Category Archives: 2014-03, March 2014 (Featherville)

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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Posted on by Shirley Metts / Leave a comment

Tricks of the Trade

It was my wife’s response to a completely innocent question that got me to thinking about writing this, so blame her.

“When can I go fishing again?” I asked as I unloaded my gear after returning from my latest three-day excursion to the Lochsa River.

“Why on Earth do you think you need to go again? You’ve already learned everything there is to know about fishing. Instead, you should be mowing the lawn and fixing the leaky faucet in the bathroom sink and—”

If there’s anything I have learned in the past almost-sixty years, it’s how to tune her out when she begins talking like that. The more I thought about her answer, though, the more I returned to her statement that I know everything about fishing. Of course I don’t. Who does? But I do believe that I’ve gained more than a little bit of information about the sport in the past seventy-five years. I expect to be at it for another twenty-five or thirty years, too, but this might be a good time to jot down some of what I’ve learned. So here, for the first time in print, are a few of my tricks of the trade.

A major problem is knowing where to start, of course. Another will be knowing when to stop. I won’t describe how I became involved with fishing. For one thing, the first fish I ever caught was purely an accident (which describes a large percentage of what I’ve caught since then, as well), and because accidents can’t be planned, the details aren’t important.

Nor will I spell out precisely how to choose rods and reels and lines and lures, and how to read water and tie flies and so on. Those are the subjects of umpteen zillion books and videos and TV programs intended for folks at the two extremes of the fishing spectrum: those who don’t know which end of the long stick to tie the string to, and those who would bypass a fishing safari to Chile or New Zealand in favor of a month-long workshop on tying Royal Coachman flies on #38 hooks.

So I guess I’ll have to zero in on the subtler things that make me the guy that people point at and say, “See that guy in the orange hat? Somebody told me once that he’s a pretty good fisherman.” (I started that rumor many years ago, and it really caught on.) Continue reading

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Posted on by Les Tanner / Leave a comment

Got Books?

Two of my favorite essayists are David Sedaris and Joel Stein. But I have a problem with them. When I read them I find myself thinking, “Dang, now I can’t write about that and that’s an idea I know I could’ve come up with, had I not picked up that dumb book.”

For this reason, and others, I think reading is overrated. I mean, it’s something I’ve been doing for a half a century, and where has it gotten me? I’ll tell you where, not very far. Today, I work just two blocks from the old Carnegie Library in Idaho Falls where Mom used to deposit me while she “ran errands.” I think she thought she was investing in my future. Fat chance.

Andrew Carnegie took a chance on me, and a few others, by investing in libraries. In the early 1900s, his foundation provided grant monies to build more than 2,500 libraries, eleven of them here in Idaho, nine of which are still standing, and three that still have aisles of books for browsing and borrowing. Continue reading

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Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

The River in Stone

Last fall I was inspired to check out the petroglyph called Map Rock, which is a fairly famous landmark to folks around Melba in Canyon County just south of Nampa, where I was born.

But I was raised in Boise and, to be honest, I hadn’t heard about the rock until my girlfriend Jen suggested we go for a drive. The directions she had taken from a website were vague, and when she had tried to visit the place a couple months earlier, she couldn’t find it.

Her directions described Map Rock Road as a dirt turnoff from Highway 45, which winds along the north side of the Snake River, but we discovered the road is now paved. A couple of miles along it, we found a rest area with a modern pit toilet, for which we were thankful. Although the area sign had said “Map Rock,” we were unable to find any hint of petroglyphs at first. After a bit of hiking along footpaths near the rest area and some confusion as to exactly where we were supposed to be looking, we both became a bit worried that this trip would also end in failure. I pretended to maintain my confidence, because Jen looked like she was losing faith, but it already was apparent that just to find the location was an adventure. We hopped back into the car and drove along the road, looking for any clue that might present itself, or even anything that looked somehow out of place. But it was difficult in the sameness of the rural landscape. Finally, we spotted a site just off the highway, surprisingly less than a half-mile west of the rest area. Maybe this search should have provided fun in its own right, but as I recall it left us a bit testy! Continue reading

