Every culture has its own mythology and legends that reflect the geography, values, and history of a community. Green River’s legends will be passed down for generations, told as campfire tales and bedtime stories, and are a part of the identity of this region and its people. Whether rooted in the supernatural or reverence for the Wild West, legends of the desert and desert communities like Green River seem to have a unique flavor to them. Perhaps the vast open spaces leave greater room for people’s imagination to grow.
Years ago, a sentinel rock named “Old Brigham” stood just north of town on Gunnison Butte. This thin column of rock, visible from all parts of the valley, became an important landmark for residents...though not in the traditional sense. No one knows for sure how the legend originated, but residents started to believe that as long as Old Brigham (named after Mormon luminary, Brigham Young) stood, the town of Green River would never prosper. As time passed, the legend grew and every disaster was half jokingly laid to Old Brigham. Then one day in 1937, it fell. Most think it was struck down during one of the worst thunderstorms the valley has ever known. Others say that a group of locals aided by alcohol and dynamite toppled the rock on their own. Regardless, the town has seen its share of booms, busts, good luck, and bad luck since.
Southern Utah of the late 1800s was the last of the six-gun territories, where a six-shooter was the only sort of guarantee of a peaceful life. Life in Green River then meant working like mule and eating like a packrat, and being as lean and tough as the barbed wire folks ran around their ranches. And when the rest of the Union was arguing about the candidacy of Grover Cleveland, the Haymarket labor riot, or which states to adopt, Green River was appropriately agog with Butch Cassidy and his sidekicks.
Butch Cassidy was an outlaw of the 1880s to early 1900s, and the leader of the Wild Bunch -- a gang of hell-raising ranch hands and stick-up men named for their rowdy, trigger-happy visits to local bars. Butch led the Wild Bunch on the longest series of robberies in the history of the Old West, making use of well-planned attacks, an expert attention to detail--like cutting all the telegraph wires along their escape routes--skilled horsemanship, and a seemingly impenetrable hideout: Robbers Roost.
According to legend, Robbers Roost was so full of hiding places, so isolated, so riddled with surprise cliffs or smaller canyons, and so hard for a lawman who didn’t know the area to move through, that the Wild Bunch was safe there in their hiding spots. They would rob a train, or a bank, and then escape into a labyrinth that only they knew the way out of, where fresh horses and natural springs were waiting for them.
It didn’t hurt the gang either that rumors existed of Robbers Roost being guarded by two hundred armed men, surrounded by land mines, stocked with limitless amounts of ammunition, and riddled with secret fortifications and hidden tunnel networks. As a result of such rumors, the area being so difficult to move through, and armed outlaws being willing to defend it, the area was never successfully breached by lawmen. But, their hideout wasn’t the only thing folks knew about them.
One Green River resident recalled,
“The Roosters was the finest people you ever saw. They wouldn’t harm a hair on your head -- if you didn’t have anything.”
Of course, if you were trotting around on a fancy saddle horse or throwing money around, there’s a good chance they’d take it from you. But, anyone with a fine horse or money didn’t belong in this sort of country anyway.
NEW AREA 51
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT the Pentagon could keep a secret. The June issue of Popular Mechanics declares the military has moved Area 51 (its alleged UFO base) from Nevada’s Groom Lake to Utah’s Green River Missile Launch Complex. Evidence, you ask? [Popular Mechanics Magazine] says that after much rattling of security-fence padlocks, it’s found that Area 51 is shut, and $8.2 million is budgeted to update the Utah site, which hasn’t been used since 1975. Air force sources say the story is hokum.
Green River’s mayor says she’s happy to host aliens if it means jobs. But so far, the only Area 51 in town is a videogame at Ray’s Tavern. It arrived last week.
From Newsweek - June 1997 (in reference to Popular Mechanics Magazine)