My Own Private Movie Set

The Ghost Town a Mile from Home

Story and Photos by Ernest J. Lombard

The author, a retired architect and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), was raised on a ranch in Bonneville County and has had a lifelong fascination with Idaho’s ghost towns, many of which he has explored and photographed on motorcycle trips through the years. In the following excerpt, used with permission, from his new book, Life-A-Tecture: Build an Experience-Driven Life, he describes youthful experiences in the ghost town of Herman and elsewhere.

Near the homestead was the old ghost town of Herman. As a young boy, I could walk one mile to explore an adventure-filled ghost town.

After doing that many times, I wanted to find other old cabins and town sites related to early-day mining activities that were just a farther walk from the house. This need to explore sites farther and farther from home is still with me in adulthood. Now, when I explore “new ghost towns” (at least new to me), I feel I am reliving the best moments of my childhood.

One of the employees who worked for my dad on the ranch was a carpenter who got architectural magazines in the mail. I loved to look at those magazines. They sparked my curiosity for buildings. He was a very skilled woodworker and carpenter. He did not have much opportunity to showcase his real skills. My mother used to say that he could build anything if you gave him enough time. When you are herding sheep, you have a lot of time to think about things to build and to do. Sheepherding is not a physically taxing endeavor, it is more of a mental exercise to stay alert and vigilant. Some people do not take advantage of the time to self-educate and others do. You have a lot of time to read and think. It is a shame we did not have computers and the Internet back then.

In the summer, when you do not have to trail the sheep or manage the birthing season, you do have time to think, reflect, and explore ideas. On a ranch, when you are old enough to have chores but too young to be full-time employed, you do have some time to yourself. Your parents are busy working and are not there to entertain you, so you have some extra time to spend doing things kids like to do. In my case, I liked to go out and explore. It was my main activity: whether it was a walk in the forest or a walk in the past to explore history, the ghost towns were an attraction. It was like having my own props and movie set to walk to and explore. When my younger brother joined me, we let our minds explore too, and created adventures in the ghost town setting.

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