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Posted on by C.W. Reed / Leave a comment

Idaho William

When I planted roots in Idaho in September 2003, I didn’t know it, but I was pregnant, and Idaho was soon to become the beautiful and adventurous place where I would raise my son. In July 2009, when William was five years old, our small family took a camping trip to the same place we had camped the previous July. It was now our favorite spot, off Highway 21 near Lowman, along the Payette River, where I fell in love with Idaho and country music. Alan Jackson’s “Country Boy” could be heard on every country station and I grinned ear to ear every time I heard it, because I could look back at William in his car seat singing, “Up city streets, down country roads, I can get you where you need to go, ‘cause I’m a country boy.” We still sing that song.

We spent our time during the camping trip making sand castles along the river, writing our names with pine cones, hiking the easy path near camp, and reading books. We tied up the raft to float on the shallow, calm nook of water nearby, and if we stayed still enough while we lay in the raft, butterflies would land on our hot, sticky skin. William loved that.

We took car trips from our campsite to let him see the majestic Sawtooth Mountains and to swim in the ice-cold water of Redfish Lake. We stopped in Grandjean for huckleberry ice cream cones, showed William the hot spring in the river, and told him the story from a previous visit to the area of how we saw a bear run down the mountain to drink, and how scared I got seeing a bear in the wild for the first time. That night as we ate hot dogs, we watched an eagle fish in the river and bring food to its nest in the tree above. It was a hot, windy camping trip that encouraged a lot of exploring, sprouted many ideas, and almost took my son’s life. Continue reading

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Posted on by Jessica Butterfield / Leave a comment

Disaster at Birch Creek

During the early 1960s, the Idaho Academy of Science, then in its fledgling years, successfully secured a grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant provided travel and honoraria to scientists to visit Idaho high school science teachers and their students.

A science teacher and basketball coach in Salmon at the time, I was successful in securing three scientists to spend a day each with my students. These scientists were Ray J. Davis, professor of botany at Idaho State University (1960-61), Edson Fichter, professor of zoology at Idaho State University (1961-62), and Earl J. Larrison, a renowned natural historian from the University of Idaho (1963-64).

Davis was the author of the book Flora of Idaho, published in 1952, which remains as a thorough treatise of Idaho’s 102 plant families and thousands of genera. He was a fine teacher. I recall that he ate lunch at our home during his visit to the Salmon school. I recall that I had found a saprophyte I had frozen and was pleased to show him.

I discovered that Davis was to stay in Salmon for a ride home to Pocatello on Saturday, the next day. The other basketball coaches and I had a game at Shelley on Friday and Davis willingly agreed to ride the team bus with us there, where he would meet his wife. The trip turned out to be an amazing five-hour lesson on Idaho natural history. Continue reading

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Posted on by Terry Armstrong / Leave a comment

Get Up for Grouse

I’m well aware of the many disasters delivered due to lack of sleep. I’m also aware of the rare potential that putters around in the darkness.

Such potential pulls me from my bed long before the rest of the world opens its sleep-crusted eyes. It is the possibility of witnessing the wild at its finest. It is the promise of seeing the dance in the desert before it disappears. That is why I get up for grouse.

I leave my house at four in the morning and drive an hour north to Dubois. I take a few dirt roads west of I-15 and start looking for a tent in the middle of the desert. I have to be in the tent before the sun comes up. That’s when the sage grouse strut. “It’s just like waking up to a dream every morning,” says Ron Laird, manager of The Nature Conservancy ranch where I’ve arrived, as he zips me inside the tent. “We get a lot of morning wake-up calls from the birds banging around here.”
Continue reading

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Posted on by Kris Millgate / Leave a comment

Boot Camp at the Lake

“Farragut State Park is one of the places we visited this year,” I said to my uncle, Robert Kemp, on our way to a family reunion in rural Minnesota in the late 1990s. To my surprise he replied, “I trained there.”

