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Historical Fiction

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Photo courtesy of BYUtv.

There are lies and there are damn lies. And then there is American history.

History is, after all, written by the winners. And from settlement to geo-economic dominance, our plucky countrymen have long managed to come out on the winning side of human events. That’s what makes American exceptionalism so alluring—the evidence of God’s favor seems to be everywhere.

Of course, there are all those pesky, less virtuous details to deal with. Slavery and Jim Crow. Carpet bombings and ethnic internment. Proxy wars and puppet governments. That’s where revisionism comes in handy. Sometimes, after all, it is simply easier to tell a story than deal with the truth.

Stan Ellsworth seems to understand this all too well.

The Utah actor and host of BYUtv’s hit history series, American Ride, is an unabashed advocate for American exceptionalism.

“I do believe this nation was founded by Providence,” said the 6-foot-2-inch, 300-pound blonde-bearded biker, a self-proclaimed “Southern boy” who said he grew up idolizing General Stonewall Jackson and other heroes of the Confederacy.

“A lot of people want to run down the great men of American history,” Ellsworth said. “They focus on the mistakes, and they’re all too willing to forget the noble sacrifices.”

But that, Ellsworth said, doesn’t excuse the failings. “People can be proud of this country and they should be proud of this country,” he said. “But they have to be honest, too.”

Indeed, on his show Ellsworth peppers his nationalism with a healthy dose of smack-you-in-the-face reality. And so, when it comes to a war that many fellow Southerners still blame on “Northern aggression,” Ellsworth won’t abide by Dixie revisionism.

Those who say the South seceded over “states rights,” he growled in one episode, have “either checked their morality or their common sense at the door.”

“They have two problems,” Ellsworth went on. “No. 1: Chattel bondage is wrong, there’s no way around it. No. 2: Under the Constitution, states don’t have rights. States have powers, shared powers with the federal government that the people have given them.”

This is what gives Ellsworth’s show—in which the history buff rides a Harley-Davidson Softtail Deluxe across the country as he recounts the battles, booms and busts of American antiquity—its peculiar charm. It’s the seeming honesty of the message. It’s the apparent sincerity of the messenger.

But that’s also why, today, Ellsworth has a problem. Because when it comes to his own history, he’s been significantly more prone to revisionism.

Next>>>Holes in the Story

Back>>>Read other stories from our August 2013 issue 

Even in the exploration boom of the 1800s, nobody dared to explore the terrain flowing through the Green and the Colorado Rivers.⁠

That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠
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A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬
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Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @oquirrhslc for Betting the Bottom Dollar⁠

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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @hearth_and_hill for Opening Doors⁠

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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @fisherbrewing for Creative Canning⁠

This year, Fisher found ways to utilize their beer, taproom space and canning capabilities for good. They created special lines of limited edition beers in custom cans to help raise funds for local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. 💙⁠
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A wind storm #tbt for your feed today. 🌬️🛹⁠

2020 was a long, long, loooong year, so we asked local photographers to share what the new normal looked like through their eyes. The link is in our bio!
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Just hours after being sworn in, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for a review of the boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The monuments—designated by Barack Obama in 2016 and Bill Clinton in 1996—were reduced by roughly 2 million acres by former president Donald Trump, and the executive order is seen as move towards restoring the original boundaries.⁠

Read the full story through the link in bio.⁠


📸Bears Ears National Monument: Courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism
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