Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Half Right News

 

The Jim Bohannon Show included a short bit of news on a woman who had bought a Utah ghost town, in which this artist is now the only resident. Looking up Eileen Muza and the town of Cisco yielded a story that, like the radio show segment, was obviously incomplete, or should have been so. See if you can spot the problem in the Denver Post/AP story:

Eileen Muza is the sole resident of Cisco, Utah, a scattering of old buildings in the high desert 30 miles west of the Colorado line, KUTV reports. The town was created in the 1880s as a fill-station for a railroad, but died off when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.

Think about it. A fill-station for a railroad was a logistics node where water and coal would be loaded into steam locomotives. The arrival of an interstate highway would have nothing to do with the railroad. So, we need to fill in the rest of the story.

The railroads transitioned from steam to diesel-electric between the mid-1930s and early 1950s. Any town dependent on the direct revenue of railroad water and coal supply, plus the effects of passengers or cargo customers meeting trains at these necessary stops, was in for a huge economic downturn. Cisco still has a Union Pacific railroad track, but the Union Pacific ended steam locomotive operations in the late 1950s. However, Cisco had some economic diversification [do view the richly illustrated linked story]:

Cisco got its start in the 1880s as a railroad town — it was an invaluable station for cattle and sheep ranchers and served as a water stop for the steam-powered locomotives of the time.

In the 1920s, the discovery of oil and gas kept the town flush, and by the 1950s, road trippers were using Cisco as a stopping point for gas and a tasty meal.

Cisco died when I-70 bypassed the town. The tourists found other places to stop along the Interstate, and by the 1990s the town was deserted. The California Zephyr still goes through Cisco, but doesn’t stop.

cisco overview

So, Cisco died because the oil and gas ran out, the railroad no longer stopped there, and the Interstate swept travelers past this small town that had relied on the traffic of the old road network. The people of Cisco had done their best, but the location was no longer economically viable for any number of people to make a living and was too remote from larger towns to become a bedroom community. Oh, the town does have economic value still; Cisco has been used three times as a movie set:

It’s also become one of America’s most iconic ghost towns, featured in the classic films Thelma and Louise (1991), Don’t Come a Knocking (2005), Vanishing Point (1971), and Johnny Cash’s song, “Cisco Clifton’s Filling Station.” The nearest towns are Moab and Grand Junction, both roughly an hour away.

Eileen Muza took advantage of the exceptionally reasonable property values to buy the town outright, almost. In taking it private, she aimed to build a remote art colony. This is not an entirely eccentric idea, following in the line of a century’s experience of artists gathering together in settings away from urban distractions. Time will tell if there are enough artists interested in an artist in residence program named “Home of the Brave.”

What is with the “almost?” Dig a little deeper and you notice a general store reopened in October 2019: Buzzard’s Belly. How would such a place hope to be viable? By servicing the needs of outdoor adventurers, rafting the Colorado or hiking, mountain biking, and skiing in the area served by those older roads leading away from the Interstate. So, perhaps the ghost town will come back to life as a resupply point for people while remaining quiet enough to become something of an artists’ colony.

Published in History
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 17 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    So, by being half-right, it’s more accurate than the average news story?

    • #1
    • November 3, 2019, at 8:31 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  2. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    So, by being half-right, it’s more accurate than the average news story?

    By about a factor of 10.

    • #2
    • November 4, 2019, at 12:11 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  3. Full Size Tabby Member

    Re the new general store:

    We were recently in Abiquiu, New Mexico. We were there for the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm, but most people associate the town with artist Georgia O’Keefe. There is a longstanding general store that has general groceries, but also a lot of supplies for campers and the sport fishermen and kayakers on the nearby river. They also carry a lot of items apparently geared to the tourists who come for the Georgia O’Keefe visitors center. And a cafe. So retail in odd places might have a reason to thrive.

    • #3
    • November 4, 2019, at 9:48 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. The Reticulator Member

    The Google Street View camera went through the place.

    • #4
    • November 4, 2019, at 2:35 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Mendel Member

    Having traveled myself through Cisco on numerous occasions, I must say it’s probably one of the least off-the-beaten-path ghost towns in Utah. After all, it’s directly on the shortest route between Denver, CO and Moab, meaning that throngs of Front Range outdoor enthusiasts pass through it every year.

    There are abandoned villages in Utah that are an order of magnitude more remote than Cisco. But I doubt a woman from Chicago would even find them, let alone feel safe living in one of them by herself.

    • #5
    • November 4, 2019, at 3:05 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  6. Mendel Member

    Clifford A. Brown: The town was created in the 1880s as a fill-station for a railroad, but died off when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.

    So this post is something of a light-hearted jab at the press for, as usual, providing a less-than-accurate story.

