Reaching for Vernal

Reaching for Vernal

Eric Yollick, Editor-in-Chief, The Golden Hammer

During the past two-and-a-half weeks, I took an unusual vacation, my first real vacation in several years. I went to a little town in northeastern Utah, Vernal, to get away from the Texas heat and to do some hiking and outdoor activities.

Vernal has a population of approximately eleven thousand (11,000). The city, which first began to develop around the time of the American Civil War, had two major growth spurts, one in the 1920s and one in the 1980s oil boom.

There are three striking aspects to the physical appearance of the city. First, it’s one of the cleanest towns I’ve ever seen. Streets and yards are mostly clean, although some of the yards are a bit wild. Second, Vernal’s streets are about twice the width of modern streets in new subdivisions constructed nowadays. If you park your car on the side of the road, it doesn’t get in the way of anything, because there’s so much room. Third, people built the vast majority of the homes in Vernal in the 1920s through the 1960s.

When you walk or drive through the streets of Vernal, it feels like you’ve gone back into the 1950s.

What makes Vernal the town, which it is, however, are the people. Although I had a rental car, I tried to walk around town as much as possible. I’d rack up about 4 miles of walking around town each day. Moving slower, I had the opportunity to talk to people and find out a little bit about who they are. That was one of the best parts of the trip.

People in Vernal are as friendly and caring as people can be. They appreciated my interest in their personal history and in their families. They loved talking about the history of this community and rarely talked negatively about anyone.

Life has a slower pace here. In fact, it reminded me of the pace of life when I grew up in north Dallas in the 1960s and 1970s. People would say “hi” to you when you walked by or rode your bicycle by their yards. They’d even invite you into their homes to have a root beer.

That’s what Vernal is like today.

Nowhere in this community did anyone ask me if I had the COVID-19 vaccine, whether I’m binary or non-binary, whether I’m conservative or liberal, or what my religious background is. Instead, everyone seemed friendly and very rarely did anyone seem in a hurry. Those observations cover the young people I met as well as the not-so-young.

That is the irony of Vernal. People are friendly, yet the public schools here don’t engage in the crass indoctrination we now see in Texas public schools. In our public schools in Texas, we train our children to think and act collectively, but they grow up to act as unfriendly introverts who eschew reaching out to other people.

In our public schools in Texas, we train our children to think and act collectively, but they grow up to act as unfriendly introverts who eschew reaching out to other people.

In Vernal, children play outside and focus on their community relationships. In Texas, we largely see children inside staring at a screen. They don’t learn how to relate to others. Instead, they learn how to avoid strong relationships.

One critical aspect of the failure of modern culture is the polarization of thought. We don’t communicate with those people with whom we disagree. Texas public schools – and, of course, social media – have engendered a divided society.

People with whom I’ve spoken as well as my personal observations reveal that Vernal doesn’t have such a divided community, even though there certainly are political disagreements, liberals, conservatives, and even a few radicals on both sides.

Our real problem in America is not political. It’s social. Through bad choices, we’ve created an anti-community society where we choose very consciously not to talk with each other and where we choose very carefully to teach our children not to socialize with one another.

Each of us must judge our actions. All of us must turn away from the anti-social society we’ve created and with which we’ve cooperated. To restore our quality of life, we must reach for Vernal.





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