Category Archives: 2014-08, August 2014 (Murtaugh)

Where’s the Fire?

It was dusk, and we could smell whiffs of smoke from the forest fire we had been sent to extinguish, but we couldn’t spot it.

The timber was heavy as we rounded a ridge on the trail, heading northwest from Baldy Lake in the Seven Devils Mountains. Not knowing the exact location of the fire or its size and condition gave me visions of it suddenly taking off, and gobbling us up.

We were here because early that morning the lookout at Hat Point, across Hells Canyon from the Seven Devils, had spotted intermittent smoke from a lightning storm of the previous day. Jack Alley, the Riggins District Ranger, had sent me to hike in with an older fellow, who I seem to remember was a college student from Arizona. We went by truck to Windy Saddle, at the end of the road from Riggins, and then began walking. It was 1954, my second summer of working for the U.S. Forest Service. I was only eighteen, a year or two younger than the other summer employees, but I was nominally in charge, because I knew the country from having visited my Uncle Allen Wilson’s cow camp a couple years earlier.

We had begun our hike at about 1 p.m. on a Thursday. The trail led westerly across both forks of upper Sheep Creek, onto Dry Diggins Ridge, and then southerly to the upper reaches of Little Granite Creek, where my uncle’s cabin stood for his cow camp. From there, the trail ran downhill a little ways and passed Baldy Lake, which was all new to me. Now that it was almost dark, I wanted to avoid camping in the timber. I remembered an open meadow on the west face of the ridge that we’d been following and suggested we hike the eighth-mile or so down to it, to camp for the night.
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Posted on by Billy Jim Wilson / Leave a comment

Murtaugh–Spotlight

When I was fourteen, my parents moved from a GI Bill farming project north of Rupert to a farm located south of Hazelton and northeast of Murtaugh. That was the first time I had heard of Murtaugh, which is located halfway between Twin Falls and Burley, at the beginning of the middle section of the Snake River, near the entrance to Snake River Canyon. This chasm running between the fertile farmlands of the Magic Valley reaches depths of more than five hundred feet. My parents’ farm was a half-mile north of the rim of the canyon and about four miles east of Murtaugh. To get into town we had to cross the canyon by driving down a winding, narrow road, over an old wooden bridge, and up the winding, narrow road on the other side. Many drivers who braved the old Murtaugh Grade when they were young and inexperienced can tell you how frightening it was to head downhill and see the road disappear in front of you. You had to turn the car to the right to see the road again, and not go over the edge.

One mile upstream from the Murtaugh Bridge lies what the early explorers called the Devil’s Scuttlehole, now known as Cauldron Linn, Star Falls, or the Devil’s Cauldron. The original name came from the wicked way the water boils and churns at the bottom of the falls, not unlike what a witch’s brew in a cauldron might resemble.

The first recorded attempt by white explorers to go through the falls was in 1811, when the Wilson Price Hunt party was sent by John Jacob Astor to find a route to the Pacific Ocean, according to Virginia Ricketts’ 1998 book, Then and Now in Southern Idaho. The Hunt party would also explore the lands of the Northwest Territory, opening trading posts along the way. After leaving their horses at the headwaters of the Snake River, the party built canoes to float down the river. On October 28, the explorers entered a canyon, where they made the biggest error in judgment of their entire trip. Coming to a deceptive waterfall, they tried to go through it and capsized two boats. One of the men died. The men made another attempt to navigate four other boats down the canyon below the falls, but lost all four of those vessels and the provisions and furs they carried.

After sending out scouting parties to explore the area around them and downriver, they cached some of their remaining supplies and furs and traveled overland, along the Snake River to Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia. It took them three months to reach the mouth of the Columbia River. On their return trip, they found that their caches had been vandalized, and everything was either destroyed or missing. Continue reading

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Posted on by Shirley Metts / Leave a comment

Wooden Boats Beckon

Furniture, stationery, books, and boats feed my soul, for they hold in common the fibers of a tree.

Why am I drawn to trees and their products? All I know is that when I was in a Boise consignment shop and first saw the pattern of sixteen book leaves on the wooden table that’s now in my living room, it called to me, “Take me home.” Maybe my decades of sending and receiving letters is what hooked me on paper, which is most often born of wood. Maybe the touch of book pages on my fingertips imprinted a need in me to feel the foundational fibers of wood.

As for boats, I suppose my passion for rowing a skull drew me to them. It could also partly be a family influence, from my uncle’s stories of World War II training in wooden boats at Farragut Naval Training Station (see “Boot Camp by the Lake,” IDAHO magazine, March 2014). Could junior high wood shop classes be responsible for spawning my love of wood? Nope, that wasn’t it. But maybe, just maybe, I was conceived under a tree, and my soul remembers the safety, comfort, and joy of that original moment.

In any case, a clarion call awakened me during the 2013 “Man Show” in Spokane, when I encountered a wooden boat made in northern Idaho. As I walked along talking with the person who had invited me to the show, I stopped in my tracks and interrupted the conversation with, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. I am completely distracted by this boat.”
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Posted on by Jana Kemp / Leave a comment

Welcome to the Sticks

Kidd Youren was on a horse with his dad the day after his birth, and claims he’s been an outfitter ever since. Garden Valley’s peaks, peaceful fields, the South Fork of the Payette River and nearby natural hot springs provided an ample playground in his youth. His grandpa did some casual guiding and ran some cows, his great uncle outfitted, and his dad turned it into a full-on business. When Kidd was asked at age eight what he wanted to do for a living, he talked with his dad, who said the answer was easy. Choose something you like and find a way to get paid for it.

“I want to do what you do,” he said.

But that didn’t include giving an interview on the location of a “docu-soap” TV series, the first reality-based show to be filmed in Idaho backcountry. Kidd stars as one of three featured Idaho outfitting families in the series, including the Yourens, Bullocks, and Korells. My visit to the set outside Garden Valley had been arranged by truTV, which broadcasts the show.

“I‘ve been through plenty,” the dark-haired and sun-tanned Kidd said with a grin. As a youth, he team-roped and rode broncs and bulls between hunting seasons. When he was a high school senior competing at the Silver State International, the last bull he rode smacked him in the side of the face, shattering an eye socket, his nose, knocking out teeth, and displacing sinuses. Still conscious, he made it out of the arena and back to his host’s house before realizing he had a serious concussion and “sort of passed out.”

He has lived in Nevada and Canada, but ultimately returned to Idaho. His friends went to college or got their own places, but Kidd used his savings to put a down payment on an Idaho hunting area. He passed the state test with a near-perfect score and became the youngest licensed outfitter in the state. Continue reading

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Posted on by Amy Story Larson / Leave a comment

The Northside Kid

In 1942, my family lived on Nampa’s North Side, near my paternal and maternal grandparents. The friends I made all came from a core area of several blocks. We knew other kids on the fringes of that area, but they were really not a part of our group. I hesitate to call the North Side Kids a gang, because we weren’t, although we did get up to mischief sometimes.

I suppose during my early years I didn’t register a social difference between the North Side and the South Side of town, divided by the railroad tracks. As I grew older, I began to realize that the houses in the south were nicer and the cars newer, but it didn’t really matter to me. Looking back, I guess my North Side friends did think we were tougher than kids from the South Side. But none of that mattered much to me, at least not until our family moved to the South Side.

World War II sparked many jobs associated with national defense and my dad traveled to get the work. In 1942, he went to Salt Lake City, while my mom, sister, brother, and I lived with her parents on N. 14th Street. I was about five or six, and I remember all the lights being turned off during air raids, when the sound of sirens filled the night. I trembled in fear that the bombs would come any minute. After Dad returned from Utah, our family had our own place on the North Side for a while. I started first grade at Lakeview Grade School, but we were only there for half of the school year. We moved to Bend, Oregon, and then moved back to Nampa in the fall, and then my folks decided to go to Spokane while Dad worked at Farragut Naval Training Station on Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho.

The constant moving was not good for my schooling, so my parents decided it was better for me to live with my paternal grandparents. This was 1943 and the war was going full blast.

My grandparents’ house was small, maybe four hundred square feet. It contained a kitchen with a wood stove, a front room that also served as a dining area, and a non-partitioned bedroom. There was no indoor plumbing. Water was carried in a pail to the house. The outhouse was a couple hundred feet from the house. The exterior of the home was tarpaper and shingles. A dirt basement was for storage of canned goods and non-perishable food items. The door was heavy to lift and there were black widow spiders and other scary things, so I never ventured down there. Two large maple trees and a willow tree grew in the yard. The old house stood for many years and after my grandparents died, we took to calling it “the old tarpaper shack.” Continue reading

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Posted on by C. Eugene Brock / Leave a comment

North to Heyburn

The first time I went pike fishing, five years ago, my dad and I packed the old SUV to the gills with various spinner baits, all-weather clothing, and more food than either of us would know what to do with.

We headed north to Heyburn State Park, to fish with Dad’s buddy Ron. Up until then, those two had taken an annual, man-only trip, but this year I was allowed to crash the party. As we drove through the canyon between New Meadows and Riggins, Dad quizzed me on the names of several songs by ZZ Top, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Ted Nugent. A moose waded nonchalantly into the waters of the Salmon River, and I tried to be the first to spot a deer.

Five years later, on a placid morning at Lake Coeur d’Alene, my husband Brock and I walk down the marina docks, following Ron to his boathouse. Barn swallows dart in and out of the rafters as we tie on our tackle for the day, and Ron teaches me the first fishing knot that I can remember to tie on my own. Once we pack our food and emergency rain clothes into dry storage, we head out past the pilings towards our first stop for the day, the Mill Pond. I smile at the sight of Brock experiencing for the first time the sheer speed of the boat as we power under the Chatcolet Bridge.

We headed north to Heyburn State Park, to fish with Dad’s buddy Ron. Up until then, those two had taken an annual, man-only trip, but this year I was allowed to crash the party. As we drove through the canyon between New Meadows and Riggins, Dad quizzed me on the names of several songs by ZZ Top, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Ted Nugent. A moose waded nonchalantly into the waters of the Salmon River, and I tried to be the first to spot a deer.

Five years later, on a placid morning at Lake Coeur d’Alene, my husband Brock and I walk down the marina docks, following Ron to his boathouse. Barn swallows dart in and out of the rafters as we tie on our tackle for the day, and Ron teaches me the first fishing knot that I can remember to tie on my own. Once we pack our food and emergency rain clothes into dry storage, we head out past the pilings towards our first stop for the day, the Mill Pond. I smile at the sight of Brock experiencing for the first time the sheer speed of the boat as we power under the Chatcolet Bridge.

Ron has a top-of-the-line Ranger Bass Boat, equipped with fish and depth finders, a trolling motor that can be driven from the front of the boat by foot, and enough horsepower to blow your cheeks back. That first day on the boat five years earlier, I had been caught completely off guard when he hit the gas. My dad’s eyes had shone with laughter at how fast my hands grabbed for anything that would keep me in my seat. He and Ron promised I wouldn’t be catapulted out as we flew towards the Mill Pond. I’d never been pike fishing before, and was more excited than a school kid on the first day of summer. Continue reading

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Posted on by Kimberly Landon / Leave a comment

Cowboys in the Distance

Four years ago, when I first visited Stricker Ranch, formerly called Rock Creek Station, I had no idea it would become one of my favorite places.

Since that first visit, I’ve returned many times to the property, which lies along the Oregon Trail about six miles south of Hansen in Idaho’s Magic Valley. I always enjoy imagining the history of the area, walking the trail, and talking with the caretaker, Gary Guy.

On a sunny but chilly day in early winter of 2012, Gary agreed to answer questions for a book I was writing about purported hauntings in the area. By then, we met as friends. I had heard stories about the old-style ranch house being haunted, and one of the first questions I had for him was if he had experienced anything paranormal while living there. Gary, who has a white beard and was wearing a light jacket that day, quickly confessed that he was a skeptic, but yes, something had happened that he couldn’t explain: shower curtains had moved of their own accord.

