Author Archives: Shirley Metts

About Shirley Metts

Shirley Metts is a native Idahoan who grew up on a homestead north of Rupert. She moved to Hazelton, where she met her husband, Rocky. The couple has three children and five grandchildren. A secretary for the Kimberly School District for twenty-one years, Shirley retired in 2008. She is editor of the Magic Valley Gem Club’s news bulletin and southern Idaho representative for the American Lands Access Association.

Hazelton–Spotlight

“What? We’re moving to Hazelton? No way—no one moves to Hazelton! What about all our friends?” This was the reaction when our parents informed us kids in 1966 that we were moving to a farm at the end of Ridgeway Road a little east and south of Hazelton, about twenty-seven miles from our home in Rupert. As usually happens, we did make great new friends, one of whom was my future husband.

Before that move, the only memory I had of Hazelton was when we passed through it one Thanksgiving. We had been trying to visit my grandparents in Nampa but drove into a big blizzard, the snow coming down so fast that we had to turn around and go back home. Before the interstate system was built, to get from Rupert to Nampa you took a two-lane highway through Paul, Hazelton, Eden, Jerome, Bliss, King Hill, Glenns Ferry, and then on to Mountain Home and Boise. In Hazelton that Thanksgiving Day, I remember we looked for a telephone to call my grandparents, but not a single place was open. We had to turn around and call from the nearby little Greenwood Store.

We moved to Hazelton during my sister’s senior year at Minico Senior High School between Paul and Rupert, which meant we drove to Minico and back frequently, so she could graduate with her friends. My brother bought a car and we either rode with him or took the bus, which dropped us off at Kasota Road, about six miles from our farm, and Mom picked us up there. These trips gave my brother and me time to meet people and make friends before we started at Valley High School. Continue reading

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Spotlight–Hansen

In the fall of 1967, when I was fourteen, my parents moved our family from the Northside Tract at Rupert to Hazelton, within fifteen miles of Hansen. Even so, I grew up knowing very little about the town. This situation continued until I married in 1974, when we moved from Twin Falls to Kimberly, just four miles west of Hansen, and became very good friends with several Hansen residents. In spring of 1976, I went to work at the Hansen School District for about six months and learned more about the place. Forty years later, we still have friends who live there. Two of them were Hans and Martha Ross, both now deceased, who were wonderful people and pioneers in the area.

City clerk Linda Morrill describes sleepy little Hansen as a bedroom community of Twin Falls, which is about seven miles west on Highway 30, an easy commute yet far enough away for Hansen to be laid-back from the hustle and bustle of the larger city. Hansen’s current population of 1,160 has an elementary and junior/senior high school, a great public library, city offices, a café, post office, bar, grain elevators, a fiberglass machine shop, a fire station, and a store that is undergoing refurbishment. A community hall can be rented for weddings, parties, and other events.

The first thing that catches your attention after you pass the gaudy “Garden of Eden” truck stop at the I-84 exit to Hansen is the beauty of the crossing over the Snake River Canyon. In the town’s early days, the first bridge at this spot was the only connection between Hansen on the south side of the river and the farming areas of Eden and Hazelton on the north side. Before it was completed in 1919, the only way to cross the sixteen-mile-long river gorge was in a rowboat. The suspension bridge was held up by fourteen cables that were more than nine hundred feet long. It had two rows of wooden planks, which drivers were supposed to keep their tires on. It was wide enough for only one vehicle to travel at a time. If two vehicles met on the bridge, one would have to back up. My friend Harold Waggoner remembers driving a combine across that bridge and having to back up for another vehicle coming toward him. My dad liked to say it was a two-way bridge, one way going north and the other south—just not at the same time. Continue reading

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Murtaugh–Spotlight

When I was fourteen, my parents moved from a GI Bill farming project north of Rupert to a farm located south of Hazelton and northeast of Murtaugh. That was the first time I had heard of Murtaugh, which is located halfway between Twin Falls and Burley, at the beginning of the middle section of the Snake River, near the entrance to Snake River Canyon. This chasm running between the fertile farmlands of the Magic Valley reaches depths of more than five hundred feet. My parents’ farm was a half-mile north of the rim of the canyon and about four miles east of Murtaugh. To get into town we had to cross the canyon by driving down a winding, narrow road, over an old wooden bridge, and up the winding, narrow road on the other side. Many drivers who braved the old Murtaugh Grade when they were young and inexperienced can tell you how frightening it was to head downhill and see the road disappear in front of you. You had to turn the car to the right to see the road again, and not go over the edge.

One mile upstream from the Murtaugh Bridge lies what the early explorers called the Devil’s Scuttlehole, now known as Cauldron Linn, Star Falls, or the Devil’s Cauldron. The original name came from the wicked way the water boils and churns at the bottom of the falls, not unlike what a witch’s brew in a cauldron might resemble.

The first recorded attempt by white explorers to go through the falls was in 1811, when the Wilson Price Hunt party was sent by John Jacob Astor to find a route to the Pacific Ocean, according to Virginia Ricketts’ 1998 book, Then and Now in Southern Idaho. The Hunt party would also explore the lands of the Northwest Territory, opening trading posts along the way. After leaving their horses at the headwaters of the Snake River, the party built canoes to float down the river. On October 28, the explorers entered a canyon, where they made the biggest error in judgment of their entire trip. Coming to a deceptive waterfall, they tried to go through it and capsized two boats. One of the men died. The men made another attempt to navigate four other boats down the canyon below the falls, but lost all four of those vessels and the provisions and furs they carried.

After sending out scouting parties to explore the area around them and downriver, they cached some of their remaining supplies and furs and traveled overland, along the Snake River to Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia. It took them three months to reach the mouth of the Columbia River. On their return trip, they found that their caches had been vandalized, and everything was either destroyed or missing. Continue reading

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In Praise of a Place

One of the biggest mistakes my husband Rocky and I ever made was the year we allowed our grown-up children and their friends to talk us into letting them put in their inner tubes beside the bridge near Featherville and float a section of the Boise River down to Johnson Bridge.

The problem was we could not drive alongside the river to check for “strainers,” the fallen trees or branches in the water, or for any other safety issues. Even so, we blithely waved them on their way, telling them we would meet them in two or three hours at the bridge.

After three hours had come and gone, I began worrying that something had happened. We drove every road we could find that went to the river, with no sign of any of them. My husband, granddaughter, and I drove up and down the road between the two bridges, over and over again. About five hours later, we finally found two of the boys trying to hike out to the road. They had run into several strainers and had almost drowned. Having decided enough was enough, they had begun walking. But that still left six people in the water—and we could not find them.

The problem was we could not drive alongside the river to check for “strainers,” the fallen trees or branches in the water, or for any other safety issues. Even so, we blithely waved them on their way, telling them we would meet them in two or three hours at the bridge.

After three hours had come and gone, I began worrying that something had happened. We drove every road we could find that went to the river, with no sign of any of them. My husband, granddaughter, and I drove up and down the road between the two bridges, over and over again. About five hours later, we finally found two of the boys trying to hike out to the road. They had run into several strainers and had almost drowned. Having decided enough was enough, they had begun walking. But that still left six people in the water—and we could not find them. Continue reading

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