Mortality: Exploring Our Own Backyard

Several Unexpected Things Before Bedtime

The Old Sinclair Station in Elberta, Utah at the crossroads December 2020.


This is the old Sinclair Station at the crossroads in small-town Elberta, Utah. Someone has recently adopted the old building and fixed it up. Grass has been planted and a fence built. Tonight, as we drove to Eureka, Utah to hunt for Christmas decorations and windows with Christmas trees, we were unexpectedly delighted by what we saw and wanted to share it with you.

We took the quiet roller-coaster road west of Utah Lake, through Saratoga Springs, past Mosida Farms and into the little and I mean little, town of Elberta. At the crossroads which is marked by a two-way stop, we could have turned left (east) through Goshen and Genola and into Santaquin or we could have continued south passed the Church and the Church Dairy Farm with its thousands of beautiful polite but hungry black and white dairy cows to a final unknown remote destination, or we could turn west, which we did. West took us through a little canyon, which increased in altitude to 6400 feet until we entered the old mining town of Eureka.

We love Eureka for its lack of pretense and for its history. We have walked through its cemetery in the summer on more than one occasion and looked at our reflections in the windows of the empty store fronts, many with their original facades.

We stopped at B/s Hanger and ordered a burger and fries to share. B’s family was putting up a Christmas tree and having a discussion about how best to do things. We waited in the car because of COVID and “B” brought out the meal when it was ready. She also brought our milkshake with two spoons sticking out of the top of the cup. It was a generous milkshake. “B” remembered napkins and fry sauce.


The sun had barely gone down and it was dusk.


Tom turned the car towards the street where we faced Tintic High School. Then we saw the deer. We had been complaining to each other than we hadn’t seen a single deer or any kind of wildlife on our entire drive. We were used to counting hawks on the tops of telephone poles but tonight, they had been absent. There in the field were some deer. While we ate, five deer became ten and then twenty. Soon they were running across the road from old buildings behind us until the number swelled and we were satisfied. One deer was eating the grass on the school lawn. 

We finished eating and started our ritual of driving up and down the streets just to see how things were. For me, it is an unsatisfied curiosity and Tom is an enabler but he seems to enjoy the ritual more than he is willing to say. What we found was a little town, overrun by healthy-looking deer. They were in large groups and small. They were all sizes. We even saw some horns. They were anywhere there was grass. Since there is no snow yet, that means everywhere. They were in almost every private yard which had grass. They were in the parking lot of the Church, walking on the sidewalk. They were resting under yard lights. They didn’t mind when we stopped and stared at them. In fact, we were ignored. We saw one small herd in which a curious deer was looking through a kitchen window while a woman fixed dinner. She pulled down the shade.

We didn’t hear a single dog barking nor did we see a deer running. They took their time and it appeared that this was a nightly, sundown ritual to which the town had become accustomed. No one was outside, shooing them away. The deer walked among inflatables and along fences hung with blinking lights seemingly without curiosity or apprehension. Tom says there were 100, at least and he is the world’s best counter because he counts the fish he has caught.


Some people say that a fisherman’s method of counting isn’t trustworthy but I am going to go with his estimate.


On the drive home, the full moon came up through a notch in the mountains to the east. It was a rich amber color. As we passed by the west side of Utah Lake again, it cast a beautiful amber shimmer across the lake like a wide, Christmas ribbon. 

We talked about the simplicity of Christmas decorations in small and humble towns. The feelings they inspire are a pleasure. We noted the multi-million-dollar homes in nearby Alpine which have been professionally decorated with millions of lights.


I vote for Eureka.


In Eureka, and other small and humble places, we saw the decorations with our hearts as well as our eyes. The decorations on really fancy homes we saw with our eyes only. It had something to so with The Spirit of Christmas, on display without perfectly straight house lights or a theme. Most homes said Merry Christmas with decorations and internal Christmas trees decorated with ornaments accumulated over years and thus they presented an eclectic look, though maybe not intentionally.



I don’t think that “eclectic” is an intentional style in Eureka which is why it represents the true definition of the word.



Take a drive this Christmas.






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