The Final Chapter. When you take out the trash, don’t go digging through the dumpster. With Love from the Book of O.G.

There are many chapters in the Book of O.G., but for me, this one is the final and most important. Every person in the world has, or eventually will, suffer a heart-tearing loss.

Yesterday it was my turn.

Yet, despite the loss of my hilariously goofy, completing loving, sometimes bossy and demanding, but almost always right, Mamma, I feel tremendous peace and joy.

A few weeks ago, Mamma and I were sitting in the kitchen visiting. I was sideways about something going on in my life, and Mamma said: “I know your feeling some hurt right now, but do yourself a favor and let it go.”

I grumbled a bit more and said to her: “You really do amaze me Mamma. I know you’ve went through many terrible times in your life, but somehow you never let the bitterness get to you.”

She laughed and replied: “I learned a long time ago, when you take out the trash, don’t go digging through the dumpster.”

We didn’t talk any more about what she said. I got busy with my morning routine and she snuggled up in her chair next to the fireplace and dozed.

This morning, her simple statement from a few weeks ago, hit me like a freight train at full throttle. I realized my Mamma had just given me the single most important piece of advice I will ever receive… and I almost missed it.

I spent some time in reflection and quickly realized there is a lot of trash in my life that I needed to take to the dumpster.

I am going to start my clean-up plan by scouring every shred of bitterness out of my life. I know that will take some serious elbow grease, but I can do it.

Then I plan to take a bucket of bleach and scrub my sharp and spiteful tongue. It always seemed like a pithy platitude when Mamma would tell me: “It’s just as easy to say something kind, as it is to say something hateful.”

It isn’t pithy anymore.

Once those two chores are done, I am going to find me a shovel and dig up all of my resentments, seal them in a tight drum, and toss them in the biggest dumpster I can find.

I know those three chores are going to take a herculean effort on my part, but I have no doubt I can achieve my goals.

And here is why…while my heart will ache every remaining day for my Mamma, I now realize I just spent 55 years as the student of a woman who was a well of wisdom, and a true fountain of love.

It’s time I put that excellent education of mine to good use.

Life is always interesting…surviving it should be too. From the Book of O.G.

My sweet 93 year-old Mamma has been in lock down for over a month now. She hates it. But in her typical pragmatic way, she’s discovered the best way to deal with her situation is through–what she calls–a healthy dose of “full of crappedness.”
I call her everyday, as do most of my family, not only because I love her and miss her, but also because I know my Mamma will put a perspective on this whole Covid-19 pandemic that will not only cheer me up, but actually make me laugh out loud.
A couple of nights ago, I was interviewing Mamma for the Book of O.G. I asked her how this tumultuous time compared to some of the other things she’s lived through.
Mamma didn’t miss a beat. If you know her, you can hear her belly-chuckle. If you don’t know her, imagine a woman barely 5 feet tall, sitting in a chair, her feet dangling an inch or two from the floor, giggling like a shy, high-school girl, who just got asked to the prom by the captain of the football team.
“Oh my,” she said. “Do you remember the Great Depression?”
“Really Mamma?” I answered. “It was over, 30 years before I was born.”
“I know that,” she replied, still giggling. “You don’t remember World War II, Korea, The Bay of Pigs, or most of the Vietnam war either.”
“Right…so, what’s your point?”
Mamma gulped down the rest of her chuckles, cleared her throat, and answered:
“When you’ve lived as long as me, you don’t think of terrible times as ‘Oh my gosh! What am I going to do?’ You think more like, ‘Hear we go again. Can’t wait until this is over, and I can hang out with my friends and have a smoke or two.'”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that one. Seriously, I do not condone smoking, but Mamma has smoked since she was 13 years-old, and when she can hang out on my porch with her best-friend, Arla, and have a smoke or two, she is in elderly-lady heaven.
“This is life,” she said, much more serious than she had been before. “you can throw a fit, have a melt-down, worry yourself into an early grave…or, you can accept the fact there are always good times in your life, and there are always bad times in your life. My advise is embrace the good, deal with the bad, and laugh at every opportunity.”
Her words actually choked me up for a minute, but I finally managed to ask: “So, during a time like this, I need to find a bit of humor huh?”
“Of course,” she said, giggling again. “Want to hear a good joke?”
“Yes,” I answered.
Mamma’s jokes are always horrible, and she giggles for at least 10 minutes before she gets to the punch line.
“So what’s your joke, Mamma?”
“Do you know how Idaho got it’s name?”
“Okay, I’ll bite. How did Idaho get it’s name?”
Through gales of laughter and uncontrollable giggling, Mamma finally got to the punch line.
“….So the Governor says: “What should we name this state? And the poor fellow with a heavy lisp says: ‘I don ho.’ Idaho it is!” replied the Governor in a booming voice.”
“Dang, Marget,” the fellow said. “I juth may hithory!”
I am still laughing.

