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Carbon County: A microcosm of America's melting pot

Sign at entrance to exhibit reading "Welcome to Crossroads Change in Rural America"
Mia Shumway

Every rural person and place has a story. Change is part of that story. “Rural Utah at a Crossroads” is part of the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America, which explores the changing meaning of rural life and identity. Utah Humanities is touring Crossroads to eight rural communities across Utah in 2024. As part of the tour, Utah Humanities and Utah Public Radio are partnering with exhibition hosts to interview local residents about change in their communities.

This interview with Bradley King took place at the Utah State University Eastern Campus in Price, Utah.

We think when I was a kid, we had 27 different churches in the community or at least in the county, and that's very different than most rural Utah towns. And it was amazing to me, it's been a point of pride and the ability to have everybody get along is one of the things I brag about Carbon County all the time. Different thinking, different religions, different politics, even, but the wonderful melting pot that America is, is reflected very much in this microcosm of Carbon County.

It's also very different being rural, because many of the most important issues really are not partisan issues at all. They're not Republican or Democrat, they're rural and urban. And I felt that it was my opportunity and responsibility to give that that rural perspective. Most of the representatives that I worked with were from the other party. Being a Democrat in Utah as a challenge anyway, but I was the only rural Democrat elected for almost all of the 14 years. But it gave me a good perspective too.

I knew that there was nothing that could be could be accomplished without being bipartisan, and so I spent much of my time building those relationships with people that I worked with every day. And I think that made it a pleasure to serve, and that would make it more difficult, I think today, than it than it was back then.

I really have enjoyed the diversity that is here, although we're becoming less diverse as our our young people are exported out for jobs. And that's a real unfortunate thing, our greatest export is our youth, and I wish that weren't true. I wish they could all stay here those that want to, but well, we've never apologize for the opportunities that were available, only for the lack of jobs that they could stay here.

Right now we are kind of at a crossroads as we move away from, not by choice, an energy-based economy down here to whatever is going to be here in the future. And so that can go two ways. I guess we could ignore the fact and and put our heads in the sand and let the future overwhelm us or more positively to prepare for that. And I think we are seeing some preparation for those things.

I think sometimes we limit ourselves by saying well, that's probably somebody else, somebody else somewhere else could do that. But it's really not possible here I think we need to open our minds and, and not limit ourselves to the forward thinking and positive and, and always have the eye on the prize of jobs and industries that will help keep our our children here and give them those opportunities if they choose.

“Rural Utah at a Crossroads” is a collaboration between Utah Public Radio, Utah Humanities, and the community hosts of Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition made possible in the Beehive State by Utah Humanities.

Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

Mia Shumway is a producer and reporter for Utah Public Radio. She produces Rural Utah at a Crossroads and loves bringing the stories of rural Utahns to life. Mia studied Mass Communication at Colorado Mesa University and is pursuing a master's in political science at Utah State University. When she’s not on the air, she can be found on one of Logan’s many beautiful hiking trails or procrastinating her thesis.