Harvesting the Syracuse Salt Flats in the Late 50s
On August 9th this year, the City again hosted the Tour of Utah bicycle race. It has international draw. The leg of the race that passed through Syracuse began at the Garr Ranch House on Antelope Island and streaked quickly across the causeway, crossing the salt flats in mere minutes. Just so you know, those racers weren’t the first!
Growing up, my brother and I were inseparable. We were just barely a year apart. We were both presented with new bikes in 1956; his was red, mine was blue. That began the pattern. We were often presented the same gift on birthdays; his always red and mine blue. On those two bicycles we explored every inch of rural Syracuse.
In the day the roadways in Syracuse were little wider than car-width. We rode down the middle of the road mostly. But, when challenged by an automobile we were forced to the rutted, sometimes dangerous shoulders.
In the late 50’s we began our Scouting careers. Our leader lived right at the edge of what we knew as “The Flats”. In the late 50’s those flats provided a pristine canvas for the explosion of boy imagination. Our Scout leader lit the fuse.
We camped on those flats. We learned to cook in foil over small fires we’d ignited with flint and steel. The creation of insect and bird egg collections was a common practice in the day. My brother’s butterfly collection was priceless. Our leader led us to Howard Slough to collect swallow eggs that we gathered as we dangled from ropes over the clay cliffs of large drainages. In the day, most boys had a bow with arrows. Our Scout leader would brood over us as we held archery competitions to see whose bow shot the furthest, something one could never do at home. We played night games in the blackness that was Syracuse at the time. We listened to ghost stories only recorded in oral history.
What I remember most about those flats, however, was the private exploration of miles and miles of open land by two brothers on two bicycles, one red and one blue. We’d heard stories from the past about the Mormon Meteor on the other side of the lake. For two boys on two bikes, the Syracuse salt flats became our speedway. We raced each other incessantly. Wen bored with speed, the rare sagebrush became a buffalo that we raced from atop our red and blue mounts.
I close my eyes today and can still see the imprint of my brother’s red bike on the surface salt of those flats as we weaved without obstruction and care on that shoreline. Finally realizing that we’d probably overstayed our allowance we’d rush for home. Mom would be demanding an accounting!
My brother became my best friend on those flats. Those days of explorations are priceless to me. Some say nothing grows on those barren, salt encrusted flats. They’re wrong! My brother and I prove them wrong! On two bikes; one red, the other blue, we proved them wrong! It was all about the relationship!
Salt is a preservative. And so, it remains.
Mayor of Syracuse City