Bliss is a diamond in the rough

It always makes my day when someone asks me to research a history question they have concerning Idaho. I have an insatiable appetite for history–which my husband says is a form of mental illness–but there it is. If I can find an excuse to do some research, I’m all for it.

Usually people ask questions about what I call, “big ticket stuff.” What was the Carey Land Act? What is the history of the Minidoka Internment Camp? Etc. I rarely get asked questions about my hometown, which is a teensy dot on the map where a few in and out-of-staters stop to fuel up and grab a quick bite before getting back on the I84 speedway.

This weekend a good friend asked me a question about a little shack and a foundation north of Bliss, and the search for answers was on. It didn’t take long to find the answer…It was one of several little school houses that dotted the area in the late 1880s and early 1900s. It was obsolete by 1920, because the Bliss School District was formed.

Might I add, Bliss High School will graduate its 100th senior class in May of 2020!

But, back to my story. Finding out the ruins were once a school house whetted my appetite to see if I could figure out why a school house was built in such a remote, and frankly odd, Upper Clover Creek location.

I’m still digging for information, but I will share what I’ve found so far.

The town of Bliss would probably not have existed in the 1880s, or today, if not for the Oregon Short Line. In 1883, a well was drilled in Bliss, a steam powered pump and water tank were erected, and a siding was built. This was done because east bound trains, after the long pull up from the valley floor at Glenns Ferry and over the King Hill grade, had just enough water to reach the little station.

Few in that day figured Bliss would ever become a major Idaho city…and it didn’t, but the consensus at the time was Bliss could be great for agriculture if water were delivered to it. And so it is.

But prior to the Carey Land Act, and the irrigation systems that grew out of the act, Bliss’s biggest draw was its quiet anonymity. Many of her early settlers built small farms or ranches, but some of them had more of a “hermit” attitude and simply wanted to be left alone. They were called hermit miners or hermit farmers by most, because they didn’t buy land or build homes but instead used existing geography to make their homes out of. One such family, who’s children attended the school was the Connaway family.

Little information is available about this family, but according to oral history, the family lived in dugout in the Hole-In-The-Wall area north of Bliss.
There were at least six children in the family, two of which died quite young, and are buried in Pioneer Cemetery, which is also north of Bliss. Lorna Bard, who often wrote of Bliss history, wrote that her parents spoke of the Connaway family and that some of the Connaway children, “attended the little school that was south and west of Blanch, which is now the ranch owned by the Huxhold family.”

Another family, who’s name is lost to history, sent at least three of their children to this school. This family lived in a small cave complex for at least one year, possibly two, near the school.

I’m still researching to find out what other families may have attended the school. My mamma recalls meeting a young person when she was in high school, who was a member of a hermit family in the late 1930s. This person was looking for a job, and claimed to have attended school, “near Bray Lake.”

One thing that I did get from the number of interviews I conducted this weekend, is Bliss pioneers considered education opportunities for their children to be of paramount importance. There were six of these little schools dotted around the Bliss area in 1893!

