This story begins in the mountains.
When I was young, I lived in the mountains of Idaho. Our old miner’s cabin was in the middle of the Sawtooth National Forest. To get there, we would drive out Warm Springs Road and continue to where it turned into a dirt road, just past the base of the ski mountain. Our home was about seven miles outside of Ketchum. Exactly 7 miles from the stoplight. 7 miles.
In the wintertime, they didn’t plow all of road, so my parents had to cross-country ski the last mile home. I was little, so I would ride in a backpack on their backs. Some times, they’d have groceries and other things from town and have to carry them too. Or it would be dark and we would make the trek home under the stars.
We lived in the Sawtooth National Forest, seven miles out Warm Springs, the Upper Board Ranch, the Piney Wood Hills as Buffy Saint Marie sang it. The place had many names and many stories before me. The cabin, we called home, was on leased land that belonged to the Board family. The Boards had homesteaded the land above our house in the late 1800s to the early 1900s according to Teddie Daley. They had a sawmill and been some of the first people to enter the area on horses and wagons. I am sure Indians were out there way before the Boards began to cut down trees and mill them. The Board Ranch stretched all along that valley later to be called the Lower Board Ranch and the Upper Board Ranch. We were on the Upper Board Ranch and my parents were lucky enough to be able to lease the land the cabin sat on for more than 30 years. Our official lease was for 50 years. The cost was $75 per year and that price would never change.
You couldn't own the land, but you could own the cabin. My parents had a good friend name John Daley, whose brother Frank had a house on the Board’s Ranch. Frank and his family had been using their cabin as a summer retreat, but they decided to restore the house and live there full time. The Flints, who owned the house next door, came for a summer visit and they told Teddie, Frank and Robbie that they were too old to restore their house and their children weren’t interested in it. They were going to sell it, but they did not want to sell it to just anyone, so she asked Teddie if she knew anyone who might be interested.
My parents had visited Frank and Teddie, and spent the night out there the summer before that and Teddie knew they were interested.
When Frank and Teddy went into town, a few days later, they told Ed Heap. Ed told John Daley who went to see my mom and tell her the news. The house was for sale. My mom went out to look at it that day, while my dad was at work. She remembers it was between $5,000-10,000 and she said “I’ll take it.” She told my dad when he got home from work that she found them a home in the piney wood hills. The next morning, he went out to look at it. They sold my Grandfather’s Stamp collection -a gift they'd been given- and bought the house. On August 9, 1974, my parents and I moved into our home.
The Flints left all the furniture and other things in the house, which served us well that first year in the mountains. There were several attics, and the ticking and boxes of clothes they found there might have belonged to the Flints or the people who worked at the Board’s mill who lived there before all of us. They might have also belonged to the miners who spent the summers there working in the mines. My mom kept what she thought we needed and the rest she sent to Eastern Idaho where they had had a huge flood and people needed help.
Although it wasn’t officially our land on paper, it was ours.
I knew more about that section of the ranch than any Board ever will. I climbed the hillsides, walked in the rivers and ponds, caught frogs when it was summer and made snow forts when it was winter. I walked the field almost everyday and watched as the water drained out of the pond into our slew. Where the water flowed, the grass was taller and more course. Snakes lived in that grass so I would always walk with caution or avoid that part. I knew about the old cart across the river and the mines up the hill. I knew where the fence with barbed wire was falling down and needed repair.
I spent hours and hours, days and days wandering up mountains, along the river, crawling under bushes to find forts, up high in trees looking down below. When, I was older my knowledge of the area expanded because I could walk farther or ride my bike way up the road. I’d go up old roads into mines before they barred them up and into caves where bears spent the winter. I found new beaver dams, walked along old cabins that only people visited a few times in the summer along Sandy Lane.
My shoes were usually wet because I would have to cross a river to get where I was going or I might slide off a wet log while crossing a pond. I lived in water, mountains and grasses with wild flowers, plants and animals. And, snow, plenty of snow. I knew where to find white, spiral shells on the side of the mountain. How to turn a rock over in the river to find a nymph in its rocky shell. I watched the mayflies float on top of the pond to be swallowed up by a fish. I ate tiny wild strawberries and currents and stayed away from the stinging nettle. I knew where the sun was in the winter and the shade in the summer. I had islands, ponds, rivers, secret places and places I shared. I grew up, outside, in the mountains.
When I was little, my mom told me that if I ever fell into the water, I would drown unless I stood up right away. I was very small when we moved to our home by the river and slough. Thinking I would drown, kept me alive and I still think of that when I swim and my feet can’t touch the bottom. It still scares me. It still keeps me safe. One time I did fall into the slough and my mom said I stood right up and yelled “I drowned.”
The House at Pooh Corner
Teddie, Frank and Robbie lived next door. Their son Robbie was six when I moved in and happy to have a neighbor, although I was much smaller than he. He had been there many years before me. And, he knew our house better than we did when we first moved in.
Robbie was just like the boy in the Winnie the Pooh books and had had to make belief a lot until we arrived. Teddie had named their house, The House at Pooh Corner. Inside their home was a cuckoo clock, an old fashion telephone and a lot of Winnie the Pooh books, art work, and stuffed animals. I loved going there to visit. Teddy had a room by the slough that had lots of windows and her watercolor paintings of Winnie the Pooh were below the windows on a long desk. I always liked to get a glimpse of what she was working on. She did beautiful water colors, invitations written in calligraphy and many other things.
Out by the road Teddie had hung up a sign that said “The House at Pooh Corner.” I lived next door to the House at pooh Corner with Christopher Robin and everything!
