Blog Archives

Close Encounters

Posted on by Melinda Stiles / Leave a comment

Two a.m. Thump, crash, clatter, on the back deck.

“What was that?” I asked my husband Tom, as though he’d have a better idea than I in our sleep-snarled state.

The light revealed our substantial propane grill on its side. On the glass pane of the door, the light illuminated prints of a greasy nose and paws. As we slept, a bear had been peering into our house in the woods north of Salmon. Standing on his hind legs. Gulp.

At first light, coffee mugs in hand, we inspected the area. Broken branches in the orchard and a pile of appled scat showed the bear’s route to the grill.

As I walked to the barn for chores that morning, my eyes did a 180-degree scan. I peeked through an opening between the doors before I swung them open. All appeared normal. Our horses Sam and Rusty waited patiently for their hay. The barn cats were gathered at their dish. When I opened the door, no bear surprised me. But he had knocked over the galvanized garbage can and made off with a just-purchased twenty-five-pound bag of cat food.

“Sorry, cats. It’s mice for you until I get to the store.”

Later that day, Tom found the shredded bag at the creek, not a kibble left. I envisioned our friend hauling the bag to the creek, sitting down, maybe dangling his feet in the water, tossing back paws full of fish-flavored cat chow. I was almost charmed, though slightly annoyed at having to take another trip into town. Cat food storage plan B was in order. Our barn housed a solid, old-fashioned box freezer with a heavy lid. Perfect place for the food.

When I peeked into the barn the next morning, things didn’t look quite so normal. The freezer had been moved to the middle of the barn and was on its side with the top open and, of course, not a kibble to be found.

It was time to call Fish and Game. We were advised that our bear was associating our property with food and would most likely continue to get himself into trouble. The Fish and Game people brought out a trap on a trailer, backed it into our barnyard and baited it with heaps of food. The plan was to relocate our friend high up in the Continental Divide, where everyone hoped he would stay out of trouble.

The next morning, the trap door was closed and I met our bear face-to-face. He was at the far end of the trap, looking mild-mannered and scared. I liked my vision of him at the creek far better. He never made a sound as we waited for the Fish and Game officers to retrieve him. I stayed with him and thanked him for the laughs and the adventure, admonishing him to avoid the likes of us in the future.

On a sunny November afternoon, Tom, our dog, and I walked up to the pines on our property near the creek. Natives know to get out and savor the days before winter sets in. Our cocker spaniel Shirley put her nose to the ground and circled, her tail a blur.

“She’s on to something.”

“Probably grouse.”

Shirley disappeared in the pines and we continued toward the creek, checking the ground for bird tracks. I looked up in time to see something massive headed our way—a bull moose with a dog barking at its heels.

“Duck!” my husband yelled. Continue reading

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Final Inning

Posted on by Dave Goins / Leave a comment

For me, nothing that summer was like the thrum of American Legion baseball. It was 1982. Fresh from college and pursuing a freelance sports journalism career on a diet of ramen noodles, store-bought pizza, and cheap beer, I spent a lot of my time at Caldwell’s Simplot Stadium, covering home games of the Silver Streaks Legion team for the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Beyond the stadium’s business-billboard fences, the summer scene was defined by railroad tracks and the Caldwell Night Rodeo. Sometimes during those lazy evening innings, trains would traverse the tracks, slipping through the season’s high desert heat, bound for somewhere in America. Baseball is America. So that was perfect. That was my backdrop for watching baseball in Caldwell.

At Simplot Stadium I first met William Bryan “Pat” O’Connor, the lightly redheaded, pot-bellied, and immensely popular guru of the local baseball scene. Everyone called him Pat. A Caldwell native and seemingly omnipresent fixture at sporting events, Pat was a professional baseball scout in those days, and onetime general manager of the Chicago Cubs’ Caldwell-based minor league affiliate. He also owned a local sporting goods store.

He had graduated from The College of Idaho some five decades earlier, and he asked what my major had been in college. I told him English.

“An English major!” he exclaimed, in mock excitement. He said when he was in college, an English major had become romantically involved with his girlfriend and had replaced Pat in her affections. From then on, he called me “the English major.” I took it as his way of being friendly. Continue reading

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Bluebird Broken

Posted on by Mark Nielsen / Leave a comment

“What? We’re leaving already? But I haven’t finished my Junior Ranger book!”

The consequences of our family discussion were sinking in for my youngest daughter Hannah. We were packed in our minivan, driving the gravel road in City of Rocks National Reserve back toward the park exit at the small town of Almo. City of Rocks was just a half-day detour on the long drive from Pocatello to our home in Moscow. We’d spent a few hours hiking in the strangely weathered granite of the reserve, but now were resuming the day’s travel.

Hannah was crushed. At eight years old, she already had made a small person’s career of accumulating Junior Ranger badges. She’d earned them from nearly every park or monument we’d visited: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Arches, Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Timpanogos Cave, even Scott’s Bluff. Adding one from our home state was an enticing prospect, so we’d picked up the Junior Ranger activity booklet that morning from the park headquarters in Almo. But our tour had been too brief and the distractions too many. Hannah now found herself one activity short of qualifying for the coveted status of City of Rocks Junior Ranger, and she pleaded for a chance to finish.