Lydia Bliss, who my grandmother knew and had great respect for, taught in at least two of these schools, and my great-grandmother Brewer taught for a short time in the Lower Clover Creek School.

The research continues! I am going out to the site next weekend to see what I can “dig” up. I will be taking one of my old–and I say that with the deepest respect–buddies with me.

Stay tuned!

The Art of Procrastination

According to Webster, procrastination means: To put off taking action until a future time.

Hmmm…I had to look the word up because I decided today, I would spend the day procrastinating and I wanted to make sure I did it correctly.

So far so good.

Earlier this morning I made a list of all of the things I should be doing and promptly put the list under my pillow, and went outside to drink my morning coffee.

I spent exactly 21 minutes procrastinating and it wasn’t near as easy as I thought it should be. Most of the time, I was thinking about all of the things I really, really needed to get done. And a fly landed in my coffee.

At that point, I decided it was time to contemplate a proper procrastinating procedure, before actually attempting to properly procrastinate. So… I washed my morning dishes and put a load of wash in the dryer.

I went back outside with a fresh cup of coffee and quickly realized flies do not understand, or apparently care, about my need for a full day of procrastination. And, clearly, they like coffee.

I came back in the house, got new fly strips for the porch, and changed out all of the old ones, poured myself another cup of coffee, and headed for the living room. I thought if perhaps I turned on a good movie, I would be able to get some serious procrastinating done.

There isn’t much worth watching on a weekend morning, so I put it on a DIY network and watched some woman tear down the inside of a huge house…and put it back together in one hour. I also folded and put away my laundry, vacuumed the floor, and dusted.

It was at this moment, I realized I suck at procrastinating and it’s not my fault. I’ve been taught since I was a little kid to get my chores done when they’re supposed to be done. “Don’t put off until tomorrow what needs doing today,” is one of my mama’s favorite sayings.

I retrieved my “to do” list from under my pillow, only to realize I had completed most of it.

Hmmm…I added 15 more things to the list and promptly went to work. Halfway through my second new chore, I came across a book I’ve been wanting to read for quite some time now.

That was at 9:30 this morning, it is now nearly midnight and I just finished reading my book.

I technically can’t say I spent the majority of the day procrastinating because by definition, I wanted to read that book and I didn’t put it off to a future time.

I’m going to attempt procrastinating again tomorrow. I’m sure it will prove just as difficult as it did today. But, lucky for me, the book I just finished is the first in a trilogy.

Idaho’s Bucktooth Bandits

I have a few family members, and several close friends, who volunteered to not only join our wonderful military, but—strange at it may be to some of us—volunteered to jump out of perfectly good airplanes with nothing but a hope, a prayer—and expectantly—a fully functioning parachute.

I deeply admire these people.

A few days ago, I was perusing some of my Idaho history books and came across an interesting story that, at first, I thought was tongue and cheek story meant to impart a moral message of some sort.

Nope.

It was the story of America’s other “airborne” force. While the heroes of this airborne deployment likely didn’t volunteer, the success of their mission is indisputable.

Since they weren’t given a motto by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game—like the 82nd Airborne Division’s, Death from Above, or the 101st Airborne Division’s, Screaming Eagles—I have decided to call them Idaho’s Bucktooth Bandits. You read that right. And to make it even more clear, Idaho’s Bucktooth Bandits were Beavers!

I felt I my liberty in honoring this airborne force was acceptable, since no one else gave them a cool motto.

The story I came across was a 1950 Journal of Wildlife Management article, in which Elmo W. Heter explained how Idaho Fish and Game managers came up with an ingenious way to deploy beavers into Idaho’s wilderness.

Basically, the story explains, Idaho Fish and Game once parachuted beavers into the backcountry to boost populations there and lessen pressure elsewhere.

In his article, Heter explains prior to the “airborne” solution, the accepted method of transplanting beaver, was to truck them to a trailhead, and then transport them by mule trains to an unoccupied lush meadow.