This sparked animated praise from me about how impressed I was that such a huge naval facility (more than seven hundred buildings, plus roads and training grounds) at Bayview on the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille could be built in eleven months to train more than 290,000 men over a four-year period, after which nearly everything was torn down. I said it was particularly impressive considering that with today’s modern engineering skills and equipment, we can’t even seem to get one road built in less than three to five years.

I didn’t learn much more that day about my uncle’s experiences at Farragut Naval Training Station (FNTS), an inland Navy boot camp from 1942 to 1946, because we were nearly to our destination, and because he’s a man of few words. But recently, it struck me that as a friend of Idaho’s state parks, it was high time I got more of the story. With some prodding and much laughter between my uncle and me, this winter he shared more information about his time at Farragut, which I’ve supplemented with further research. Continue reading

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Posted on by Jana Kemp / 3 Comments

The First, Worst Winter

I learned an important lesson in the winter of 1948-49. Several years earlier, when Dad was drafted into World War II service, Mother, my sister Norma, then a first-grader, and I, a third-grader, were living in Indiana. We moved into town, away from farm chores. But now it was 1948, Dad was back from the front, and we had moved to a ranch outside Twin Falls, where he said he could use some help with the milking. As a seventh-grader, I was first in line to learn.

I placed a stool on the right side of the cow and grabbed hold of the “milk givers.” A swift, hard kick from the cow knocked me off the stool onto the ground. As I got up and backed away, I thought, “Oh, good, I can go to the house now. Dad won’t want me to be hurt by a kicking cow.” Dad had other ideas. He dusted me off, set me back down on the stool, and I started to milk again—successfully this time. That incident comes to mind even now when something happens that causes me enough problems that it is necessary to sit down and start over again.

My dad, Orval Alkire, was an Army veteran who served on Cebu Island in the Philippines. Jobs were scarce for the warriors returning to Greene County, Indiana. A couple named Houston and Lucile Owens, who were long-time friends of my dad and of my mother, Lenore, had moved to a newly-developed farming oasis in Twin Falls. The Owens liked what they saw and were successful in convincing my parents of the economic advantages of living in Idaho. Continue reading

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Posted on by Erma Jean Loveland / Comments Off on The First, Worst Winter

Featherville–Spotlight

I called the Featherville Motel on a Monday morning in August before driving up to explore the little community in the midst of the Boise National Forest. “They’re shutting off the power within the next few hours,” I was told, “and they’re not going to be letting anyone in.”

Featherville wouldn’t be happening for me that day, and considering the grim fire reports, I wondered if there would be a Featherville left to see in the future. The previous summer, residents were told to evacuate when the Trinity Ridge Fire burned dangerously close to the community. Packed vehicles rolled through town as drivers left at the advice of the county sheriff, while others chose to push their luck and stick around. Bustling with firefighters, Featherville business increased, selling food and drink as crews created backfires and employed other precautions to protect properties. The fire was dubbed the worst Idaho had seen in years.

This summer, as dense smoke from the rapidly moving, worse-than-the-year-before Elk Complex fire filled the skies, residents must have been thinking, What, again? The fire made national headlines. Once more, locals were encouraged to leave and by mid-August, I’d heard that thirty-eight homes and forty-three outbuildings had already been lost. Only through untiring efforts were many other homes and much more heartache spared.

Months passed before I could visit, but in the meantime, I tried to find out what I could about Featherville. Its inception followed the discovery of gold in 1862 at a place called Rocky Bar. The bumpy road from the strike led ten miles south into what is now Featherville, originally called Junction Bar, when it was used as a stage station for those heading to Rocky Bar. It’s believed that Featherville was named after the Feather River by miners who set up camp up at Rocky Bar around 1864. Things got cooking in the 1870 and ‘80s, but cooled down by the 1900s. Elmore County is still considered to be a prospector’s paradise, rippling with placer gold areas. Continue reading

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Posted on by Amy Story Larson / 1 Comment