Robbie or Christopher Robin had a bunny and a horse that I liked to go and visit. When I was older, Teddie would always give me a popsicle when she saw me outside. Often I would be walking through her yard to get to the field. It was the short cut right through her yard. She never seemed to mind. There was an out building that was called the Chalet and at certain times throughout my life they would clean it out and set it up as a guest house or a work shop for Frank. I think he made the Melissa sign for my playhouse in there. I hardly ever got to go in there so when I did it was very magical.
One time Robbie set up a whole fair for me of games to play. Throw the tennis ball in the bucket, toss the rings over the sticks, and other games. I could win prizes if I could just do it. He charged me money for the games so I remember running home to get more quarters, dimes and nickels out of my moms purse, which she had left in the car. I think I spent a lot of coins trying to win. I don't remember what the prizes were.
Teddie, Frank and Robbie rode snow mobiles to their cars instead of skiing in and out in the winter. Robbie was in school when we moved in, so they had to go into Ketchum every day to get him to school. I called Teddie while I was writing these stories down and I had a very nice conversation with her. She told me about the Flints, who had lived there before and sent me a letter with pictures of them. I sent her some photos that I had as well, telling her that every first photograph I have of our house has Robbie in it. He must have been so happy to have some neighbors. When I took a photograph of the first photo in the book on page one, I put it on my computer and lightened it a bit. When I did, I noticed there was a person by the back door, that would have led into our living room. I hadn’t noticed that there was a person there before. When it came into focus, I had this amazing realization that Robbie was just like Christopher Robin. A six-year-old boy, as clever as clever, who lived next door to me and grew up in the same wonderful place as I did. We were lucky.
The house was cold in the winter.
Before the snow had fallen, my mom and David Vhay had poured concrete into what was the garage and my dad had covered the two doors that had once swung open for a car to create a room. The wood stove heated that room where my dad would spend hours tying flies, listening to music. The warmth seeped out into the kitchen and lifted itself up into the loft above it where my parents slept. It did not seem to make it all the way to my room. For that, there was another wood stove and a hole in the wall, but that stove wasn't always lit. It was a miner’s cabin and then a summer home for the family from Twin Falls, so it did not have insulation. The insulation was the snow that covered it all winter long.
There was a well and a pump to get water, an outdoor shower house, an outhouse and a chamber pot. My dad ran an extension cord to the our one neighbor’s house, where Frank and Teddie let him plug it in, so that he could power for his record player and his saw. Candles and kerosene lanterns were our only light the first winter.
The next summer, my parents would put the big log table outside and rip out the floor in the kitchen. My dad would put in pipes for a sink and a bath tub. Then, they would add electrical wiring, insulation and wooden walls. A few plugs and lights. My mom likes to remind people that she wired the house. My dad covered the walls with wood and covered the pipes with a wooden floor. He would build cabinets for our dishes, a pantry for our food and closets for our coats and boots. He would make a dormer roof upstairs for their bedroom and put a skylight over their bed so they could see the stars.
A warm bath.
In the winter I would take a warm bath in a water trough on the kitchen table.
That was the warmest place in the winter to get clean, until a few years later when my dad put in a bath tub. The shower house had a stove outside of it that you could use to heat the water for the shower. They would use this for several years, but mostly in the summer and shower at friends houses in town in the winter. My mom was very happy when my dad put a bathtub inside. She loved to take baths and I did too. It felt so good in the winter time to warm up in a hot bath. There was a spider that lived in the corner by the bathtub. Usually, we would put them outside, but it was winter and it was too cold for it outside in the snow, so my mom told me it was ok to leave her there. She was my friend. It was a nice sunny place, for the spider and I to stay warm together that winter.
There was a shelf by the bath tub for storage. It had jars with dried beans and brown rice and it had books, mostly paper back to read in the bath tub. One of them was an A.A. Milne’s book Now I am Six with a poem in it.
When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new
When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more
When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I am as clever as clever.
I think I’ll stay six now for ever and ever.
Before I turned six, my mom and I learned that poem. We learned it line by line and repeated it everyday until we could not forget it. It worked because I still can recite that poem today and when I am lucky enough to hear that some I know is turning six, I can recite it to them.
There was always lots of wood for the fire.
My dad would go and cut it in the fall. He would have to calculate how much we would need to keep us warm all winter. We always seemed to have plenty of wood.
My mom would chop it early in the morning in her night gown and sorrels some times, when we were out of pieces that fit in the fire. This would be on her way back from the outhouse that was way beyond the firewood. When the snow melted most of the wood would be gone.
At night I could fly.
I would sleep-walk a lot from my room up to the warm loft to sleep with my parents in their double bed mattress that lay on the floor. There room had a ladder going up to it. I’d lay on the floor next to my mom with a blanket and hold her hand to stay warm and safe. I often had dreams that I was flying, flying around the kitchen with its tall ceiling. I would do circles around it and then land up in the loft. In the morning, I would wake up there. In the summer, in my dreams, I could fly out the big window in the loft -over the slough and out to the field. It was the best feeling ever being able to fly.
I had a lot of fun playing in the snow. It would be so high on either side of the path, you could barely see me. Our house would be covered and only a narrow path to get out to our ski trail and later to our cars. I would ski and sled and play for hours in the white crystal world. The snow usually started at the end of October and melted by mid-May. It was a long, long white winter.
A dog sled.
In 1975, a dog sled brought my friends to my birthday party.