“Beavers usually set up colonies, multiply, and establish important fur-bearing populations,” Heter stated. “In addition, they do much toward improving the habitats of game, fish, and waterfowl, and perform important service to watershed conservation.”

Unfortunately, beavers do not do well when exposed to the heat of summertime, unless they are in water.

“Beavers died in large number during transport,” Heter explained. “They weren’t suited for the heat of summertime travel.”

Heter explained not only did the beaver’s become “belligerent,” during this transport method, the mules hauling the beavers to their new homes also became, “quarrelsome” at the attitude of their beaver passengers.

Heter said Idaho Fish and Game Managers came up with a nifty solution to handling the beaver transplant problem: drop the furry little rodents into their new homes via parachute.

Fish and Game managers, according to Heter, tested several methods for accomplishing this grand idea. They tested, “dummy” weights, and a few other methods, before finally settling on using a real beaver, Geronimo he was aptly named, to test their airborne theory.

“Geronimo was dropped again and again,” Heter wrote. “Each time he scrambled out of the box someone was on hand to pick him up. Poor fellow! He finally became resigned, and as soon as we approached him, would crawl back into his box ready to go aloft again.”

Geronimo’s “volunteer” efforts gave Idaho Fish and Game the information they needed: dropping the beavers from 500 to 800 feet, was optimum for success.
As soon as this discovery was made, Idaho Fish and Game went to work building beaver parachute boxes. The boxes included suspension ropes that were attached to parachutes, and plenty of holes to ensure the beavers could breathe on their way down.

“The two ends of each of these sling ropes are joined in a square knot. Approximately 1 inch in from each sling rope, and crossing the bottom of the box but not fastened to it, is a heavy 2 inch rubber band. These elastic straps extend 3 inches up each side of the box, and are fastened there with fence staples. They are cross-sections of heavy-duty truck tubes so that they form double spring hinges. Each band exerts about 10 pounds of tension, which is sufficient to snap the box open and free the beavers as soon as the much greater tension of the shroud lines is removed when the box lands on the ground and the ‘chute collapses,” Heter wrote.

“Observations made late in 1949 showed all the airborne transplanting’s to be successful. Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies.”

Heter said of the 76 beavers dropped into Idaho’s wilderness, only one beaver died in the process. Somehow the beaver managed to get out of his box and fell about 75 feet from the ground.

Geronimo was given special consideration. He was transplanted with three females, and by all accounts, “did right fine in establishing his colony.”

While Idaho’s Bucktooth Bandits didn’t do much in defense of my county, like the lauded 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne, as an Idahoan, I have to say I’m very proud of Idaho’s furry airborne heroes.

Beavers were nearly eradicated in some parts of Idaho in the 19th century. These brave—sort of—volunteers brought these colonies back.

If nothing else it’s a pretty cool story, and in asking my airborne friends their thoughts on the subject, I received a resounding “AIRBORNE.”

Apparently anyone, or any animal, who has a successful parachute landing, is worthy of praise and adulation.

It’s Always Nice to say Goodbye to Winter

I am always happy to say goodbye to winter.

I suppose everyone has a favorite time of year. A couple of my close friends absolutely love winter. My husband and sons are fond of fall. My mama is partial to summer.

But for me, the best time of year is spring.

I’m especially enchanted with the awakening that happens in spring. The grass, almost overnight it seems, goes from brown to green, flower bulbs pop up all over the place; the trees begin the leafing process, which changes them from stark skeletons to lush, green, shade providers in seemingly no time at all.

Yup, in my humble opinion, spring is the proverbial cat’s meow.

But, (there’s always a but isn’t there?) Spring in south-central Idaho is always quite a hair raising challenge. I don’t say that tongue in cheek. If you live in south-central Idaho, there is a pretty good chance you are quite familiar with what I call Permanent Traumatic Wind Mayhem Illness. Or…. a bit tongue in cheek: PiTy World Me Illness! PityWeMe.

Yup, if you live in south-central Idaho, you know what I mean.

