Saturday, June 09, 2007

June 9, 2007
When I pullled into the town of Helper, Utah yesterday afternoon I had a very strong feeling of deja vu. The whole valley, from the squared off mesas, to the old style mining houses and arid streets with green trees looked way too familiar and I instantly felt like I had been here before. Today, during the Helper Heritage Days Celebration in front of the Western Mining & Railroad Museum when a strong gust of wind lifted the tent I was in, right over our heads and scattered magazines everywhere, I knew instantly why Helper reminded me exactly of my hometown—Kingman, Arizona.

Yes, strong, persistent winds, grizzled cowboys (actually mostly miners in Helper's case, although Kingman had its share of those as well) and trains every half hour, along with the smalltown nature of the quaint houses, took me right back to my old Kingman. Not the new Kingman with 60,000 plus weirdos, and counting. Not the Kingman with no center, just roving, random pockets of franchise splatter. No, the Kingman of my youth when there were 3,300 people (Helper has about 2,000), and a regional look with a Western twang that was unique to that part of the U.S.

Last night at the Bordello Ball I spoke to the attendees about those similariities and my affection for Helper's hidden gem-like attractions. I warned them of what could go wrong (they could end up looking like the Kingman of today) and encouraged them to hold on to what they have.

Someone once said that success and happiness is that brief moment between having too little and having too much, and I think towns suffer from that as well. Every time I go back to Kingman I see less and less of the Kingman I grew up in, and more and more of the cookie cutter sameness that has infected all successful urban areas. As I told my Helper friends, the Chilli's in Provo looks exactly like the Chilli's in Gilbert, Arizona, and every damn corner of Salt Lake City with the new state-of-the-art shopping mall looks exactly like the ones we have in Paradise Valley. Are we in Cleveland? Or Spanish Fork? Only the mountains, or lack of them, will clue you in. I hate all of that so much.

So Helper is a special place and that's why I came here this weekend. At one today I presented Sueann Martel The True West trophy for Western Town of the Year. The small crowd cheered.

I'm staying in the Holiday Inn in Price (6 miles from Helper) and they have True West magazines in every room, plus our True West logo graces their lobby saying that Helper is a top ten Western town. Lots of support up here in Utah for all our efforts and for that I'm grateful.

This morning local historian Joel Frandsen took me on a tour of Price to see all the historic sites. Saw the house and grave of Matt Warner (Wild Bunch member). Much argument about whether Butch Cassidy participated in the Castle Gate payroll robbery, near here in 1898. Most of the locals around here believe he did, but Glade Fawson, of Salt Lake City, who came down for the events today, feels that Butch was not here. Glade got into it with Joel, with both sides making good points (any long time controversy can be "proven" either way).

Joel took me downtown to have a big, hearty Utah breakfast at the Farlaino's Cafe. I had the Western skillet and it was fantastic ($18.19 plus $3 tip, True West account).

Also, last night at the Bordello Ball they acutioned off two of my CGII books, getting $65 each for them, and they auctioned off one of my scratchboards, that appears in CGII ("Bob Paul Yells, 'I Hold For No One!'") and it fetched $150, with all proceeds donated to the museum.

Today I tried to buy two books out of the museum, "The Outlaw Trail" by Charles kelly and "The Wild bunch at Robbers Roost" by Pearl Baker, but Sueann wouldn't let me pay. Read some of the introduction to the Kelly book and here's a quote by a former True West editor:

"If you want to write a true story, write a novel, because the truth must be mined from a mountain of lies, legends and missing clues."
—John Joerschke, 1991 (Well, said, my Man)

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