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I Shall Golf My Age

Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

My mother loves life. Each new day is her laboratory, where she observes and learns for the sheer fun of it.

She looks forward with excitement to each coming adventure, whether it’s a drive to see the Independence Day parade in Hailey, attending Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s keynote speech in Boise at the Andrus Center’s Women’s Leadership Conference or an afternoon appointment with the pest control guy.

“Have you noticed? We haven’t had any daddy longlegs since I started inviting that nice young man over,” she says with a triumphal grin.

I’d like to be like Mom. But as middle age has settled in, like an Idaho January, I wax more and more ambivalent toward approaching festivities. For, as Mom has demonstrated, mental engagement and happy anticipation directly relate to one’s state of contentment, which in turn governs the rate of time passage. Every giggle and guffaw, every epiphany, increases the speed of time. Now, I’m not wild about middle age, but I’m guessing it’s decidedly better than the next stage. So I’m tempted to slow time by sitting indefinitely in front of re-runs of The Bachelorette.

I need a better plan.

It would seem the longer I live, the more I could afford the occasional time-warp speed brought on by solving a riddle or a summer slippery slide. Continue reading

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Hooked on Books

Posted on by Joe Davis / Leave a comment

I really don’t remember when I caught the reading bug. I just remember that sometime during my first-grade year in Mrs. Snow’s class in Thirkill Elementary School in Soda Springs, I was bitten.

It wasn’t a painful bite, and it has been quite rewarding over the years. At that time in the mid-Sixties, the classrooms of our school were separated by giant accordion doors. The three first-grade teachers would open them up several times during the day or week so they could take advantage of team teaching, or if one of the other teachers had to leave her class for a time, the other teachers could keep an eye on the others’ classes. During that first school year, I tore through all the books that all three teachers had in their classrooms.

Many of them were basic reading primers, but there was also an abundance of beginning reader books by Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, and Stan and Jan Berenstain, among others. Through these books I began to see entirely different lands, cultures, and peoples, and realized that these worlds were limited only by my imagination. Given that the school year extends primarily through the winter, and winters in southeast Idaho are pretty brutal, there was plenty of time to spend in these worlds.

At about the same time that I finished all of the books in the classrooms, Mrs. Snow took us to the school library for the first time. What a treasure! Books upon books upon books were neatly shelved in long rows of color. To me, they looked like the military medals and ribbons I had seen on the chests of the veterans in their uniforms marching in the Fourth of July parade. They were beautiful beyond measure. Continue reading

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Recycling Forever

Posted on by Les Tanner / Leave a comment

The time has come, my friend Al said,
To speak of many things:
Of bricks and rags and scraps of wood,
Of nails and worn out springs.

My usual excuse for picking up run-over gloves, rusty washers, and other lost and discarded objects is that I am a child of the Great Depression.

I was born in 1934 and thereby missed, or was at least unaware of, the financial and weather-related problems of the 1930s. But my parents didn’t miss them. Their parents had tough times, too. Nothing went to waste in any of those households. Whatever the reason, I am what is known in polite circles as a pack rat. If there is a glimmer of potential use remaining in a container, or a piece of wood or wire or cloth, or whatever­­—the list is virtually endless—it joins a wealth of similar objects in the storage location of our Caldwell home that I fondly refer to as “somewhere.” My filing system is simple. If it has come in the door, it is still here. Somewhere.

Numerous examples come to mind, but the fifteen or so banana boxes we bummed from a supermarket produce manager when we moved to Georgia in 1965 will do. Anyone who might see them would surely agree that they are fine boxes indeed, and they served us admirably during the several moves we have made over the years since then. Empty boxes, however, do take up critical storage space, so several years ago I spent a couple of weekends creating room for them. First, I cut a hole in the ceiling of the garage and manufactured a great door for it. Next, I built a beautiful ladder out of two-by-fours and hinged it to the ceiling, so that it can be raised and lowered by a very clever pulley system of my own design. Eight sheets of half-inch plywood (A/C grade), sawn in half lengthwise to fit through the hole I’d cut, became a good, solid floor, and voila’, problem solved. Continue reading

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King Hill

Posted on by Dean Worbois / 1 Comment

King Hill was a thriving community when my grandfather bought the last unclaimed property of the King Hill Irrigation District in 1920. Today the place is devoid of businesses. With the coming of diesel engines, the railroad no longer needed the water tower and began keeping its helper engines for the King Hill Grade in nearby Glenns Ferry, where the main yard and roundhouse were located. Nowadays, the trains don’t stop even in Glenns Ferry. But in my grandfather’s day, the pride of King Hill was a substantial two-story brick schoolhouse dominating the town from a knoll just north of the bank, hotel, bar, grocery story, café, and other businesses lining Meridian Street. 

