I used to listen to my graduating seniors at Monticello High School talk about what they intended to do after graduation. It usually was a variation of the following: “Well, I dunno, but for sure, I am getting out of this boring town as soon as I can and go where the action is!”
A few years later, usually with a wife and a couple of rug-rats, the prodigal son returns home for a visit and ruefully admits he wishes he had never left. For the young, the grass always seems a little greener “across the fence.”
Likewise, it is usually those who have never lived outside San Juan that do the most complaining about perceived negatives of our County.
If I had to pick the single thing that means the most to me about living in San Juan, it is my heritage. Part of my great great grandparents came through the Hole-in-the Rock. The rest arrived in time to be some of the first settlers of Monticello. Except for William Adams and his wives buried in the Bluff Cemetery, the rest of my direct line progenitors are all buried in Monticello. There is deep gratitude in my soul for their example and strength in fighting the good fight and enduring to the end. I visit their final resting places often and I never come away without an enormous feeling of pride, gratitude and joy for the example they have been to me.
In Southend-on-Sea, England (40 miles east of London) at the age of 19, I found myself among 35 million people in an area slightly smaller than San Juan. I was more lonely in that environment than anywhere I have ever been before or since. Sometimes we are the loneliest when we are lost in the crowd.
In Mesa, AZ, where 80 percent of the population is from somewhere else, there is little of personal history, heritage and the feeling of belonging. I was just another telephone number in a huge telephone book and I had the feeling that if I suddenly disappeared, few would know or care.
Add to my ancestors the great friends and mentors I have had in Monticello all my life, especially in my formative years in school and church. I owe so much to so many for what they have done for me and my family. That is another reason that the Monticello cemetery is a favorite place.
I know a little something about the occupant of nearly every grave there. I knew at least half of those buried there personally. It is wonderful to stroll among the headstones and contemplate all the good and great folks that have enriched my life.
I promised you a hundred reasons why San Juan was a great place to live four weeks ago. We have five to go in case you have been keeping tabs. In no particular order, here they are:
I love the four seasons. In Arizona they have two: Hot and hotter! People cuss the snow sometimes in these parts, but winter may be my favorite season, except for fall, spring and summer.
I am grateful there aren’t noxious bugs in Monticello and Blanding. Have you ever gone outside after the sun sets in most places? If the heat and humidity don’t drive you back inside, the bugs will. I have not had a single mosquito bite all summer, nor have I made the acquaintance of a gnat.
I am grateful that in San Juan most of the people whose personal space I am privileged to enter are still souls whose word is their bond. I think outsiders would be amazed if they knew how much work and how many commitments are still performed on a handshake here.
I am humbled at how people in this County rally around when someone suffers a tragedy in their lives or is really in need. In Arizona, our neighbor across the street lost his wife to cancer. The only reason we knew about it was we saw the mortician come to take the body away. During the next week there was virtually no one who came by to offer love and support, even from our own neighborhood. Can you imagine that happening in San Juan?
On Sunday, July 25, the call went out from church leaders for helpers to empty the Monticello LDS Stake Center of its furnishings prior to a remodeling. The leadership figured it would take two nights and Tuesday and Wednesday at 5 p.m. were scheduled. I arrived at 5:15 Tuesday. The parking lots were packed. There were hundreds of men and boys there ready to “put their shoulders to the wheel.” The biggest challenge turned out to be standing in lines for a chance to carry something from the building. The entire task was accomplished in a little over an hour.
If the whole country goes bankrupt, the trucks stop rolling, and the great cities fall into riot and anarchy, I can’t think of anywhere I would rather wait it out than right here in the middle of the most beautiful “nowhere” on earth . I think San Juaners will hang together during tough times just like they have been doing since 1879. What kind of a price do you put on a blessing like that?
And so I am done. I will no doubt think of things in the future that didn’t make it into print in this five-part essay. However, with 100 reasons to love San Juan and its little towns, I hope my thoughts on this special place have given you some thoughts of your own.