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The Wasatch Behind: a Letter to Butch Cassidy

By TOM McCOURT
Sun Advocate reporter

Dear Butch:

You haven't been seen in the Castle Valley area for more than 100 years now. So, I thought I'd write a letter and update you on what has happened since you last rode out of town. A lot has changed here on the Wasatch Behind.

Some people say you were killed in Bolivia back in 1909, but I know that could never have happened to you and Sundance. You guys are bulletproof. All the books and movies tell us that. I'm sure you are still alive and hiding out there on the Elmo frontier somewhere. I found your boot tracks in a little side canyon in Buckhorn Wash once. I told a bunch of Boy Scouts that you had made those tracks, but they didn't believe me.

I guess you heard that in 1969 they made a movie about you and the wild bunch. Paul Newman played you. Robert Redford was Sundance. The movie was a big hit and made lots of money, a lot more than you ever made robbing banks and trains.

In the movie, you and Sundance are a couple of nice guys. You are handsome, funny, and simply bursting with youthful exuberance and charm. Everyone likes you in the movie. They overlook the fact that you were a bully and a cheat.

In fact, over the years you and Sundance have become the most famous citizens the Castle Valley ever produced. There have been dozens of books, movies, organizations, clubs, rodeos, car shows, and other events named after you and your gang of thieves. For a long time I couldn't understand that. There have been many good men in Carbon County who gave lives of service to the community. They have all been forgotten. I guess being good is always so ordinary and dull. It's funny sometimes, who we pick as heroes. I guess there's a little outlaw in each of us.

But then, I have come to understand that maybe it isn't you that we worship. Maybe it's just your wild and carefree spirit that is bulletproof and refuses to die. The old west went with you when you rode off into the sunset. We long for the freedom that your memory represents. Things are very different today.

You wouldn't recognize your old stomping grounds. Price is a normal little city now, stale and tame by your rowdy standards. There are no gambling dens or cathouses here anymore, at least not officially. The bloody bucket saloon has a different name now and sells only 3.2percent beer. Your bladder gives out before you get stupid enough to dance on the bar and shoot out the lights.

The old town of Castle Gate, where you made your mark in the annals of the old west, has been gone for a long time. You stole only the payroll. A modern bunch of corporate bandits stole the whole town.

And you could never rob a payroll nowadays. Our money isn't worth anything today and so payrolls are done electronically. We shuffle paper and plastic and only pretend that it's real money. Even our coins are nothing but monopoly game tokens made of copper and aluminum with pictures of trees, cows, and peaches where our national symbols used to be. I'm not sure who got away with all the gold and silver that used to be in our coins. You and Sundance are small potatoes compared to modern thieves.

You would find that robbers roost has changed a lot too. It's a national park and a wilderness study area now. You would be in big trouble if they caught you living there without a permit. They don't want your horse pooping on the trails down there anymore either. It ruins the ambiance of the national park experience and makes a mess on mountain bikes. Bummer dude.

But, don't despair. There are two other robbers' roosts today: the halls of congress and the corporate boardrooms of New York. You and the wild bunch would fit right in.

And so, I hope this letter finds you well and happy and not full of Bolivian bullet holes. Tell Sundance he still owes me five bucks. Stop by sometime and we'll have a cup of postum around a BLM approved campfire.

Sincerely,

Uncle Spud





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