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Tied and True

Posted on by Les Tanner / Leave a comment

Just so you’ll know who’s writing this, I caught my first trout on a fly in the summer of 1945. I still have the fly (gray pillow feathers tied to a long-shanked #8 bait hook with pink sewing thread). So I’m not a fly-fishing newbie.

I’m not a purist, either. On a windy and up-to-that-point fishless trip a few years back, I completely surprised my buddy by abandoning flies in favor of a grasshopper on a #10 Eagle Claw. Caught a nice brown right away, too.

Most of my fishing is done on smaller streams, but I’ve fished the South Fork of the Snake River a few times with a limited amount of success. However, the size of the river and the scarcity of access to wading fishermen such as I restricts most of the fishing there to float-boaters.

After reading Snake River Flies (WestWind Press, 2014) by Boots Allen, I’m eager to do a lot more fishing there. I want to take another shot or two—or many—at the river, this time using flies that were created, tested, and popularized by expert fly-fishers and fly-tyers from the area. One of these is the author, a third generation Snake River fly-fisherman. Others are folks like Bob Carmichael, Marcella Oswald, and Bob Bean, none of whom I’d heard of before I read the book. My loss. Continue reading

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What’s Your Label?

Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

Flexitarian is not my new yoga teacher. The term, I’m told, is for someone whose diet is principally plant-based but who will eat the occasional steak when certain people aren’t watching.

In Mr. Hinckley’s seventh-grade science class at O.E. Bell Junior High School, we called such animals “omnivores.” And unless you insist I exclude Bobby, who ate mostly glue paste, the entire class ate pretty much everything. We didn’t have separate school lunch menus for the vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters. I suspect we didn’t see the need. We just ate what we wanted to eat and traded the rest for pudding. But we’re getting more sophisticated, requiring, for reasons I’m not sophisticated enough to understand, more and more labels.

I stopped at a convenience store in Idaho Falls yesterday looking for some glue paste. The cashier looked at me, turned to her co-worker and said, “Let’s ask him. He looks smart, like a doctor or a teacher.” I beamed at the compliment and looked about to see who might have been privy to my advancement in status.

Admittedly, I was dressed differently—in my collared shirt and pair of pants—than the other customers. Little did the cashier know, despite the fact I wasn’t wearing pajamas like the rest of her customers, I was merely a “recovering attorney.” Continue reading

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Art Calls

Posted on by Alex Vega / Leave a comment

As soon as we saw the huge, multi-level warehouse in downtown Boise, we loved it. Built in 1961, it had a long history. Our discussions with the owners of the building were professional, the city was easy to work with, and we leased the building. We brought it up to code, and turned it into a twelve- thousand-square-foot studio.

Why did we need so much space? It all started with art. At an early age, I showed promise as a creative type. Drawing came naturally to me. My brothers and I are all artistic, and our mother encouraged us in this, as in all our endeavors. She let us paint on our walls in our rooms as children—she wanted to see color! In junior high and high school, I took piano lessons and every art class available. I learned painting, sculpture, studio art, and advanced drawing. Nampa High School has an amazing art program and a lot of talented students. But even though my future in art seemed promising, certain people repeatedly told me there is no money in art. They said going into the industry was a bad idea, and artists were outdated. I took this to heart, went to North Idaho College, and studied finance. It was quite a leap, but I followed the money.

In college, as I looked at my future syllabus one day, I realized I had made a mistake. I had no interest in finance. I kept at it anyway, but even after I started working in the industry, my interests were elsewhere. I knew that the career I had chosen was not a good fit for me. I wasn’t aggressive enough, and I was forever doodling on the sides of my reports, drawing portraits of clients and fellow workers. I created comic books, and drew temporary tattoos on myself under the sleeves of my sleek business suit. Always daydreaming, I couldn’t wait to get home and finish whatever painting I was working on. My wife Jamie and I both paint, and I think her work is amazing, surreal, beautiful. When we bought our home in 2002, we were both twenty-two. It was a delight to create our own space, in which we could live and paint and raise a family. Art filled our walls, including the art of our sons. Every day when I went to work, I wanted to be home. The art was calling me.
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Cycling the Rivers

Posted on by Thomas Sullivan / Leave a comment

“I need to stop!” Ginny yelled at me from behind. “I have to fix my seat again. It’s just too painful!” This was only day two of our first long-distance bicycling trip together, which would extend 320 miles from Powell Ranger Station just west of the Montana border on Highway 12 to Hells Canyon northwest of Cambridge. She was uncomfortable. I was impatient. Heat, lack of sleep, and a shortage of calories are the nemeses of bike travel, and each was a contributor to this crisis. Stopped on the shoulder along Highway 95 just south of Grangeville, we were at the base of White Bird Hill. Angry, I wondered if we were going to make it another two days. I resisted the urge to ride on—alone. Leave her there.

