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The Chorale Sings Beethoven

Posted on by Cate Huisman / Leave a comment

It is a warm, bright September evening, the kind that gives no hint of the cold and dark that will inevitably come. Sweaterless, I toss my notebook and pencils—I can’t sing without a pencil—into my bike basket and pedal off to an autumn ritual: the first practice of the Pend Oreille Chorale as it prepares for its Christmas performances.

As I park my bike under the eaves of the church where we practice, I see Caren through the window adjusting the pillows and books that will put her at just the right height to accompany us on the piano. Beyond, I see her husband Mark in his usual well-worn jeans and work shirt, riffling through the score on the conductor’s stand.

Rehearsal begins with reunion. I greet my fellow tenors, the altos who sing the notes I once could, the sopranos whose ranges I haven’t had since grade school. I hear about Gloria’s new grandchild, and Jackie’s new job at the hospital, and ask Ed if he’s in shape for the ski season. I’m pleased to see that Charlie’s back; as one of a few who have been in the group since it first performed twenty years ago (when he was but a youth of seventy-four), he helps maintain its institutional memory and culture.

None of us would be here were it not for the distinctive devotion of Mark and Caren Reiner. They are, as Charlie says, “unimaginably caring mentors.” When they arrived in Sandpoint in 1992, they noticed that the community lacked a chorale and orchestra, and saw they might be able to do something about these omissions. It would be their contribution to the health and well-being of their new community. Continue reading

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Something about the Banjo

Posted on by Desiré Aguirre / Leave a comment

There’s something about the banjo that reaches out and grabs me. Bagpipes always make me cry, but the banjo slashes away all doom and gloom, dries teardrops, and paints a smile on my face.

The banjo, a simple, old-time instrument with a percussion head and a unique sound, forces my toes to tap and my laugh to erupt.

A newcomer to the art of performing music, I am blessed to have an assortment of role models that encourage, delight, and mentor my fledgling attempts. Scott Reid, a professional musician and Sandpoint icon, always treats me as if I were, well, a real musician. Best of all, his banjo playing inspires me to keep on practicing.

Scott performs with style and grace, breathing life into whatever instrument he has in hand, and layering it with smooth vocals that welcome and delight. His style weaves the genres of country, rock, and folk into a delicate tapestry. Scott can play “Stairway to Heaven” and Jimi Hendrix on the banjo, or perform old-timey frailing style, using the back of the nail on his middle finger as a pick, and mix that up with some Gypsy fiddle, heartfelt blues guitar, and songs he has written about robbing trains and Idaho winters. The banjo is his favorite instrument. “The banjo taught me everything I know about the guitar,” he told me. Continue reading

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Big Water on the Bruneau

Posted on by Ray Brooks / Leave a comment

I barely managed to catch an eddy, slammed the back of my raft’s right pontoon into the rock on which my wife Dorita was perched, and screamed, “Jump on if you can.”

She jumped strongly, landing chest-first on a fairly soft bag. OK, now I have to get back out into the current without hitting any rocks, I thought. As I started pulling my way back into the raging red torrent of the Bruneau River, the raft took off like a porpoise. Before I was able to work my way uphill to the center of the torrent, the pontoon on the right side hit a large rock. The impact of the collision launched Dorita and me off the raft. I flew out of the boat like Superman, grabbing an oarlock as my head went into the river.

Before all this happened, there was a time when the trip seemed like a good idea. Dorita’s seventy-year-old father, Ed, wanted to go down the river, and Dorita and I had previously rafted the forty-mile-long Class IV stretch, considering it a great experience. Class IV requires practiced skills, Class V is for experts, and almost nobody ever attempts Class VI rapids. But Ed had done various whitewater day trips with us. No problem.

Since it is good to have more than one raft on remote trips, we invited our buddy Ben, who also had Bruneau River experience. Of course, he wanted to bring his father, too. And Dorita’s sister Renae wanted to take an inflatable kayak down the river. Why not?

The Bruneau has a short window of optimal runoff for raft trips every spring. We wanted to be on it while it was running between about 1200 and 2000 CFS (cubic feet per second). Below that level, we would be damaging rafts on unavoidable rocks, and above that, it was even more dangerous. The Bureau of Land Management’s river guidebook strongly recommends not running the river when it is above 2,500 CFS.