On the days you can actually stand up straight, you end up with a kink in your neck. The days you don’t spend picking up branches and birds nests are “lovely” days, and when the wind drops below thirty miles-per-hour, some people spontaneously start singing, “Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day…”

Still, spring in my part of Idaho is awesome. No matter where you drive, you’re bound to see something newborn, whether it’s a calf, or a foal, or a kid…baby goat for those of you who didn’t already know…puppies, kittens, you name it, a short drive anywhere in south-central Idaho guarantees you will see one or more of the above.

I guess that’s why I love spring so much. The frozen, barren, landscape of winter fades, and life bursts forth with meaning. The old year is left behind, and a new year begins. The cycle of life continues, the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, all have a cycle don’t they?

Spring reminds me no matter how hard life can be, there is always an awakening, a beginning we can go to, a burst of life we can find in the grey, lifeless, terrain around us.

And, if you’re lucky, a bull calf to help you mow your yard.

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Gooding County 1921-1941

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I recently gave a speech for the Gooding Center of the College of Southern Idaho, and a few of my friends asked for a copy of the speech as they were unable to attend the presentation. I thought I would share much of it on my blog page for anyone interested in reading it. It is about 2100 words, which is excessively long for a blog in my opinion! But for those who wish to read it, here it is. Enjoy and best wishes to you all,
Kelly

The Gooding County Experience 1921 to 1941

I think the coolest thing about studying Gooding County and Idaho history, is the fact our county and our state are so young, there are still many alive today who either were themselves, or whose parents and grandparents, were the pioneers that made Idaho, and Gooding County a wonderful place to live.
I don’t suppose a lot of folks today think much about it, but in 1921 Gooding County was still in its infant years—the tender age of eight to be exact.
Much of what we take for granted today—roads, sidewalks, irrigation canals, sewer, water, and power utilities—really didn’t exist in the first two decades of Gooding County’s history. To be sure, there were some who had it better than others. But overall, if one lived in Gooding County in the 1920s and 30s, one knew what it was to be without amenities many other Americans enjoyed.

Since a good many Gooding County folk either went to war, or sacrificed for WWI, one also had a pretty good idea of what it was like to come together as a community in times of hardship.

My Papa, Henry Howard, was born in Hill City in 1907, and lived nearly all of his 97 years in either Camas or Gooding counties.

Prior to his passing, I did several interviews with him about what life was like in the 20s-30s.

He always had a funny anecdote when he started a story. One of my favorites was: “Girls were much prettier in the 1920s than they were in the 1910s. I guess it’s because as they grew up from children into young women, their dresses naturally got shorter!”

Papa also said if you didn’t have the mettle to work hard, and the ability to make do with what you had, Idaho was a terrible place to live. Most every Idahoan he knew had the necessary attributes.

“The 1920s brought some prosperity elsewhere,” he told me, “but not to Idaho.” Here’s what he meant.

Following the end of WW1, the fine folk of Gooding County were ready to get back to work and get their community growing. Unfortunately, while much of the rest of the country was rebounding from the sacrifices it had made during WW1, and the depression of 1921, Idaho was still struggling mightily.

While there are other factors that contributed to the near non-existent recovery of Idaho in the 1920s, the number one factor was the sudden decline following WW1, of Idaho’s three main industries: Agriculture, Mining, and Lumbering.

During WW1, Idaho experienced the incredible incentives of high price and patriotic urging, to greatly expand these three industries. Land was opened for farming, old mines were brought back on line, and Idaho’s vast timberlands were exploited.

Had WW1 lasted a bit longer (I am glad it did not), perhaps Idahoans would have had time to plan a managed withdrawal from these expansions. But, no sooner had these massive expansion efforts taken place than WW1 ended.

With no planned withdrawal, the jubilant celebrations of victory in the War to End All Wars, soon turned to worry and despair as it became clear to Idahoans. They were in for tough times ahead.

In truth, recovery from the 1921 depression for the majority of Idahoans was so slow, it may as well have been non-existent.

