We could hold a birding festival in American Falls.”
Todd Winter’s voice came through the phone loud and clear, but I was nevertheless confused. A birding festival?
My experience with birds up to that point was the flock of chickens in my backyard. Were we going to stand around and compare egg production among different varieties?
He laughed good-naturedly at my bewilderment.
“No, no, a birding festival is where you watch birds out in nature. You take notes, take pictures, things like that. People will come from all over the U.S.—all over the world, really—to observe a rare bird in its habitat. We have some of the best birding available in America, right here in our backyard, and no one seems to know it!”
His enthusiasm showed through brightly, but I was skeptical. This was little ol’ American Falls, population 4,400. We had potatoes, wheat, and sugar beets. We had a reservoir that filled up in the spring but by fall was a muddy, willow- and bug-infested flat that was worthless for tourists. We had farmers, not tourists, and wasn’t there a reason for that? Surely if we were a mecca for birds, someone would have noticed by now.
In 1943, my dad and his brother Vaughn started Morgan Brothers Construction Company. One of the first structures they put up in American Falls was an office building for the new doctor in town.
It had cinder block walls with the front door opening onto the sidewalk, and a big window on each side. That was where I saw the skull. I had been riding my bike up the street, and there it was. I stopped and looked at it for a long time. Could that hole be from a bullet that killed the owner of the skull? My dad was building a store across the street, so I rode over there and asked him about it. Continue reading →