    But let’s also look at this article from the journalist’s perspective: this entire story is basically a throw-away personal interest filler story. And the inaccurate sentence in question is really just a throw-away color commentary to set the stage for the contemporary action.

    In other words, no matter how good the journalist writing the article is, the offensive part of the sentence will probably never exceed its current length of 47 characters (“…when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.”). Yet the more accurate explanation here took several thousand characters.

    So since we all think we can do journalism better than the professionals, here’s a challenge: complete that inaccurate sentence in 47 characters or less in a manner that is more accurate than the original while still providing some shred of useful information (i.e., not just “…but died off due to changing times.”) and being interesting to read.

    Can you do it better? I don’t think I can.

    • #6
    • November 4, 2019, at 3:15 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. The Reticulator Member

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown: The town was created in the 1880s as a fill-station for a railroad, but died off when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.

    So this post is something of a light-hearted jab at the press for, as usual, providing a less-than-accurate story.

    But let’s also look at this article from the journalist’s perspective: this entire story is basically a throw-away personal interest filler story. And the inaccurate sentence in question is really just a throw-away color commentary to set the stage for the contemporary action.

    In other words, no matter how good the journalist writing the article is, the offensive part of the sentence will probably never exceed its current length of 47 characters (“…when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.”). Yet the more accurate explanation here took several thousand characters.

    So since we all think we can do journalism better than the professionals, here’s a challenge: complete that inaccurate sentence in 47 characters or less in a manner that is more accurate than the original while still providing some shred of useful information (i.e., not just “…but died off due to changing times.”) and being interesting to read.

    Can you do it better? I don’t think I can.

    Remember when news articles were supposed to start off with the most important information (the most important who, what, where, etc.) and then fill in the details later? That way an editor could snip off the bottom of the article to make it fit the available space. We had to practice that form of writing for high school English class. They seldom do that nowadays. Nowadays they start off with fluff designed to set the stage for whatever narrative they’re trying to push, maybe using a few carefully selected/crafted anecdotes. I’ve seen journalists ask for anecdotes, laying out the specific requirements for the anecdote they need to finish their story. So the newspapers can cut that out and go back to doing news, and then they can have more than 47 characters to tell about the downfall of Cisco.

    • #7
    • November 4, 2019, at 3:29 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. Clavius Thatcher

    If you do pass through it on the way to Moab, you get to go through the amazing Castle Valley

    Butte and Moon in Castle Valley
    • #8
    • November 4, 2019, at 4:20 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    Mendel (View Comment):
    Can you do it better?

    Yes, but only if paid.

    • #9
    • November 4, 2019, at 5:49 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Spin Coolidge

    They really are amazing, these United States. I learn something new about them every single day.

    • #10
    • November 4, 2019, at 7:55 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Spin Coolidge

    So you have me scrolling around Google Maps and I find this weird structure near Halchita, UT:

    Zooming in reveals not much:

    Using the measure distance tool, we find this thing measures 3/4s of a mile at its widest point.

    Googling Halchita, UT gets me nowhere.

    Any ideas?

    • #11
    • November 4, 2019, at 8:10 PM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Spin Coolidge

    I figured it out:

    The Mexican Hat disposal site is located on the Navajo
    Reservation in southeast Utah, 1.5 miles southwest of the
    town of Mexican Hat and 1 mile south of the San Juan
    River. The site is 10 miles north of the Utah-Arizona border
    and approximately 15 miles north of the Monument Valley
    processing site. The site is also the location of a former
    uranium ore processing mill. Texas-Zinc Minerals Corporation
    constructed the Mexican Hat mill on land leased from the
    Navajo Nation and operated the facility from 1957 to 1963.
    Atlas Corporation purchased the mill in 1963 and operated
    it until it closed in 1965. A sulfuric acid manufacturing plant
    operated at the site from 1957 to 1970. Control of the site
    reverted to the Navajo Nation after the lease expired in 1970.
    Much of the ore brought to the mill contained a considerable
    amount of copper sulfide and other sulfide minerals and was
    processed to recover both copper and uranium. The milling
    process produced radioactive tailings, a predominantly sandy
    material. Spent tailings were mixed with process water and
    pumped through a pipeline to two on-site tailings piles: the
    former lower tailings pile and the former upper tailings pile.
    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) completed surface
    remedial action at the site in 1995. Radioactive materials
    from the former upper tailings pile, demolished mill structures,
    and 11 vicinity properties were relocated and placed in a
    disposal cell constructed at the location of the former lower
    tailings pile. An additional 983,000 cubic yards (1.3 million
    dry tons) of tailings and associated waste were hauled from
    the Monument Valley, Arizona, Processing Site approximately
    15 miles to the south and placed in the cell on top of
    contaminated materials from the Mexican Hat site. A total of
    approximately 3.6 million cubic yards (4.4 million dry tons) of
    residual radioactive materials were stabilized in the Mexican
    Hat disposal cell.

    https://www.lm.doe.gov/Mexican_Hat/mexhat-factsheet.pdf

    • #12
    • November 4, 2019, at 8:12 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. Miffed White Male Member

    Spin (View Comment):

    So you have me scrolling around Google Maps and I find this weird structure near Halchita, UT:

    Zooming in reveals not much:

    Using the measure distance tool, we find this thing measures 3/4s of a mile at its widest point.