It was already 1 p.m., the temperature was in the nineties and the second big climb of the day was approaching. “How many times are we going to have to stop?” I whispered to myself. In reality a much larger question loomed: was it possible that something as simple as a bike tour could derail an otherwise wonderful marriage? Perhaps I was being too dramatic. After all, it was just a bike ride. But those of us who ride know that touring on a bicycle is not “just” a bike ride. Tours are very hard on relationships.

Adding to this drama was what lay in front of us these next few days. Traveling through this part of Idaho, over routes traversed for centuries by Native Americans, followed much later by explorers, pioneers, and miners, would be formidable. Comprising three beautiful, yet uncompromising river valleys—the Clearwater, Salmon, and Snake—our hot, dry, August journey was far from easy. And much was at stake, for we both loved cycling and if we were not compatible on this trip, our future—a future of which bike touring was to be an integral part—could be in jeopardy. When we finally resumed riding, I remembered a remark spoken by someone in my past: “If you want a divorce, buy a tandem.” I always smiled when I thought of this phrase, never actually taking it seriously, but I did now. We would need to work together on this trip, I told myself. After all, it was our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Continue reading

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Almost a Resident

Posted on by Bob Bailey / Leave a comment

Stories of relocating to Idaho always seem to end with big smiles and the stars aligning for people coming back to their roots or moving to the state.

Living happily ever after seems to be the name of the game. I wish my story had the happy ending. It didn’t, but it did have many happy memories and learning experiences that will always be part of me.

My story did not involve going back to my family roots. I had a great grandfather who lived in Idaho for awhile but when his home burned down, he left. Maybe I missed a message there. I moved to Priest River in July 2012, having sought out and been offered the job as sales manager at a gun parts company in town. I moved immediately from Brigham City, Utah, and got an apartment at the top of a little rise on the corner of Main and Albeni Road, also known as US 2. At 5 a.m., the logging trucks would start heading east and they always used their compression or jake brakes right outside my bedroom window. The building would rattle in sync with the noise of the brakes. Lesson learned—always inspect a rental during the day, not in the quiet of evening. The police chief, Ray Roberts, told me the city had voted to not have a compression brake law because it was a lumber town. I got used to it, and it did not wake me after a week or two.

I had landed on the Panhandle during a very rare, extended heat wave. There was no air conditioning in the apartment or my office. I kept hearing from the old timers, “The hot days last two weeks and are over.” This one lasted a couple of long months, and not a fan or air-conditioning unit was to be had in Spokane or Coeur d’Alene. I made it through the heat wave all right, but it seemed I was the only one to actually complain about it. This reminded me of being a kid in the Fifties, when there was no central air. What does not kill us makes us stronger—or sweat a lot. Later, I found a perfectly good fan in the basement. By then temperatures were in the low twenties. Timing is everything.

During a gun show at the high school in Priest River, I bought a ball hat because I wanted to join the 21st Battalion of the North Idaho Lightfoot Militia. Where else would that seem like a good idea? A lot of my friends thought that was why I was going to northern Idaho, to hook up with militia types. Not wanting to disappoint, I purchased the ball hat, which I intended to be part of my uniform. I dutifully went to the Laclede Community Center on the night militia members were supposed to meet, but no one was there except some ladies doing aerobic exercises. Had I incorrectly written down the night they were supposed to meet? Or had they sized me up and told me the wrong time? Either way, I did not join. But I still have the hat.

There were many new experiences. Going to work at the industrial park in Priest River, I’d see the rafter of wild turkeys that worked the new grass planted for the community center. It was cool to follow the female turkeys down the road. Somehow, the ladies knew they had the right-of-way. A day without seeing the local rafter of turkeys was not as good as one when I saw them feasting on the new grass sprouts. If you are wondering about the use of “rafter” instead of “flock” or “congress,” I looked it up. I do not expect it to catch on, but it is the correct name for a group of turkeys, not flock, congress, or gang. It had to be some guy from back East who came up with that name.

After the loggers were done clear-cutting the mountain across the Pend Oreille River, the debris was set on fire. It burned in the night, lighting up the side of the mountain, and then it snowed and the piles of burning limbs created huge plumes of steam. I walked the bridge across the Pend Oreille River below my apartment, which I estimated at between 360 and 400 yards from shore to shore. For a desert-born lad, that pretty much put the zap on my brain. I could not wrap my head around that much water going that far and its name changing to the Columbia, and all of it ending up wasted in an ocean. It seemed the ocean did not need it. I did suppose the steelhead and salmon enjoyed the trip with all that water to swim in, but I still thought it was a waste.

