If there is a place you might expect to be lectured on the evils of alcohol, a Mormon town in Utah would be it, but the person you’d least expect to receive the lecture from would be the person trying to sell you a beer.
We drove up to Utah yesterday to see some of the great natural wonders of the state and landed in Panguitch where we were to spend the night.
Having eaten a mighty brunch at the CasaBlanca Casino in Mesquite en route, we weren’t feeling particularly hungry, but my companions were thirsty for an ice cold beer.
We wandered the main street in a fruitless search for a bar and ended up at the Cowboy Smokehouse Cafe which at least had a Bud Light sign in the window. But when we sat down to order, we were told by the pleasant owner that it would breach her licence to serve alcohol without food.
That was fine by me as I wanted coffee and pecan pie and ice cream, but my fellow travellers had to order a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa before they were allowed their ice cold glasses of beer.
Not content with this, the woman serving then regaled us with tales of the evils that drink could lead to, mostly from examples of her own family which seemed a tad over familiar on first acquaintance.
As Marj said afterwards, ‘She had our number where alcohol was concerned and that number was one.’
Although Ant had warned us that Utah might strike us as a little odd where alcohol was concerned, I don’t think we had really taken this on board. For instance, there is not a single bar in Panguitch, at least not one that has survived more than a season or two.
However, there is a state run liquor agency on the main street. The woman who runs it isn’t a civil servant, but is self-employed. She buys the liquor and sells is at cost price and is then paid by the state based on the amount she sells.
I’m not sure if this is to save her from the sin of profiting from the sale of alcohol, or whether there is an even more convoluted Mormon reason. Very little of her goods are sold to residents of Panguitch who don’t want to be seen entering her small shop, especially by the little old lady who sits on the bench outside who makes a list of her customers to give to the bishop.
She does make a living though, and not just from passing tourists like us. Apparently much of her custom comes from residents of other Mormon towns who travel to Panguitch to avoid being spotted by their own version of the alcohol concern agent.
I’m glad we visited the town though. (I struggle to think of it as a city) A taste of small town America I suppose you’d call it.
Panguitch has had its racier side. Apparently Butch Cassidy attended a dance here and had to flee after getting into a fight. Whether this was because he was refused a second beer isn’t recorded, but he headed off to nearby Red Canyon on what is now known at the Cassidy Trail.
It is also a place of miracles. The first pioneers arrived in what is now Panguitch in 1863 led by Jens Neilsen. They settled and planted crops, but weren’t very successful at it.
They eventually had to abandon their oxen and continue on foot and things were looking bleak. The men said a prayer and then began to make progress by laying their quilts on the snow so they could cross without sinking.
Their bravery and piety is commemorated with an annual Quilt Walk Parade and the statue above in the little park opened in 2011.
For our part though, the town was our first experience of a motel which was probably not as good or as bad as we might have expected. The rooms were clean and functional, but there were noisy arrivals and departures, including a loud conversation between three Chinese men and three German motorcyclists that woke me at 6am.
I presume that we had been mixed up with the former of the two groups as we had a Chinese version of the Book of Mormon for our bedtime reading.
Ah well, next stop Bryce Canyon.