Go to the Customers
A Backwoods Strategy
By Max Jenkins
When I was a kid, I liked to listen to my dad while he was on the telephone, because it was always entertaining. He was the county agent of Idaho County in the late 1940s. It was the state’s biggest county, yet he seemed to know most everyone, certainly the farmers, ranchers, and loggers. He was a great communicator, adept on the phone. Let’s say he was trying to reach Jack Thompson, who lived on a ranch outside Riggins, but Jack wasn’t picking up. Dad’s next call would be to Betty, the Riggins area operator. Nowadays, by the way, a café on the south side of Riggins displays the town’s telephone party-line board and accessories that were used in the 1940s and ‘50s by Betty and the other operators in that building.
“Hi, Betty, how’s your sick horse?” Dad might say. “Aw, that’s too bad, you’d better call the vet. Hey, do you know what Jack’s doing today?”
“No, I haven’t heard from him,” she’d say, “but I’ll check around. Will you be at your office?”
“Yes, I’m leaving pretty soon, and I’ll be at the office until noon. Betty, you’re a great friend.”
Before he even got out of the house, Betty would call back. “I found Jack. I plugged into the south Riggins party line, and Jessie’s son is running over to Jack’s barn to tell him to call you.”
“Betty,” Dad would say kiddingly, “I’m going to send you a dozen red roses.”
“Sure,” she’d say, “when hell freezes over.”
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