One summer’s night, I wanted to watch a meteor shower and had a hard time finding an area that did not have trees blocking much of the sky. I ended up at the site of an old sawmill near where I worked. While I was watching for meteors and listening to the radio, a pack of coyotes or wolves started to sing along, howling for all they were worth. I turned off the radio and they quieted right down.

Three of the guys I worked with shot a deer in the parking lot of the industrial park. They were glassing for a buck on the other side of the sawmill and a doe walked right past them. Not many places where that happens. Continue reading

The Little Mellow

Posted on by Dave Goins / Leave a comment

Greenleaf in the mid-1970s was a Quaker version of the sitcom town of Mayberry, except there was no Sheriff Andy Taylor or Deputy Barney Fife.

There was no law enforcement at all in Greenleaf—except for the incidental fact that then-Canyon County Sheriff George Nourse lived just down the street from the Greenleaf Friends Church parsonage where my family and I lived, and that Canyon County deputies occasionally set up speed traps on the Highway 19 portion running through Greenleaf. Maybe they still do, I don’t know.

Dad, who was then pastor at the Friends Church, once told me Sheriff Nourse had left a note on our front door advising us to keep our doors locked at night. Nourse wasn’t a Quaker, to my knowledge, nor was Elton Winslow, whom I’ll mention later.

I don’t know that anyone kept statistics on it, but I think it’s safe to say Greenleaf’s crime rate during that era was extremely low. The only “crime” I remember in Greenleaf happened during my high school days in the mid-70s when rambunctious classmates of mine climbed onto the Greenleaf Friends Academy roof, resulting in a call to the Canyon County Sheriff’s deputies to intervene. I wasn’t actually there to witness it, but that’s my memory of the second-hand story. If I got it wrong almost forty years later, I apologize.

I do clearly remember Greenleaf at that time and even later as a very mellow, even idyllic setting. The aroma from mint fields permeated town in summertime, while sprinklers on crops tick-tick-ticked in a kind of magical country rhythm, and the corn-on-the-cob from Mom’s garden was sweet. Continue reading

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Posted on by Natalie Needham / Leave a comment

As with many small towns around Idaho, you’ll know you’ve reached Greenleaf when the speed limit slows to 35, if you happen to be traveling on Highway 19 (or Simplot Blvd., as it is also called) west of Caldwell. If not for the slower speed limit, you might not even notice Greenleaf, which is situated about halfway between Caldwell and Wilder, only thirteen miles from the Oregon border as the crow flies. It perches up on a bench that overlooks the Treasure Valley and also offers views of the Owyhees.

My husband and I moved to Greenleaf early in 2009 to be close to his folks and to the academy where our son attended school. I remembered Greenleaf as a small, quiet community that I drove though on occasional road trips when I was younger, but never thought it would become a place I would call home. We both commute to Boise, a thirty-mile drive one way, and to me it was a difficult adjustment. But over time, I grew to love this quiet place, and it became an endearing, peaceful refuge that seemed the perfect place to raise our kids.

This tiny hamlet came to be just after the turn of the 20th century, with the very first settlers arriving in 1903. The landscape was desolate—a dusty expanse of desert sagebrush. The location, however, was ideal for the purpose of carving out a new way of life.

The first settlers to arrive had come to Caldwell by train, and from there set out to find a piece of land they could claim as their own. The land they chose was five miles from Caldwell, just below the bench that would grow to become Greenleaf. The first four families together would start a community based on their Quaker roots—a community built by faith, independence, determination, and a brand of hard work that was the benchmark of the early American pioneer.

The first community Christmas tree was a decorated clump of sagebrush. The first party was a taffy pull. The first homes were built with the assistance of neighbors and friends. The first reference to this tiny town in its infancy was Mountain View. By and by, it was officially named Greenleaf, after the famous Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier.