Signs of the First Inhabitants

People lived on this big bend of the Snake River for two thousand years before a wheel ever crossed the land. Mark Plew, a professor in Boise State University’s Department of Anthropology, has excavated five sites along the river at King Hill. Bands were small, just ten to twelve people. The deer and rabbits that comprised most of their diet were plentiful, but scarce fuel for cooking and warmth forced the bands to move on. An interesting oddity of the archeological record around King Hill, including from Three Island Crossing in Glenns Ferry to Hagerman, is that this is the only place on the Snake River where metal points are found in the digs. We know from Captain John C. Fremont’s journals that he brought metal rings for trade. Apparently, native people quickly realized how handy metal is for working into projectile points.

In the valley around King Hill everyone picked up rocks—and they’re still picking them up. Rocks are piled into fences and have been used to build homes, including the one my mother was raised in west of town. About five years ago, when I first introduced myself to Jean Allen, who now owns the property with her husband Roy, Jean’s first words were, “Well, we’re still picking up rocks” (for that story, see “House of Stone,” IDAHO magazine, November 2008). Roy now assures me he has a big tractor with teeth, and he’s going to get those rocks out for good. Jean rolls her eyes.  Continue reading

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Wiring The Backcountry

Posted on by Betty Derig / Leave a comment

When I was a little girl growing up in Weiser, the after-dinner conversation often included my mother and father’s stories of their time in what was then called the Idaho Primitive Area, now part of the Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness. My mother’s story about meeting the fugitive Dan Ruth always fascinated me. Dad often talked of wrangling his packhorses up the trail from the Payette National Forest Service headquarters at Big Creek to Thunder City and beyond. He loved the scent of pine all his life.

In the summer of 1923, my father, the newly married William M. Carson, participated in wiring the backcountry. Crews were hired to string telephone wire from tree to tree along a well-known stretch of the Idaho Primitive Area. This work was to put Big Creek Ranger Station in communication with remote Forest Service outposts as well as with mines and ranches throughout Chamberlain Basin, the Thunder Mountain area, and beyond. Packers were hired to carry food supplies and wire to the telephone camps as they moved deeper into the wilderness.

My father arrived at Big Creek in July with his string of seventeen packhorses. Deer filled the meadow surrounding Big Creek, chewing on the strings of his saddle at night. Eventually, they became so gentle they ate from his hands. Keeping a journal of activities was required for all Forest Service employees. Now in the possession of my son, Paul Derig, my father’s journal gives us a peek into the life of a packer during the months of August, September, and the first part of October 1923. Twice he records receiving monthly checks of $60 and $62, plus $1 a day for each packhorse he used. Although he had seventeen horses, usually only nine or ten of them were on the trail at any one time. Continue reading

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After Summer

Posted on by Rachel Gattuso / Leave a comment

Our snowmobiles sliced through tall, blackened trees, casting high-pitched whines into the sparsely populated terrain.

We followed the path’s endless S-curves as they opened before us. The trees seemed stripped of significant limbs, barren and lifeless. But in the pure white, the black trees racing by were hypnotic. The four of us, who were on the tail end of a day spent snowmobiling in Stanley, had driven into the stoic remains of a wildfire. Yet as we zipped through the quiet folds of the countryside, these charred trees seemed whitewashed, given a new look by the snow. The ghost pines stretched to the sky, painting an eerie picture.

If I could show you a picture of this backwoods scene, surely you would be reminded of how, even in large-scale destruction, there is beauty and new life. But that day I brought my phone instead of a regular camera. Such an incredible piece of technology will cut down the number of gadgets I carry, I reasoned. Unfortunately, I discovered that the fancy thing turns off sporadically in extreme temperatures. The lanky trees in their grim splendor, my favorite image of the day, will have to live in my memories.

