I guess you could say I’ve never been much of an explorer, at least in the traditional sense of the word. I do like to explore new experiences on my own, such as creating a home network, troubleshooting IT issues, or developing new photography techniques through watching YouTube videos and then practicing.
But sadly, even though I’ve lived in Idaho pretty much my entire life, I never really got into being outdoors. Don’t get me wrong—I love the smell of a campfire, or the aroma in the woods after a rainstorm. It’s just that hiking was never fun to me. Before I took up photographing Idaho as a hobby, I actually dreaded hikes, which struck me as tedious. But now I enjoy capturing the beauty of, say, a hike in the Driggs area, or a climb up Menan Buttes. Lately, I’ve come to regard each new outing as another opportunity to explore my home state.
The few residents of Atlanta, deep in the Sawtooth National Forest, are the kind of people who find harmony with nature—and in recent years, they have occasionally extended this connection to actually nurturing local wildlife.
A plague of wildfires in the region has induced animals to take up residence near the quiet little town. Last summer, among this group of displaced creatures was a pair of male foxes, most likely littermates. Desperate for food and shelter, one of the foxes kept to his natural instincts of hunting and scavenging for food, while the other took a different approach. Continue reading →
What in the world am I doing? Am I crazy? Did you hear that smack? Am I hurt? Is this a midlife crisis? Such questions crash through my mind as I lie loose-limbed on my back looking at the metal-beamed ceiling above me through a metal-barred cage across my face.
The cage is the front of my hockey helmet. The ceiling is the cover over the ice rink in Idaho Falls. I’m back-bound because a new skater who doesn’t know how to stop just took me out from behind. I dropped as quickly as an icicle unhinged from a roof’s raingutter.
It’s week one of hockey season for the Idaho Falls Youth Hockey Association. Dozens of chilly-faced children are at the city rink for their first hockey lesson. They pile through the gate onto the ice like chips poured out of a bag. They sort themselves into a single layer and try to stand. They scramble for footing on finely-ground skate blades, find no steady stance, and pinwheel their limbs until they’re laid out on the ice again. Continue reading →
At a freeway exit west of Caldwell, the landscape dips as it stretches west to Sand Hollow, a valley of rolling fields feeding a trickle of a stream lined with cattails, poplar, and purple loosestrife.
Farm homes dot the landscape, many of them surrounded by planted forests. A friend who goes by “Speedy” lives in one of these little forests. He loves the owls and quail and rabbits and hummingbirds and the occasional cougar that all make his abode part of their regular rounds.
Hoping to attract a croaking toad to his garden a few years ago, Speedy decided to dig a little pond between his small yard and the dense trees. The water did attract a more abundant population of critters away from the irrigation ditches, but he soon found himself with a problem—algae loved the pond. To control the algae, he purchased a dozen “feeder fish,” what I’d always known as “inexpensive goldfish,” but what keepers of larger fish call “feeders” for a reason. Continue reading →
During 2012, the huge Sheep Fire raged for several weeks in the Nez Perce National Forest near our home on Slate Creek, south of White Bird.
My husband Glenn and I were in the Black Hills of South Dakota when it started, and concerned neighbors and friends called to let us know about the threat. I asked my sewing buddy, Ruth, to go to my house if the fire got close, take out all my quilts, and pack them in the car.
As it turned out, we arrived home in time to get ready for possible evacuation. Of course, the first things we packed were important papers, pictures, and clothing, but my quilts were next on the list. In the end, we didn’t have to evacuate. Firefighters, those wonderful men and women who risk their lives for the rest of us, established a fire line a mile east of our home, and it held.
The reason I placed such a high priority on my quilts in that emergency begins with childhood memories.
“Look, Sis, here’s a piece of material from my old skirt.”
“And one from Daddy’s shirt.”
“And from the dress you used to love.”