I had the privilege of speaking with Harold Tish, whose family stepped off that train in Caldwell so long ago to become one of the very first Greenleaf settlers. His grandfather John Tish used to tell of how during the family’s first few years in the area, Indians would pass through Pipe Gulch to the east to trade items with the Greenleaf settlers, such as moccasins, knives, beads, and trinkets. Continue reading

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Lioness of Idaho

Posted on by Mike Bullard / Leave a comment

After I retired as a minister, I decided to write about my friend Louise Shadduck, whom I knew was a great role model for young women, although at that time I had no idea of just how colorful and influential she had really been. Digging through boxes of her papers in the basement of the library at the University of Idaho, I saw photos of her with U.S. presidents and world leaders, and newspaper articles about how she changed the whole state. My book, Lioness of Idaho: Louise Shadduck and the Power of Polite (2013) documents how, as Secretary of Commerce and Development, she gained national attention for leading Idaho into its ten best economic years of the twentieth century. It tells how this high school graduate became an administrator for two governors and for a U.S. senator and U.S. congressman, a recognized international leader among women journalists, author of five books, and was once one of the most celebrated citizens in Idaho.
The following story excerpted from my book shows a different side of her. In private life she was a fast-driving, horseback-riding sister of six brothers from a pre-Depression Idaho farm. When she saw a small plane crash in the distance on an Idaho mountain, she thought nothing of plowing through knee-deep snow in her sneakers to help a stranger in trouble. Yet she never told most of her friends and family. Starting only with an unusual clipping in the Idaho Statesman, I searched for a year to put together the accounts and find someone who was there.

A life and death ordeal on a snowy mountainside was the last thing on the minds of Louise or her staffers Jan and Kathleen as they set out driving from Boise on an eighty-degree June day in 1967.

Louise had hired Janice Moulton to help with much of the department’s copious writing work, and Jan became, in effect, the department’s publicity officer. Eighteen-year-old Kathleen Barrett had been taken on just a year before as a part-time intern.

One of Louise’s favorite pastimes was introducing young adults to celebrities who might inspire them and help their careers. The three were headed for Sun Valley to attend the annual convention of the powerful National Federation of Press Women where Louise could introduce Jan and Kathleen to some of the greatest female role models in the country. Continue reading

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The Grand Old Gal

Posted on by Amy Story / Leave a comment

Stepping into the Glenns Ferry Historic Opera Theatre felt like walking through a curtain that separates the present from the past.

The floor was filled with round tables draped in white linen and laden with bowls of crimson roses. Amid rich smells of old wood and dinner soon to be served, against a backdrop of velvety drapes on the stage and the chatter of patrons, I found it easy to imagine myself in another era. When a woman sat before a hundred-year-old piano by the stage and began to play oldtime tunes without sheet music, the scene was complete.

The occasion on this day last February was a celebration of the theater’s one hundredth birthday. Renovated in 1994 by owners Rich and Connie Wills, the theater has now been staging performances for more than two decades by casts from around the area. While a typical season runs from early June through the end of August, events began this year in February to kick off Year One Hundred.

When I arrived for the gala and my first visit to the theater, I felt welcome right away, and it was clear to see that Glenns Ferry folk were big on hospitality. I couldn’t resist snapping photos of almost everything, but was drawn to the balcony. Unsure if I would be granted access, I asked permission of a cast member who answered, “Sure, you can go anywhere you want.”

I climbed the creaking, intricately carpeted stairway to the ledge overlooking the stage, where I found six plush chairs in the front row by the railing. I made a mental note to inquire about them later. Continue reading

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American Dreamer

Posted on by Brian D'Ambrosio / Leave a comment

When Jimmy Farris was in the fifth grade in the mill town of Lewiston, which has a population of about 32,000 strung along a stretch of Snake River slackwater, his teacher provided each student with a sheet of paper displaying an empty picture frame. The kids were instructed to envision and illustrate their future within it.

“I drew a stick figure of a football player,” Jimmy told me. “I believe it was Lawrence Taylor. I believed that in ten or fifteen years, I would be a linebacker for the New York Giants. So when I look back, I say, ‘Wow, this was a lifelong dream.’”

I first met Jimmy in 2000, shortly after my arrival in Missoula to begin working as a sports beat writer at a local newspaper. One of my first stories was his game-winning catch in the semi-finals of the Division I-AA national championships for the University of Montana, where he had accepted a football scholarship. His grab catapulted the Grizzlies into the national championship game, and the celebration reverberated throughout the city. I remember a group of college kids spray painted, “Who Let Jimmy Farris Out?” on the front door of one of the rentals next door to me. Jimmy went on to become a Division I-AA All-American at wide receiver.

Missoula and Lewiston are separated by one of the slowest, most decelerated four-hour driving stretches in the United States. Since the Lewiston Tribune doesn’t cover western Montana and the Grizzlies’ games aren’t televised in Idaho, the people of Lewiston were surprised when the undrafted Farris signed a free-agent contract in the National Football League. He was invited to attend the San Francisco 49er’s pre-season camp for the longest of shots of making the roster of an NFL team.

