For over 60 years the Rio Grande Western traveled through the impressive Provo Canyon as it hauled freight and passengers between Heber and Provo. The trains snaked their way through the canyon along the banks of the Provo River at a whopping 20 miles per hour. During the 1920’s and ’30’s the railroads most common passenger/commodity being hauled to market was sheep. Manifests show that during that time more sheep passed through the Heber depot than any where else in the country.
Fast forward 50 years and a lot has changed. What was originally a three day wagon trip on a toll road through the canyon transformed to an hour and a half train ride, and today has become a short 45 minute drive on the highway. The railroad has since been isolated from Provo. It has gone through abandonment and revivals; and the name is now affectionately known as the Heber Creeper. One likeness that has remained constant however is the sheep.
Early last month 19 clueless but adventurous sheep and their 5 Model A’s (and a Chevy) gathered to make the voyage to Heber to ride the train. They aimlessly followed the lead sheep up the winding canyon, ironically in the very vehicle that ruined the railroad. Every curve in the road brought about new views of the majestic mountains, and in some areas, much like the train did in the early 1900’s, we chugged along at 20 miles per hour as the Model A’s worked their way up the grades with ahooga
horns echoing against the canyon walls.
Most of our flock made it to Heber safely, with the exception of one sheep who had lost his way, but he quickly found the ‘tracks’ that led him to the rest of the flock. Upon arrival at the depot we were rounded up by cowboys and onlookers who oohed and aahed over our cars.
After basking in the spotlight for a little while we were eventually herded into the rail cars which soon departed Heber. The train casually rumbled down the tracks and through the countryside. We sang along to some old time songs, showed off our moves in a dance- off and even shared some sheepish jokes. It was not long however before some outlaws caught wind of our good times and wanted to crash our party. They boarded the train with guns drawn, hootin’ and hollerin’ looking for their misplaced treasure.
With hands in the air, guns mindlessly aimed at innocent bystanders and accusations being thrown left and right, we thought we had all reached our eminent end! That is when the Sheriff burst through the door with his deputy arriving just in the nick of time to put a stop to the bandits’ rule! With treasure in hand and the bandits put away, the deputies shared the “chocolate gold” with us as we were serenaded by a violin and guitar duet on our return trip to the depot.
All of the commotion really worked up our appetites so, after the ride, we stopped at our favorite feed shop to get some slop and then headed on our way. We made a side stop in Midway at a covered bridge as well as a farmers field for some pictures before shepherd Clyde guided us safely home.