My sister Phyllis and I sat on the double bed we shared, the kerosene lamp lit beside us, and examined the latest of Grandma Ball’s homemade quilts. Growing up in a small village in the Alaska Territory, we were always covered by a few quilts when the wind was howling, or a raging blizzard was screaming outside, and the temperatures were way below zero. I remember times when the whole family took our mattresses and bedding (including many quilts) downstairs to the living room, to be closer to the oil stove. Sometimes the radio would crackle as we tried to listen to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and His Dog King and other radio programs but it was fun, and we laughed together as we huddled under our quilts, until it was time to sleep.
My in-laws, who settled in Slate Creek Canyon in the early Forties, were thrifty, capable people who recycled numerous items (they called it “making do”), refashioning them to last for many years in one form or another. They often made “new” quilts out of worn-out clothing, patching them as needed. Glenn’s mother Myrtle saved old clothes and made treasured Lone Star Quilts for each of her grandchildren, using pieces of Grandpa’s shirts, Grandma’s clothing, and material from the child (and his or her parents) for whom the quilt was being made. Continue reading →
Relaxing on the couch after work, studying the Idaho Statesman, you hear an annoying rattling, but there’s no one else in the room. You put the paper down and look around. The sound is gone. A month later, you pick up your toothbrush and your right arm doesn’t move fast. You check your biceps in the mirror and see the same reassuring bulge on both sides. Everything is fine again until a hovering office colleague asks why you’re mad. You tell her you’re perfectly fine with her, but she won’t leave it alone. She says she can see it in your face. And furthermore, you don’t swing your right arm when you walk, so you must have had a stroke. You want to tell her off but instead go out of your way to smile. And swing your right arm.
You worry from time to time. Could you be taking stress to bed with you? Your wife says you yell in your sleep. You see the doctor who does a complete history and physical and gets a CT scan. He finds nothing unusual but fixates on your infrequent bowel movements.
“Get more rest,” he says. “And don’t forget to exercise.” Continue reading →
“What? We’re moving to Hazelton? No way—no one moves to Hazelton! What about all our friends?” This was the reaction when our parents informed us kids in 1966 that we were moving to a farm at the end of Ridgeway Road a little east and south of Hazelton, about twenty-seven miles from our home in Rupert. As usually happens, we did make great new friends, one of whom was my future husband.
Before that move, the only memory I had of Hazelton was when we passed through it one Thanksgiving. We had been trying to visit my grandparents in Nampa but drove into a big blizzard, the snow coming down so fast that we had to turn around and go back home. Before the interstate system was built, to get from Rupert to Nampa you took a two-lane highway through Paul, Hazelton, Eden, Jerome, Bliss, King Hill, Glenns Ferry, and then on to Mountain Home and Boise. In Hazelton that Thanksgiving Day, I remember we looked for a telephone to call my grandparents, but not a single place was open. We had to turn around and call from the nearby little Greenwood Store.
We moved to Hazelton during my sister’s senior year at Minico Senior High School between Paul and Rupert, which meant we drove to Minico and back frequently, so she could graduate with her friends. My brother bought a car and we either rode with him or took the bus, which dropped us off at Kasota Road, about six miles from our farm, and Mom picked us up there. These trips gave my brother and me time to meet people and make friends before we started at Valley High School. Continue reading →
Along the Boise River Greenbelt near Eagle, a man and his daughter had caught three little crayfish in a big ol’ bucket, but there was promise for more, and they ran from hole to hot spot in search of the tasty, miniature lobsters. Two other fishers were clearly in love as they showed off their puny catch, and a couple celebrating their sixteenth anniversary posed for a picture along the Bethine Church River Trail. A woman surfed with grace at the well-known recreational wave. All of them seemed to be enjoying the present.
The twenty-mile greenbelt from Eagle Island State Park to Lucky Peak Reservoir includes six parks, wildlife sanctuaries, a municipal golf course, land “donated” as a consequence of bridges built across the river, the Idaho Fish and Game Nature Center, and a stretch along Boise State University, among other acreages. There’s also the 36,000-acre Boise River Wildlife Management Area, which skirts Lucky Peak Reservoir, to support deer and elk wintering range. This seems entirely the “people’s stretch” of the river, although it also supports a wide variety of wildlife. Continue reading →