A Troublesome Sort

But Memorable

By John M. Larsen

Bernice sounded extremely nervous when she told me on the phone that her neighbor Donna had just said to her, “Thursday: this is the day I kill you.”

Donna’s threat apparently arose because Bernice’s husband Rich had once been Marsing’s mayor. He also had done city maintenance work, which had included spraying herbicide on the banks of an irrigation ditch that divided Bernice’s and Donna’s properties. That was a couple of years earlier, and Donna later had been stricken with a problem that affected the circulation in her lower legs, which caused them to turn slightly purple.

She not only was convinced this was because of Rich’s herbicide, but believed that his attachment to government meant he was one of “them.” I think it was very unlikely that her problem was caused by the herbicide, but when Rich passed away the next year, his death only added to her suspicion. She decided to seek vengeance against Bernice.

At the time, I was the city’s maintenance supervisor, which is why when Bernice called the mayor, he called me. I remember when I first interviewed with the mayor for the job, I told him I had operated a backhoe, laid water and sewer lines, installed septic tanks, and maintained various types of pumps. He peered over his glasses at me and said somberly, “Oh, that’s the easy part of the job. The hard part is the people.”

He knew what he was talking about. For example, I soon had to contend with a citizen who seemed to have been born angry and another who was hired to haul city garbage to the dump but often wanted to keep it rather than dump it. Donna was another in the list.

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John M. Larsen

About John M. Larsen

John M. Larsen came to Idaho in 1940, went to high school in Marsing, and graduated from the College of Idaho. His parents were co-founders the Owyhee County Historical Society and from 1998 to 2018, John was either the society’s president or a board member. He worked for the City of Marsing and later was a consultant for the city until 2018.

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