The best date for all of us that year, 1995, was Memorial Day weekend. The river would be crowded, but we planned on an afternoon launch and two nights camping. Continue reading

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They Know, Somehow

Posted on by G.T. Rees / Leave a comment

I poked my head above the sagebrush and cursed under my breath. Forty head or more of antelope had just vanished somewhere on the rolling range. Where the hell could they have gone?

The valley wasn’t wide, maybe a little more than a mile from where I was at the root of the snowcapped Sawtooths, which climbed several thousand feet from where Highway 28 cut through the lonely Lemhi Valley.

I got up on my knees, thankful for the kneepads and leather gloves I had almost neglected to bring. About ten of those “speed goats” were grazing far down toward the highway, but there was no sign at all of the large herd I’d been stalking for more than an hour, belly-crawling through what slight cover was available. This was my first antelope hunt, and it was a lot harder than I had planned on it being. It was the second day of my hunt, and the umpteenth failed stalk. Get within five hundred yards, and the critters would just take off.

It was easy to locate them. I just drove along the lonesome highway south of Leadore until I spotted my quarry. But then I tried, and repeatedly failed, to put a stalk on them. It wasn’t working at all like they did it on the hunting shows. Continue reading

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Posted on by Isabel Huff / Leave a comment

If you think this little town of one hundred people is a sleepy country village, think again. Porthill bustles with activity, as hundreds of tourists, commercial vehicles, and residents from both sides of the border make the customs offices very busy. Ever since 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has had beefed-up security, and all people crossing the border need passports.

But the Canada Border Services Agency’s port has no fences, gates, or warning signs. I remember a Canadian customs official commenting years ago, “It’s your side of the border that has gates locked at night.” U.S. customs is a part of Porthill, but the Canadian port has no settlement around it.

One of the busiest places in Porthill nowadays is the post office, for many Canadians take advantage of our favorable postal rates by having a mailbox here. Around noon, when the mail arrives, an influx of Canadians arrives for their mail, and they often continue on to a modular building where as many as three hundred packages a day are processed. Because of higher postage rates in Canada, many people from across the border have goods shipped to Porthill by private carrier. A Canadian friend told me that a sewing machine part she had sent to Porthill would have cost twenty dollars more if it had been sent to her house in Creston, just seven miles north.

Online companies that offer free shipping save Canadian consumers considerable money, but my friend tells me it hurts business in Creston. Instead of shopping locally, folks shop online for everything from baby gifts to books to expensive electronics. A two-sided coin, for sure. Continue reading

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My Passion Safari

Posted on by Steve Carr / Leave a comment

I’m drowning in passion­—everyone else’s passions. David’s passion for golf, Kitty’s passion for Idaho history, Pepper’s passion for her dog bone. Now even the advertisers are rubbing it in. A current ad for an electronic device that does it all, from playing Beethoven (the composer) to walking Beethoven (the dog) asks, “Everyone has a passion . . . what will your verse be?”

I don’t know my passion, dag gummit, and if your fancy computer is so great, why can’t it tell me mine?

Recently, on a flight east, while hunkered in my seat searching my know-it-all tablet computer for my verse, my seatmate introduced himself, saying he was an efficiency consultant for a chemical firm. In the same breath, he said, “So what’s your passion?”

My first thought was, this guy’s trying to pick me up. My reaction was a flush of embarrassment at the flattery—no one has flirted with me since high school. Next, I worried about how to let this guy down easy—after first soliciting a few compliments—for we would be sharing an armrest for several hours. Continue reading

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The Dream Lives

Posted on by Bill Strange / Leave a comment

I went into the Jerome Library the other day and realized that since I first moved to town in 1998, much has changed—not only inside the building but in me, concerning how I think about and use libraries.

