Adus F. Dorsey II
I hadn’t lived in my house more than a month when Max sauntered up my sidewalk, that would have been about 1986. Max was tall and slender, his gait was slow and determined his face weathered and wise. I met him at the screened door, he told me who he was, I opened the door and introduced myself. It was early summer so I stepped outside and invited him to sit in the shade of the porch on some old wooden chairs I kept out there for special visitors.
My house is one of the older structures in town, not as old as the hills but pretty close; Max told me he remembered walking passed my place when he was a kid, Max was born in 1919 when town had only a few scattered houses. Max was a regular fixture in the area during the early days his dad Ellis Robinson was a schoolteacher at the old rock schoolhouse and his mothers name was Hattie. At one time Ellis also hauled the mail with a team of horses down to Caineville, with Max and his little brother Clay in tow.
Max could recall the rugged buggy ride on the mail trail like it was yesterday, his eyes would glass over and in a throaty chuckle he would slap his knee when he would talk about it. It was as if Max had taken the time to memorize every bend in the road, every creek crossing and rock out cropping. Max recalled that the mail buggy ran three times a week Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, a forty mile run requiring two full days for the round trip.
Thoughts of the mail trail always reminded Max of his Great Grand parents Jorgen and Mette Smith, early Utah pioneers. Jorgen and Mette moved from Richfield to lower Pleasant Creek in 1886 to help colonize the lower country of Wayne County. In a story book fashion Max could conjure up early adventures of how his Great Father Smith was among ten men to settle Richfield in 1864, Great Grand Father Smith eventually moved to Thurber where he died 1908 and is buried in the Thurber Cemetery near a towering pine tree. Great Grand Mother Smith lived until 1925; Max’s fondest memories of her were treats of sugar cookies stored in her cupboard.
Max’s lifetime stories were filled with the fragrance of lilac’s and apple blossoms and visions of the large weeping willow along the path to the corrals bursting with new buds, and the Iris’ in various shades of purple, violet and greenish white. Max’s memories made you feel like you right there with him, your senses peaking, and a time or two the mention of the pretty flowers made me sneeze at the very thought of all the pollen.
Over the years and on occasion I would stop in to see Max in Provo at his daughter’s Margie’s home. We would play a game where I would mention a house in town or a name of a person I had heard about and Max would take it from there and all I had to do would be to sit back and listen. One time Max told of the old Jed Mott camp house and its rock chimney where freighters would prepare their meals over the fire, obtain feed for their horses, and then spread out their bedrolls for a nights rest from the dusty trail. Max remembered in the winter when there was no water in the canal and how horses and other livestock were watered by men drawing water in a bucket from a hand dug forty foot well. In the fall of the year before freezing weather came water from Sand Creek was diverted into cement-lined cisterns for culinary use.
Max talked fondly of Bishop Pectol and the Wayne Umpire (now Austin’s Chuckwagon General Store) and how great horned owls would roost in the blue spruce trees along the canal near Great Uncle Will Smiths and the John Hancock’s house.
In an almost a whisper or sign of worship Max spoke of his parents first baby Fae Elda, buried in the cemetery east of town, and how as a family they stood in reverence around the tiny grave marked with a granite marker, surrounded by an abundance of iris’ Mother Hattie had planted and kept alive.
Max told me once that legend has it that Moqui Indians once inhabited Calf Canyon, at the base of the dug way where Billy Smith had a well-kept little farmstead that over looked by Coyote knoll, a natural formation named by an early mail carrier Walt Smith.
One of my favorite Max Robinson stories was of Elijah Cutler Beuhinin and how when Max and friend had to go visit the old man at the insistence of the Bishop. Max and his friend, sitting up straight and tall in front of Brother Beuhinin while the old man would carefully roll up a cigarette for his self, he told them in no un-certain terms that they needed to heed and obey all the teachings of the church…. As many times as Max told me that story he never once missed the opportunity to lean way back, grin real big and then begin to laugh. Knowing what was about come I never could hold back a laugh myself.
From that first day when I watched as Max slowly saunter up my sidewalk and he sat down on my porch, I never felt uncomfortable in his presence. Although many months, sometimes years would pass between our visits we always seemed to be able to pick up our name game right where we left off.
If there ever was anyone that knew or knows about what daily life was truly like on Poverty Bench and could tell you about it more poignantly it has to be Max Robinson, or just maybe his brother Clay. May his stories live long in our hearts and in our minds.
Max took his last mail trail ride December 29th, 2015.