Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hole N" the Rock

I have my first Confederate flag sighting 12 miles south of Moab. This is at the Hole N" the Rock (sic) gift shop, on a shot glass examined by a man wearing a "Live to Hunt—Kill More...Than Time" hat. He doesn't buy it, just sets it back in place, the flag no longer centered on the shelf.

I missed the Hole N" the Rock the first time, pulling off instead at a rest stop with picnic benches and Kentucky bluegrass in the middle of the desert. I was on the wrong side of the rock, it turned out. The rest stop was empty, though there were other cars parked with no drivers, as near as I could tell.

My tour group for the Hole N" the Rock comprised myself, Mr. Live to Hunt, his wife, and a young couple who might or might not have been with them. Mr. Live to Hunt was a miner who hunched over when he walked and had taken the tour before, which he demonstrated by saying, "That's the flue" just before the guide—a bored, dumpy woman who had clearly given too many tours— would say, "This is the flue."

The Hole N" the Rock is, for the most part, the creation of Albert Christiansen, a cook, miner, and part-time taxidermist. (His wife, Gladys, was responsible for most of the decoration and for the bathroom.) At first, Hole N" the Rock was a roadside diner; as Albert blasted more rock, it became a house, of sorts, as well. The restuarant closed after Albert's first heart attack in, I believe, 1953. 1 He died of a second heart attack in 1957, just as he was beginning a staircase to a new patio level. Gladys lived there until her death in the 70s; they have a burial site under a rock overhang a short ways away.

The thing about Hole N" the Rock is that it's the strange fantasy of a 10 year old brought to life. "It would be so cool! You could make a house in the rock!" Well, Albert Christiansen did.

Outside, there is a large bust of Franklin Roosevelt carved into the sandstone. "Christiansen was a great admirer of Roosevelt's," the guide says. The bust is enormous, and hard to miss when approaching the gift shop. Still, Mr. Live to Hunt snickers. The guide ignores him and dutifully continues on.

1 But I could have made that up.

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