The Curious Story of Utah’s Devil’s Slide
Joe Banz

 

Lil’ Red was as hot and orange as an ember from the fire when he was born.  His mother Saraya watched as he burned through the wood floor.  Elba, the village midwife, had just dropped the child to the ground and run from the house, her arms smoking.  “It’s a devil,” she yelled.  

“What should we do?” asked the father who stood looking at the red glowing child.  Two small streams fell from each side of his forehead.  “Well don’t just stand there,” Saraya yelled.  “Grab a pair of tongs!  A baby can’t run around naked.”  With a pair of tongs holding the child, Saraya pulled a shirt over Lil’ Red, but the cloth burned up immediately.  The father scratched his head until finally, hit with an idea, he ran out to his workshop.  He pounded some metal into thin sheets, which, together, they cut into clothing.  

As he aged, Lil’ Red continued getting more bright and hot.  He could not be kept in any one spot, and suddenly the house would be covered in smoke when the parents thought that he was sleeping.  His father had built a crib from metal, with a steel mattress drilled with holes to make it softer.  He had thought about making blankets also, but this seemed pointless since Lil’ Red didn’t appear to ever suffer from the cold.  No matter how tall the father made the walls of the crib, they could not hold the child in, and Saraya would find the house in flames as Lil’ Red burned hand prints into the walls.  Soon the house was lined with buckets of water that they would use to extinguish the fires the child would inadvertently start.   

One day, the parents had left Lil’ Red with a neighbor so they could go to the small village store.  They were talking to the blacksmith about making some larger tongs when they heard someone outside the shop yell “fire!”  They looked at each other in fear and ran from the store.  As expected, they could see flames rising from their house like long red fingers.  By the time they reached their burning home, the neighbors were already throwing buckets of water at the flames, which swallowed them with an unquenchable thirst.  “Where is he?” Saraya cried.  The neighbor who had been watching the child pointed to the house, which now had crashed to the ground.  Saraya fell to the dirt in tears.  When the wood had completely burned to ash, Lil’ Red appeared, covered in black soot, playing with his favorite metal car and laughing.  

Lil’ Red was twelve when the drought took over the village.  No one could ever remember a summer so hot and dry.  Chickens, feeding in the yard, would suddenly pop in a burst of feathers.  Left behind would be a pile of fried chicken.  The vegetables in the gardens, which had begun growing in the spring, turned themselves around to grow back into the dirt and perhaps find some moisture.  Everyone’s food supplies were almost gone.  It was Elba who started the commotion, bringing back the words, “He is a devil.”  

“And now,” she added, “it is a curse for sheltering such a thing.”  Soon the population were all proposing the same thing, and demanding that the village leaders do something.  Altar Rock had not been used for hundreds of years, but still, there it was, the long slab of rock which ran from the top of the hill to the river.  In a Sunday council it was decided: Lil’ Red would be thrown from the summit of the mountain the following day.

It was a grey darkness that morning as the train of people made their way up the narrow path.  Saraya remained at home and let her tears flood out the door.  When the group reached the peak of the mountain, the village priest looked upward and asked the sky for water.  Two men armed with thick gloves took Lil’ Red by hands and feet and tossed him toward the slab of rock.  The wind was blowing on top of that summit and Lil’ Red, fed by the air, was burning hotter than ever.  His body softly hit the rock, which had already started to melt by the time his flesh made contact.  The stone continued to soften as he sank downward into it, great walls of rock pushing upward around his sides.  The momentum of the throw continued as he slid toward the canyon below.  Faster and faster he went, melting a trough through the rock.  Lil’ Red lifted his hands in the air and screamed in delight.  At the bottom of the stone, he splashed into the river below, which was not much more than a trickle.  Behind him, the rock stood, forever cleft.