It was in December and our friends would park their cars where the plowing of the road stopped and a dog sled would be there to meet them and bring them to our warm cabin. My mom told me that for my third birthday she asked Cam Dagget, the Chief of Police of SunValley, if he could bring his dog sled out and transport our friends to our house. He met everyone at Basset Gulch. Franny and Spencer Yort, with their kids Sarah and Jamie, Fred and Randy, were there and John Daley and his daughter Amy.
Once everyone got there, Cam took people on more rides out towards Andy Mayo’s house, where the Boards homestead had been, and my mom and I got to go for a ride too. Then, everyone came back to our house for a warm dinner and the cake that I had helped to make. Later, they were returned to their cars by dogsled. It was December so it was cold and dark when they left. But they got to see about a million stars in the sky from the dog sled.
Stars and moons painted on her skis.
One of my favorite stories my mom likes to tell is about a time we were on our way home. We arrived to the spot where we leave our car and cross country ski home. It was dark and my mom and I had gotten groceries at the Golden Rule. She put her skis and poles outside, got out the groceries and loaded me into a backpack to go on her back. She put on her skis, grabbed her poles, lifted the groceries and took a big long deep breath to gather the energy to ski home. She began to ski and I must have been looking up at the stars and the mountain side. There were probably millions of stars in the sky on that cold winters night. My cold face was right my her hat covered ear and my mom said I whispered to her,
“Mom, can we ski up that mountain so we can touch the stars?”
My mom, with a tear in her eye, looked up at the stars and said “Not tonight, Melissa, not tonight.”
My mom’s cross country skis are painted. She painted them herself and guess what they have on them? The moon and the stars.
A Propane Refrigerator.
We had no electricity, no running water, just a dream to live in the piney wood hills.
We had a propane refrigerator and stove.
My parents quickly learned to go to bed early, when it was cold and dark and to wake up early to start the fire. They made a path through the snow to the water pump outside and when the shower house froze, they bathed in borrow showers in Ketchum. The Kerosene lamps with paper beads lit the last few hours of the day and the gas Colman stove heated the water for coffee.
A few years later, when there was power, we could listen to the radio in the old living room by the stone fire place. That room was special, because it was only open for a few months of the year and each time I went in it I felt like I was seeing something new or exploring and remembering what was there, that I hadn’t seen in so long.
The news on the radio scared me, but the stories and the mystery theaters were so much fun to listen to. They kept me entertained in the afternoons and evenings and still feel like a special treat when I think of them. I would listen and walk around the room, looking at the shelves that were build into the wall. I look down into the magazine holder below it or stare at the strange, black and white photos of the horses and the other one of the dog. The long maned horses seemed to be running and escaping something. They looked fancy and fake, with their manes flying in the wind, on a cold night in a cold place. The painting were there when my parents moved in and there they stayed for many years. Nothing in that room ever seem to change. It was held still when we closed the door in the winter and everything in there froze until we opened it back up the following summer.
There were metal marshmallow sticks by the unlit fire. I’d smile, and hold their coldness in my hand and dream about cooking marshmallows in the fire some day. We never did.
There was a beautiful urn on the fire place, intricately painted with brown and yellows. I didn’t know some one’s ashes were in there. There was a barometer, that although frozen all winter long in there, seemed to still work. There was a sculpture in drift wood of a man’s face and a huge, black velvet couch that I was too young to remember. The radio was in the corner by the two thin windows that came together there and looked out on to the Aspen Trees, my mom’s garden and the dirt road beyond.
I could travel by boat on the slough.
We would fill the raft up with air in June as soon as the slough finally melted and had lowered after being very full from all the melting snow. I would spend hours in my boat alone, with dolls and stuffed animals and often with pets. We go all the way up to the area by Teddie’s or I’d lift the boat over the bridge and go towards the big cotton wood trees and the logs across the water and the unknown.
Some times people would come to visit, but not very often.
Everything was so close in Ketchum. People walked or drove very short distances to and from work, school, friends houses. Driving to our house was just way too far for anyone to imagine. 7 miles away. When people came out to our house, therefore, it was a miracle. Rarely, did people just show up, it was well planned out because no one would want to drive that far and be disappointed that we weren't there. When someone was coming, we would clean and clean all day long and I’d look out the window to see if I saw a car coming. I’d be so excited. It was rare.
It would be my Grandma Bake or my Aunt Buffy. My Grandma and Grandpa Allen. They would come. They would come from far away. From Oregon to visit.
It was so quiet out there that the dogs could hear when my dad was coming home. My dad drove slow and enjoyed every minute of the drive. He saw things that many of us never saw because of his pace. I call it a walking pace, because now when I go for a walk I see so many things that I don't see when I drive, so I say my dad drove at a walking pace. The dogs could hear this and had plenty of time to run out to the end of the driveway to meet him. He’d turn into the driveway and they would bark and follow him down our long driveway. As welcoming as I would be when a visitor finally arrived to say hi.
When I brought my husband to Idaho for the first time in 1994, to the mountains, he heard the silence I had grown up with. He tossed and turned and could not sleep the first week he was there because it was so quiet. He’d seen forests and mountains in horror movies only and was unsure why we didn’t lock the door to our house at night. Actually, I tell people that to help them understand, but really he’d come from a country where he was told to lock the doors, lock the gates, to not be alone in the woods, ever! The boogieman that I had been teased about was real where he had
After a short time there, he discovered my bike and sat a top it for the first time. It was way too small for him, but it gave him the freedom to begin to explore and to gain confidence. Little by little his circle, the diameter he had created as his safety bubble expanded. He began to see the woods, the rivers, all the places to go.
