High Desert Hoofbeats
by Sena Taylor Hauer
Sep 05, 2013 | 1412 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s homecoming week, an event held annually on high school and college campuses across the country.

Much as the festivities are designed to honor and welcome alumni, they are most effective in building spirit and unity for the student body, with a broader effect that trickles into the community.

I was probably about 4 years old when the concept of homecoming came into my head. I was aware that there would be a parade, and I was excited about running to pick up candy thrown from the floats. Then as now, the parade is one of three that Moab enjoys each year, and while my little brain could understand what a Christmas parade and a rodeo parade was, I didn’t understand what homecoming meant. Would a homecoming parade march past my house instead of down Main Street?

When I was little Moab had an exceptionally communicative mayor who would drive around the neighborhoods with a loudspeaker on his station wagon, announcing things he thought the folks should know about. Just like the ice cream truck on a hot summer day, you could hear Harold Jacobs coming from a half-mile away, blaring out news of community meetings and other civic events. He would slowly cruise up and down the back streets of town, slung back in his seat with one hand on the wheel and the other on the mike. We also had a regular noon whistle, which of course blew when something caught on fire.

During the late ‘60s people’s Cold War fears were dwindling, but there were still concerns that global unease and national racial tensions could turn into full-blown tempests. I suspect those sirens and microphones were part of an underlying emergency awareness plan.

The plate glass window with views of the La Sal Mountains in our living room shook on a regular basis from sonic booms caused by overflying military jets and missile tests. My school had yellow signs affixed to it that said “Fall Out Shelter.” Just like the term “homecoming,” I was unfamiliar with the meaning of Fall Out Shelter, or its associated radiation symbol, perhaps because global worries had eased by the time I was going to Helen M. Knight Elementary School, which had been built a decade earlier. As students we had fire drills, but we didn’t have air raid drills. I never went into the caverns below the school rooms of HMK, but I knew they were there because it sounded hollow below our classrooms.

HMK was replaced by a beautiful new building a few years ago, and traditions such as homecoming are still enjoyed and celebrated here and across the nation. But few towns have daily sirens or mayors who drive around telling residents what’s happening. Twenty-four hour news is delivered in innumerable ways, and emergency updates such as Amber Alerts and flash floods are amazingly delivered into the palm of your hand via cell phone at any time of the day or night. Global anxiety is ebbing and flowing, and there is talk of what to do in far away places. Tensions could turn into tempests. We feel it here, this homecoming week, even without loud speakers and sirens.

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