It’s important to note throughout the 1920s, Idaho, next to Montana, had the highest rate of emigration of any wester state.

Still, a good many of those who didn’t leave were optimistic they too would pull out of the hard times and see prosperity again. Many of them had left their lives in the east to partake of the Carey Land Act offerings, and they were not about to give up just because of a few years of hard times.

Throughout the 1920s, the Gooding Leader ran numerous articles urging citizens to buy from local merchants, and encouraging local merchants to, “share their largesse,” by investing in community projects such as local boys and girl’s clubs, outlaw basketball tournaments, and many other activities sponsored by the Gooding College.

Despite hard times all of these promotions did, in fact, work. The people of Gooding County felt they were really moving forward—albeit a bit more slowly than anticipated.

Bliss, Hagerman, and Wendell—the Gooding Leader reminded everyone—also had plenty of sites worth seeing and things worth doing.
“Really, there’s room for all!” A 1927 editorial stated. “Come to Gooding County, you’ll be more than glad you did.”

By 1929, things were looking better for Idahoans, including Gooding County folks in the county were seeing an increase in prices for ag products, as well as new business openings in all four county towns.

County farmers had figured out one of the best ways to get top dollar for their product was to form pools and cooperatives.

Lamb associations brought top price. Turkey associations brought top price, a creamery, built on the north end of the town of Gooding was doing excellent. In June of 1929 a turkey association formed and by the time all the turkeys were shipped for Thanksgiving and Christmas markets, Gooding County farmers saw a wonderful pay off of over $135,000.

On October 29th, 1929, the United States and the rest of the world was plunged into the Great Depression when the stock market crashed.

While there was panic in the streets in many large cities across the nation in the days following the crash, the folks of Gooding County didn’t seem to get overly excited. No declaration of the stock market crash appeared on the front page of the Gooding Leader throughout the rest of 1929 and for most of 1930.
From then on, there was some information provided in the newspaper about various fallout from the crash, but for the most part, editorials centered on Gooding County happenings.

When I asked my papa what he remembered of the reaction, he just shrugged and said: “I don’t suppose most folks around here had much in the way of market stocks to worry over.”

Perhaps many of the county’s leaders felt the same way President Hoover felt:
“While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have passed the worst and with continued unity of effort, we shall rapidly recover.”
Hoover, sadly, was wrong. As 1929 rolled into 1930, it quickly became clear to every American the crash had plunged the world into chaos, and the majority of Americans, no matter where they lived, would soon feel the bite of the Great Depression.

By 1931, the forming of pools and cooperatives had become an absolute necessity. In some cases, it was the only way farmers could obtain the maximum amount possible—which was, more often than not—barely enough to sustain them until the next crops could be sold.

In an article, Idaho and the Great Depression,” published by Idaho Yesterdays, Summer Issue 1969, Leonard Arrington shared this:

“Many Idaho farmers faced foreclosure, so neighbors dutifully showed up at sheriff’s auctions to bid the best price—after quietly agreeing to not bit against one another—as a result, a splendid team of horses sold for $1.50 cents; a grain binder for $2; a hay mover for $1. Prices of other animals and equipment ran from a low of .50 cents to a high of $3.”

The farmers paid the sums they had bid, received the items purchased, and promptly turned them back to the farmer who had been foreclosed.

Now that’s a good Idaho neighbor!

Throughout the 1920s Republicans ruled both nationwide, and in Idaho. But by 1932, Idahoans as well as much of the rest of the nation were ready for a change. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office as President, and Herbert Hoover was left to take the blame for the Great Depression and all of the ills associated with it.

People who lost their jobs and homes, often ended up in shanty towns called, Hoovervilles. Recycled nails were called Hoover nails. There were even Hoover hats and boots.

FDR offered a new deal that was in the opinion of many Americans, including Idahoans, their last best chance to hand on to what little they left.
Papa told me most of his family and friends absolutely hated the idea of government dole.

“What it really came down to,” Papa said, “Was there isn’t much taste in pride when that’s all you have to eat.”