I should back up about four years. The first time I drank in the power of the Stanley Basin, I had just emerged from a room at the Mountain Village Resort with camera in hand. The craggy peaks of the Sawtooth Range were drenched in blinding white snow and crowned with a bluebird sky. It was a postcard come to brisk (I could see my breath) life, and it took a minute before I remembered to snap a shot. For a few moments, as the Sawtooths loomed in front of me, I was powerless to look away. They consumed me wholly, marched right into my world and planted a bold flag.
Continue reading

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With Bat Man and Snake Lady

Posted on by Kris Millgate / Leave a comment

Don’t look down now, but there’s a snake slithering between your feet.” That’s what I hear as I balance my body across two boulders while trying to shoot video.

The creepy factor is off the charts, but I don’t look down, even though I know the warning is not an idle threat. There really is a snake at my feet, plus a few hundred more on the rocks around me and several dozen bats over my head. It’s too much to take in all at once, so I focus on finishing the shot before the sun goes down, knowing it will only get worse in this desert cave on the Snake River Plain east of Arco.

Bill Doering is the bat expert. He’s married to Sara. She’s the snake expert. Despite their unusual wildlife preferences, they are the delightful couple I’m meeting in the desert between Idaho Falls and Arco. I throw in “delightful” for my own benefit. It keeps me from turning around halfway across the desert. I can’t even use lost as my excuse for not showing up, because that unmarked dirt road on the right is hard to miss when the Doerings and their big, burly truck are waiting for me at the turnoff. The only truck around is also the only truck with an abandoned cat in the cab. The Doerings found the hungry kitty on the side of the road. They have all night to care for it so they bring it along. Like I said, delightful. Continue reading

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On the Beach

Posted on by Michael Stubbs / Leave a comment

I spent many summer days of childhood on the beaches of Redfish Lake, but never camped so close to its waters as Point Campground.

My family always stopped at the lake on our way to a scout camp near Alturas or a friendly neighbor’s cabin on a winding mountain creek. My wife Wendy, who grew up in Oregon, selects our campsite there in blind hope, after listening to my vague childhood memories. We aren’t too sure what to expect. We pay our fee, and a couple weeks later, we make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Stanley.

The truth is, June is probably too early for a camping trip to the Sawtooth Range. These peaks often hold their snow through August, and campers can expect temperatures to reach freezing in any month, should the weather so decide. Nevertheless, the sights, sounds, and smells of this part of Idaho are hard to resist. I have finished teaching a spring semester at Idaho State University, and we cannot help but look for refreshment in the mountains. Perhaps the empty online calendar on which we reserved our tent site should have been our clue that we were jumping prematurely, but in June, life in Pocatello is already hot and sweaty. The kids are out of school and fill the house with noise and mess. Given that almost all campsites were already reserved through mid-September when we made our selection, June was the time for us to go. Continue reading

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Riverboat, Ahoy

Posted on by Grove Koger / Leave a comment

It’s one of the ironies of Idaho’s geography that our longest river, the Snake, is navigable for only short distances.

Part of the reason is that over the course of its nearly 1,100 miles, the river drops more than 8,500 feet. The other reason is that until recently our grandest natural wonder, Hells Canyon, proved impassable to any vessel attempting a run upstream. But the lowest reaches of the Snake enjoyed busy traffic in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and for a time riverboats even served the mining trade on the middle Snake. At least one made it as far as the mouth of the Bruneau River.

I’m an Idaho native, but I didn’t grow up particularly close to a river. Instead I had to make do with a small drainage canal that ran through our farm outside Meridian. But it was water, and that was enough. In some way that I couldn’t have explained, water was magical. Years later, when I became a reference librarian at Boise Public Library, I discovered the wealth of information in its Idaho Pamphlet File—clippings about canals and rivers and steamboats and much, much more. Since then I’ve supplemented my reading with such books as Fritz Timmen’s Blow for the Landing and Bill Gulick’s Steamboats on Northwest Rivers. And here’s what I’ve learned. Continue reading

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