A Special Place between the Tracks
By Mike Turnlund
Having a sense of place is important to human beings, if only because it contributes to our sense of identity. Who am I? Well, I’m a man, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a teacher, and I’m from Idaho. Being from Idaho is part of who I am, an Idahoan. But I didn’t always have this sense of place. Eighteen years ago, when I first moved to Sandpoint in the northern reaches of the Idaho Panhandle, I was not yet an Idahoan. Effectively, I was an immigrant. My sense of place was still elsewhere. My upbringing was split equally between Minnesota, where I was born, and Oregon, where I came of age. But neither had a hold on who I was as a person. They both held claim to a younger version of myself.
Interestingly to me, and surprisingly, I did have a connection to my new place in Sandpoint. It was Naples, twenty-three miles north. The connection, which came about because of events that occurred well before I was born, demonstrates that much of our histories are not written by ourselves.
Naples is a timeless sort of place. A hamlet more than a town, unincorporated and very small (population 133 in the 2010 census). On Highway 95 ten miles south of Bonners Ferry, the geography in this part of Boundary County is pretty stingy, as the mountains do not offer much flat land for development or passage. Consequently, the highway, two railroads, and a small stream, Deep Creek, share space with the community. The town sits between the two competing rail beds, a stone’s throw apart. The old Wild Horse Trail—used by tribes, settlers, and gold miners alike before this region was “civilized”—also ran through the town.
In the center of the community and, really, at its heart, is the Naples Store. Like many such stores in byways of Idaho, it is a general mercantile that also houses the post office. You can get milk and farm-fresh eggs, rent a movie, or buy a snow shovel. It has the only gas pumps in the area, which are the kind that make you pay inside, as they won’t accept electronic bank cards.