“Grizzly fans saw me play for the last five years, and they expected me to get a real legitimate shot. The people in Lewiston were more surprised that I’d made it. The reaction was, ‘Wow, really?’ A lot of people in Montana were more like, ‘Danged right he made it.’”

Nobody outside his family and closest friends in Lewiston, or his fans in Missoula, figured Jimmy had a shot at making the San Francisco 49ers’ final cut. Well, nobody except for Jimmy. His stay was brief. But being released by the 49ers turned into a stroke of good fortune. During the playoffs a few months later, he signed with the Tom Brady-led 2001 New England Patriots, and his rookie campaign ended with a Super Bowl XXXVI championship ring.

One year earlier, Jimmy had been sitting in his apartment in Missoula wondering if he was ever going to make it to the NFL.

His wildly ambitious aspirations had been nurtured early by his hardworking parents in Lewiston. “There is no question about it, I have a pair of really good parents,” said Jimmy, who is now thirty-five. “I’ve kind of lived the American Dream from the very beginning. And a lot of that is because I’ve had a strong sense of family, a strong support system, and a strong community in Lewiston.”

Sharon and Bob Farris have been married for forty years. Bob’s background is in education. He served as a teacher, principal and superintendent for three decades. Jimmy, the youngest of the couple’s five children—three boys and two girls—was born on April 13, 1978.

“My dad was always right there,” said Jimmy. “From a young age, I appreciated the influences of my teachers and coaches. And it’s amazing that growing up in a small town, I was afforded every benefit of having great people who molded and shaped me.”

One of his earliest memories is of Sharon instructing tap and jazz dance classes out of a makeshift studio in the basement level of the family home. Bob laid down a hardwood floor and Sharon tutored until she settled into a lengthy career at a large health insurance company.

Jimmy’s parents did their best to provide their tightly-knit brood with clothing, food, and, whenever possible, the extras, like cleats and basketball shoes.

“It was definitely a challenge to raise five kids on a teacher’s salary,” Jimmy told me. “There were times when Grandma would go down to the community center to pick up our cheese, peanut butter, and powdered milk. It was memorable seeing both of my parents doing everything they could do to provide what we needed. Still, there was a need for assistance.”

Jimmy’s life has been a slugfest from the opening bell. At Lewiston High School, he lettered in football, basketball, and track. In his sophomore year, he helped to lead the Lewiston Bengals to their first Idaho High School Football State Championship. As a senior, the team again made it all the way to the state championship game, and on the basketball team, he was named most valuable player.

“I would like to make sure people have the same opportunities that I’ve had,” he said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have a ladder to climb like I did. It’s hard to pull up your bootstraps when you don’t have any boots. I was able to accomplish some really cool things, and I overcame a lot of odds. But I also had so many things go right for me. Nick Menegas influenced me more than any other person ever has. He was the one who provided me with the work ethic necessary to go to the pros.”

Menegas coached the high school football team from 1986 to 2009. “I first remember Jimmy when he was a ball boy with my son, Michael, back in 1986,” he told me. “He has always felt like an adopted son, and he has been like a son from day one. It’s been great watching him evolve through the years, athletically, spiritually, and physically. One thing about Jimmy is that he is a self-made individual, and when I coached him, he never missed a weight session. He was dedicated in his physical and mental preparation, and he was always asking, ‘How can I get better?’”

Throughout his tenure as a coach, Menegas had heard many kids tell him that one day they would play in the National Football League. When Jimmy was in the ninth grade, before he had even played a single down, the youngster told his coach he had that very same plan.

“I believed him,” said Menegas. “The difference was the look in his eyes. It was a look that told me not to count him out of anything.”

Farris said that the Patriots 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl happened so fast it was all a bit of a haze. On February 3 that year, he stood on the sidelines of the New Orleans Superdome field, part of a dynasty-to-be team, full of emotion as he watched the lovely Mariah Carey sing the national anthem.

“We didn’t have the two weeks off before the Super Bowl that year,” he recalled. “I remember that we won the [conference] championship game, we flew home, and the next morning, we watched some film. We then flew to New Orleans, and immediately we were into Super Bowl week. I didn’t have time to do much of anything. I changed voice mail to something like, ‘If you are calling to say congrats on the Super Bowl, and if you are not a blood relative, and are calling for tickets, they are fifteen hundred bucks.’ I barely had time to talk to my parents.”

He spent six seasons in the NFL, including three with the Atlanta Falcons and two with the Washington Redskins. His family kept close tabs on his career. His mother Sharon even once called Atlanta Falcons’ head coach Jim L. Mora and pleaded with him to give her son more playing time. Continue reading

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