That year more wildlife made itself visible than any other year prior to that. I’d never seen a moose when I was growing up there or a cougar. I did see a few bears, but never right at my house and that year, that summer, they all came. My husband and my dad made a trap for the bear. The bear had been getting into what we called the rabbit house. It had been pulling out big, mouse proof, rubbermaid storage containers only to stick his claw through them and open them. This unleashed my past all over the driveway. Stuffed animals, old prom dresses, everything lay out there exposed and unwanted by the bear.
My dad filled the biggest water container he had, and orange insulated one for camping. He lugged it up to the top of the rabbit house roof and then, as soon as it got dark, he sat up there, above the door with the container waiting for the bear. My husband, still fearful, sat in my car. He had a camera with a new roll of film and the car turned to face the rabbit house. He reclined the seat so he could sleep, sure he would awaken as soon as the bear arrived. The bear never came when they were out there. It was probably watching them -laughing.
When my husband had to return to his home, I took a whole roll of pictures of the bear.
I couldn't stay out of the pond or the river, even in brand new shoes.
I loved catching frogs. My eyes were trained to see them in the grass along the edge of the pond. I knew the special spots where they lived. I would sneak up behind them and before they had time to duck under the water, I would grab them. If they were tiny, you could cup your hands and move over them slowly. When they realized that some thing wasn't right, they would jump right into my cupped hands. I was scared of snakes though and never wanted to pick them up. I remember having a family friend over one day and I took him out the the field to catch frogs. He was very afraid of the frogs, but when he saw a snake he picked it right up. I could not understand how he could be afraid of a frog, but not a snake.
One time my dad brought a bucket up to the pond and started fishing. He caught a few fish, put them into the bucket and then he carried the bucket down to the slough behind our house and poured them in. I couldn’t believe it. I had never thought of that. I could bring a bucket and catch some frogs and bring them to our slew. I ran and grabbed a bucket and ran back up to the pond. I caught frogs all afternoon and brought them back to our house. I let them go and listened for them that night. The next day, I went out to look for them in the slough and they were gone. I didn’t see any. When I went back up to the pond they were there. They did not like living in the slough, so I let them stay at the pond.
I learned a lot from the frogs. There were certain times of day to look for them, which part of the pond that would be on, where they laid their eggs, where the tad poles had found a safe place to grow. In early summer sometimes when I’d catch a tiny frog it would still have its tail on. I would see their whole life cycle right before my eyes.
I am a Naturalist.
My mom got me a book about being a Naturalist by Gerald Durrell.
I looked at all the photographs in the book many times and then I created a Naturalist desk in my room. My dad had build me a desk after my built in bed had come out. The desk had drawers and shelves and places to keep many things like the white snail shells I would find hiking up to my special spot on the mountain. I’d save rocks, dried seeds and leaves, bones, anything that I could find that was in that book. I’d make my own book of specimens.
One day, I brushed the teeth of a deer. I had found a deer jaw by the river. Some animal had eaten all the meat off of it and left it there. It was white and clean, but the teeth were black and needed brushing. I got out an old tooth brush and spent the afternoon brushing its teeth. I learned so much about teeth brushing and saw with my own eyes how it worked. The more you brushed the cleaner they got. It took time and you had to make sure you got all the spots especially between the teeth. I thought a lot about that when I brushed my teeth that night and it still crosses my mind on occasion today when I brush my teeth.
Dried out bugs, feathers. My dad tied flies for fly fishing, so he had all kinds of little boxes that the hooks came in. Once he had tied 300 flies of that size, and the box the hooks had come in, was empty and he’d give me the box. It would be perfect for one of my tiny specimens.
A box of books.
While, I was writing down these stories, I open a dark closet and reach into a box of books. Its been in there since we moved. I reach in. I feel around and grab what looks like a green book. I should be writing, but instead I am doing other things…I want to write, but I can’t seem to get started. I pull it out and it reveals itself to me, The Amateur Naturist by Gerald Durrell. I smile, laugh, think what a miracle, what a coincidence that out of all the books I could have pulled out of that box, I pull out this one. It is a book I had written about just a few days earlier. The book my mom had gotten me. Before I even open it, I am back in Ketchum, back at the Chapter One book store, where I got this book. I can see the building, I can see the window and the woman who works inside. I am walking around seeing books, cards to use as stationary and a familiar white Shel Silverstein book of poems. Then, I see the book on the shelf with a jacket. I open it to the middle and am immediately drawn in. I do that now, open it to the middle, and the book reveals animals, like a fox, a quail and a frog, all things I would have been very familiar with, but these are drawings. The pages I really liked are the ones with photographs of plants, mosses, insects, mushrooms. A room all set up for a scientist with an old wooden desk, a large wooded table covered with specimens found, a cabinet with lots of small drawers full of things all organized into categories for study. Insects, I had seen and would hope to see if I just looked hard enough.
My mom must have seen the gleam in my eye. “This is me.” I’d say with my heart.
I’d bring the book home and create an area in my own room, my desk area to look like the book. I gather the things I had already collected and then I would add more to it. I create a file cabinet with all the information I had in magazines like Ranger Rick and My Big Backyard to have as a reference if I ever needed it. I ripe the magazine apart by article, by animal and write their names on manilla files and place them in alphabetical order.
I’d have a microscope out, a magnifying glass, scalpels, scissors. Everything ready to be a scientist. I’d help in Mrs. Theody’s M.E.S.H. class and be as much of a scientist as I could. I would make claim in the Sixth Grade that I would one day be, if I weren’t already, A Scientist.
