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The birds, the bees, the flowers and the trees...

Focus pages editor

As a young girl, Vera Finley gathered wild flowers with her mother.

From the time he was three years old, Max Finley's father took him fishing up Huntington Canyon all the time.

When the two got together Vera would go with Max fishing and she would explore the wild flowers with her children while he worked the streams with his fly rod.

But Vera and the kids wanted more than just a few wilted flowers to take home; they wanted lasting beauty. Vera convinced Max to buy a camera and start photographing the flowers she found.

"Soon I wasn't going to fish anymore," says Max. "I was going on the trips to only take photos of flowers."

It's a hobby that has grown into a passion for Max and for Vera. So much so that they published a book called Wild Flowers of Castle Country two years ago. It features almost all the wild flowers of our area, with the common names and a unique way of looking them up in the index; by color.

"We love the mountains around here and the desert," says Vera. "People see a flower and they want to know what it is. They often only know what color it is, so that is the way we set the book up."

The index lists the flowers by hue, and also lists them by their common name as well as their scientific moniker. It's probably one of the best guides to flowers in Castle Country that there is.

But the passion doesn't stop there. The Finley's also love the other beautiful things that are in Castle Valley as well. At present they are planning a book with photos about the birds and the bees and more flowers and trees.

Max knows what beauty is, probably to some extent because he experienced the close up ugliness of war during the 1940's.

Max, who belonged to an artillery squadron, was in one of the first units on Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

"We lost two out of 10 guys before we left the beach," he said sitting in the couple's comfortable home in Price. "By the time the war was over, only two of us were left."

Vera also experienced some grave ugliness during that time. Max was crossing the Rhine River in an amphibious vehicle when it hit a land mine. He was nearly killed and it took four weeks for him to get well enough to write home.

When the letters stopped coming Vera feared the worst, but did not hear anything. She contacted the Red Cross, but they could find nothing out about Max's whereabouts or fate. She thought he had been killed.

He finally started to write again and she was relieved when the letters showed up.

Max went back to the war and served with a British unit for awhile because they were short artillery personnel due to high casualties.

When he returned from the war she was waiting and their life together went on.

"Few people today realize how hard war is," says Max, who has also written a book with photos about his war experiences called Softly Spoken.

The Finley's have a neat and beautiful yard, filled with domesticated flowers.

But their true love is still the wild ones that grow on the desert flats and the crags of the high peaks that range around the place we call home.

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