“Is there something you can work on between here and the ranger station?”

“No! I’ve done the puzzles. I’m almost done with the page where you have to see animals—I just need one more. Can’t we please stop to find an animal?” Continue reading

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Posted on by Shelley Kuther / Leave a comment

Craigmont started out with a different name in a different place, and became what it is today through a mock wedding. That story has its origins in the fall of 1895, when the Nez Perce Indian Reservation was opened for settlement. People flocked to the Camas Prairie to stake out their homesteads, and in 1898, the first little town to spring up was named Chicago after the big city in Illinois. This caused so much confusion for the U.S. Post Office that several years later the name was legally changed to Ilo, after Ilo Leggett, the daughter of a local merchant.

By 1907, the citizens of Ilo were expecting the Camas Prairie Railroad to be built through their town, but it bypassed them by about a mile. Deciding it was poor business to miss out on this new transportation mode, most of the town picked up its skirts and moved to the west side of the railroad tracks, where the current Craigmont business district is, on U.S. Highway 95 between Lewiston and Grangeville.

The September 23, 1907 edition of the Lewiston Evening Teller reported, “Last week witnessed great activity in the removal of the old business houses to the new town. Buildings were hauled across the prairie by steam, horses, and capstan.”

A capstan moves or raises heavy weights with a vertical drum around which a cable is turned. It and the big steam engines that moved Ilo were probably owned by Sterling Norman Bunce. “Grandpa Bunce was a fascinating person,” his grandson Adelbert “Del” Buttrey wrote in a 1979 book titled, The Buttrey Davis Story. “To begin with, he was huge, usually weighing between 350 and 400 pounds, most of the time closer to 400. Being short in height, he seemed even more massive. He bought much machinery and always had the biggest threshing outfit around, the biggest separator, and the biggest steam engine, which powered the separator. His huge, powerful engines and his rolling equipment enabled him to take on large moving operations, and occasionally his steam engine could be seen along the roads of the prairie moving some building from here to there.”

While Ilo was moving down the hill, John P. Vollmer, a Lewiston merchant and financier, was founding the town of Vollmer on the opposite side of the railroad tracks, which was all that separated the two communities. An intense and bitter rivalry developed. In 1911, when Lewis County was formed from Nez Perce County, this discord was the main reason the new county seat was located in Nezperce, even though it had a smaller population than Ilo and Vollmer.

“In the recession and hard times following on the heels of the First World War, economic pressures began making themselves felt in the divided town,” according to a 1963 volume by multiple authors titled The Highlands of Craig Mountain. “Citizens were getting out of sorts by the constant bickering and rivalry.”

Continue reading

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The Rhythms of Ranch Life

Posted on by Eileen Garvin / Leave a comment

My childhood summers in Idaho were endless days of outdoor exploration— the wind in my face riffling off Lake Coeur d’Alene, well-worn trail under bare feet, and sun-filled woods, where I roamed freely with my siblings and friends.

Our daily timetable was dictated by the natural world—up with the sun and home by dark to meet around the dinner table. These memories returned to me as I read Frankie Ravan, by Idaho author Floyd Loomis.

The year is 1958. In a small mountain town called Crawford’s Nook, eight-year-old Frankie Ravan is coming of age within the safe confines of post-World War II America. Loomis chronicles the typical boyhood adventures of rural life in the mid-century—sampling cigarettes and beer, pondering the first hints of sexuality, and mourning the accidental death of another local boy. Daily life at the Ravan ranch, where Frankie lives with his parents and two older siblings, is full of the regular and comforting rhythms of harvesting, hunting, baking, and preserving. With his best friends Charlie and Tom, Frankie suffers the cruelties of older, rougher boys and the inevitable tragedies that befall any community, but are felt more deeply in a small town—arson, child abuse, and the deaths of loved ones. But mostly this a story about the innocent splendor of early childhood—horses, motorbikes, swimming holes, and the freedom to roam at will in a little town that holds them all close. Continue reading

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What Happened to My Lemonade?

Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

My summer calendar had been an ambitious one. So, when last Friday afternoon showed promise for a sunny fall weekend and my smart phone didn’t flash frowny-faced emoticon warnings of double-booked events, I felt an old favorite lemonade commercial coming on.

I was transported by visions of hammocks, songbirds, gentle breezes, palm fronds, and juicy grapes. Then I went home.

“What time shall we leave in the morning?” Mrs. Hammock-Hater Carr asked before the garage door rattled down.

Okay, she didn’t confront me with, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

But getting unscathed through this one would require every bit as much tact and diversion. Not a stranger to awkward bewilderment, I raced through my mental playbook, hoping to salvage some weekend privileges. Deference is dangerous, it can lead to quilt shows and craft fairs, but it buys precious time, necessary clues.

“What time would you like to leave?”

