As a field representative for the U.S. Census Bureau, part of my daily work routine is to speak with members of the public. The addresses of such people are randomly selected and I often must make repeated attempts at contact with them, only to find nobody home. I then get the pleasure of talking to the neighbors, whom I have discovered are usually very poor sources of information. I’m a born-and-bred Idahoan, so I know well that this state’s population tends toward independence or even isolationism. Depending on the day and situation, talking to someone’s neighbors can make me laugh or cry. I’ll give you a few examples of situations I’ve encountered recently. Names and places have been omitted to protect the privacy of people I’ve met, but I can say they were all in Idaho. Continue reading →
The promise of scenic high mountains full of historic mines lured me in July 2013 to Spring Mountain Canyon, which extends west from Hwy 28 into the Lemhi Range just south of the ghost town of Gilmore.
I had discovered the canyon in 1990 on a Forest Service map that showed a road crossing the Lemhis from the Little Lost River drainage over a remote and high pass to the Birch Creek drainage near Gilmore. The map also showed several mines near the pass, and since becoming a rock hound at age six, I’ve always been interested in old mines and the state’s mining history. On that first trip, my wife Dorita and I, and two friends from Salt Lake City, drove our two 4WDs from the Little Lost side up a rough and steep road to the pass. The road down the other side was blocked by snowdrifts, but during our short visit we were able to drive a surprisingly good road a couple miles south along the high ridge to old cabins, mines, and great views.
I thought it would be intriguing to do more mine exploring and high-altitude hiking in the area but didn’t make it back until 2010, when I entered from the east side and explored most of Spring Mountain Canyon and its northern tributary, Quartzite Canyon. By then, I owned and had studied books on the geology and mining history of the Lemhi Range.
This time, I planned on climbing several of the local mountains alone. I have a long history of climbing mountains in remote areas, with companions and by myself, and I knew that a solo mountain trip in a remote area with no cell-phone service meant I would have to be cautious at times, without anyone to help if I had an accident. But the joy of a solo trip to the mountains was that I could pursue my goals and interests at a pace that suited me. Continue reading →
When we moved into our present home in Caldwell in 1980, a nice brick sidewalk led from the front step to the driveway.
Besides allowing people to come to the front door without having to walk on the lawn, it provided a barrier to the water we used for irrigating the lawn once a week during the summer. Without it, we would have had regular floods in our garage. We had enough as it was.
Even back then, grass from the lawn had begun to spread into the cracks between the bricks, and before too many years had passed, the only clue to the existence of the brick walk was a slight elevation in the lawn on that side of the yard. I felt there was no harm in this. Folks could still get to the front door via the sidewalk next to the house. The only drawback was the weeds. Those cracks between the bricks, which allowed the lawn to invade, seemed ideally suited to the roots of dandelions and other such plants, and digging them out was next to impossible. The best I could do was to break the plants off at the surface, and this merely reinforced the vitality of their roots.The only solution to the problem appeared to be to tear out all the bricks, dig out the offending plants, and re-make the walk.
As one who dislikes rushing into things—the house might burn down, for example, and then there’d be no need for the walk—I waited until a couple of years ago to begin that cleaning-out process. It wasn’t a particularly hard job. In fact, it was somewhat interesting to see how the various types of vegetation had adapted themselves over, around, into, and under the bricks. I even discovered a couple of quarters long since lost in the cracks, and this gave me the excuse to take a break of several hours while I combed the yard with my metal detector, looking for more. I didn’t find any.
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For this issue, we asked our more than 20,000 Facebook followers to send in images of the Fourth of July in their hometowns. Some of those shots are on these pages, and Clark Fork resident Conrad Vogel added commentary that deserves publication.