By 1934, any job one could get was welcome. President Roosevelt came out with a number of programs, affectionately dubbed the “Alphabet Programs.” Papa went to work for the WPA, or Works Progress Administration. While papa did not work on this project, one of the most important WPA projects in Gooding County, was the riprapping of the Big Wood River through Gooding. This project was completed in 1941.

There’s little question a good many Idahoans had to swallow their pride in order to participate in New Deal programs, but swallow it they did.
It wasn’t until many years later, Idahoans began to realize the New Deal programs were really a boon for Idaho.

In Arrington’s article he stated: “If one reduces New Deal expenditures to a per capita basis, Idaho ranked 8th among the 48 states in expenditures of the anti-depression agencies of the New Deal.”

In fact, Idaho ranked 1st in Rural Electrification expenditures; 2nd in Civilian Conservation Corps expenditures; 2nd in Civil Administration expenditures; k4th in Public Works grants; 6th in Public Roads subsidies; 9th in Federal Emergency relief; 18th in Reconstruction Finance grants; and 21st in Works Program Administration expenditures.

In short, the 14th largest state in the Union, got over $330 million dollars in much needed infrastructure and other works.

New Deal money aside, people still had to be quite innovative in order to make it through the tough times.

My mama was four years-old when the depression started. She was a freshman in high school when it ended.
“We grew massive gardens, and canned or traded everything we grew. The hardest items to get were sugar, salt, and pepper. For those items we usually traded eggs.”

Mama said because her family lived in such a rural area, getting through the Great Depression was far easier than for people living in large towns. “People in rural communities had the opportunity to grow or raise much of their food. It made it a lot easier for people to take care of themselves and help others.”
In Gooding County, people who found themselves in possession of extra, often placed their excess in boxes or bins on their town’s main streets for others to take as needed.

Because Idaho is a land of bounty, hunting and fishing were helpful in getting folks through the Great Depression.

By 1939, Idaho, along with the rest of America, was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Farm prices were rising, new businesses were once again moving into rural areas, and larger enterprises were building and investing in Idaho.

The majority of the water projects that were severely hampered by the Great Depression, were near or at completion, and according to the Gooding Leader, the future of Gooding County was, “Looking rosier every day!”

Unfortunately, with the fading of the Great Depression there was a new worry for the fine folk of Gooding County to chew on.

A nasty fellow by the name of Adolf Hitler was stopping around Europe, acting like he owned the place. Another nasty fellow by the name of Isoroku Yamamato was figuring out the best way to put America’s Pacific Fleet on the ocean floor.
Most agree it was the onset of WWII that finally defeated the Great Depression. But the tough times kept coming for the fine folks of Gooding County.

In the last 100 years, Gooding County sons and daughters have fought in two world wars, fought in Korea, fought in Vietnam, and are currently fighting in the Middle East. We’ve suffered through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the farming crisis of the 1920s and 1980s. We’ve held our own against the globalization of the economy, and against the growth of multinational agribusiness.

I think my papa always said it best: “People around here understand, when the going gets tough—thank God you live in Idaho.”

Life is better when its shared with Kindred Spirits

It’s always a pleasure to travel to new places, meet new people, and learn interesting bits of local history. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Sunset Beach, North Carolina, and spend a few days with my oldest son and some very dear friends. In my opinion, hanging out on an ocean beach for a few days is about as good as it gets.

The initial plan was to spend a couple of days moseying along the beach, collecting a few shells–and then pestering the locals to tell us what kind of shells we found–but our first visit to the beach led us away from shell hunting on a quest to find a mailbox named Kindred Spirit.

It’s been my experience when locals share their “best places” for visitors to check out, they really are the best places. A local I spoke to informed me a trek to Kindred Spirit would, “be a boon,” to my soul. While that sounded a bit cryptic, it wasn’t ominous, so I decided the mile or so hike to this mysterious mailbox would be worth the effort.

