I could feel the slight vibration of my car’s steering wheel in my hand as I drove west on state Route 199 though Rush Valley. It was approaching dusk and the light was perfect. I think it’s what a photographer would call the golden hour. Farmsteads were on my left and right. The Stansbury Mountains and Johnson Pass, also known as Fisher Pass, were straight ahead. It looked just like a postcard.
The pass I was about to enter is named for Carl Fisher, who grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. He quit school when he was 12 years old! His first job, out of school, was in a grocery store. That’s when he discovered he was an entrepreneur. After a few short years in the grocery business, he opened a bicycle shop and then a car dealership.
In 1904, he began the Prest-O-Light company and by 1913 he sold Prest-O-Light for $9 million. While owning Prest-O-Light he imagined the idea of building an automobile testing ground and racetrack. In August 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held its first race, but accidents and the deaths of six people, caused the first race to be canceled. The crushed stone and tar track pavement was determined to be too dangerous for racing.
Undaunted, Fisher paved the track with 3.2 million bricks, so the first 500-mile race, called the International Sweepstakes, took place on May 30, 1911. This annual event has been known as the Indianapolis 500 ever since. But Fisher’s next venture, the building of the first transcontinental highway — the Lincoln Highway — is what I was thinking about on my drive through and over Fisher Pass. While the beautiful drive allowed me to marvel, I knew that life here was much more than the simple post card offered to me now.
Not too many months prior to this drive, I was sitting with Nancy Long in her cozy ranch house near the mouth of Fisher Pass. She was telling me stories and of how she had been tirelessly working to preserve another history of the area — its ranching history.
“I walked out the back door to see my husband sitting on the porch bench asleep, with his boot in hand. He was so tired that he had fallen asleep while putting his boots on!” Nancy said as she described how hard they had worked on their ranch in their younger years.
Her words seemed to create a direct connection between me, Fisher and the ranchers, who had paved the road I was driving on, with their blood, sweat, tears and dreams.
“They all lived life outside of this postcard!” I said aloud as I started down the west side of the pass toward Terra, although I was the only one who could hear the verbalized sentiment.
While driving, I could feel the slight vibration of our history as I continued west on SR-199. The farmsteads were now behind me. The Stansbury Mountains and Fisher Pass were about to be in my rearview mirror as well.
Yet, I knew that life here offered much more than the attractive postcard just presented to me. This land embodies priceless, individual hopes and dreams, toil and triumph, and even defeat.
You see, Fisher was completely bankrupt by 1932, caused by one of his greatest business ventures — the development of Miami Beach. And this tireless and resourceful businessman died seven years later. I reverenced him, through memory, as I crested his namesake mountain pass, and the fading rays of the sun illuminated my way and mind, while delivering an important message.
Living life outside and beyond a postcard view allows a person to understand the true majesty of life through shared experience. When you and I take the time to build deep relationships with others so we can share their individual stories, triumphs and challenges, our lives will never be bankrupt.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.