On the River’s Far Side
By Alice Elison
Speeding east along Highway 39 in the early hours of Sunday, June 17, 1979, we entered Rockford, which was fewer than fifteen minutes to our final destination of Blackfoot. My husband and I were singing along to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” on the radio. In the middle of a “weeoh aweem away,” I felt a savage contraction, and in the midst of my Lamaze breathing, my only thought was, “Please don’t let this baby be born in Rockford.”
The place itself didn’t worry me so much as getting to a hospital. When I think of Rockford it’s usually the community that comes to mind rather than the town—although it is both—because farming dominates the region. The area, which has a current population of about 230, is not lavishly endowed with amenities. Rockford doesn’t even require traffic to slow within the city limits. We rushed right through, crossed the Snake River, and made it to the hospital. The child who arrived on that warm June morning has Blackfoot listed on his birth certificate and currently serves as the forward deck officer with the USS Idaho submarine that is under construction in Groton, Connecticut.
I have a long association with towns in this central section of Bingham County. For twenty years we lived in Moreland along Highway 26 adjoining Riverside west of the Snake, where we raised our children. In 2006, we moved to Wapello, which is about six miles north of Blackfoot on Highway 91. For many years, a small shack on Liberty Road in Rockford was my home throughout each October, where I worked for the Amalgamated Sugar Company. Actually, I slept in my own house, but for fourteen hours a day I was in the shack. I did computerized tasks and lab prep, and helped to pile the beets that went directly from the field into processing-ready rows or into storage. Aside from that job, my only other option to working the harvest was to drive the large ten-wheeler trucks, which I hated, so I kept coming back to the shack, where I liked my coworkers and the money.