Living the Dream

A Couple Follow Their Hearts to Dwell on a Remote Mountainside

By Kitty Widner

Photos courtesy of Floy and Jay Hester

The lure of the backcountry can be as strong as the siren song. It inspired a young couple from McCall, my niece and her husband, to spend a large part of their lives way up the side of a mountain, far from civilization.

Educated in Boise, Jay Hester graduated from Capital High as an honor student and senior class president. His intelligence, work effort, and personality could have led him to corporate boardrooms, politics, or some other job of importance but he hated the fast lane, so his choices led to another type of life. Floy Helmich was the fourth child of Lilbyrn and Lomie Helmich, my sister. From day one, Floy was a little girl with a mind of her own. Her siblings were willing to tow the line but Floy marched to her own drummer.

After graduating from high school, the work she chose was running a mobile dimension sawmill that her logger father had purchased. My husband and I learned about her new job one day in the late 1970s, when we drove to McCall and noticed someone working at the mill. The worker wore jeans and a baseball cap, which made me think she was a boy until I saw her lovely smiling face. Floy was running the mill and handling the green chain, all 108 pounds of her working hard.

After Jay’s graduation, he ranched near McCall and then in the mid-1970s, he managed Robinson Bar Ranch near Stanley. In 1981, he returned to McCall and worked in construction. He was a fast learner with a natural bent for building and woodwork.

When Jay and Floy met, they soon discovered they were kindred spirits who wanted a life in which they could enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. After their marriage in 1982, they continued a natural progression toward being able to make a living and enjoy the outdoors at the same time. Both were working in McCall when Kim Helmich, my nephew and Floy’s brother, accepted a job to cut house logs and rough-in a lodge in the backcountry for Roger and Kathy Cadwalder from Tomball, Texas. Kim hired Jay to help build the lodge on the Yellow Jacket Ranch, which had been purchased by the Cadwalders.

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