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Cathy Free: Life's idyllic for Torreys of Torrey

Rob Torrey didn't move to the town of Torrey five years ago with the intention of gaining his own ZIP code. But that's exactly what happened.

Rob is now the postmaster of Torrey, Utah, 84775, a pretty little town just outside Capitol Reef National Park, lined with stately cottonwood trees and home to about 160 lucky residents.

When he isn't stuffing post office boxes with mail and canceling letters, Rob also helps his wife, Diane, run the Torrey Trading Post — a gift shop that sells everything from arrowheads to Zuni jewelry. Fifteen years ago, he couldn't have imagined giving up his busy life in Salt Lake City to make small talk at the Torrey Post Office with locals and give directions to tourists.

"I didn't even know that Torrey existed," says Rob, a member of the Torrey clan for 57 years. "Now, I wouldn't go back to a big city for anything. Torrey is home now."

During a recent trip south, I joined Rob for a Free Lunch chat at Torrey's log cabin post office, where he regaled me with tales of small-town life and how he ended up in a place named after a prominent colonel on his family tree.

Torrey is named after Rob's ancestor, Col. Robert Torrey, an attorney from Wyoming who helped organize the Rough Riders — the cavalry led by Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War. Although Robert Torrey never visited the area, some of his Rough Riders did.

"In the late 1800s, they needed a post office here and the government said they'd have to incorporate and come up with a name for the town," says Rob. "Some guys who had served with Col. Torrey said, 'Why not name it Torrey?' "

Rob, a father of 10 who had spent much of his life working 9-to-5 for a private utility company, was pleasantly surprised when he and Diane passed through the town on their way to Arizona one year. Rob posed for a picture in front of the Torrey city limits sign and was so impressed by the area's beauty that he decided to visit the town every year.

While staying at a motel in the center of town, he noticed the owner of the Torrey Trading Post lounging on a front-porch bench across the street.

"I remember thinking, 'Wow, that's the life,' " recalls Rob. "Diane and I came over and asked him, 'Working hard?' "

During one visit, Rob mentioned to the man that he'd be interested in buying the trading post if he ever decided to sell it. A few years later, the phone rang. Were the Torreys still interested in moving to Torrey?

"We jumped at the chance," says Rob, even though several of his kids were still in high school. "They went from a school with 2,000 students to a school in Bicknell with about 160. We worried they'd miss the city, but they ended up loving it. Down here, you're more than a number. There are barely 2,000 people in the whole county."

Wayne County also does not have a single traffic light, which is just fine with Rob.

"Like my commute?" he asks, pointing to a cabin out back. "There's no need to venture far from home these days." Instead, the entire town comes to Rob Torrey every day.

"That's the best part about this — I know every person in town," he says. "It's a privilege to be a part of their lives."

He pauses, watching leaves fall from the golden cottonwood trees.

"It's funny — the town was named Torrey because they needed a post office and now here I am, the postmaster."

Tourists at the motel across the street now envy Rob Torrey. You'll find him most afternoons, enjoying the easy life from that old front-porch bench.

Have a story? Let's hear it over lunch. E-mail your name, phone number and what you'd like to talk about to, or write to Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.