The Cowboy's Secret Central Utah


Early Historic Ute Indian Style  1600 A.D. to 1830 A.D. Emery County

Leave the hiking trail and walk with me in the giant boulders that line the desert ridges.  Yes, there are rattlesnakes.  Don’t wear shorts and tennis shoes.  Peek under the giant boulders and see blackened rock walls where Western Archaic and Fremont people built small fires over a thousand years ago.  We may spot a rare arrowhead gleaming in dawn’s first light.  We will likely walk past rocks used for pit houses.  Unlike the ancient people, we probably don’t know the names and uses of the plants.  We don’t know when or where to gather seeds, roots, or the fruits of the plants.  We know little of the medicinal uses of these plants and certainly couldn’t weave a basket or make a clay pot from scratch.  At night we don’t recognize the constellations which guided ancient peoples for thousands of years.  In fact, we are surprised to see so many stars.  We recognize the animals but know nothing of their habitat, range, food sources, or migratory patterns.  We are strangers in this desert world.  If we are lucky and stumble onto a rock art panel like this one, we are puzzled as to its meaning.  But how can we interpret the carvings of a people whose daily lives are completely foreign to us?  This is my challenge and hopefully our challenge: to learn more about these original Utah residents, their world and their thoughts, and so far as possible to understand life from their very different point of view.


I call this panel “The Cowboy’s Secret” because a cowboy who rode the nearby range guided a friend to this site.  The deterioration marking this panel is natural.  What amazes me, is not that natural forces destroy rock art, but that nature has preserved rock art for so very long.  Here is another challenge we face: to avoid hastening their erasure from time.