Now, I know I’ve written recently more than once concerning that stretch of asphalt between here and Evanston, but and here’s the rub it’s raised its head again and demands yet further attention. What’s a humble scribe to do? A new game is afoot and ignoring it is not an option.
Admittedly, if I’d been keeping in better touch with my mentor and barkeep-of-choice, Stan Taggart of Pete’s Roc N Rye saloon up in Evanston, I would have had more lead time regarding the latest goings on thereabouts. However, that not being the case, I find myself playing catch up.
Pete’s, you see, gained renown as a favorite stop for cross-country travelers along the old Lincoln Highway back before Interstate 80 roared through and turned all two-lanes into an afterthought. A highway guide refers to it as once "being wild and rowdy and in much need of policing."
Now, I’m not saying that the reason the Evanston Police Department built its latest station house and hoosegow in a field right out back of Pete’s had anything to do with the hangout’s reputation, but it may well have, at some point, saved the Keystone Kops a bunch on paddy-wagon fuel.
The irony is that, back in the day when Pete ran the joint, when it might have occasionally deserved such a hellraising reputation, the jailhouse sat on the other end of town. Now that Stan has turned Pete’s into a western history and cultural resource center (and booze sampling emporium), the cop shop sits right out back.
Not to say that over the past few dozen years or so, since a posse of Park City Main Street rowdies first kidnapped and dragged me northward to check out their latest discovery, I haven’t found myself boisterously amid some quite top-shelf barroom shenanigans. Jocularity, as you know, happens.
But, if the truth be known, an evening at Pete’s is more about a cross-section of sheepherders, oil workers, poets, young lovelies, and closet pundits who just want to bask in Stan’s aura as they wax on anything from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to Cormac McCarthy to Jim Bridger. Knockin’ back shots of "red-eye" has been known to punctuate these discussions, however.
These days the biggest fight you might see in Pete’s would be over who actually set in motion the framing of Tom Horn for the murder of Willie Nickell back in July of 1901. Was it Joe LeFors or was he just a pawn? Some hold on to the belief that a distant cousin to Dick Cheney might have actually pulled the trigger and that the whole brouhaha was nothing more than a "hunting accident."
As mentioned previously, "Pete’s" lies smack-dab alongside the old Lincoln Highway, which ran from Times Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco on a fairly direct route.
In these parts, in those days, initial plans meant a beeline from Evanston across the state line to Castle Rock and through Echo Canyon to Echo, Coalville and Wanship. From there it was on to Salt Lake City and out down through the western desert to Ely, Nevada, and all points west.
Not to say that the Lincoln Highway didn’t stir up a hornets nest, especially in Utah with its mountains and deserts and politicians and such. In the days before federal highway funding, each state was responsible for its own route and the construction thereof.
The Lincoln Highway would be an "improved gravel road" at its onset and, even then, with highway materials not always being at the ready and cuts having to be made through some quite contrary hard-rock geology, actual routes would be argued among competing communities desiring the transcontinental roadway to come their way.
Utah politicos never did like the Ely route and, as they had to pay for it, lobbied the Lincoln Highway Association for what they called the "Wendover Cutoff." With battle lines drawn in the salt, construction, and the funds that fueled it, bogged down, as it were. But that’s another story for another time.
What’s got our attention here, however, is the route through Evanston and on down into Summit County. It should be noted that Ogden didn’t roll over and play dead when these routes were being finalized. If Weber Canyon was good enough for the Transcontinental Railroad, then why not the Lincoln Highway, they asked. There was a tussle between Ogden and Salt Lake City, to be sure.
To cut to the chase, however, the coolest thing about all this is that, with the 2008 National Conference of The Lincoln Highway Association being held in Evanston from June 17-21, much of our local history and, no doubt, all of the aforementioned route squabbles, will be on the table. And across the bar, for that matter.
There will even be a tour through Echo Canyon and, providing the perfect backdrop to the Ogden vs. Salt Lake route debate, on up Weber Canyon as far as "Taggart" before turning back to Coalville and Wanship. Of course, if you wish to do this tour on your own beforehand, check with Frank at his café in Echo.
The full story, though, will be available most any Friday or Saturday night across the bar at Pete’s Roc N Rye up along the old Lincoln Highway on the eastern outskirts of Evanston. That would be because Stan Taggart, chief historian, barkeep, and bottle washer at Pete’s, not to mention proprietor, grew up in Morgan County in Taggart and knows all that’s worth knowing about these parts.
It might be best to reserve a barstool. Stan’s going to be even more in demand than his whisky once the National Conference hits town.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.
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Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts in early June submitted a letter to the Park City Planning Commission in support of a Provo developer’s blueprints for a major project at the resort.