My earliest memory of Clark Fork on the Fourth of July is walking in the parade with my older brother and sister when I was six. I was Johnny Appleseed. The last time I was in the parade, I drove my ‘58 GMC truck. I’m forty-three and have been in Clark Fork most of my life, graduating from Clark Fork High School in 1988. The Fourth hasn’t changed much here over the decades. Continue reading →
I have to admit, I hadn’t much considered Wilder. Located on US Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 19, about fourteen miles west of Caldwell and forty miles west of Boise, one could breeze right through Wilder and not think twice. A store and post office, some modest houses, a lonely railroad track cutting across the main street. Out of curiosity, I read up on the place and found, as with every town in Idaho that’s examined closely, a myriad of stories.
In 1904 a group of settlers decided to put down roots there, and often had to haul water from the Snake River to their homesteads. They were making a go of it, and investors began rubbing their hands together over the area, thinking they’d take the railroad from Butte, Montana through Idaho, and then clear to San Francisco. Expecting a boomtown future, people talked big, and the group of financiers unofficially dubbed the place “Golden Gate.” Settlers liked the name so much, they named a school, a Baptist church, a store, and their irrigation and canal district after it.
And Golden Gate it would have remained, had it not been for Marshall P. Wilder, the enterprising editor of a widely-read women’s magazine called The Delineator, who bargained with an official to name the town after him in exchange for a favorable write-up. (For one short month, the town was known as “Wilderia,” but that got nixed for what might seem like obvious reasons.) The community didn’t exactly love the new handle, thinking Golden Gate sounded much better.
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A few months shy of the first anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, an event that affected the central Washington town where I lived, I persuaded a friend to accompany me on a road trip to northern Idaho, where I’d been invited for a job interview.
It was the spring of 1981, and news of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan filled the interior of my small car as we pulled up in front of the Sandpoint Bee’s office. Inside, reporters scrambled for a local angle on the news.
At that point, my only experience in journalism was an internship on a paper in Moses Lake, Washington. I was a late bloomer—thirty-eight, and the mother of three teenaged kids. After two hours with editor Bruce Botka, he offered me the job, but added, “By the way, would you mind driving another twenty miles northeast to visit the Priest River Times’ office?” Continue reading →
“Check out that old Masonic Lodge, honey,” I said to my wife Felicity. “That’s what our house should look like.”
“I think it’s for sale,” she replied.
I imagined helicopters lifting the barn-sized building out of the canyon in the Owyhee Mountains that shelters Silver City and arranging it on a hillside close to Boise. Then, with a laugh, I realized what she meant. “Oh, you mean live here?” Continue reading →
I still remember the look on the face of the hard-working farmer when I told him I wanted to buy four hundred straw bales. Holding a check for twelve hundred dollars in his hand, he told me he had been worried about what he was going to do with all that straw (the waste left over from harvesting grains), and then got around to asking what I planned on doing with the bales. I told him I was building a home for my wife Janice and me. He squinted, not because it was sunny, and eventually he smiled. “I guess it makes sense,” he said.
People are usually unsure but fascinated by the idea of building with straw bales. But after visiting our home, they are pleasantly surprised to find that it bears little resemblance to the home of the three little pigs. Our place has a different feel from a typical house and it performs differently, but it’s solid, safe, affordable, and comfortable. It even won Boise City’s Excellence in Building Award in 2010.
For Janice and me, only a straw bale home makes sense. It’s healthier than traditionally built houses, supports local farmers, saves money, and is thoughtful about the environment. The last part is particularly important to me as an environmental scientist who explores sustainable development in Kenya. I need to practice what I teach. Continue reading →
With five brothers, my sister Jan grew up Idaho tough. She also managed to pull off the “Daddy’s Little Princess” thing—dancing, singing, riding horses bareback while shooting the flame off a candle from fifty yards with a six-shooter. Adorable!
Inexplicably, her brothers didn’t always treat Daddy’s Little Princess like royalty. But recently she did give us a royal scare.
While performing a Paul Bunyan stunt at her horse ranch, she found herself on the wrong side of a tree as it fell. Badly hurt, she was flown to the city and repaired by a team of super-talented health care providers. She won’t be riding horses, or anything else, for a while.
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