    Googling Halchita, UT gets me nowhere.

    Any ideas?

    Looks like a catch-basin for something.

    No clue what though.

     

    • #13
    • November 4, 2019, at 8:17 PM PST
    • 1 like
  14. ShaunaHunt Member

    My in-laws live in a ghost town. East Carbon, UT. Used to be a mining town.

    • #14
    • November 4, 2019, at 8:48 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. SParker Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Remember when news articles were supposed to start off with the most important information (the most important who, what, where, etc.) and then fill in the details later?

    Oh, hell no. Some of us like to remember when papers valued colorful language and printed poetry (the sure-fire method of getting 10 lbs. of content into a 5-lb. bag and, in the right hands, have it smell sweet). Although I am well-acquainted with iambs, trochees, anapests, and dactyls, getting them into any consistent and sensible pattern is beyond me. But here’s the prose of what I yearn for:

    Cisco, Utah

    Originally dirt, Cisco became a watering hole for engines and crews, proximity to railroad tracks due largely. By and by work rules tightened and Reddy Kilowatt gave the last steam locomotive in mountain service a whack on the hindquarters and said “Git.” Interstate highway planners in far-off somewhere put the final kibosh on the town’s any remaining purpose.

    In between times, large numbers of sheep took their final fleecing there before boarding trains to become Scotch Broth, the ultimate reward of any sheep of ripe age (and still available in canned formed in Canada). One does not know if there ever was a Basque restaurant in the town, but there certainly should have been. It would have been a delightful surprise, hearty meal, and welcome dust-cutter for the motorist with one sunburned forearm standing in the fading light before far-off somewhere had other ideas.

    In the town now lives the Lone Artist, fending off vandals, waiting for Tonto, and barring the return to dirt.

     

    The purpose of a writer is not to make the life of an editor any easier. As I believe Thomas Wolfe once told Max Perkins.

    BTW the wikipedia article on Cisco has an even better non sequitur than that in the OP: “After oil and natural gas were discovered, people began traveling more and Cisco continued to grow.” Makes me suspicious of my interpretation of what was going on with the sheep.

     

    • #15
    • November 4, 2019, at 9:33 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  16. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown: The town was created in the 1880s as a fill-station for a railroad, but died off when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.

    So this post is something of a light-hearted jab at the press for, as usual, providing a less-than-accurate story.

    But let’s also look at this article from the journalist’s perspective: this entire story is basically a throw-away personal interest filler story. And the inaccurate sentence in question is really just a throw-away color commentary to set the stage for the contemporary action.

    In other words, no matter how good the journalist writing the article is, the offensive part of the sentence will probably never exceed its current length of 47 characters (“…when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.”). Yet the more accurate explanation here took several thousand characters.

    So since we all think we can do journalism better than the professionals, here’s a challenge: complete that inaccurate sentence in 47 characters or less in a manner that is more accurate than the original while still providing some shred of useful information (i.e., not just “…but died off due to changing times.”) and being interesting to read.

    Can you do it better? I don’t think I can.

    Remember when news articles were supposed to start off with the most important information (the most important who, what, where, etc.) and then fill in the details later? That way an editor could snip off the bottom of the article to make it fit the available space. We had to practice that form of writing for high school English class. They seldom do that nowadays. Nowadays they start off with fluff designed to set the stage for whatever narrative they’re trying to push, maybe using a few carefully selected/crafted anecdotes. I’ve seen journalists ask for anecdotes, laying out the specific requirements for the anecdote they need to finish their story. So the newspapers can cut that out and go back to doing news, and then they can have more than 47 characters to tell about the downfall of Cisco.

    Whatever has happened to journalistic dictates of”Who what when where and why?” as well as things like the scores of the game being reported?

    In following the World Series by newspaper during the Great Power Outage of California, I was dismayed to read one whole story about how the Nationals won their first game in the Series, without coming across a single mention of the score. Loads of stats on ball players and also stats on the likelihood of a team who lost the first two games winning the whole thing. But no score!

     

    • #16
    • November 6, 2019, at 6:25 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  17. Clavius Thatcher

    Who what when how and why

    • #17
    • November 6, 2019, at 8:19 PM PST
    • 1 like