SCOFIELD, Carbon County — Any day now, if he hasn’t done it already, Jim Levanger is going to lock up the cash register here at the Snack & Pack at the entrance to town, walk to the front door, swivel the sign that says OPEN to CLOSED, and call it a year.
Some folks work 6 to 6, some 9 to 5, and some May to October. The later would include Jim and his wife, Carol, owners and proprietors of the only business in Scofield, Utah’s smallest town.
Of the state’s 243 incorporated municipalities, no place is smaller than Scofield, with a population, according to the 2010 census, of 24 (second smallest is Ophir in Tooele County, almost double at 38 people).
Located at 7,800 feet above sea level just around the corner from Scofield Reservoir in the heart of some of Utah’s prettiest mountains, the town of Scofield is hopping enough in the summertime, when some 600 vacation cabins in the valley fill up and the lake isn’t frozen and as many as 800 people show up for the visitors ward on Sunday at the LDS Church. Different story in the winter, when humans vanish like chlorophyll, leaving only the aforementioned 24 diehards.
A number that Jim, by the way, takes issue with.
“Twenty four?” he says. “I’d be hard put to come up with 24.” He thinks for a minute.
“I can only come up with 21.”
Questioned on this — how could the U.S. Census Bureau possibly be wrong? — Jim responds with, “I can do you a census in less than two minutes,” and then he does:
“Let’s see, there’s Sam, Barbara, Joy, Debra, Jim, Carol, Frank, Frank’s girlfriend, Paul, Mary, Woody, Ann, Kim, Mike, Bill, Beryl, Charlie, Jeannie, Grant, Judy and Melba.”
That, he states with confidence, is the lineup that will start the six-month offseason, and also hopefully finish it.
“It gets cold here,” says Jim, “any day, find out the coldest spot in the country, take minus 2 and you’ve got Scofield.”
He and Carol, Jim says, almost moved out the second winter they were in town, in 1991-92. “The daytime high was minus 18,” he swears, “and it got to minus 47 for a couple of weeks. Only one car in town would start. That almost run me out. I thought it was normal but it wasn’t, thank the good Lord.”
A little cold weather is a small price to pay, chips in longtime resident Joy Podbevsek, 77, a frequent visitor to the Snack & Pack when it’s open. “People think I’m crazy, but I’d rather live here in winter than summer.”
Scofield has two seasons, she’ll tell you: “noisy-busy and nice-quiet.”
They’re heading into nice-quiet.
Everybody in town is retired except Jim, Carol and Debra. All the year-rounders are grownups, at least chronologically. They come for the solitude but some don’t stay. “There’s a culture shock you have to get over,” says Jim. “We’ve had quite a few people move in and then move out the next year.“
Jim and Carol moved here from Cedar City 23 years ago to “live in the mountains.” “I never cared much for crowded,” says Jim, “I’m not much on city.”
He motions in the direction of the populated Wasatch Front, beyond the mountain peaks, two hours away. “To me, Utah County, Salt Lake County, it’s like a big red ant hill you stirred up with a stick. Everybody's mad. I always say if I lived there I’d be mad too.”
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