Blog Archives

The Feud

Posted on by F.A. Loomis / Leave a comment

The homesteaded ranches of my family and Juliet’s family lay north of Arling and south of the Gold Fork River, divided by the demilitarized zone of Highway 55.

Our families were perpetuating a feud that extended back to our paternal grandfathers in the 1940s. Very little was said of the feud in my family, but it was understood that “something had happened” long ago to cause deep alienation, resulting in both families never mingling in public or private, and with others in the community expected occasionally to take sides. My older brother once brought Juliet’s older cousin home to meet my grandparents, and after he had returned her across the ranch border, he was severely chastised for bringing a Finnish girl—a “ferner”—onto our turf.

I had first learned of Juliet when she showed up at my grade school one year in the 1950s, visiting a cousin. A cute, brown-eyed girl with pigtails in a black and red-checked jumper and white blouse, she immediately stood out among the girls in my fifth-grade class. “She’s Matt and Flora’s niece, Howard and Ethel’s daughter. She lives in Utah and is visiting,” a knowing classmate told me.

Attracted immediately, I tried to converse with the visiting girl but had no luck. A year later, I heard she was visiting another cousin in Donnelly. I was intrigued and thought perhaps I could meet her. Perhaps she remembered me from her school visit. I concocted an excuse to visit the house where she was staying, took my trusty binder with holiday cards to the front door and asked if her cousin, old enough to be her aunt, would like to order some. When I saw Juliet walking through the living room I tried to say hello, but her cousin asked her to proceed to the kitchen where she was making cupcakes. Shortly after this, I was encouraged to go home; her cousin had no interest in buying greeting cards.
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The Beast in US

Posted on by Patrick McCarthy / Leave a comment

I first met the embodiment of the wild man at a tender age. I looked up one day and saw my broad-shouldered, well-muscled father hovering above me.

Joseph “Joe” McCarthy was from Bantry Bay, County Cork, Ireland. Larger-than-life at 250 pounds with just a 22-inch waist, he was a massive man. A lock of rich black hair covered his head. He had large hands, which were weapons for a bare-knuckle boxer, who had become a local legend in Fruitland and the town’s wild man.

Much later I came to understand that the classic wild man—huge, hairy, and violent—is the eons-old exemplar of the half-human, half-beast of medieval times and of worldwide lore and literature. Regarding nearly all wild man sightings, including mine as a little boy of my father, there is an element of truth and a larger piece of fiction. His image exists on three planes: the common man (as my father was), the mountain man (historical and fictional), and the wild man himself.

Like the wild man and mountain man, my father was a stoic, an enduring man’s man. He helped to coach high school athletes in all sports, thereby neglecting me in the 1940s and 1950s. I became a disaffected youth, filled with resentment and unrest. Rebellious against authority, I was later part of the Sixties generation that protested the Vietnam War.

However, as a youngster, I was shy and introspective. I preferred to watch, rather than participate in, the events going on around me. Over the years, I gradually turned my bashfulness and disaffection into positive behavior. I became a keen student of wild man cultures, and eventually deduced that “Old Joe”—as my father was called—was the “lost father” of all of us, because he symbolized the absent and unemotional parent of any child. Continue reading

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Bird Trackers

Posted on by Kris Millgate / Leave a comment

I’m shooting footage of a haystack, but not for a farm story. I’m after something wild.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Curtis Hendricks stands on top of the stack about twenty feet above me. I tip up my lens at an awkward angle, thankful the summer sun is at my back, and focus on Hendricks. He swiftly swings an antenna back and forth in his hand, looking like a guy desperate to tune into the big game on TV. He picks up a signal, but not for the big game. It’s for a bird. He’s looking for wild pheasants.

“I truly believe these birds will make it,” Hendricks says while turning the antenna to track the radio-collared pheasants. “Hopefully all of them. And for those that might not make it, we’ll have some answers as to what happened.”
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Running for Nothing, Standing for Something

Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

According to my nephew, Taylor, fifth-grade girls still chase the boys at recess. “Do you let them catch you?” I asked.

“No way.”

