Sticks and Stones
A Study in Sensitivity Training
By Steve Carr
I recently returned from a visit to northern Idaho: Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Wallace, and many more in and around. Oh my gosh, talk about pretty.
Sorry, Princess Kate, my British Royal crush is over. What gems! I hadn’t given it much thought before now, but Idaho’s nickname quite ingeniously refers to more than just gemstones.
Everyone loves nicknames. I know I do. I enjoy having a bit of a knack at bestowing clever and meaningful monikers. The tradition goes way back. For one high school friend, I quite imaginatively spelled her last name backwards, coming up with a unique result. She was an indulgently kind and generous friend who became known by all as “Numzo” for the next several years.
When my children came along, so came the nicknames. I had fun pretending to be Captain Hook to my son’s Peter Pan as we sabered perilously along a narrow ship plank high above stuffed crocodile-infested waters in the family room. His little sister toddled in, wanting to join in, and insisted she have a name, too.
“Well, your brother is Peter Pan. How about if we call you Peter Pants?”
“Yay!” she cheered and jumped headlong into Daddy’s dangerous waters, heavy diaper and all.
Our two-year-old relished Daddy’s attention and the name stuck, along with a multitude of others over the years. They still make me chuckle.
“Go wash up for dinner, Peter Pants,” I joked collegially, some ten years later, when my daughter Amy’s school friends joined us for dinner. I can still see the wide-eyed surprise Amy shared with me across the kitchen table.
More recently, I christened a fishing buddy who took me across Idaho wilderness to the middle of pristine nowhere to fish in privately owned waters—a rare honor—where we caught more fish than a thrift store mattress has bed bugs. “Three-Bed Bowers” received his nickname after I learned he’d booked a single ratty room with three single beds for three flatulent fishermen. No one slept very well that night, even though I made light of the situation, laughing and teasing old Three-Bed. Charlie Bower’s bower it wasn’t.
The only place for dinner was the bar in the forgotten town, where the wily waitress had dealt with more than a few cowboys. She glared at me, gimlet-eyed, tired shoulders slumped, clearly confused, when I said something like, “Three-Bed Bowers here won the coin flip and wonders what you’re offering for dessert?” She walked off without a response. We’d played hard that day. We were hoping for some cobbler.
Last week at dinner with new friends, imbued by the sunset over Lake Coeur d’Alene, we exchanged lofty aspirations for the Gem State and our next generation of Idahoans. The lake breeze turned chilly right after I asked about a bit of northern Idaho history, concerning an ignorant man who had spewed intolerance and worse—and the reputation and labels that followed.
“He’s long gone and that’s not us, never was,” was the cool response. And then I inquired about dessert, thinking of clever nicknames for my new friends.