They’re back in school now, but for one group of local students, you could say that their educational adventures never let up this summer.
Thanks to a partnership between the local 4-H Club and the Museum of Moab, kids between the ages of 6 and 12 had the opportunity to step back in time and meet the unique people who shaped the history of Moab.
Museum of Moab Education Program Director Andrea Stoughton created the six-week Storytrekkers summer program utilizing Canyon Legacy journal articles to tell the stories of the diverse and fascinating characters who once lived in Moab.
Each week, Stoughton told the tales of the experiences that locally famous people endured to live in canyon country, including stories about the ranchers and cattle company representatives who were at loggerheads with each other.
These “range wars” caused many law-abiding cowpokes to become outlaws, and they needed a place to hide out to evade the local authorities.
One of those people – Bill Tibbetts – hid out at Robbers Roost when the range wars were raging, long after Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch occupied the area. Later in his life, Tibbetts married and settled down and became a lawman.
As they listened to the story, one of the Storytrekkers said, “I thought all outlaws were bad guys.”
In Tibbetts’ case, he straddled both sides of the law, but he was known as an honest man.
Fast-forwarding from the range wars to the uranium boom, the Storytrekkers learned about Dan O’Laurie, the museum’s namesake. O’Laurie was the Museum of Moab’s financial backer in the early days and, along with Bill McCormick, he also helped Charlie Steen become successful.
Steen became the Uranium King from 1950s into the 1960s, discovering uranium in his first mine called the Mi Vida and making him one of the richest men in America.
Using clay and wood, the kids constructed their own miniature Mi Vida mines.
They also made tiny “Seamore Beemore” characters, who conveniently live in Altoid cans. Seamore loves to travel and visit museums. He can be transported in a pocket, backpack or suitcase, to share in the adventures of the person carrying him.
After they learned about the uranium boom years, the students heard stories about the pioneers of outdoor recreation in Moab.
A love of rock climbing inspired Eric Bjornstad and his partner Fred Becky to start making the first ascents of towers around the Moab area in the 1970s.
When Bjornstad first came to Moab, he stayed with Lin Ottinger, who knows the remote country surrounding Moab well. Ottinger owns the Moab Rock Shop, and at the time, he took people in his VW van on tours exploring the unique canyons outside Moab.
Ottinger found a pair of towers in Taylor Canyon, and in 1970, he took Bjornstad and Becky to the canyon in dune buggies. They made the first ascent that day of a 500-foot tower named Zeus, and a year later climbed Moses, a 650-foot tower. This started a climbing revolution that exploded into new climbing routes all over the canyons surrounding the Moab area.
Ottinger was one of the first people to take a rubber raft purchased at Sears down the San Rafael River. He recited a poem he wrote called “The Ballad of Sid Swasey” about a cowboy named Sid Swasey who jumped with his horse across the San Rafael River.
The kids sat spellbound as Ottinger told tales of days past and his adventures with Bjornstad.
“What a treat it was to have the ‘Best Storyteller’ in Moab share his stories with the kids (during) the
last session of the camp,” Moab resident Marsha Marshall said.
To wind up the program, the kids braided paracord bracelets and told tales of their own of the amazing people they met at the Museum of Moab.
Summer camp students learned all about area’s rich history
This is the second of two submitted articles about the Museum of Moab’s Storytrekkers Summer Camp. To learn more about the program, please see the Aug. 11-17, 2016, edition of the Moab Sun News.