Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Back at the Ranch: Doing Dixie

Our bus slowly wound its way through the streets of Santa Clara and Ivins, two “suburbs” of St. George, Utah. We had awoken to a brilliant, beautiful spring day in “Dixie,” and the contrast of the azure sky as it met the red rock on the horizon was striking.    

We were on our way to “the ranch” – the home of the parents of a member of the Salt Lake Men’s Choir, a couple who had hosted the chorus for the past 11 years when they made their trip to St. George for their annual spring concert.

We had been there the night before, after our concert.  I had heard a lot about this place, but my friends usually ended up saying, “You have to see it to understand the place.  It’s just hard to describe.” 

They were right.  In the first place, it definitely wasn’t a ranch.  I think “compound” would have been a more apt word.  Mind you, it probably used to be a ranch before urban sprawl surrounded the compound on three sides.

Within that compound, however, was a world of beauty, whimsy, humor and dozens of visual vignettes, each with their own charm.

Besides the main house, there were several detached outbuildings, including a couple of ranch (guest) houses, one of which had been christened the “Hog, Cock and Burro Inn,” which, as the sign points out, should not be confused with a bed and breakfast.

These guest houses continued the themes of whimsy and humor found throughout the compound, a place where laughter is obviously valued.

Then, there were the half-dozen or more different gathering places, again each with a unique charm of their own.  This was obviously a place where both individuality and community are valued.

It was in the main gathering place, the night before, that I had met Linda Stay and her husband, Steve (pictured below).  I was introduced to them by a friend of mine who had known them for several years.  I recognized her from the concert:  she was the exuberant blonde who had been bobbing and swaying in her seat through most of our upbeat numbers and had listened in rapt attention during the serious pieces. 

Nothing was said about it that evening, but I later realized that Linda is the mother of Tyler Barrick, husband of Spencer Jones, the Mormon couple whose marriage was featured in the film “8:The Mormon Proposition.” (You can learn more about her and Steve here.) If you've seen that movie, you know that Linda and Steve became firm advocates of their son and for gay rights generally.  Linda didn’t talk about any of that, however.  She simply told me that she has a gay son and a lesbian daughter.  That said, she wanted to hear my story.

As I started talking, I immediately felt genuine interest, empathy and love flowing from Linda to me.  It was an amazing experience: I felt like I had known this woman for years instead of minutes.  She was so in tune to what I was saying that, as I came to the part of my story where I described the effect on me of Boyd K. Packer’s talk at last October conference and said, “I felt like something had …”, she said “snapped” at the same time I did. 

I couldn’t keep back the tears as Linda assured me that my children would someday thank me for the example I am setting for them of living truth; that good would come from all of this – not just for me but for them as well. 

When I left the “ranch” that evening to go back to our hotel, even though a cold wind had been blowing that made it uncomfortable – even with our coats on - to be outside, I felt warmed.  I felt validated, uplifted and renewed.  I felt blessed.

The following morning, I thought about this experience as I walked around the “ranch,” taking pictures.  I thought about what a special place it is and was for me as well as others.  To me, there was a palpable presence in this place of tolerance, acceptance, appreciation of diversity and a zest for life.  Some people call that presence “spirit.”

Around noon, we boarded the bus and left the ranch to head back to the freeway.  As we drove back through Ivins and Santa Clara, we passed several LDS churches.  At one, the meetings had apparently just ended and I looked out my window to see people leaving the building and crossing the parking lot – older women in their floral print dresses; a young couple with their two young children, one walking, one being pushed in a stroller; a middle-aged man walking purposefully, his scripture bag and notebook binder tucked under one arm. 

I looked at this scene, ruminating about all I have experienced in the past seven months and in the past 24 hours, and the thought came unbidden to my mind how foreign all of that seemed to me now.  “I am no longer a part of that world,” I said to myself.  "I have left that behind." 


  1. Wow! What an amazing experience! That love you felt from her is real, is indicative of the love God has for you.

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all offer these havens of tolerance and acceptance? The world would be such a better place

  2. Last year on the Salt Lake public radio station, KUER, Linda Stay was a guest on the program, Radio West. She talked about her experiences with her son and how she learned that he was gay. As I listened to the program alone in my home office, I broke down and cried. The genuine love and acceptance she expressed for her son moved me to tears.

    During this time, I was working up the courage to tell my mom I was gay. A week or two after hearing Linda, I finally told my mom the secret I had been carrying for over 25 years. Despite the relationship challenges I’ve had with my mom, she accepted me in such an open, unconditional way, it healed many wounds. For a few weeks afterward, I’d find myself thinking, “I was so worried my mom would react this way,” or “I was afraid she’d do this.” I realized that I didn’t have to worry about those things I had worried about for years. That burden was gone, but I had to retrain my mind how to think about this. I feel significantly less alone now.

    For helping me to resolve those fears and finding love and acceptance I never dreamed possible, I thank you, Linda Stay. You have done much good. And thanks Invictus for talking about this.

  3. @Utahhiker801 - THANK YOU for sharing this story. I hope Linda sees it and thinks about all the others like you and me out there that she doesn't even know about who have been blessed by her courage, strength and compassion.

  4. @Libellule: AMEN! HUGS to all in the glade.

  5. WOW! I feel honored to be mentioned here in such a sweet way. I was deeply touched by our brief encounter...I didn't want it to end, and I don't believe it ever will. I am blessed with AMAZING kids and husband who helped me step into my authentic self and I am thrilled for you to do the same.

    I love who you are!


  6. Dear Toto,

    I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.


    :- )

  7. Two thoughts came to mind as I read your account of this beautiful experience:

    "Worlds without number" (Define worlds)
    "Truth is independent in that sphere in which it was created."

    Apparently there is room for all!


  8. Reading your story felt so similar to my first trip with the choir to St George and "The Ranch". I always smile when I think about it.