traverse to see where they are in relation to the river, mountains and geography of Southwest.

“This keeps getting better as time goes along,” Community Development Director Dave Olsen said.

This is Part 1 of a two-part article. To read Part 2, click HERE.

Email James McGillis
Email James McGillis