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Tom Clyde: Too germy for Jersey

Well, here we are at the parade-less Fourth of July, and what better way to celebrate America’s birthday than to be named an international pariah. The European Union is lifting travel restrictions that had prevented most visitors from entering the EU since the plague hit. Some of the European countries like Spain and Italy have been through hell with the virus, and finally seem to have it under control. So the last thing they want to do is bring in a bunch of filthy foreign tourists to start spreading it around again.

They are taking it cautiously. They began with a list of 14 hygienic countries whose residents would be allowed in. It’s an odd mix, but they are all countries that have been successful containing the virus. Places with functioning governments like Rwanda and Uruguay. And not on the list of places that have their act together? The US of A. We are too germy for the European Union countries to risk having us around. Yep, bring in the Rwandans and Uruguayans. They’ve got it under control.

It’s not just international borders. New York, New Jersey and some other eastern states the size of a Texas ranch, have all decided that U.S. residents from Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and, say it with pride, Utah, are too toxic to visit New Jersey. Anybody visiting from Utah, or coming home to New Jersey after a visit to Utah, is supposed to self-quarantine for two weeks before hitting the sanitized streets of Newark.

If that lasts, it will certainly complicate ski season. Come and enjoy a long holiday weekend in Utah, and, as an added bonus, you get to take an additional two weeks off work from a job that has just barely come back to life. Social distancing in the lift lines may not be a problem after all.

Summit County is now under a mandatory mask regulation. I haven’t been out and about all that much, but I’d say that in Kamas, no more than 50% are masked (and the bank has no sense of humor). Park City seems a little higher, though I haven’t been on Main Street to see what the Sunday scrum looks like.

Wasatch County doesn’t have a mask order. I ran some errands in Heber the other day. At Walmart, almost everybody had masks on. Employees were wearing masks, and the majority of customers were, too. While I was in town, I thought I’d pick up a new pair of shoes since what I was wearing was a wad of duct tape. The shoe store had very little inventory, just enough to see that they didn’t have my size. This re-opening is going to be a challenge. It’s hard to lure shoppers in, masked or not, when there is no inventory. And it’s hard to stock inventory when you’ve been closed for four months and any available cash has gone for rent and trying to keep your employees alive. So the shoe store was a bust. But everybody in there was wearing a mask.

I thought the sporting goods store across the parking lot might have a suitable hiking shoe, and walked over there. It’s a kind of hooks and bullets place. Nobody else was wearing a mask in there. Other customers regarded me with great suspicion. If there were employees in the store, they were either wearing very effective camouflage or social distancing by going to lunch. They didn’t have shoes. Amazon.

Overall, the shopping spree was a failure. Walmart was out of stock on about half of what I wanted (though they do have toilet paper), there were no shoes to be had, the gates at the farm store were too flimsy to withstand a side-eye glance from a cow, and the other customers in the hooks and bullets place looked like they were considering cutting my mask-wearing carcass up for bait. But there was pizza, and a milkshake.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had something very odd happen. I went to start up the big irrigation system, and there was a geyser in the wrong place. The water comes out of a big 6-inch pipe through small plastic goosenecks with sprinkler heads dangling from them every few feet. One of the goosenecks was broken off, and the stub of the pipe was packed with feathers. There were piles of down feathers on the ground below it. The only thing I can think of was that a big bird, probably a hawk, was so focused on following its lunch through the deep hay that it smacked into the sprinkler. The gooseneck part is plastic, and designed to break if it gets caught in something. But still, the bird must have been going very fast and been very big. There was no sign of the bird, so I guess it shook it off and flew away. Maybe its mask slipped over its eyes.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.


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