A Land Called Deseret

"I've never seen such empty land," LaRaine commented as Travis slowed the buckskin to a walk and her mount moved forward to walk beside him.

"It's part of the Great Basin of Utah," he explained. "Thousands of years ago, this was all part of a big inland sea that covered a third of Utah. The Great Salt Lake and Sevier Lake are the salt water remnants of it. A lot of people passed through here on their way to California and Oregon, but the Mormons were the first to settle. They called the land Deseret. It was proposed as the name of the state when it was admitted into the union, but Utah was chosen instead."

"What does that mean?"

"I believe it's from the Book of Mormon or the Old Testament. It means 'land of the honeybees.' The beehive is still the state symbol." He shifted into a more comfortable position in the saddle, the leather squeaking at his movement. "You've seen the highway sign in Delta, haven't you? The one referring to the Fort Deseret historical site. It's the remains of an old fort constructed of adobe and straw, built in eighteen short days to protect the local settlers from Indian raids."

"I remember the sign." She nodded, and looked around at the sprawling emptiness. "I can't imagine why the settlers would ever have wanted to fight the Indians over this land."

"Don't let the rock hounds hear you say that," Travis smiled dryly.

"Why?" LaRaine eyed him curiously.

"Topaz Mountain is to the north of here. They say it's covered with deposits of topaz, amber and other gemstones." He studied the land they rode through. "This country has a beauty all its own. It doesn't stun the eye like the splendor of the Rocky Mountains. It's more subtle—slower to make an impression."

Her gaze swept the wild, rough landscape, sensing its lasting endurance in the tenacious sage and grasses. The gnarled and twisted junipers and piñon pines grew in spite of the aridity of the climate. She came close to understanding what he meant.

"You may be right," she conceded, but not wholeheartedly.

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