A quick Google search gave me the basic history of the mailbox. The mailbox was put in about 35 years ago by a dating couple. The couple left a notebook and pens inside the mailbox hoping people would leave messages. Frank Nesmith and his former girlfriend Claudia, had no idea how successful their project would become. But successful it was–and is. Over the years thousands have shared their innermost thoughts in the notebooks, and when the notebooks are full, they become part of a special collection at University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

While the history was interesting, I didn’t feel like it was much of a “boon” to my soul. So, I set off with a muted hope that upon finding the mailbox I would find the “boon”.

My husband and son accompanied me, and the hike was surprisingly beautiful. The tide was going out and at one point we came across a crab, desperately trying to burrow into the sand. We got a bit too close to it and discovered crabs are feisty little fighters. We also discovered walking a mile in loose sand is quite the workout.

Still, the hike was worth it. We found the mailbox and while it was a bit underwhelming in size, once I opened it and began reading some of the notebooks inside, I finally realized what my local friend meant about the impact a little mailbox on the end of a long, windy, beach would have on me.

Every kind of emotion one can imagine was in those journals. I read notes of purest joy and notes of deepest grief. It soon became clear this magical little mailbox provided its readers and its contributors, an opportunity to share their deepest, most personal thoughts and feelings without fear of censorship or ridicule.

The notes, no matter what they said, were a slice of a fellow human beings life–an instant reminder that while we all have different experiences, at some point, our lives intersect–whether we know each other or not.

I don’t know how one defines a “boon” to their soul, but I will say after reading many of those notes, I realized my soul felt better simply because I live in a world full of Kindred Spirits. A beautiful thought indeed.

Fun Cooking Tips from Grandmama and Henry’s Exchange

I was feeling a bit nostalgic tonight and decided I would rummage through some of Mama’s stuff for more ‘history bits and pieces’. I wasn’t disappointed. I found an old recipe book that belonged to my grandmama.

I have to brag a bit here and say my grandmama was about the best cook EVER! I don’t remember eating anything she cooked I didn’t love. Cookies, cakes, meat, potatoes, you name it, my grandmama really could make a delicious dish out of a soup bone and an onion.

Grandmama notes in one cookbook some of these ideas are, “according to the exchange,” which I believe means Henry’s Exchange. Henry’s Exchange was a radio program in the 1940’s, hosted by Henry Hornsbuckle.

Here are some of the tidbits I found while thumbing through her cookbook.

When you mash potatoes, heat your milk before you add it. This will make your potatoes lighter. If you prefer, heat some cream and add that too.

To keep your hands from getting greasy and covered in suet, put sausage, hamburger, etc, on a piece of wax paper. place another piece of wax paper over the top and press the meat into whatever thickness you prefer for patties. No messy hands and no messy cutting board or counter top.

To tell if fresh eggs are good, put them in water. If the large end turns up, they are not fresh.

Pour cold water over eggs before you place them in boiling water. The eggs will not crack open.

If you bake your own bread and you can’t eat it before it gets hard, wet a paper sack and put the bread into it and into a warm oven. The bread will be softened in a short time.

As macaroni and spaghetti boil over so easily, if you grease the top of the pan an inch or so down, the water will not boil past the greased area.

Before icing a cake, dust a little flour over the top and the icing wont run off or tear the cake.

When frying eggs, put a pinch of salt and flour in the oil and it will not splatter.

I also found a couple of cool ideas for problems that apparently are timeless:

To brighten aluminum ware, use lemon juice rubbed on with a cloth and washed afterwards with warm water. This also works on brass and copper.

When anything sticks or burns in a kettle, mix half water and half vinegar, set back on the stove and bring to a boil. Wash as usual with warm soapy water.

To remove hard water scale or stains from porcelain or enamel ware, boil a mild solution of baking soda in it periodically.

And last, but by no means least, this is a personal favorite as I have done it many times and it truly works. When you cook ‘stinky’ foods, like cabbage etc., put a bowl of vinegar on the stove or the counter. It really does absorb the stench.

Cheers to all of you!