My mother is the daughter of a Danish immigrant. Consequently, she can’t speak a word of Danish, but does know every American English figure of speech—and then some. A century ago, when boatloads of Scandinavians came to Idaho to start anew, they immersed. They left their native languages, if not those difficult accents, in the old country. They insisted on English even if they did beat dead horses with Ben Franklin’s aphorisms and idioms. Continue reading →
On a bright afternoon in a warmer-than-normal March, from the driveway of John and Linda Wolfe’s house on the hillside above Pocatello, I see the sun glinting on the remains of mountain snowbanks which, in wetter years, would still cover the canyons.
Around the house, decorated flowerpots and painted metal sculptures gleam and spin. Inside, Linda and John greet me warmly, as do their dogs, Rosie, Abby, and Buster. My visit to these long-standing friends is not completely social. I have come to discuss a book illustration project with Linda, an artist I have worked with for more than thirty years. Continue reading →
Each year during the third week of June, roughly 350 musicians from thirty states and their fans congregate at Weiser for the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival. Fiddling arrived in Weiser with covered wagon emigrants in 1863, and contests were reported as early as 1914. The current festival and contest, first held in 1953, now ranks among fiddling’s “Big Three,” alongside the Grand Master Fiddle Championships in Nashville and the World Championships of Fiddling in Crockett, Texas. Continue reading →
The distant rumble of an all-too-familiar summer storm approaches from the west. I take a few steps outside my place near Jerome and look to the southeast, to judge how high the clouds are by the amount of light being reflected from the radio towers on the butte. The faint red glow tells me that lightning is more than likely hitting the ground. Another two rumbles that sound as I walk back into the house to grab my camera confirm my earlier thought. I decide to grab the camera, umbrella, and a jacket and walk onto the field rather than driving, as I am most likely working against a quickly shrinking timetable. With gear in hand, I head out and am instantly greeted by the cool, musty smell of rain being driven my way by the breeze. Continue reading →
In the sparsely populated areas of rural Idaho, people go by a code of honor: “Don’t mess with things that don’t belong to you.” As strange as it may seem to city dwellers, something can be left in the same spot for a surprisingly long time without being touched by anyone.
For example, a late-1920s Model A Ford sat off the side of a regularly used county road near Fairfield for several decades. To be more accurate, only part of the vehicle remained visible for at least a dozen years—until the ravages of time accounted for its final state of almost total decay, when scrap collectors hauled it away—but you get my point. Continue reading →
My brother and I shared a dream of flying—something that most Americans in 1965 had never experienced. Like everyone, we were awed by the allure of the sparkling new jets that graced magazine covers, which boldly heralded the arrival of “the jet age” and “the jet set.” We had seen jet airplanes before. For a few years, we occasionally saw one pass many thousands of feet above us, etching a long, white contrail in the blue as it leapfrogged over our valley, and our state. They were always so high, we couldn’t tell whether we were looking at an airliner or a military plane. And then, in October of 1964, United Airlines introduced its first tentative jet service to Boise. Thus began a period of wondrous and uneasy transformation for Will and me. Continue reading →
Most folks who travel around the state will have run into a bucolic scene such as the one in this photo by John Lewis, posted on IDAHO magazine’s Facebook page a while back. The image drew both praise and a word of caution, which perhaps says something about our complex times. Continue reading →
The water washes the numbness from my legs as we drag the kayaks behind us up the river. Despite it being the start of June in the Owyhee Mountains, early summer in the high desert has brought temperatures that make me regret leaving my gloves on the kitchen table at home.
The thought of handling metal tent poles with bare hands sends a shiver through my body and I’m glad that four miles of the Owyhee River flow between me and the campsite. Continue reading →