Cowboy SmokehouseIf 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.

Panguitch Main StreetWe 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.

After the said beers had been guiltily consumed, she asked if my companions would like another beer in a way that suggested that this wouldn’t be a good idea.

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.

Liquor Agency & Snitch's Bench

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.

Butch CassidyPanguitch 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.

Quilt WalkThe winter of 1864/65 was bitter and food scarce, so seven men volunteered to try to reach Parowan forty miles away to the west over the difficult Bear Valley Road.

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.

Chinese Book of Mormon

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.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

9 comments… Add yours
  • rhymeswithplague 26th April 2012

    I fear you will mistake your little trip through Utah for the quintessential American experience. It is not. The quintessential American experience is to come home to your double-wide mobile home and plop your fat behind on your own sagging couch in your underwear and drink a six-pack or two of beer while flipping through the channels of your 70-inch wall-mounted television with your handy-dandy remote control, watching portions of The View or Jersey Shore or Toddlers and Tiaras or Dog the Bounty Hunter or Dancing With the Stars until settling at last on your choice for the evening (and every evening), the “fair and balanced” news presentations of Rupert Murdoch’s baby, the Fox News Channel.

    I have never had the quintessential American experience either.

    Thanks be to God.

  • Mr Parrot 26th April 2012

    We have seen some rather large people while we have been here. I was in the shop at Bryce Canyon yesterday when a youthful example of this type crashed into me. He tried to apologise, but couldn’t because he was stuffing a hotdog into his face.

  • Jennyta 26th April 2012

    All part of the joyous travel experience, SP. 😉

  • Spotted Dick Pudding 26th April 2012

    Panguitch is the kind of “real” American town I love and thanks for telling your devoted readership about what would otherwise have been an anonymous nowhere kind of place…like Widnes or New Mills.

  • Trevor Rowley 26th April 2012

    Nowt wrong with Dog the Bounty Hunter, Mr Plague. It’s nice, easy watching and (a bit like a b&w western from the forties and fifties) the good guy always gets the baddie. Is his wife’s chest really registered as a landing pad for small helicopters?

  • john 26th April 2012

    My all american experience was dominated by the fact that the pavements in pittsburgh ( where I went to work for a while) were really shitty and run down….
    I was told that no one ever really walks there!!!

  • Katherine 26th April 2012

    Fascinating post. But RWP’s comment was very scary. You mean that Homer Simpson is not exaggerated?

    Looking forward to the next installment!

  • Trevor Rowley 28th April 2012

    With reference to John’s comment (above) about the pavements in Pittsburgh, this reminded me of a neighbour, some years ago, who had visited the USA some weeks previously. He told me that he and his wife were staying at a hotel in an American city (I can’t remember which one so let’s just say, for argument’s sake that it was Washington) which faced onto a busy inner-city street. As a typical Brit, he decided to go out for a “stroll” (We all do it, don’t we? First day on holiday, could be Benidorm, Blackpool or Brisbane) before breakfast. You can picture it, “Just nipping out for some cigarettes and a paper, love. See you in the dining room in ten minutes.” So, my neighbour goes down in the lift then exits through the hotel’s front door. He walks for about three or four minutes and is then suddenly confronted by armed Police officers who leap from their vehicle which has screeched to a halt alongside him. They pin him to the wall, frisk him, then, when they are satisfied that he isn’t carrying a concealed weapon they ask him what he’s up to.
    They struggle to accept his explanation that he is merely going out for a “stroll” and say that the only people they see on foot are usually from the criminal fraternity and on the lookout for their next crime. They seem to be totally unfamiliar with the daily habits of your average Limey. They heave him back into his hotel until they have definite proof that he is a genuine tourist then bid him good day. He was very careful where he went on foot after that.

  • Mr Parrot 29th April 2012

    I can’t say I’ve seen many pedestrians on the pavements of Las Vegas, at least not in the suburbs where we are. But then there don’t appear to be any corner shops that I could stroll to either. A car journey is essential for any trip to the gigantic stores that seem to sell everything you might conceivably require.


Your email will not be published on this site, but note that this and any other personal data you choose to share is stored here. Please see the Privacy Policy for more information.

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: