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Posted on by Les Tanner / Leave a comment

One morning in 1998, while I was out in the yard irrigating the lawn, I heard, then saw, a couple of loose boards on the back fence begin to rattle and shake.

It worried me for a moment, because I thought it might have been our newest family member, Niki the cat, who was outside with me and who we hope can be taught to stay in our yard. However, Niki was occupied for the moment with her exploration of the raspberry patch, so I called out toward the moving fence, “Somebody there?”

“Just me,” returned a male voice, and the boards parted to reveal a friendly face I didn’t recall having seen before.

The gray-haired gentleman who belonged to the face didn’t introduce himself, nor did I. We each knew who the other was. He and his wife had lived in the house beyond that fence—a house no more than eighty feet from ours—for a number of years before my wife and I moved to Caldwell in 1980, yet the truth is that my neighbor and I had never met.

Imagine that: living eighty feet away from someone for nearly eighteen years and never having seen him. I suppose if the boards hadn’t come loose because of errant irrigation water having rotted out a two-by-four along the fence’s base, it could easily have been another eighteen years.

We stood talking to each other through the gap for a few minutes, agreed to “get together sometime soon” to do a little fence mending, and then let the boards close again, separating us and our yards. Continue reading

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Still the Hammock

Posted on by Jenny Emery Davidson / Leave a comment

In the creaky limbs of our family memories, a wide rectangle of gray canvas stretches between two tall and spindly lodgepole pines. It is a simple hammock, slung between the same two trees every year, just a few yards from the front porch of the cabin that my great-grandfather built in Island Park in the 1950s. He farmed potatoes in the summer around the tiny town of Teton, and drove a school bus in the winter. He built this cabin in the forest near the headwaters of the Henry’s Fork to make a family retreat for his three daughters and, over time, for their families. I am part of the fourth generation to come to the cabin. Over the two decades of my growing-up years, it was our family’s destination for every summer vacation, and the hammock was its emblem.

The cabin still stands now, some sixty years later, but most of us visit it much less frequently, as our lives have spread us in different directions and obligations across the map. The hammock is hung less often now, and it’s not even the same hammock, although no one knows when or how the original one finally succumbed to our weight, or if perhaps it just got misplaced when it was tucked away at the end of some summer season.
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Spirit Dog

Posted on by Elizabeth Sloan / Leave a comment

But it did not all happen in a day, this giving over to the man-animals.
There were days when White Fang crept to the edge of the forest and stood and listened to something calling him far and away.

—Jack London’s White Fang

Puerto Vallarta had entered the sultry pre-storm season a little early in the first week of June. I was visiting expat friends, and would fly back to Idaho the next day. A movement in the restaurant caught my attention.

My eyes met the gaze of a medium-sized dog who walked indoors three paces, turned, and disappeared. I burst into tears.

A couple of weeks earlier, I had been in Victoria, British Columbia, with my mother and sister. On the last day of that trip, I got a call from my daughter, Margot, who said our white dog, Sky, had hurt herself playing with a friend’s puppy in our back yard.

“She was running and then she yelped a couple times and had trouble coming up the steps into the house. Maybe it’s her back again. She seems to be in excruciating pain, and is lying under the table panting. Her eyes are rolled back.”

When I got home to Moscow from Canada, Sky was moving easier but she listed and occasionally stumbled. In five days, I was to leave for the Mexico trip. Her right eye looked glazed­, which wasn’t hard to notice in a dog with eyes so light they were nearly white, rimmed in black; knockout eyes that everyone admired. Then the eye became bloodshot until it was alarmingly red. Our friend and veterinarian, Janet, checked her.

“Sometimes they can snap out of it,” she said. “I don’t think it was a stroke, because her eyes don’t waver as would be expected.”

The eye cleared, but then her right nostril began to bleed, and for a while that day her nose seemed to be saturated in red. If it didn’t stop, I’d have to make choices. It was all happening so suddenly. The nose bleeding subsided, but she wasn’t eating. Another dog lover, Dave, suggested it might hurt her to chew dry food so I gave her some canned food, which she seemed to relish for a day or so.

I discussed options with Janet, Margot, and Dave, the three people who would care for Sky while I was gone.

“If she has to go, do it. I don’t want her to suffer.” Continue reading

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Bucket Lists Are for Wimps

Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

My morning ablutions began today with cold water. I can’t remember when I didn’t splash water in my face, eyes wide open, first thing each morning. Call it a ritual, but it serves to clear the slumber from my brain.

During my visit to the privy, my eye caught an Esquire magazine headline, meant, as they tend to do, to get me to look inside. It read, “84 Things a Man Should Do Before He Dies.”

As one who does fast work in that smallest room in the house, I didn’t open the magazine, but left thinking, why 84 and not 101 or 500? And then realized I wouldn’t even read the article before I died.

I did check my emails.

Three messages gave me pause. My college roommate’s mother endured a twelve-hour surgery for esophageal cancer.

My selfless and intuitive New York friend and personal “editor” wrote from a hospital room where she stands watch and demands attention for her mother, who has pancreatic cancer.

The third came from the administrator of a prostate cancer support website. The same site I discovered four years ago, after my own diagnosis and before surgery, the site where hundreds of men share experiences, hope and advice. The site that helped me feel not alone. Continue reading

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On the Trail of Sasquatch

Posted on by Khaliela Wright / Leave a comment

On the morning of Wednesday, May 7, 2014, my world expanded.

The day started off cloudy, but the weatherman said there would be no rain. That was fortunate, since we’d had a long spell of rainy days and I hate hiking in the rain. My goal was simple: hike the loop trail at Little Boulder Campground at a fast clip and then make it to work on time that afternoon. I expected to accomplish it easily, as the trail is only 5.5 miles long. I wanted to evaluate the route’s condition, to decide if I should propose it for an excursion when the Lewiston Day Hikers met that evening.

The Little Boulder Campground is located on Park Road alongside the Potlatch River, 2.7 miles south of Helmer. The park is densely forested and thick with native vegetation. The campground, managed by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Service, offers a day use area and seventeen campsites in addition to hiking trails.

When I arrived at the trailhead at about 8:30 a.m., dew was heavy on the grass in the fresh morning air. As I hiked along the river, I stopped a couple of times to see if conditions were suitable for skinny-dipping, but decided against it, because I was in a hurry. Turning off the main trail and onto the loop trail, I noticed the birds were no longer chirruping, and it was quieter amongst the shadows, under the forest’s thick canopy.

I make a habit of looking for animal sign while walking, and I noticed an absence of deer sign, which was unusual. But I soon came across other tracks that were intriguing because I couldn’t identify them. The ground was wet enough not to have dust and dry enough not to have mud, making it difficult to see the clear outline of any print. As I worked my way up the trail, I noticed that the animal was leaving a lot of other signs behind, such as turned-over rocks, bark taken off logs or stumps, and scratches. This led me to conclude that I was following a bear. I wished he would get off the trail, because it seemed like I was making faster progress than he was, and I didn’t want to catch up with him.
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Amidst the Falls

Posted on by Michael Vogt / Leave a comment

On a visit to Ritter Island, Michael Vogt created a photographic portfolio and recorded an interview with Daisy Welch, a knowledgeable volunteer for Thousand Springs State Park, to which Ritter Island belongs. Following is a transcript of Daisy’s story about the site:

In 1914, a real estate couple from Salt Lake City, Lee and Minnie Miller, received this property for back taxes and back payment.
Minnie Miller, who was forty-seven, took one look at the property and she said, “That’s where I want to raise my prize show cattle.” Her husband thought it was kind of a nutty idea, but he deeded the property over to her.

She started putting up all these buildings you see here. She imported her breeding stock from the Isle of Guernsey in the British Isles, and the foundation cows grazed right there. She did a breeding program­­—she was a member of Guernsey Breeding Association and the Idaho Dairy Association —and she built up this whole property. If you visit the barn, you’ll see what was state-of-the-art in the 1920s. It now looks a little old school to us. Continue reading

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Art You Can Sit On

Posted on by Carrie Getty Scheid / Leave a comment

Forty-two art benches grace downtown Idaho Falls and the Snake River greenbelt. Each one has a story. But how they got there is the story I want to tell.

Downtown Idaho Falls has been called a lot of things. The old timers once referred to it as “Alcohol Falls.” My husband Jerry, a retired sheep and cattle rancher, fondly remembers driving sheepherders and camp-tenders into downtown from his family ranch right after they collected their six months’ of winter and trail wages. It was the early 1950s. The first stops were always the Bon Villa and Jack’s Club, two notorious bars sometimes called “blind pigs” by the locals. Recognizing the windfall delivered to their establishments, the bartenders would allow Jerry, the underaged teen chauffer, to belly up to the bar for free while the hired hands bought rounds for the house.

During the ‘60s, the downtown’s hurly burly persona began to fade. The department stores and movie theaters fled to suburban shopping centers and malls, which offered bigger buildings, bigger parking lots, and bigger crowds. The exodus continued when more downtown professional firms and restaurants moved to the east side of town, where the new shopping centers, malls and hospital were now located. In the early ‘90s, downtown Idaho Falls had about hit bottom—too many vacant storefronts and too few shoppers. As local developer Larry Reinhart told me back then, “I am tired of Idaho Falls being called Jackson Hole’s ugly stepsister.” Continue reading

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High Anxiety

Posted on by Mike Cothern / Leave a comment

As the phone conversation ended, a wave of anxiety washed over me. Did I really want to climb two of Idaho’s tallest mountains with a group of strangers?

I had once made it to the top of Mount Borah, but that was almost a decade ago. Since then, my body had suffered more wear and tear, and I was sure my tolerance had lessened for exposure to weather at high elevations.

The offer to accompany an informal hiking group, most of whose members called the Magic Valley home, was my own fault. Earlier in the year, I had talked to Norman Wright, a Filer resident, about a potential trip. He organizes several outings annually that include ascending at least one of the state’s highest mountains. My initial desire to bag another Idaho peak waned as the spring unfolded into summer, but even so, I phoned him again, part of me hoping I had missed the opportunity.

Norman said my timing was perfect. “We’re headed to climb Mount Church and Mount Donaldson next Saturday. We’ll have the rare chance to summit two twelve-thousand-footers in one day.”

I cautioned him that I didn’t want to attempt anything beyond my ability, but after he heard about my Borah trek, his enthusiasm held steady. “There are a couple of tough spots, but you’ll be fine.”

That evening I opened the definitive book on the state’s high elevations, Exploring Idaho’s Mountains: A Guide for Climbers, Scramblers, and Hikers, by Tom Lopez. Reading that the author rated the climb we would make as one level more difficult than Borah, I groaned. Ten years ago, Chicken Out Ridge on Borah had seemed to be at the edge of my abilities—could I take on something more than that now? The doubts began adding up, and my heart throbbed faster, reminding me of my not-quite-prime physical condition. Not wanting to waste a quickened pulse (or perhaps to mask it), I hopped on the treadmill. Could I get into any kind of decent shape in ten days?

Every night, I doggedly did time on the machine. I wasn’t sure if my cardiovascular condition improved much, but was comforted to find that the exertion on my heart and lungs didn’t cause them to fail. Other parts of my body clearly were not happy. My arthritic hip joints, one of which was replaced a year after the Borah summit, whined for less abuse and more acetaminophen. My back felt out of alignment, requiring a crack by my chiropractor.
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Givens Hot Springs–Spotlight

Posted on by Dianne Buchta Humble / Leave a comment

My introduction to the Givens Hot Springs story began when Troy, my husband of almost twenty-five years, and I had a day off together, which was a miracle. We decided to check out the hot springs area with our copilot terriers, Gus and Chloe. Loading them in the car was like having two small children again.

“Hon, did you get the water, food, and dog dish?” I asked. “And don’t forget the leashes . . . oh, and the blanket to put in the back, and their chew bones, too.”

Troy responded to this with one of his stares. “We’re going to be gone for only a day. You’d think we had grandkids instead of dogs.”

“One of these days,” I replied. “One of these days.”

As it turned out, we didn’t make it to the hot springs on that trip. Right before the Highway 45 turnoff that goes to Givens is a small café and gas station called Dan’s Ferry Service, which includes a nature path that is a story in itself [see “Cleo’s Trail,” IDAHO magazine, February 2013].

We had been there years earlier, and I remembered the odd yet interesting collection of art pieces thrown out among the sagebrush and cacti. As we pulled up to park, Gus and Chloe peered over Troy’s shoulder and started salivating in anticipation of exploring. Unfortunately, we were greeted by a huge “ No Dogs Allowed” sign.

Looking about, we spied a peacock and a small donkey; new additions since we had been there, which likely explained the no dogs policy.

“Sorry guys, not here,” Troy said, wiping Chloe’s drool off his cheek. “We’ll find somewhere else to explore.”

We turned into Highway 78 and pulled up to a campsite full of cool shade trees. When we saw another dreaded “No Dogs” sign and had to pull out again, the furry kids looked at us like we were insane and dropped to the seat to pout.

“We’ll find something. Don’t worry, guys.”

We came to a long cool drink of water called Bernard Landing, where the dogs ran like kids to the lunchroom on pizza day. I swear Chloe was smiling, but it could have been the heat. Bernard Landing turned out to be a great place for fishing and an easy boat access, with a single-lane concrete plank launch alongside a dock. Continue reading

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Look, There’s a Crow

Posted on by Havilah Workman / Leave a comment

We could hold a birding festival in American Falls.”

Todd Winter’s voice came through the phone loud and clear, but I was nevertheless confused. A birding festival?

My experience with birds up to that point was the flock of chickens in my backyard. Were we going to stand around and compare egg production among different varieties?

He laughed good-naturedly at my bewilderment.

“No, no, a birding festival is where you watch birds out in nature. You take notes, take pictures, things like that. People will come from all over the U.S.—all over the world, really—to observe a rare bird in its habitat. We have some of the best birding available in America, right here in our backyard, and no one seems to know it!”

His enthusiasm showed through brightly, but I was skeptical. This was little ol’ American Falls, population 4,400. We had potatoes, wheat, and sugar beets. We had a reservoir that filled up in the spring but by fall was a muddy, willow- and bug-infested flat that was worthless for tourists. We had farmers, not tourists, and wasn’t there a reason for that? Surely if we were a mecca for birds, someone would have noticed by now.

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