In the front of the book it says “To Melissa I Love You. Mom 1982” I was ten years old and I knew who I was.
I would try some others things out as well.
One summer, I pretended that I owned a nursery. I had my mom’s Sunset Western Garden Book, back when the book came as a spiral notebook. Between that and all the plants outside, I was in business. I’d walk all around outside with that book pretending to talk to clients and telling them about the plants. I’d look them up in the book sometimes, but mostly I knew all that I needed to know. I can still picture that book today, as though I am still holding it in my hand, still walking around my yard, to the left, clock wise.
Then, I’d pretend I owned a restaurant.
It was in a great location by the slough. I have an old table back there with skinny log legs that still had the bark on them and gray and white, flowery wallpaper covering a slab of thick wood. The old well was out there, a few chairs, and after raking the place up and watering it with the hose it really looked nice. When my friend Marina came over and worked there with me, we really got a lot of clients. When we got tired of the restaurant business, Marina and I would walk a long ways up the field to a spot by the river to build forts and work. We use old logs and willows and whatever the river brought us. We’d find all kinds of things that had been carried away from people in the early spring floods. We’d spend hours and hours there. Some times we go to an island in the middle of the river. If you went to the front of it where the river was running against it, you’d feel like you were on a big boat heading up river. That is what it was for me, a boat that could take me anywhere or stay right there in that beautiful river.
There were a few places that were so magical and special, like the pond by that island, that I wouldn’t go there very often. I think it is because the one time I went there was early spring when everything is a new green color and very beautiful. I painted a picture of it in my mind and I didn’t want to go back there for fear it would be different.
The pond across the road I visited more than once, but not very often. To get there you had to go through a lot of thick bushes and there was shale rock on the other side. There were logs going half way across it and it seemed like a pond that wanted to be left alone. I know this because as I sat by it one day on a log, quietly looking around, a blue and white king fisher dive bombed me as if to say I was disturbing his fishing. I was. I left it alone for the king fisher.
The Boards would bring cattle and horses up to the pastures in the beginning of summer and not return for them until the fall. The cows and horses became mine. I would walk out to the field and then cows would come up to me, slowly and curious. We’d look each other in the eyes. They were good at that. Good at staring deep into your soul. They had long eye lashes and tails that whipped the flies away.
The horses in the pasture across the street from the cows seemed pretty old. I was afraid of them, their size and their unpredictability, but every once in a while, when my dad would walk the field or the road with me, he lift me up onto one of the horses and let me ride it. It was usually the big black one, that was slow and bony. That horse became my horse that summer. I brought him a few carrots to thank him for the ride.
A few times in the summer the cows would escape and walk as a herd down the road to our house. It was usually right about when the raspberries were going to ripen. Our patch was by the dirt road and right where there was a path from the road to our yard. The perfect place for the cows to come in. We’d laugh and cry all at once that our raspberries, almost red, that we had waited all summer for, were now eaten to the ground -the entire plant gone down to its roots. The raspberries will come up again next year my mom would say.
We wouldn’t notice the cows were there until it was too late, but when we did we heard them back to their pasture. Cows were funny like that. You could clap your hands and talk loudly to them and they all stand in attention and then run back up the road. It was a feeling of great control to be able to walk behind 50 cattle and have them all going the same way, all listening to you. Without much effort they would turn back into the pasture where they gotten out. A fisherman had probably left the gate open and I’d feel so proud to have return them to their safety. I’d close the gate tightly and walk back to look at our poor raspberry plants.
The Boards were lucky to have me, now that I think back to this, but at the time I didn’t think much about it.
One day though, I was behind a ton of cows yelling, waving my hands, as usual leading them back to the field. Then, a truck came up behind me. There was a man in it. Cowboy hat, tan elbow out the window. He drove up slow by me and said “I’ll take them from here.” I was a little disappointed, but I let him take over. For, those were my cattle, my horses, my land, my place in the mountains.
I had many things in my room organized on shelves. I had encyclopedia from a garage sale, every letter from A to Z. I had a fancy tea set, a doll collection of dolls from around the world. They were all dolls that my Grandmother had gotten for me on her travels. I had stuffed animals. I had lots of books to read. I had a record player and some records that were stories. The Little Prince, the Hobbit, Sesame Street, Mother Goose, the Little Engine that Could. I had a record about Indians and moccasins that I still remember.
One day my friend Dove was over and our moms thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to share things since we were both only children. “Melissa, let Dove pick something out to borrow and then she will bring it back.” She looked at my shelves and my things as though it was a library and I watched, hands behind my back. Each time she pointed to something to check out, my mind would start to think how I really might need that later that day. I would shake my head no. She pointed to other things. I shook my head no. Finally, she picked out a book called the Sawtooth Monster, and I was sure I was not going to need that for at least a few days, so I nodded. I feel bad now for not sharing, but I really thought I might need everything I had and I did not want to be missing it if I did.
The Jehovah Witnesses used to come to our house some times. My mom was nice to them because they brought with them their son Harry who was a friend of mine from school. Whenever someone had a birthday party and cake, Harry couldn't have any and would have to go to the office at school and sit. When he came to my house we got to play. I’d make him birthday cakes in my restaurant. I tried to share with him all the things that he had missed out on at school. I remember even getting out my record player once so he could listen to some stories. He listened to things he hadn't heard before about Hobbits and Indians. This all happened while his mom told my mom things that my mom had never heard about or witnessed. For my dad only had to say it one time. “Our God is here, here in the mountains.”
