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Poking Through the Ruins #7 ‘ETHELS’ CAFE’ in CISCO, UTAH’

From The Zephyr Archives:
In the mid-70s, Cisco, Utah was already being called a ghost town. It had boomed briefly during the Uranium Craze, but the town looked deserted by the early 70s.
One marginal exception was Ethel’s Cafe. Its owner was known for her cranky disposition and I was told once that if I ever felt as if I needed more abuse than what was being served to me, I should pay Ethel a visit.
Being the masochist that I am, I immediately headed north, up the river road to see Ethel. It was early spring and still blustery and cold. I found Ethel behind the counter, a cigarette dangling from the edge of her mouth. She had one customer, who seemed to have permission to be there, but they both cast a scornful eye at me when I asked if I could get a Coca-Cola.
“They’re in the freezer case,” she snarled. “Get it yourself.”
I pulled a bottle from the fridge but it didn’t feel very cold. Because I have had a death wish for decades, I asked, “Do you think I could have a glass with some ice?”
“What the hell for? You just took it out of the FREEZER!”
I paid for my Coke and left. Feeling supremely abused, I sa­vored my luke warm soft drink, all the way back to Moab.
~JS
The actual freezer case from which I extracted my tepid cola…
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6 Responses

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  1. Stiles,
    I visited several times during the 70’s as a friend of mine, Barry Miller, was the Westwater Ranger. One might have thought that he’d be treated more “respectfully” in there, but no — perhaps it was the “uniform of brutality,” that of the BLM, who knows. Our experience(s) in the cafe were dreadful, much like yours.

  2. stiles said

    Greiner..I beg to disagree. Ethel may have missed out on charm school , but I found her frontier rudeness almost refreshing. At least she was honest and she certainly wasn’t looking for a big tip. Ethel was…well…Ethel. Many of us made the long drive to Cisco BECAUSE we loved her outrageous candor. Sort of like going to see Don Rickles.

  3. Tom Wylie said

    Damn! Sorry I missed her.

  4. Monica said

    Are you sure that was really Ethyl who waited on you? I spent many days as a child at Ethyl’s, (who was my grandmother’s cousin,) when I wasn’t at my great grandmother, Virginia Gruver’s station , in Thompson. Ethyl took no flak, but she was never rude.

  5. stiles said

    Yep…it was Ethel. Maybe “frontier rudeness” is being unfair. Like I noted in the above comment, I really didn’t take it to mean she was being hateful in any way. She just didn’t suffer fools gladly and there were probably plenty of us who were just that over the years. I thought she was great…Sometime I’d like to tell some stories about another character, Maggie Stryker, but I can’t offer any first hand account.

  6. joe Kingsley said

    Spent my first Christmas in Grand County there with Bob Deglas, Annie Mcanihand(?), Ken Devore, Melody, Pam Devore. It was one hell of a party, for me to remember way back to 1973! And yes, Ethel made it happen. We had to camp out on the river road because we were so way out of it!

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