Driving back from Callao, Utah on a moonless night, I looked out my driver’s side window and saw lights on the mountain in the distance. I struggled to understand why the mountains were sparkled with tiny dots, then I realized I was looking at the stars.
I stopped the car at the side of the road, turned off the ignition, and stepped outside into the darkness. The sky hit my eyes like a power chord from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It had been many years since I was far away enough from a city or traffic to actually see the milky way.
Suddenly it all came back to me. This was the end of a journey that had started in the spring of 2005. Travelling town to town, learning more, understanding Utah.
Callao was spectacular. I had never visited a town so small, yet overwhelmingly beautiful. Unpaved streets, no municipality, no police force, a one-room schoolhouse, and the most serene desert landscape you can imagine. Fighting for their very existence against the state of Nevada who wishes to drain their home of what little water exists for lawns in Las Vegas. A drilling exercise that would be suitable for an episode of the Simpsons if it weren’t so tragic. These committed Utahns continue their battle in spite of an ignorant congressional delegation that claims it is “conservative”. If this small group’s way of life is not deserving of conservation, then I have a hard time understanding exactly what is being conserved.
They talked to me about water, but then they told me so much more. The teacher of 19 years told me her dozen or so students are held to “No Child Left Behind” standards, which they can not meet because one child is autistic. They spoke of the war, the economy, energy, agriculture, ranching, and the fact that they have been promised fast Internet, but still have to rely on dial-up. I was taken aback that although they were geographically remote, they were in no way distant.
Their plight reminded me of one of the first campaign trips I took, to Bicknell, Torrey, and Teasdale. I went to campaign, but I also wanted to see BIFF, a decade long film festival that is more party than cinematic expose. At the closing night bash, I was introduced to a supportive audience and had a fine time. As I was leaving the party, a man called out to me, “Hey! Ashdown!” I turned to meet him. He worked for the local municipal electric company and told amazing tales of reliable service and rates that hadn’t changed in nearly a decade. I thanked him for his interest in the campaign and said goodbye. As I turned to my car, he said one more thing that will stay with me forever.
“When you win, don’t forget about us. Don’t forget about the little guy.”
I haven’t and I won’t.