(From the 2003 Zephyr Archives)
In the 1960s and into the early 70s, an island of civility, culture, beauty and joie de vivre flourished in the upper reaches of Castle Valley—a veritable Camelot known as Porcupine Ranch. This paradise was owned and operated by Ray and Ethel Scovill.
Ethel was a formally educated scholar who had attended the University of California, Berkeley and the Sorbonne in Paris. Ray was self-educated, more or less (mostly more) and had a colorful and distinguished past. Among the many hats he wore, Ray had been a professional hockey player, the owner of an import/export firm, a Moab City Policeman, and the Moab Justice of the Peace.
While he was a JP, Ray also ran a restaurant, located near the alley, behind what is now the Back of Beyond Books. Ray could dispense justice all day, and dispense steaks and fries all evening with the same aplomb. When the Scovills retired and moved to Porcupine Ranch, they operated a “restaurant” of sorts, partly to offset expenses and partly due to their love of interesting people and
Attendance at the “restaurant” was, by and large, by invitation only or, if they were lucky, prospective diners could call and request a reservation. If they were really lucky. Generally, one needed a “recommend” from someone within the Scovills’ Inner Circle of Porcupine patrons.
Ray was always very blunt with potential customers; if they weren’t on the recommend list he told them. And if he simply wasn’t in the mood to serve, he didn’t. It was that simple.
Whenever there was a film being shot in the area, the actors and crew could often be found dining at the ranch. Customers included John Wayne (who Ray liked), Betty Davis (who Ray also liked) and Terrence Stamp (who he despised). It might be noted that Ray’s first impressions were usually irreversible
and required immediate action. If Ray Scovill didn’t like someone, they were history. Immediately. Even before the meal had begun. A Ray Rejection was ordered to leave the premises and take a long walk that required a several mile trek to the main Castle Valley road and an even longer journey back to Moab.
Dinners at Ray and Ethel’s were conducted in a “salon” atmosphere. One might arrive at seven in the evening for cocktails. Discussions on any subject might follow and go on for hours. Sometimes the topic might be 18th Century French literature. Or it could be modern detective fiction. Or contemporary
politics. Or new wines from California. Dinner was served at Ray’s whim, when he was good and ready, generally between ten and eleven, like it or not.
Dinner was served family-style at long tables and, with few exceptions, was always the same. It started with French Onion Soup (Ray’s secret recipe), a huge salad with Ray’s secret and patented salad dressing, followed by huge two or three-inch sirloin steaks, served on a platter from which customers would cut pieces to fit their appetite, and twice-fried French potatoes so that they would puff up like a true French souffles potato.
Dessert was usually Bavarian Cream. On special occasions like birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, Ray would prepare dishes beyond his usual bill of fare. One of the best of his special dishes was Deviled Crab. This recipe, like the onion soup and the salad dressing, was a carefully guarded secret (Ray had a lot of secrets). However, at the time of Ray’s death, the recipe was passed along to a few of Ray’s closest friends. I was grateful to be on thelist. Inasmuch as Ray has been gone for almost 30 years, I feel it is proper to release this recipe to the general public. Here it is:
RAY’S DEVILED CRAB
4 Tablespoons Butter
4 Tablespoons Flour
3 Cups Milk*
1 Pimento, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped Green Pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped Parsley
1 Tablespoon sherry
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 Teaspoons Dry Mustard
– Salt to taste
2 Cups canned, flaked Crab Meat
2 Hardboiled Eggs, chopped
– Grated Parmesan Cheese
Make a sauce of butter, flour and milk; add all remaining ingredients except cheese.
Turn into greased baking dishes (preferably greased scallop dishes) and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake in 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
* Ray always used condensed milk as it kept better, Porcupine Ranch being
an hour or more from Moab. Therefore I always use condensed milk for historical
reasons. Use one can of condensed milk and the remainder water to make 3
I hope that all of you will try this recipe and enjoy it, and for those of you who knew Ray and Ethel, I hope this recipe will bring back fond memories.
For those of you who didn’t know the Scovills, I’m sorry that you missed two wonderful people and a place and time that was magic.
This recipe is dedicated to Pam, Ross, Donna, Steve, Jim, Adrien, Sam, Barr, Susan, Sylvia, Sal and all the rest of Ray’s “special family.”
Bill Benge died on October 20, 2006.
And this edition of Willie Flocko reminded the Z of this letter, from another regular at the “Porcupine Ranch”…
REMEMBERING THE GOOD OLD DAYS
Just received the April/May edition of the Zephyr and experienced a sudden attack of nostalgia for Moab and the high desert country. My late in-laws, Ray and Ethel Scovil, were long time denizens of the area years ago. They owned the Porcupine Ranch. (Don’’t know what it’’s called now.) To get there you crossed the river and just before you came into town you took a hard left. You hugged the river for what seemed like forever on a washboard road. Eventually you climbed over a bluff and gazed down into Castle Valley. From that point it was just a few miles through that valley of majestic red rock formations to an old cottonwood tree. It marked the way over an impossible rutted road through National Forest land to a magical little haven we called “the ranch”.
Ray Scovil died in Moab in 1972. It was the last time my wife, Sylvia, and I were ever there. We keep promising ourselves that one day we will come back and maybe even visit the old ranch but, we just haven’t made it yet. From time to time Sam and Adrien Taylor of the Times Independent were so very kind in sending us a copy of their paper so that we wouldn’t lose touch. It did help to preserve memories of Moab, the fantastic countryside and, of course, some of Ray and Ethel’s friends. As you may know Ray provided some of the local color back in the daysof the “uranium boom”. Among his ventures he included a small restaurant then called “The Red Door”. It was situated in an alley off the main drag. I’’m not sure the alley ever had a name. He was both “chef” as well as the local Justice Of The Peace. I remember those precious moments for laughter at someone else’’s expense when Ray was forced to “hold court”in his kitchen. He would be standing in front of a huge tome (the court docket) while busily broiling steaks and fries on the side. He’‘d have a highway cop standing beside him while a totally bewildered driver who’d been cited for speeding would be standing in front of them. I kept thinking, “only in Moab!”. One summer John Wayne happened to be filming there and was having dinner at “The Red Door” when a highway cop brought some poor guy he’d cited in for a hearing and sentencing. Ray whipped off his kitchen apron, opened his docket and fined the guy- all in about the time it takes to tell this story. Wayne was so impressed with this example of “frontier justice” that he and Ray became good friends thereafter.
Ah well! I can go on and on! Just wanted to say thanks for the copy of the Zephyr. We still do think of Moab and the role it played in our lives. Best of luck!
-Sal and Sylvia Tedesco
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