Author Archives: Clell G. Ballard

About Clell G. Ballard

Clell G. Ballard has lived his whole life in Camas County. He earned a Master’s degree in diplomatic history and for thirty-five years, he taught high school students in Fairfield. In the summers, he dry-land farmed with his uncle. Since 1980, Clell has had more than two hundred articles published. He has written regularly for Skinned Knuckles and Farm Collector magazines. He and his wife Marilyn, the district librarian, have five grown children.

Testing the Code

In the sparsely populated areas of rural Idaho, people go by a code of honor: “Don’t mess with things that don’t belong to you.” As strange as it may seem to city dwellers, something can be left in the same spot for a surprisingly long time without being touched by anyone.

For example, a late-1920s Model A Ford sat off the side of a regularly used county road near Fairfield for several decades. To be more accurate, only part of the vehicle remained visible for at least a dozen years—until the ravages of time accounted for its final state of almost total decay, when scrap collectors hauled it away—but you get my point. Continue reading

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Death of the Forest Cabin

I’ve lived my whole life in Camas County, which is almost exactly the size of Rhode Island but has long had a population of around one thousand. The county’s single east-west valley has an elevation of about five thousand feet above sea level, while to the south are low mountains, and to the north are peaks that reach higher than ten thousand feet. Extremely cold winter temperatures (1990 saw an official low of fifty-two degrees below zero) and deep snow discourage everyone except the hardiest individuals from living here.

The farmers and ranchers who settled this area in the 1880s scratched out a living. Mining was a major effort and the remains of dozens of small operations—gold and silver mines, although lead and other trace minerals were present—can be found in all parts of the county. No major strikes were made, but some wealth was taken out of the earth. Many “prove-up” shacks were built as farming homesteads, and even in the highest mountains, every mine had some kind of shelter. A hard rock mining claim I own at 9,400 feet has a typical shack that housed miners early last century. Decades ago, the weight of ten or more feet of snow caused its collapse. Continue reading

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