Twelve Miles from Town, but Way Back in Time
By Rochelle Cunningham
In the summer of 1990, when my father, Gaius Cunningham, purchased his first plot of Pearl land, I was living in Oregon, but I would return home to join him, my stepmother, Kathy, and my two younger brothers, seven-year-old Jake and five-year-old Sam, to spend time at our new family property. In those early years, I held the same sentiments about my father’s choice of land ownership as did many of our friends and family: Pop! What were you thinking?
As a native Idahoan, I dreamed of owning thick timberland up north, yet my father had decided on dry, undeveloped land nine miles from the Emmett Highway and 4.5 miles from the Horseshoe Bend Highway at an elevation of 4,300 feet, which appeared to be devoid of wildlife. I remember pointing out one tree, so far off on a lonely hillside to the north that it was barely visible to the naked eye.
“Sissy,” Pop said to me, “you mark my words. It won’t be long before there are so many people in our Idaho timber, you won’t have a moment’s peace and quiet to enjoy anymore.” At every opportunity to question my father’s decision, a proud grin stretched across his sun-weathered face, and the words seem to lodge in my throat. I could see how much he already loved Pearl.
He wasn’t interested in making money from his land so much as providing a reprieve from the growth he saw coming to the Boise Valley. His two main attractions to the Pearl area were the proximity to our home in Eagle and, he hoped, Pearl’s lack of appeal to others. He valued the serenity, and once he started working his property, I began to understand, appreciate, and eventually, fall in love with Pearl, too.