A few years ago, the Business Owners of Bluff, which is commonly known as BOB, or BOOB if beer is involved, decided our small community should have signs announcing its name to the many people traveling U.S. Highway 191. It was not that we craved attention or had an identity crisis, we just wanted everyone to know what this slice of heaven is called.
The Bobbies, as BOB members are sometimes known, are a progressive group, and when they set their minds to a project good things generally happen. These are, after all, the individuals responsible for the annual Bluff International Balloon Festival; an event that brings hot air balloons and hordes of people to our community each January.
As anyone who has spent time in Bluff knows, everything must be thoroughly debated before it is implemented. This process has been known to take decades. So, as you might guess, the idea of signing the town had to be fully vetted. As mentioned, however, the Bobbies are not ones to waste time on trifling details, so a consensus was quickly reached; the signs would go up.
The next issue was what would the signs say. Some wanted Bluff to have a motto, others did not; the others won out. Some desired a picture of one of the rock monuments associated with the town. The Twin Rocks seemed the logical choice. That idea was soon discarded as too divisive. Eventually it was decided they should simply say Bluff, Utah and list the date it was established. And that is were Bluff’s most recent controversy began.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines establish as “1 a: to make firm or stable, b: to introduce and cause to grow and multiply.” On that basis, settlement by the Mormon pioneers in 1880 was a sensible choice. I, however, proposed 1989, the year Twin Rocks Trading Post was built and Barry and I began peddling turquoise jewelry and Navajo rugs on this location. For what were obvious reasons to everyone but me, that suggestion never got any traction.
“What about tying the date to our prehistoric habitation?” someone asked. Well, that was an issue we had not even considered. “Could that be establishment?” we asked. “Sure,” it was concluded. We decided the term meant more than the arrival of fair skinned individuals of European descent; surely it included those who came before. There was support for acknowledging both the Ancient Puebloan and the settlers, but placing two dates on the signs was confusing, so that suggestion died for lack of a second.
It was finally determined we should contact the anthropologists to determine when the first permanent structures were built on this location. “650 A.D.,” was the response from noted local archaeologists Bill Davis and Winston Hurst. That, and the fact that including this date on the signs would likely stimulate lively discussion was good enough for us. Bluff is unique, and this seemed a way to distinguish ourselves from the other communities in this region.
So, the signs went up and the dialogue began. “What? 650 A.D.? Columbus -1492?” To say we were pleased with ourselves for creating such debate would be an understatement. We did not, however, realize the impact our signs would have on a few of the descendants of those involved in the Hole In The Rock Expedition. Take them down, howled a great, great grandson of Bishop Jens Nielson. “You can rewrite history, but you can’t change [it],” he declared in the local paper.
We just smiled, knowing full well that Bluff is still being established by its modern day pioneers, that establishment is an ongoing process and that we had succeeded in our goal of simulating conversation. Each day when I see the sun break over the horizon, signaling the beginning of a new chapter, I am reminded that we and our history are temporary, but the land is eternal.
With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.