Through the Darkness Mike Henle
Mad Dog's Line for '09 - "Don't whine. Drink wine!"

"Successful people build their foundation with bricks others have thrown at them."
- David Brinkley

Possibly one of the most interesting elements of Southern Utah is that for the most part, people don’t get in a hurry.

Coming from Las Vegas where a drag-race pace is the case 24 hours a day, I find the break refreshing when traveling to Utah. In fact, once I get the car headed up I-15, I instantly notice that I start to relax.

So, when a massive avalanche closed Highway 14 on Jan. 5, I wondered about the prediction that the road would be reopened in two weeks.

Considering that the 1,000 feet of roadway was covered with everything from vehicle-sized boulders to trees and dirt, the job to reopen the road seemed like a daunting task. With the road covered with as much as 10 feet of mountain matter, most of us figured we would be taking  alternate routes for months.

The economy is a mess anyway, so business owners in Duck Creek were especially concerned about the affects the avalanche would have on the bottom line. Once it had been determined that no one had been hurt or killed, the next concern was trying to survive economically.

Word spread that there would be no monetary break for those using Zion, so the concerns widened even more as time went on.

Truth be known, I have huge respect for the owners of small businesses, no matter what kind of business they represent. They all have dedication and intestinal fortitude so the site of an “out of business” sign really bothers me.

That said, I immediately started worrying about the Edwards family at Aunt Sue’s Chalet, as well as Doug and Samantha Stadtlander at True Value, not to mention the many real estate agents, contractors and the rest of the people at Duck Creek and other communities. Survival has become crucial during these tough times and basic transportation is a huge part of the equation.

So all of us were not only thankful but surprised when the Utah Department of Transportation opened Highway 14 a week after the first boulders screamed down the mountain. From what I’m told, a crew spearheaded by UDOT’s Jim McConnell and Ray Bentley turned in an incredible performance.

If ever there was a time when a pat on the back was necessary, it’s now. Not long after the avalanche, the UDOT folks were on the scene with loaders moving debris, boulders and dirt in cold temperatures while several members of the state’s media zeroed in on what could have been a tragic story.

In truth, this was somewhat tantamount to the plane that was forced to land on the Hudson River, on Thursday. In both cases, lives were spared and in both cases there was a huge level of calm and professionalism illustrated by those who suddenly found themselves thrust into action. In an otherwise slower atmosphere, these people put the pedal to the metal of heavy equipment like John Force does in a nitro-methane-burning funny car.

In a world where it’s too easy to criticize while playing Armchair Quarterback, this is a time to tell deserving folks how much you appreciate their efforts.

You would be amazed how much more you can do for yourself simply by offering a hand or compliment rather than a sharp tongue.

In this particular case, there is a crew of hearty folks who have provided a wonderful and dedicated service that not only made life easier but also enabled many others to make a living.


Mike Henle is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer and author of the book “Through the Darkness: One Man’s Fight to Overcome Epilepsy.” He can be contacted at or through his Web site