Before I moved here, I probably hadn’t visited a library more than two or three times since leaving college, and I still held the misconception that they were operated by gray-haired ladies who checked out books and shelved them according to some indecipherable system of their own, all the while maintaining the reverent silence of a funeral home. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

The first few years after I retired and moved to Jerome, I worked at two or three temporary jobs, but mostly I checked out books at the library, went fishing in good weather, and read when it was too wet, windy, or cold to fish. When I learned of a used book sale at the library, I bought a bag full of books at a bargain price. I spoke to a lady working at the sale, who invited me to join the Friends of the Library (FOL). The dues were, and still are, ten dollars a year. I’ve been attending the monthly meetings all this time, and am now president of the group.

By 2005, demands on our library had grown to the point that expansion and renovation of the building were badly needed. Thanks to a million-dollar donation from the estate of schoolteacher and longtime Jerome resident Evelyn Crowder, we completed a remodel and expansion of the facility in 2006.

I often wonder what the women who founded the library back in 1909 would think if they could visit it today and see our more than thirty thousand volumes, maintained with an annual operating budget of more than three hundred thousand dollars. Continue reading

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At Indian Creek

Posted on by John McCarthy / Leave a comment

Day seven of pulling a crosscut saw to clear trail in the wilderness presented our final challenge—to cut enough of the seemingly endless deadfall to matter. As we hiked up the trail in the early light, the crew again rallied. With the morning warming, three crosscut saws sang across the forest as sharp teeth bit down into logs, propelled by the cadence of pumping, paired arms. I bumped ahead on the advance team, swinging a Pulaski or ax-adze combination tool, chopping limbs, smacking wood, preparing logs for the saws’ bite.

Rain at lunch break didn’t slow us down. The fresh wet only cooled us before we went back out and hit the trail hard, knocking off logs, jumping ahead for the next downed tree. Late in the afternoon, facing our last hour at work, I pushed out front to chop small stuff and ready big logs. Through a tangle of fallen lodgepole pine, I spotted the welcome sight of another cut log at the other side. We reached our goal of connecting two stretches of cut-out trail in the wilderness.

We’d cut out six miles of trail in a week, sawing and chopping more than a thousand logs in the wide expanse of the wilderness. It felt like a triumph. We hiked back to camp along the undulating trail, looking at our fine finished work, striding fast with a bounce. Satisfaction capped a tough job, and accomplishment overcame exhaustion. A week in the wilderness of Idaho is always an adventure. A week spent reopening an almost-lost trail enhances the challenges and the rewards of being in the wilderness. Continue reading

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In the Desert

Posted on by Clay Almquist / Leave a comment

My love of Owyhee County started when I was barely two years old. Back then, I frequently stayed with my aunt and uncle in Guffey, where my aunt told me stories of Owyhee County, including tales of Big Foot, the Lost Dutchman Mine, and the ruins of Spanish conquistadors.

Of course, I had no idea at the time of how rich my own family’s history was in the region. Now, at age sixty-seven, I’m deeply engaged in genealogy research our family is conducting in the county. My role is to repair old photographs. I also have explored all the county lands owned by my ancestors, and have traversed the area in all directions from corner to corner, on foot and in my jeep. I have taken hundreds of photographs in communities, and of land formations and wildlife.

My sister, Sharon Job, became interested in genealogy research when she was thirteen years old. This prompted our mother, Virginia Almquist, to ask relatives for information about the history of her family. For decades, they collected wedding invitations, birth announcements, pictures, obituaries, and other materials. Sharon has entered much of this information into a computer program and plans to coauthor a book with relatives in Canada and Pennsylvania. Continue reading

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Out of Season

Posted on by Jana Kemp / Leave a comment

Mom, this strawberry tastes awful,” my eight-year-old girl said one September. I tasted it and, sure enough, she was right. She didn’t know that strawberry season was over, but her taste buds had detected the fact. I soon discovered that this child, whose taste buds are significantly more refined than my own, could tell when things were “wrong” with apples, too.

Taste buds, located on our tongues, work differently for everyone. For some of us, these little clusters of bulbous nerve-endings in our mouths communicate little to nothing to our brains. For others, they can communicate a nuanced range of flavors, from happy to disgusting. For those who have highly refined taste bud communication centers, individual ingredients can be sensed and in-season flavors ascertained. Continue reading

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