"I remember it like yesterday," Uncle Spud said as he sat on the porch sipping a cup of discontinued Postum from his secret stash. "We crossed the plains with Brother Brigham and settled the Salt Lake Valley. 'Twas the summer of 1847 it was. I was just a lad back then and hadn't yet reached my full measure of status and respectability in the mountain man community."
"You couldn't be that old," I insisted. "Brigham Young came to Utah 161 years ago."
"Pure mountain air, clean livin' and lots of onions and Tabasco sauce are the fountain of youth," he insisted. "I was old enough to drive Brigham's wagon, wrangle the horses and scout the route all the way from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley."
"So tell me, since you are obviously the last of the Days of '47 pioneers, what was the journey like?"
"There was buffalo everywhere back then," he said wistfully. "And since I was driving Brigham's wagon and we were in the lead, I'm the guy who got down from the wagon seat and opened the gateway to the west there in St. Louis, Mo."
"I thought the gateway to the west was just a figure of speech?" I questioned.
"No, it was a real gate made of barbed wire and pine poles. And that's what happened to the buffalo, you know. A few years later some drunken cowboy left the gateway to the west open and all the buffalo got out. That's why there aren't any today."
"Bummer," I said.
"And then there were lots of hostile Indians," he continued. "I was out scouting the trail when I got captured by Stupid Horse, a half-brother to the famous Sioux war chief, Hypertensive Buffalo."
"How did you get away?" I asked.
"Well, Stupid Horse wasn't too swift, so I offered him my Daniel Boone belt buckle and the Black Hills of South Dakota for my freedom and he went for it."
"But you didn't own the Black Hills of South Dakota."
"I told you Stupid Horse was a dim-bulb. In fact, all the Indians said he was crazy for making such a deal and they started calling him Crazy Horse after that. But then a few years later General Custer and Crazy Horse had a serious misunderstanding about who owned the Black Hills. I've always felt kind of bad about that."
"So what did the Salt Lake Valley look like in 1847?" I asked.
"It was a dreary wilderness without any smog," he said. "On a clear day you could see the big cowboy casino sign in Wendover. The Indians called the valley Suwa. Suwa is a Native American word that means 'heap big piles of stinky dead brine shrimp.'
"Is it true that Brigham Young's first words after seeing the valley were, 'This is the place?'"
"Actually, when we went past the zoo he said, 'who the heck is Hogle?' I think those were his real first words after entering the valley."
"So how did the Mormons get the deed to the valley? Didn't someone else own it at the time?"
"The Indians owned the valley at the time, but Brigham Young traded them the University of Utah for free title to the rest of the valley. That's why the U of U is known today as the home of the running Utes."
"Why are they called the running Utes?"
"Because the tribal legal department has been trying for 160 years to run down the shyster lawyer who drafted that land deal," he smiled.
"Is it true that the Indian word Utah means 'top of the mountain?'"
"No, I think it means 'point of the mountain.'"
"So how did you end up here on the Wasatch Behind after being one of the original settlers of the Salt Lake Valley?" I asked.
"There wasn't any work for my profession in Salt Lake or Happy Valley," he said.
"What is your profession?"
"I'm a professional intoxicologist," he said.
"Intoxicologist," he said again. "You know, a bartender. I put in 30 years tending bar at the Bloody Bucket saloon on south Carbon Avenue.
"I thought this was a dry state and a dry county," I answered.
"Only the weather," he smiled. "Only the weather."
Happy Pioneer Day to all from Uncle Spud and crew.