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Clawson • The UFO landing zone is an out-of-this-world introduction to the whimsical mind of master machinist Vaughn Reid.
A self-proclaimed "72-year-old kid," the retired steel worker has collected or built a wondrous array of utilitarian and fanciful objects at his Museum of Creativity along State Route 10, between the Emery County towns of Clawson and Ferron.
There's a rusty steam engine. A big, red wagon wheel. A sunflower fashioned out of a lawn rake. A round saw blade 5 feet in diameter. Metal sculptures of squirrels munching on nuts. And steam-engine whistles mounted on each side of the front porch of a big log cabin he has built with help from longtime Emery High School auto mechanics teacher Rich Fairbanks.
That's just on the outside.
Inside, there are chairs made of horseshoes as well as lamps, tables and bowls formed from twisted tree limbs. One wall is covered with buckets and copper plates, another with hand saws. A floor scraper bears a patent date of 1820. Most impressive is a multiton boiler from a sawmill Reid's grandpa ran almost a century ago up among the timber on the Wasatch Plateau.
And there are pink panties hanging over a low-slung doorway between the main cabin and a workshop attached at the back (more on that later).
"I like to collect things. If I don't, they'll end up in the scrap where nobody can enjoy them," Reid said, his lips and eyes synching into a mischievous smile that flashed often while he described the montage of objects all around.
Last fall, a large group from the Emery County Historical Society visited Reid's museum.
"Everybody was just absolutely amazed, in awe of one thing and then another and then another," said Historical Society President Dottie Grimes, from Elmo. "It probably should be put on our visitor list because it's so interesting and historical."
Added Julie Robinson, who runs the Grub Box Drive In in Ferron where Reid goes most mornings to socialize: "It tickles him plumb to death when people stop to see his work."
Most stop to see the three spacecraft perched on a little hardscrabble bluff just off the highway, right behind a wooden sign proclaiming this to be a "UFO Landing Site."
With Fairbanks' assistance, Reid has taken dozens of buckets and bent them into cups to catch breezes and make the spacecraft spin around, a scene perpetuated at night by solar-powered lights attached to each.
"The wind blows here a lot," Reid said. "They get to 'motating' when the wind gets going."
A native of nearby Orangeville, he started assembling the spacecraft four years ago when he retired after a career as a master machinist and blacksmith in Utah County's steel mills (McNally, Mountain States and, finally, Geneva).
"I had to go up there when I was raising [six] kids to make a living," he said, noting his decision to move back to Orangeville was cemented when a new subdivision was built next to his Orem property. "I had 78 new neighbors. It was time for me to get out of there."
He was not about to sit idle in retirement. Too many guys he'd worked with died quickly once their jobs ended.
"I'd rather work myself to death," Reid reasoned. "After all those years of working, your body needs to keep doing it."
Besides, he enjoyed wandering the hills of his youth, looking for whatever.
"Some days I hike around all day and pick up a couple of pieces of dead wood that I can work on. You have to have a crazy imagination for some of this."
Reid had built a few things on his brush-covered property when Fairbanks came along and asked Reid to teach him how to blacksmith, how to use lathes. "I wanted to learn from the best. He's a genius," said Fairbanks.
Reid accepted. "We enjoy being together and working," he said. "Not everyone appreciates junk."
So they started building the cabin up on a flat spot of land, erecting it in piecemeal fashion around the thick trunks of three cottonwood trees. Along the dirt road leading from the highway to the cabin they installed signs warning of snake crossings and coyote rest stops. They decorated a telephone pole to look like an arrow that Orion the Archer shot at an angle into the Earth.
Reid also acquired two rowboats, something that really got Emery County folks to talking because the property was high and dry. But it did have a sizable depression that wasn't too far from the canal of an irrigation company looking for a place to store water for use later in the growing season. Reid struck a deal with the irrigators, who carved a connecting channel and redirected some of their water into the basin.
That perplexed some of his neighbors, who pointed to the spacecraft and wondered: "You put two boats in a field and now you have a pond," he recalled. "Now you're building a UFO Landing Site. Are we going to have them people flying in here?"
Bingo. Reid had accomplished his goal.
"If you come here and go away laughing, I know I've done my job," he said. "There's too much serious stuff going on, too many problems today. People are working too hard, going too fast."
So when Reid and Fairbanks get together to work, they don't set production goals or get too stressed out about anything.
"We get done what we get done. There's no pressure here," Reid said.
More humor than pressure: Remember those pink panties? Reid had tried a number of ways to warn visitors of the low doorway leading to the machine shop. None succeeded until he hung the panties from the lintel. Now nobody bumps their head on it.
He also shows off a book, 3 inches thick, titled Everything Men Know About Women. Its pages are blank.
The men welded car jacks together to form a tree. "Our Jack tree," Fairbanks said. "We haven't figured out what to do for a Jill tree."
Not far away is what Reid calls the "No. 12 Do Nothing" machine. Pointing to a wooden bench, he instructed, "you have to sit there until it makes one revolution." That would take an eternity. The machine does not move.
"Who would make something that does nothing?" he asked quizzically. "Me."
That's because he can.
As Grimes noted, "most of those tools, if you find them, people aren't sure how to use them. But he knows how to use every single one of them. He really appreciates the old ways and is very fun to talk to. He's a real character."
If he wasn't, he might not have a statue of an American Indian on horseback, waving a blanket to inform a distant tribe he had found buffalo.
"This piece," he said with a wink, "was given to me by the intergalactic council for taking care of the UFO Landing Site."
Age • 72
Hometown • Orangeville
Profession • Retired machinist, artist
Approach to his craft • "To make a feather [out of metal] takes 100 hits with a hammer. You just chip away. Nothing fancy. You work with what you've got."