[lbo-talk] Blog Post: Capitol Reef to Moab

MICHAEL YATES mikedjyates at msn.com
Tue Nov 24 20:29:02 PST 2009

Full at http://blog.cheapmotelsandahotplate.org (I'll bet there is not another travel essay about southern Utah that

includes the words "Marx" and "simple commodity production.")

We left Capitol Reef, wishing we could stay longer. The last leg of our trip would take us to one of our favorite haunts—Moab. The drive time is about four hours, but the nice thing about Utah is that the traveling is almost as enjoyable as the destination. There is seldom a boring mile. Most of the trip is along Utah 24, another “scenic byway,” not completely paved until the 1960s. After the Mormons colonized the southeastern part of Utah, in the years following the expedition through the Hole in the Rock, they began to backtrack westward and establish settlements. Some of the land surrounding the Fremont River was suitable for farming and ranching, and communities were formed in Hanksville, Caineville, Torrey, and Fruita. The last one was the most interesting. Founded around 1880 and originally named Junction because it was at the confluence of the river and Sulphur Creek, Fruita (pronounced “froot-uh”) became famous for its fruit trees. The village itself never housed more than a few families, but the orchards helped them to prosper. Utah.com tells us:

Though it never comprised more than 300 acres Fruita — originally called Junction — became an important settlement due to its relatively long growing season and abundant water. Settlers from nearby Torrey and Loa — which each have 90-day growing seasons — arrived in Fruita and planted thousands of trees bearing Jonathan, Rome Beauty, Ben Davis, Red Astrachan, Twenty-Ounce Pippin and Yellow Transparent apples, Morpark apricots, Elberta peaches, Bartlett pears, Fellenburg plums, and the Potawatomi plum. Settlers also planted English and black walnuts and almonds. Grape arbors appeared later.

The author might have added, but Anglos rarely do, that the Mormons in Fruita took advantage of irrigation paths first constructed by the true first settlers, the indigenous Americans.

Most production in Fruita was either consumed domestically or bartered; if money was needed, the fruit could be sold in larger towns such as Richfield. The son of a school teachers at the one-room school that still sits beneath the cliffs that line the river remembers his parents owning a 1924 Chevy. His father was principal at the “big” school in Torrey and drove the car down the dirt road to be with his family in Fruita every weekend. Cash might have been needed for this automobile, though goods could have been traded for it. In either case, the economy of Fruita was what Marx called simple commodity production; at most money was a medium of exchange and the accumulation of capital was not in evidence. It also appears that Fruita was not a diehard Mormon community. There was never an LDS church, and residents don’t seem to have minded an occasional drink or a visit from local outlaws.

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