Because I volunteer for the Red Cross, people ask me if climate change is “real” and which health insurance plan is best. Because Dad taught me to stand up straight, look people in the eye and have an opinion, I answer their questions, despite going to work in flip-flops during June snowstorms, all the while unaware if my health insurance plan covers frost bite. (Taylor, I’m guessing it doesn’t cover girl cooties.) Because I answer their questions with a knowing air, I’m occasionally asked why I don’t run for governor or Boise State’s football coach.

Running is hard work, I tell them.

The first time I ran for anything was fifth-grade recess when I ran for my life, chased by a pack of girls led by Vicky Skinner. What self-respecting boy wanted to be cornered by a pack of baying females? Did I get caught?

No way!
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For Love of Dreams

Posted on by Katie Ann Olsen / Leave a comment

When my father, Richard Olsen, was a high school senior in 1954, he discovered what he would later name “Idaho’s Mammoth Cave” while hunting bobcats in the desert outside of Shoshone.

At the time, he was with his high school girlfriend, and stumbled across the entrance by accident. Forgotten over time, it had previously been known only by ancient tribes and early white settlers who utilized the cave for shelter and storage.

“I talked my girlfriend Vinita into exploring the cavern with just a single flashlight. As my excitement and imagination grew, expecting to find treasure at any moment. Vinita, scared and unhappy, cried the whole way in and the whole way out.”

But for my father, it was love at first sight and he decided he wanted to share it with the world.

When you’re driving through southern Idaho on Highway 75, you’ll see the sign for “Idaho’s Mammoth Cave” in big colorful letters, seven miles north of Shoshone. If you take the time to drive the dusty mile off the highway, you’ll discover what a diamond in the rough awaits you and the rich history it holds.

I grew up in the desert that claims the Mammoth Cave. It is a place where ancient lava flows scar the land, and harsh winter winds and snow provide nourishment for exploding wildflowers and lush sagebrush.
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Tumbleweed Tinder

Posted on by Dean Worbois / Leave a comment

As a male, my first inclination was to bust right through that quarter mile of brittle little twigs and emerge triumphant on the other end, beating my chest at the might of my hundred-and-seventy horses.

But I thought of all those broken bits of tumbleweed sticking in every bearing of the drive train and every joint of the suspension, and decided to go around.

Going around was not as easy as you’d think. Continue reading

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A Mother’s Tears

Posted on by Kitty Delorey Fleischman / Leave a comment

Even from her earliest years, Velma knew all too well that, for all the good times and good things that came her way, life had its share of tears.

She has suffered more than her fair share of bumps and bruises along the way.

It’s hard to imagine anything more painful than losing a child.

Velma lost her younger son, Gary, in the kind of needless tragedy that shakes a mother to the depths of her soul and sends her to storm the heavens, begging an answer to the simple question “Why?” over and over again.
There is no answer except what her faith tells her it was God’s will, and it is hers to accept. Acceptance closed the wound, but the scar never heals.

Nearly forty years and innumerable tears later, Velma still struggles to tell the story of Gary’s short life and his sad death. Continue reading

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Posted on by Rod F. Arnzen / Leave a comment

Both sides of my family were pioneers in north-central Idaho. My mother was a Bieker, the founders of Ferdinand. My dad’s mother was a Nuxoll, who helped to found Greencreek and Cottonwood, where I live with my family. The Biekers and Nuxolls, both from German stock, came out here from Indiana and Illinois, respectively, because they thought the ground on their farms was going fallow, and the size and availability of homesteads back there had greatly decreased, to forty acres compared to 160 acres here.

My great-grandfather on my father’s side, Herman Henry Nuxoll, Sr., surveyed a large part of this region in the mid-1800s. My mother’s great-uncle, F.M. Bieker, was an Indiana farmer who became very prominent as the principal founder of Ferdinand.

In 1950, at age eighty-three, he wrote extensively about his career in an autobiography. He typed one manuscript for each of his twenty-seven relatives. Some of the texts were long and some shorter, depending on how much he liked the person. I have two long ones, and much of the following story of Ferdinand’s early days comes from the firsthand experiences that F.M. Bieker recorded.

