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April Snow in Utah

April Snow in Utah
Author Collage

First, there were the many banners, undulating from windows high above as black sedans, the proud vehicles of state, drove slowly for all to behold and regard with wonder. Then, girls with flowers in their hair skipped unhurried, as sidewalk cafés brimmed in the afternoon with patrons–and always the uniforms hinting at darker things. There, in prosaic scenes, was the elegance of a nightmare.

After the dogs and I arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona for a stopover, I set up the RV in a refreshing bit of chill, cooked a burger for dinner, and watched a documentary about the Second World War, perhaps feeling a bit tired of recent news and the gathering clouds of apocalypse–-another war, as the horrors of the twentieth century remain unhealed. The film was composed of color footage, the Nazis reveling at their height of power, images all the more poignant for their relevance to our time.

My father fought in World War II, serving in Patton's Third Army, the Colored Division, storming Utah Beach on D-Day, seeing the horrors of a concentration camp, and surviving the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of the Bulge. As I recall, he also did occupation duty in Austria, for a time, and became rather fond of skiing. He spoke highly of the people he met and found it charming that European children would regard him with wonder, believing that he was made of chocolate. Beyond that, my father rarely spoke of the war.

After dinner, I took the dogs for a walk in the surrounding Coconino Forest and studied the mountains, those beautiful slopes filled with spring snow, and the air chilled to a pleasant perfection. Many years ago, my father trudged through winter hours and days as a young soldier, under vastly different circumstances, and emerged from the forest to return home. I consider this as the evening approaches, and I reflect on the journey of the next day. Although he has been dead for many years, and we were never fond of each other, I find myself remembering him in the shadow of these mountains.

Blanding, Utah

Author Photo

The drive was a bit longer and more tiring than I had anticipated, as miles of Arizona desert evaporated, like a traveler's dream, subsiding into the well-maintained highways of Utah. And in the distance, I saw even more majestic scenes of April snow, intensified by the sun, their shapes introduced by red rock plateaus. The expanse was almost overwhelming, as I rounded a series of curves, and the image of Utah's glory appeared in greater measure.

Long stretches of highway bring contrasting levels of awareness.

Just as mountain grandeur captured my thoughts, and I felt awed by the experience, I glanced at the gas gauge with a bit of concern. Then, I thankfully recalled stopping in the previous town, observing my ritual of taking the dogs out for their business and finding fuel. However, even with a full tank, a certain primal fear takes hold as one enters an unrelenting environment. And this stretch of highway was a bit challenging.

For many miles, the shoulder of the road would have been too narrow for my RV, had we needed to stop. Moreover, the winds were beginning to strengthen, as large trucks thundered by, pushing my vehicle closer to the edge of the road than I would have preferred. But with a bit of determination, we carried on into the afternoon.

Still with plenty of gas, we approached Blanding shortly after lunchtime, the Blue Mountain Trading Post and RV Park, to be exact, a curious showcase of native art that also serves as a waystation for travelers. As a place to sleep for the night, and dump the tanks before heading north, it was perfect. Interestingly, the owner inquired about my surname, explaining that the Palmers of the area were prominent and influential. I assured him that I was no relation.

Eventually, we arrived at our next destination, another small town, a bit closer to Provo and the vastness of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. That will be an excursion for another day. Our current stop in Southern Utah brings historic towns (rumored to be haunted) and glorious state parks into our experience, a true adventure. As for my father, my recollections continue.

After my own experiences on patrol in law enforcement--but never in battle--I can look back on my father with a degree of understanding, although our experiences were markedly different. However, there were areas of overlap, as well. Wherever we serve, we perform the tasks that fall to us, dreadful as they may be, and put the pieces of our lives back together, as best we can. And, from time to time, we encounter the healing mercies of April snow.