At least once a summer, we would take a road trip in my dad’s pick up truck.
We didn't have air conditioning in the car, so we would stop every few hours to jump into a river or lake that my dad knew about. He knew where all the swimming holes were between Ketchum and Portland, for that was the way to visit his mom and where he had grown up. He’d pull off the road and drive right up to a dock in a big lake or a swim hole in a river. I should have paid more attention because I do not know where any of those spots are. We’d jump off a dock or dip into a river and then get right back in the car to keep going. I could ride in the front with him and no seat belt, or I could lay on my sleep bag in the back of the car under the truck bed shell and sleep.
One summer, my Grandma Lacey was moving and she offered some furniture to her son, my dad, so we hopped in the car and headed there. I sat in the front because the camper shell was off so we could fit all the furniture. We probably spent the night there, packing up the stuff the night before so we could drive back early the next morning. I don't remember, all I have is a photograph, which is now etched in my mind. Ruth was in the photo and my grandmother, my dad ready to get back to his piney wood hills. We filled the truck with old furniture. Furniture that had been so well taken care of that it had lasted for generations and now was being passed to us. Furniture that came from Ohio, Virginia or Alabama to Oregon possibly in wagons, old Model T cars, or by train, packed up, just like it was today to go to Idaho. The furniture was big and beautiful to me with its dark brown wood and all the drawers and claw feet that would make me ponder their origin. The furniture would fill our cabin, fit in, work, eventually look like it had been there forever.
The butler’s desk, at one time used for important papers and calling cards, was now a curiosity to me with all of its drawers and doors that hid more drawers and key holes. It would make a great place for us to put photographs and little things that we gathered over time that were special to us. An egg shell that a friend, Deloris, had decorated with tiny sea shells and ribbon that was made into a box with hinges went into one of the drawers. Old coins, a lonely earring. The horse pin my mom’s father had given her. Everything seem to have a story and on those long, cold winter days it was great fun to open up the drawers and remember what was inside. These things would help cement all my memories into my mind. Many of the things I remember, are because of the things that I would find when looking into those drawers back then and now, while I write these stories.
My dad and I would swim a few more times on our way home and then my dad would carefully untie the load and place the furniture inside. My mom would watch, wondering if this was really what she had wanted, then fill the drawers with her socks and sweaters, with her photographs and her things. What did we do before we had this furniture? Where had we kept everything? We had made it work then, just like we would make it work now.
In the fall, we’d fill my dad’s truck up with firewood.
Some times he would take me. We would be gone all day. We would drive and drive, real slow, out the dirt road. I would sit next to my dad in the old, red Ford. The radio didn’t work, and my dad didn’t talk, so I would just sit back and enjoy the bumpy ride, the warm air blowing in from the open window. We would drive across a river some times to get to the spot. Then, my dad would get out his chainsaw and his ax and lay them on the ground. He look up at the dead tree he’d found to see which way it should fall. He tell me which side to play on and then he would start cutting. The chainsaw was probably the loudest sound I ever heard in a mostly quiet life. It would make the whole woods tremble and birds and animals run. After the tree fell, my dad would cut all the branches off of it and then begin to cut it into sections that he could put into the truck. Then, he would load the truck. It took all day. We would have a ton of wood, and my dad would make it all fit. We drive back across the river and home with all that wood. He wouldn't unload it until the next day. He would eat and go to bed early, tired from all the hard work. I’d remember the smell of the freshly cut tree and I’d look as we drove for another the lonely red pine tree waiting to be cut. Later, I would realize that my dad kept the forest clean. He kept the fire danger out of the forest by cutting down the few dead trees in the forest each year.
I used to go fishing with my dad.
My dad loved to fly fish and cross-country ski. When I came along that wasn't about to change because that is why my dad had moved to Ketchum, for both of those reasons. He’d been the Sun Valley weatherman, a writer for the newspaper and worked at a steak house in the evenings, all so he could fish and ski, fish and ski.
In the winter time I would ski inside and outside.
When I was big enough not to be carried in a backpack any more I would ski. I would ski all over the driveway, out the back of the house where a hill went down to the frozen slough and out on the field to the pond. When my dad saw that I could do it, he took me to Dollar Mountain to learn to ski downhill. The next day he took me to Baldy -lower Warm Springs for one run and then to the top. That’s how we used to learn how to ski.
I had my very own playhouse.
I am not sure how it got there or where it came from, but I swept it out and made it mine. My dad cut a hole in the door for a screen window and cut another hole in the side of the house and put in a stained glass window. He hung up a couple of old shelves in there and I brought out some children’s chairs, a table and some of my stuffed animals and dolls. My neighbor Frank made a sign for it that said Melissa. My mom helped me plant a little garden in front and I learned how fun it was to have my own home. I spent a lot of time in the playhouse and made many plans in there.
Before I had the playhouse, I used the metal chairs I had for my chicken school. We had a chicken coop. In the spring we’d go to Caldwell, Idaho to Dunlap Hatchery to get baby chicks. The only memory I have of this is one day when it was pouring down rain, I’m inside a car, the heat is on full blast to keep the baby chicks warm, the windows are all steamy, and I am trying to gather up a bunch of little baby chicks I have let loose in the back seat. There might be a few baby geese too as I try to put them back into a box. When, we bought our first house in Boise, on Shoshone Street, I had a flashback of this moment one day as I passed the Taco Time on the corner of Vista and Rosehill. I think it was right there where my dad pulled over in the rain storm and told me to put all the baby chicks back into the box.
