April 27, 2008

Indian Petroglyphs on Stansbury Island

There are few things I enjoy more than riding out along some long forgotten trail somewhere in our western hills. The ideal day will be sunny but a little on the chilly side with a slight wind coming over a lake or river or down a draw. On a day like that, horses are at their best – as far as I am concerned. The chill in the air adds a touch of spring to their step and they tend to move out briskly. A little breeze on the wing keeps their attention alert and ears perked up trying to listen for every little thing. Such a day was last Saturday when a small group of horsemen headed out for the ancient Indian petroglyphs along the rimrock of Stansbury Island in the Great Salt Lake. We were guided by Duke North, Chief Deputy Sheriff of Tooele Country, who has patrolled the island range for years.

I rode my horse Target, a registered paint (Classy Bar Link is his registered name) – even though he is a solid blood bay. I chose Target as a yearling because of his well formed hip. Horses get their propulsion and subsequent speed from their rear legs. Fast horses have well formed hips. Target is no exception. I first realized just how fast he is when he started keeping pace with the race horses as they were being exercised at our county equestrian park and race track.

With the cool temperature on Saturday morning, Target was literally chomping at the bit ready to take off. When I gave him the go, we ran and loped leaving the rest of the horses and riders far behind. He was able to keep it up most of the day, with a little rest during the lunch break, where he stood motionless in hobbles for an hour. Target is a very well mannered horse with excellent ground manners, loves people and has a winning personality. He just likes speed and it is a little deceptive because his movement is so smooth that the rider (me) doesn’t realize just how fast he is going until somebody says something or until you all of a sudden look around and realize you are alone.

At any rate, we all got to the rimrock ridge where the petroglyphs are located. Deputy North pointed a few of them out and showed where more were to be seen along the ridge through the quartzite outcropping of rimrock. We then followed the ancient artwork on horseback up the ridge. Along the way we stopped to admire sketches of people, animals, snakes, fish, stars, the earth, the sun, the moon and what looked to be extraterrestrial beings. The glyphs ended at a medicine wheel arrangement of stones at the top of the ridge. Certainly this place had some sort of ceremonial significance to the proto-Shoshoni who inhabited the Great Basin 10,000 years ago.

I have been in the great art museums of Paris on many occasions – The Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art, L’Orangerie and have even visited Monet’s home as well as hung around the artsy town of Barbizon at the edge of the forest of Fontainbleu – admiring the great masterpieces of western civilization, but until last Saturday, I have seldom had the experience of coming face to face with traces of humanity and evidence of their existence on that very spot dating back 10,000 years. It is a feeling of wonderment and awe but also of great personal insignificance – thinking that if you don’t “get it all down before she goes” there may never be a record or a trace of your life on this planet when you go.

This photo in this post is of the petroglyphs along the rimrock of Stansbury Island. Years ago, I wrote a poem called “Rimrock” which has become the title of both my book and my CD. So – let’s ride up again . . . (on fast horses of course).

by Paul Kern

Let’s ride up again and drop the reins,
Along the rimrock as the twilight wanes.
We’ll take in the rimrock’s hidden view,
Where beauties are many and cares are few.

We’ll roll back time and then we’ll recall,
A trip with the horses we made in the fall,
Along the rimrock with sandstone hues,
We were younger then with nothing to lose.

For years we’ve ridden back up to gaze,
Along the rimrock where it clears the haze,
Where miles stretch away and out and far,
You can see the way things really are.

We’ll loosen the girth and pull the saddle,
Layin’ aside for now the cares of the cattle.
Along the rimrock near that old lone pine,
We’ll linger a while where the view is fine.

We’ll settle ourselves down for a spell,
On that spot of ground we know so well.
Let’s ride up again and drop the reins,
Along the rimrock as the twilight wanes.

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