One of the fun things about 19th century literature was the way publishers packed their books with pictures. Mark Twain's original "Roughing It" had over 600 illustrations. Other books topped that.
Gary B. Peterson and Lowell C. Bennion have brought back that approach with "Sanpete Scenes: A Guide to Utah's Heart." The little 144-page volume is jammed with 635 photographs and illustrations."There are an amazing number of visual aspects to Sanpete," says Bennion, "and we really wanted to capture that sense of place. We wanted to combine geography and history here. We almost over-did it."
Adds Peterson: "The plan was to create a document that could stand the test of time. We wanted a guidebook that makes geography exciting for the lay person. We think Sanpete is not only the geographic heart of the state, but the philosophical and historical heart as well."
"Sanpete Scenes" (privately published by Basin/Plateau Press, Box 155, Eureka, Utah 84628) is divided into seven sections. Topics range from "The Mormon Landscape" and "Making a Living" to several pages of suggested "Sanpete Tours" and a segment on specific characters.
"When people want to show visitors a typical rural Utah area," says Bennion, "they show them Sanpete County. It's been preserved because the major roads pass the area by and some of the early aspects of the community still go on."
The book spends some time treating Scandinavian themes, tracing cultural and historical roots, often focusing on grave markers, woven willow fences and other Sanpete County Americana.
"We made several trips there," says Peterson, "and each time we tried to view landscape as a working, day-to-day thing - gates, latches, hay derricks. We don't see landscape as something that should be fenced off like a zoo."
The hundreds of photos, various type-faces and chatty text give the book a nice country feel - something akin to an illustrated almanac. Toward the end of the book, the authors spice things up with a pithy quote or two.
This, for instance, from a Snow College coed:
I never heard so many "sin" names - Andersons, Christensens, Jensens, Larsons, Olsens. . .
"Sanpete Scenes" is a labor of love from a couple of "geo-historians."
Even people from rival Carbon County will get a kick out of it.
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