“Hmm,” I said. “Tell me about it.” Continue reading

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Posted on by Andrew Weeks / Leave a comment

Or Not to Ski

When I backpacked thirty miles through the rough and rocky Sawtooth Range in July 2013, I met many people, from England, Oregon, Connecticut, and elsewhere. Last February, when I dragged the same backpack on a sled over a snowpack eight feet deep, I saw none of these people.

I didn’t even see the mountains. They were veiled in cloud. The only person I saw was my friend Will, whom I had convinced that skiing to Idaho’s Imogene Lake via the Hell Roaring Creek trail in winter was a good idea. Will had shared my summer view of this coldwater lake, which reflects the crumbling granite of the serrated Sawtooth peaks reaching all around to ten thousand feet. I had convinced both of us that the quiet beauty and isolation of the high mountain valley could be even better experienced in winter­­­—and maybe we would even see wolves. But that wasn’t how it worked out.

Perhaps we just picked the wrong weekend. The weather worked against us. The larger Sawtooth Valley, so reliably cold through most of the winter, was experiencing a warm spell. The snow that had fallen for two days before we arrived was slushy, thanks to the weather phenomenon known as the Pineapple Express. Our skis sank eight to ten inches with each forward kick. The lead skier carved a deep trough for the man who followed. Neither breaking trail nor following was easy. I had to shorten my ski poles to match the new difference in height between the trough that I stood in and the snow at my sides. And when I stepped out of my skis to adjust my gear, I sank past my waist and floundered desperately in wet snow. Continue reading

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Posted on by Michael Stubbs / Leave a comment

Red, White, and True Blue

I screamed like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert, then fell into a deep depression when my USA team lost to Belgium in World Cup soccer, er, football, in July, which is admittedly more than a little odd, since I wouldn’t be able pick out a single USA player if I had the team over for a barbeque together with the Boise State chess team.

I’d have to ask each guest about his last game (or is it match?) and glean his team by whether or not the win involved capturing the opponent’s queen.

I suppose the loss was especially difficult for me, coming during the week of our uniquely American holiday.

Two hundred thirty-eight years after the fact, it’s easy to forget just what it is we celebrate on July 4th. I’m pretty sure it’s not world soccer domination. Continue reading

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Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

Tracing the Legacy

When my family took a trip across the northern part of the country recently, we made many stops in Idaho. I had a special reason for doing this. As a history student at the University of Southern California and a research associate of U.C. Berkeley’s Living New Deal Project, I help to gather data and materials about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s promise of a “New Deal” for America during the Great Depression. And the deal Idaho received at that time was unparalled in the nation. Despite ranking forty-second in population, the state ranked eighth in federal spending during the Depression. More than two hundred new buildings were constructed, including dozens of schools, courthouses, and post offices. National and state parks were improved, and countless miles of roads, sewers, and runways were added throughout the state. Over the course of just a couple of years, Idaho was transformed.

I wanted to find out what remains today. I wanted to know if it was possible to trace the legacy of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) throughout Idaho, and such questions filled my mind as my parents, my sister, and I drove across through the state. To me, the memory of the WPA is even more poignant because next year is the eightieth anniversary of the program’s start. My quest in Idaho was to chronicle the WPA’s history here—trying to ascertain the communities it touched, the people it gave jobs to, and any landmarks it built that are still standing nearly eight decades later.

A key aspect of the New Deal is that many different agencies were involved in its projects. Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, and over the next decade or so, the federal government rolled out numerous agencies—the famed “alphabet soup” of the 1930s. They included the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, Civil Works Administration, and, most well-known of all, the WPA, which later kept its acronym but was renamed the Works Projects Administration.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was by far the most prolific agency in Idaho, was aimed at giving jobs in parklands to young, single men. The CCC was administered by the US Army, and in a military-like setting, these men built roads, infrastructure, and buildings in places such as Heyburn State Park and Payette National Forest. Idaho had 163 CCC camps—the second most of any state, after California. Continue reading

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Posted on by Charles Epting / Leave a comment