In Indiana, he deemed that weather was the cause of his intestinal problems and the blues, which were exacerbated by a broken leg. Chronically ill his entire life, he decided he needed a new farm with better weather, but there were limited prospects in the area. What’s more, his brother Joe wanted to marry and run his own farm. On June 3, 1889, F.M. struck out in search of new land. He headed first to Minnesota and then to North Dakota, but both states had endured a dry year. He moved on to Yakima, Washington, only to discover that all the land he would want to homestead was taken. But he heard about a new Catholic church being built in Keuterville, about five miles from Cottonwood, with lots of good land and homesteads to be had. He went to Walla Walla and Pomeroy, Washington by train, then on stagecoach to Lewiston and to Cottonwood.
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A Place of Wind and Magic

Posted on by Barbara Morgan / Leave a comment

I wasn’t born in Idaho. But I’m writing a love letter to the Palouse.

Where you’re born is a matter of chance. You are shuffled by your cards. Your gene tumbler is shaken up. Probability does its dance and out you roll, pink and blinking, onto the table. From then on it’s your life. Maybe you stay in your neighborhood, maybe you go somewhere else.

I could have stayed where I was born, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But during my middle years I chose to move West. By then I had become a neurologist, another story, not the subject of this epistle.

The origin of the word “Palouse” is enshrouded in mystery. It’s a Native American word, it’s a French word. It means “green, grassy sward.” Add your own story of origin.

When I came to visit in April 1993 and drove from Lewiston to Moscow, what I saw was a plush carpet of emerald hills rolling on forever and forever. And no mosquitoes. There was an opportunity to move to the Idaho Palouse and I took it. By June, I was walking up and down Main Street in Moscow with my office manager, Gail, looking for a neurology office to rent. We found one with a window overlooking a small tree, the Gritman Hospital parking lot, and Highway 95. And on the southern horizon I could make out Paradise Ridge.

My timing was off. The town shrinks when the students leave for the summer. There weren’t enough patients to keep the lights on at Palouse Clearwater Neurology the first summer.

So I began my Idaho hiking career on Paradise Ridge. For the next twenty years, I’d start my hike at a secret location off Iverson’s Loop. I’d stump through the woods, climbing up and up. Five separate climbs up, then the ridge. It was a riot of native flowers in the spring and of thimbleberries in the summer. Towhees calling but seldom seen. Western fly catchers. Red-tailed hawks until winter, then Rough-Legged, white against white on the snowy ridge. Deer and moose and coyotes. Scat everywhere on the snow. Turkey tracks on the very top of the ridge when the snow turned into mud in March. Continue reading

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Standing on the Snake

Posted on by Mark Weber / Leave a comment

On the river, we dip our paddles into the reservoir’s slack water and head upstream into a stiff breeze. We make good progress on our standup paddleboards (SUPs) and soon leave powerboats and fishermen behind. The canyon walls narrow and become steeper as the calm water gives way to the river current once again. On our left, a hundred-foot-tall waterfall pours over the canyon’s rim. Ahead of us lies a bizarre landscape of sculpted and bleached white rock. Because it’s late summer and a dry year, the once mighty Snake River has been lowered by irrigation, reduced to a serpentine channel carved into the bedrock of the canyon. Still paddling upstream, we navigate the channel, which is barely ten feet across in places. Springs feed small cascades that spill over the rock walls and into the river. Finally, the river becomes so constricted that we pull the SUPs onto dry bedrock and consider our options.

As a photographer with an appreciation for adventure and nature, I spend much of my time exploring Idaho’s outdoor and recreational opportunities. Last year, as summer was quickly drawing to a close, I wanted to take advantage of one more weekend of warm weather. Figuring a river adventure would be a fitting close to the season, I made a couple of calls, to my son Elijah and daughter Jessica. They were eager for an adventure and we agreed to explore the Snake River on SUPs. Our plan was to paddle thirty to forty miles of the Snake in south-central Idaho while visiting some of the more iconic attractions along its course. Continue reading

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