The chicks grew into hens who were my friends. My Uncle Don taught me how to hypnotize them. I have tried this today and it does not work. Back in the 1970s, I could pick up a chicken, place it on a child’s chair and hypnotize it by moving a flat hand in circles near one of its eyes. By hypnotizing it, the chicken would not move until a loud sound would snap it out of its paralyzed position. I would have several chairs set up and place a chicken, hypnotized on each chair. Then, I would pretend like I was teacher and they were in school. Or I would scatter them throughout the yard, placing them on top of logs and fencing -making chicken statues. It was quiet out there where we lived, not a lot of loud noises, so the chicken would stay like that usually until I clapped and snapped them out of their trances. The story gets a little sad here because one time, I did not snap the chickens out of there trances and the neighbor’s dog came over and ate a few of my feathery friends.
The chickens weren't just there though to be my friends or for the neighbor’s dog to eat. They were actually there for us to eat and in the fall my parents would pick a day, when it was time to capture and kill all the chickens. My mom would boil a big pot of water to help in the plucking of them, my dad would figure out how to end their lives. I would wait until they were dead and plucked and no longer looked familiar friends and then curiosity would overtake grief and I would look at all of their inner workings. Their hearts, gizzards, lungs, I wanted to see it all, touch it all. For I was a scientist.
When I was young, I had to carry a stick around to fend off the giant goose Ernie. He always lurked just around the left corner of the house ready to attack me.
Stick holding was just a normal habit of going outside. Even though that goose was as big as me and mean, I do not have a fear of geese. This could be because of my experience with my other goose Rina.
Rina was named after my friend -Marina. Rina too, was a good friend of mine. Rina could come in the house, sit on my lap wrapped in a towel and my mom would read both of us a story and maybe even swim around in the bath tub with me.
I also remember how good that goose tasted on a cold winter night when my mom cooked it in our wood-cooking stove and pulled it out for dinner, for Thanksgiving.
I never had a day without a dog in my life.
When I was born and brought home to the Val de Sol apartments in Ketchum, my first home, a dog named Buck, looked down into my bassinet to see what I was. He was a German Shepherd and he and Ski Dog, a German Shepherd mix, slept right next to me every night. In many of the photographs that I found, Ski Dog is right by my side.
Ski and Buck, Morgan, Jason, Rascal, Baron, Spring, Lily, Ava, and Abby.
All the dogs I grew up with who had the freedom to roam around and stay at our house. We had no fences and we never tied them up or confined them. Morgan was a fluffy cute puppy, a mutt for sure, who ended up taking his freedom too far.
My dad would often threaten our dogs or cats if they did something wrong “You want to go for a drive?” he would say. What that meant to me was that if they didn’t behave, my dad would put them in the car and drive just far enough that they might not be able to make it back if he let them out. I don't think he ever really did this except for once. Morgan was a dog that used to run out to the road and bark and chase cars and we never wanted to tie him up or fence him in. We just told him NO and my dad threatened him a few times with the drive. But, then, one day Morgan bit someone who was running by on the dirt road. This was too much. My dad took the dog for a drive and the dog never came back. My mom later told me he had taken him to Red Warrior Creek or what my mom renamed as Dead Dog Canyon and shot him.
Rascal belonged to an older woman who had a beautiful garden and worked at Hemingway School as one of the lunch ladies. Her name was Lucy Locket and she was as nice as can be. She lived alone and one day decided that caring for a dog was too much for her so she asked my family if we would take him. His name was Rascal and he was a small, black mutt who could do tricks like a circus dog. He was a great dog and very fun addition to the family.
My Grandma Bake, who lived on the farm, called one day and said that her son Donald had moved out and left her with this huge Saint Bernard. She thought he belonged in the mountains in the snow and asked if we would take him. I was so excited. This meant my grandma was coming to visit and I was getting a new dog. Baron was huge dog and a great companion. He could go out in the field with me, play out in the yard, play in the snow. He could even pull me on my cross country skis. Baron was not neutered, so the next spring my neighbors dog had puppies. Their dog was a black mutt dog and so all of the puppies came out black except for one. Spring. My next new dog.
My dad and I went to California and we stopped in a town where there was a fly fishing shop and a friend of my dads. My dad had seen or maybe asked if there were a pet store near by where I could go, while he was visiting his friend. Maybe I had spotted it, because that had become my favorite place to go on a trip. There was one around the corner. I quickly spotted two tiny puppies in a cage and I asked the pet store if I could hold them. As soon as I opened the door the little black one crawled up into my sleeve. It was so tiny and shivering cold from the California air-conditioning in the store. I held her for a while and then I put her back and ran to the fly fishing store to begin to convince my dad that we needed to get this dog. He was still busy talking to his friend so I ran back to the store and spent more time with the pup, who was quickly back in my sleeve. A few hours later we were headed back to Idaho from Visella California with a new dog. Lily.
Lily went to work with my mom for a while and she always went camping with all my friends and I in the summer. She felt like one of us. She was so small she could walk in the cross country tracks my dad and I made in the field without damaging them so she was allowed to come along. She was a great mountain Chihuahua.
She slept in my bed and kept me warm and when I went away as an exchange student to Mexico, she learned to climb the ladder to my parents room so she could sleep with them and stay warm.
