an old man with hands like gnobby tree roots scribbles on a napkin the letters “T O O E L E” and he tells me a story from when he was in army, in utah.
he said he was staying in this scandinavian town near salt lake city, but up and over a mountain. he said when the mormons came, their fearless leader told these scandinavian settlers to start this town at that spot on the mountain. they did.
this fellow – not the greatest speller or grammarian in the world – had fallen in love with a scandinavian woman. he wrote her letters regular enough.
town didn’t have a name, but it had a beautiful woman. fellow scrawled the words “too ele” on the envelope, gave it to the guys that he knew were headed that way.
men wandered up the mountain for their reasons. they had stuff to trade, stuff to do. they walked up the hills with these love letters. they wandered house to house saying “tooele” to all those scandinavians that barely spoke english, anyhow.
fellow didn’t stop writing his letters, you know. he kept at those letters.
someday the mapmakers walked over the hills. they pointed at all these men and women in houses and farms laughing in the campfire light.
the people only knew one name for this place. so they named it after the love letters.
the old guy with hands like gnarled white roots who told me this story about this time he was stationed at in the army handed me the napkin, and the pen. he had this look on his face like he was thinking about his youth, when he met his wife, and got his first job out of the army, and made something of himself up until today, where we’re sitting in this old church cafeteria on the western edge of civilization sipping orange juice as if it were coffee.
i thanked the man for his story. i didn’t ask him what i wanted to ask him.
what happened to her, ele? what happened between her and the man that named a town after her?