When my father, Richard Olsen, was a high school senior in 1954, he discovered what he would later name “Idaho’s Mammoth Cave” while hunting bobcats in the desert outside of Shoshone.
At the time, he was with his high school girlfriend, and stumbled across the entrance by accident. Forgotten over time, it had previously been known only by ancient tribes and early white settlers who utilized the cave for shelter and storage.
“I talked my girlfriend Vinita into exploring the cavern with just a single flashlight. As my excitement and imagination grew, expecting to find treasure at any moment. Vinita, scared and unhappy, cried the whole way in and the whole way out.”
But for my father, it was love at first sight and he decided he wanted to share it with the world.
When you’re driving through southern Idaho on Highway 75, you’ll see the sign for “Idaho’s Mammoth Cave” in big colorful letters, seven miles north of Shoshone. If you take the time to drive the dusty mile off the highway, you’ll discover what a diamond in the rough awaits you and the rich history it holds.
I grew up in the desert that claims the Mammoth Cave. It is a place where ancient lava flows scar the land, and harsh winter winds and snow provide nourishment for exploding wildflowers and lush sagebrush.
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This was in the spring of 2011, when a very large and extremely heavy electrical transformer was being moved by road and rail to an Idaho Power sub-station near Shoshone. Weighing in at 450 tons, the transformer was forty feet long, fourteen feet wide and about eighteen feet tall. Built by a South Korean company, it had been shipped through the Panama Canal to a seaport in Texas. From there it was loaded onto one of the largest railroad cars in North America for a long and slow journey to its rail destination near Gooding. Known by railroaders as a “high-and-wide” load, the transformer and the railcar had their own crew of attendants, who made sure the load remained steady and stable throughout its journey.
From the beginnings of railroads in America, they were the “go to” form of transportation if you had a large piece of machinery or something very heavy to move. The railroads reached their zenith during World War II, when they had the greatest amount of track, which meant very large loads were moved just about anytime, anywhere. Even today, when a company needs to transport an especially large or heavy load, railroads still will get the nod if their tracks are anywhere close to the pick-up point or destination.
I became aware of this high-and-wide load as it was nearing Idaho by rail. On a nice Saturday morning in April 2011, I first caught sight of it near Dietrich, and followed it through Shoshone to its rail destination at a grain facility near Gooding. The transformer would be removed from its railcar and loaded onto a highway heavy-lift transport rig. It then would proceed from Gooding through Shoshone and down Highway 93 to the Idaho Power sub-station. Continue reading →
Burdened with Greenhorns, Cowboys Take a Herd to Pasture
By Gloria Jackson
We saw Indians on the hills during the day, so Vike instructs the men to circle the wagons and corral our horses inside the circle after they’ve been given time to drink from the river.
I begin boiling river water for coffee and cooking what little food we have left. The cowboys will hunt tomorrow, the Indians permitting. Eating slows conversation, and we remain alert while one of the cowboys stands guard. They will spell each other during the night with guard duty. Pete, one of the younger cowboys, helps me clean up and put things back in the supply wagon, so the four-footed scavengers won’t think they’ve found an open buffet.
“Okay, but we won’t have any wild Indians on this drive, will we?” I ask groggily as I crawl out of bed. Continue reading →