“Oh, if we leave by seven, we should be fine.” Continue reading

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The People’s Museum

Posted on by Joyce Driggs Edlefsen / Leave a comment

I blame the name.

Had I not been born with the name of Driggs, a town hugging the Tetons in far eastern Idaho, my interest in history likely would not have been so strong.

But early on, as soon as someone found out my name, he or she asked the same question: “Was the town named after you?”

The short answer: “Yes, kind of.”

The more complicated explanation: “It was more or less governmental convenience.” Many people with the surname Driggs had signed a petition to secure a post office in their Teton Valley village—so many that the post office bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., named the post office “Driggs.”

Without the same name as the town, I likely wouldn’t be versed in that history. And maybe I wouldn’t have paid much attention to the story of my mother’s side of the family, which also figured early in the valley history. Nor would I be as vested in the area’s history.

Given my family heritage and a professional background in journalism and photography, it seemed natural to me after retirement to volunteer at the Teton Valley Museum. I had no knowledge of the workings of the place, having made only a couple of visits over a few years. But when I walked in the front door, the museum’s head volunteer, Kay Fullmer, didn’t take long to accept me into her team.

More than a year later, I now understand why it was unusual for Kay to welcome me into the fold on the spot. The close-knit group of museum board members is quite selective about who works there.

“They have to fit in,” is how Kay puts it.

But they liked my skill set, and it didn’t hurt to have the same name as the town. Continue reading

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The Stoddard Mill Pond

Posted on by Geraldine Mathias / Leave a comment

When our daughter married into the Stoddard clan and introduced us to present-day descendants, I soon realized a family of great storytellers had come into our midst. They were eager to share family escapades and adventures, but since she and her extended in-law family live in the Boise area and I’m in Blackfoot, not until the last four or five years did I realize their family is steeped in eastern Idaho history as well. To my surprise, I found that the site of the Stoddard Mill Pond in Island Park, about fifteen miles from our summer home, was once a thriving lumber enterprise owned for six generations by this same Stoddard family.

When the Stoddards gave up their lease in the early 1960s and moved the mill to St. Anthony, the site and the pond were reclaimed by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, which recently restored it to its original depth of six feet and turned it into a kids’ fishing pond stocked with rainbow trout. Only children are allowed to fish the pond, and catch limits apply. It is an easy drive along Highway 20 north of Ashton toward Elk Creek Station, and then, about five miles down Yale-Kilgore road, a very small, high sign directs visitors to the pond, and I think it’s the perfect place for a kid to learn to fish. The pond is round and flat, with no shrubs lining its perimeter, so children can be taught to cast a line on calm water. Several picnic tables surround the sides where families can eat lunch, wait, or watch fledgling fishermen catch dinner. A floating dock and a fishing platform have been installed.

Plans of several Island Park groups include erecting a kiosk that will tell the history of the pond, but that hasn’t happened yet. Across the narrow road from the pond, three large concrete foundations remain from the mill site. About a hundred yards away from the pond in the fringe of trees that fronts the more dense forest is the former location of the mill camp and facilities.

Besides the pond, little remains to suggest the existence of the small Idaho town of Rea, where the mill was last located. But Larry Dalling, son of Alta Stoddard Low, brought the place alive for me with his animated narrative about living there during the summers as a young boy and teenager. His cousin, Ron Stoddard, has also told me many stories, as he was the last Stoddard to own the mill, whose history goes back more than 130 years. Continue reading

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Posted on by Francisco Lozano / Leave a comment

Two years ago, I once again took up watching the old TV series Little House on the Prairie. When I first saw it as a child in black-and-white, the program spawned fantasies of living in the wilderness.

But I lived in Los Angeles, and remained there for almost thirty years, until my wife and I moved to Garden Valley in 2012. No sooner did I realize we would relocate to the mountains of Idaho than I started watching that old show again, as if it would prepare me mentally for the change of habitat and the cultural shock I was about to experience.

Nowadays, I often find myself going alone into the wilderness, and have learned to cherish this solitude, although I realize it can be dangerous at times. Some places are accessible only by ATV or motorcycle, unless you have a horse, and on those occasions even my dog can’t come along. I now do some of the same things the children on the show did, such as going fishing alone at a creek with a lunch sack and sometimes with the dog. I had never fished in my life and, to my surprise, I caught two trout the first time I tried. Continue reading

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2014 Cover Photo Contest

Posted on by Kitty Delorey Fleischman / Leave a comment

The results of IDAHO magazine’s annual photo contest are in. The entries were many, the competition stiff, and decisions difficult.

The rules, as usual, were simple. Each photo had to depict an Idaho setting and contain at least one person, although not necessarily as the primary subject. In blind voting, judges selected their five favorite images, in numerical order. The weighted votes were then tallied.

In a future issue, you’ll see the winning shot as the cover of a print edition of IDAHO magazine. In the meantime, here are the winners online for our visitors. You also can view winners from past years on this website, by clicking on the “Contests” tab at the top of the home page. Choose “Photo Contest” from the dropdown menu, and then click “View Gallery” in the sidebar. Continue reading

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