From the Petrified Forest to Snowflake, Arizona, 2008, processed 2011
View On White
2008, Near Snowflake, Arizona, processed 2011
View On White
Because Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine opens with a UFO siting, on Sunday a friend sent me a link to a 2010 audio story on This American Life by an author who held an anniversary vigil at the site of the Travis Walton experience, interviewing one of the men who was present. I’m not very familiar with the Travis Walton case but, remembering it was in the Arizona back woods, I looked it up and realized we passed pretty close to the area on our drive from the Painted Desert to Cottonwood in 2008, because we took the back way, on the advice of a park ranger, and passed through Snowflake, where Walton lived, and Heber, not far from where he had his siting…
Heber is Hebrew and has the meaning of something like “friend” or “alliance”. Some give Hebron as an alternative. So I’ve seen, and though I doubt anyone named Heber would appreciate it if you called them Hebron, they’re obviously related words and I’m running with it because if I can’t use Hebron here then I can’t use my next paragraph.
When I look up Hebron I realize there are a number of towns in the U.S. with that name–and the reason I looked up Hebron is because I forgot Heber was where Walton was, through which we’d driven, and typed Hebron into Google, but that’s all right because I learned a very interesting thing about Hebron. Biblical lore states it was near Hebron that Abraham was visited by three angels in earthly disguise, that I already knew. What I didn’t know is old fancies also had it that Adam and Eve were “born” at Hebron, Adam created of its clay, and thus Middle Ages Christian pilgrims saw this as a reason to eat the clay of Hebron, the earth from which Adam was fashioned. The rationale escapes me but the reasoning behind a lot of things flies right past me every minute of the day. Now there are many Hebrons in the U.S., perhaps taking that namesake hoping to be a bit of Eden, or perhaps to show their friendship with their lord, or perhaps to indicate that they are welcoming of others, hospitable places. Please move here or bring us your business.
But Heber is Heber, not Hebron. Why? Perhaps because that is a very Mormon area and Heber is named after Heber C. Kimball, one of the twelve apostles of the Church of Latter Day Saints. He had something like 46 wives and 65 children. I know a little something about this because the Mormons went through the same area of Iowa my ancestors were in and settled around them for a while. Heber Kimball was married to two sisters by the name of Cutler and the Cutler family stayed in Iowa rather than going to Utah. Some of them lived around my ancestors. When part of my ancestral family left Iowa and went to a far away state, for a time the Cutler niece of these two women lived next to them. Which is how I know a little about Heber Kimball, because I research my ancestor’s neighbors, and it was through learning about the Cutlers that I learned the part of Iowa in which my family (which wasn’t Mormon) had lived was a main Mormon migration route to Utah.
When we passed through this part of Arizona in 2008, I didn’t know it was Mormon, and I’m not surprised to learn now that it is. Because that area felt a lot like going through the lesser populated areas of Utah. Snowflake was founded in the 1870s by two Mormon pioneers who perfectly complemented each other, one named Snow and the other named Flake. Heber was founded at about the same time by Mormon pioneers as well. I’m taking it for granted, no proof required, that these people lived in isolation for a long while, and there is a lingering sense of aloofness. Theirs is the kind of remote that has made Snowflake a life-long retreat for people with multiple chemical sensitivities; they build high tech accommodating homes and trust the environment isn’t going to be ruined any time soon with anything approaching urbanization.
So, back to the audio story. It was by Elna Baker, a Mormon who has been losing her faith since moving to New York. A poster for Travis Walton’s story, “Fire in the Sky”, reminded her of images of Joseph Smith receiving his vision, the same kind of blinding light apparition. She journeyed down to Snowflake (her father came from there and knew those involved in the Travis Walton case) to sit the night out with this other Mormon gentleman, Ken Peterson, who gives himself as remaining captivated by the U.F.O. since the siting in November of 1975. She listened to his talk of synchronicities, recognized a certain semblance to coincidences that fed her faith when she still had religion, and came away wishing these incidents that Ken takes as signs still had meaning for her.
Coincidentally, the evening my friend sent me the link, I’d been working that day on a couple of images from that 2008 drive from the Petrified Forest to Snowflake and beyond, having returned to those images because I’ve been for a while posting images from a 1990 trip to the Petrified Forest and I wanted to look again at that more recent visit.
The few things I’d read, and the interview I’d heard with Travis Walton, didn’t convince me one way or another as to the truth of his story or the possibility of it being a hoax. Well, kind of. I’ve been a skeptic, and, if anything, the interview only made me more so. Interestingly, it was Elna Baker’s conversation with Ken Peterson that made me think these people may have possibly experienced something. The peculiar sounding road that Ken maps of his synchronicities, to which he looks for meaning, sounds just like the kind of thing an experiencer might relate, and too intricate in their tenuous connections for a hoax. Or vice versa. Perhaps I mean too tenuous in their intricate connections.
There’s no wrap up to the story other than that. No moral. Nothing to conclude. I post about it because I wanted to note how Crusader Christians ate of the earth of Hebron, believing it was the same stuff of which the original Adam was formed. I’m imagining that they didn’t eat much of it. All they needed to do was touch the tip of their tongue to its dirt and swallow a few grains in order to say, “I have tasted the prima materia that was the genesis of Adam and all his kind.”