Ava was the dog I was delivered in the Boise Airport when I was in a wheel chair. I had had back surgery in New Mexico and had been in the hospital recovering for a long time. One of the things that got me through it was knowing that when I got home I would have a new German Shepherd puppy waiting for me. I was in the hospital watching t.v. dreaming about my new dog, so I named her Ava after someone pretty in a Soap. I had flown from Albuquerque and was being wheeled to the next plane when we stopped by baggage and someone brought in a small German Shepherd puppy. I hugged her and then listened to her cry under the seats of the plane in the luggage area as we flew home to Ketchum. She was small and slept on my bed and licked my face as the months passed and I recovered.
The Mad Hatters.
There was a little machine at the Mad Hatters that wound balls of yarn.
The yarn would come in on big spools that were on cardboard cones. Some knitting machines could use the yarn on the spools, but others needed it in balls. The hand run, spinning contraption made a certain noise that I could recognize when I called my mom on the phone and it was spinning in the background. But, the noise this day, did not quit sound the same as the usual sound. She claimed that it was the ball winder, but when I got there a few hours later, I discovered it was a different sound. It was coming from a box in the corner. From the mouth of a tiny, hungry goat.
It was summer. I had short hair and was looking a lot like a boy. I would spend most of the summer knee deep in a frog pound behind my house and the other part of summer at my mom’s hat business in town. Now, I would have a pal to follow me out to the field and to spend the summer with.
The woman had driven in from Challis with a bunch of hats she had knit for the Mad Hatters -my mom’s hat business. In 1975 Chip Fisher, the owner of a ski shop called Snug in Ketchum had asked my mom if she might be interested in starting a ski hat business. He had travelled back East to New York, where he was from and he had seen some ski shops with locally made ski hats made on knitting machines. He had asked about it and found out that people were knitting in their homes to produce the hats and that it was a growing business. My mom had been working for the newspaper and had met many of the business owners in town. She was also a weaver at that time and she had read about a place in North Carolina called Penland, where some women had started a Cooperative where they could work from home and sell their weavings. The hat business sounded like it could be similar and was very appealing to my mom. She had a young child, me, by then and she knew women who had children and wanted to stay home with them, but still wanted to make some money. She also liked the idea of designing hats so, she and Chip invested some money and bought their first knitting machine. The machine did not work very well and my mom spent most of the summer trying to figure out how to get it to make a hat. Slowly though, things came together, she sold some hats at Snug, she rented a place behind the Toy Store on Sun Valley road and hired some women to sew. And, little by little she got into the Ski Hat industry.
Being in the Ski Hat industry later meant traveling to Las Vegas every year to be a part of the Ski show. This helped her to sell her hats all across the United States. Most of the orders came from there. This meant designing new hats each year, making a ski hat catalog, estimating materials and costs and then asking for a loan. Working within that loan to buy materials, pay taxes, pay employees and then getting the orders to the stores across the country by November, so that they would be ready for them to sell that season. And, then keeping her employees busy the rest of the year. The ski shops usually did not pay their bills until January 15. When it was a bad snow year, the ski shops would pay for their skis, boots and other things first and then pay the little guy (the hat maker) last or some times not at all. This was difficult and extremely stressful. My mom still has dreams about running out of black yarn and not getting hats to people on time.
But, she did enjoy her employees a lot and she did enjoy helping mothers and women to stay at home and work. She once went to the Four Corners area to bring employment to some very low income areas. She also travelled to Weippe, Idaho to bring work to women who were married to loggers and had very few opportunities in their small town. She had given the woman from Challis, who had brought the goat, a steady income. She had employed many women in the area.
The hat business had moved several times to different parts of Ketchum. At that time it was in the industrial area of Ketchum. My mom had her own office on the corner of the building, which was attached to the rest of the factory. The office had windows, so when the woman pulled up to deliver the hats, my mom noticed that she had a bunch of baby goats in the back of her truck. An animal lover herself, my mom went out to look at them and the next thing I knew we had a goat. I wasn’t there for this exchange, but I can imagine this is how it went. The woman had given my mom a glass coke bottle and a nipple and some goats milk so we could feed it and waved good bye until her next delivery of hats.
I brought the goat home and because I was the one to feed him from a bottle, he followed me everywhere. We lived in a place where he would not need to be pinned up, so he had complete freedom as did I. I remember walking out in the field, him following me just like a dog might. When the rare car would go by I would notice them looking over at me. They would stare at me, wondering what it was that was following me.
Arrow, which is what I named him because of his markings, was an agile pet. He could follow me across logs that crossed the river, he could climb mountains, jump onto rocks. He could go anywhere. He could jump up on things too, much higher than I could. These things ended up including the kitchen table where we one day found him eating chips out of a bowl. He also had a thing for jumping on people’s cars. I don't remember him jumping up on our cars just visitors. One day when Chip Fisher stopped by our house on his way to a company Barbecue. He was driving his Mercedes-Benz, which at the time was the nicest car I knew of in all of Ketchum.
I cringed to think he had driven it out on our dusty dirt road. He came inside to say hello and when we went back outside, our goat, Arrow was standing on the front of his car. Hooves a scratching.
That same summer, my Uncle Ron and his wife Marie-Agnes and their son Alexandre came to visit from France. My dad had just had this building moved out to our house that was going to be demolished in Ketchum. John Daley, had helped my dad to get the small building onto a moving truck and they had driven it out and placed it in our front yard, so that my dad could use it as his workshop. His sawdusty workshop for building furniture, before that, was in our house in the living room. He had kept it warm with the fireplace and kept that room from freezing for several years. Before he moved out to the new building though, my Aunt and Uncle slept there on a bed that we rented from Lutz rentals. My little French cousin Alexandre slept in my room in a crib. He was very sweet, waking up before me each morning, but not saying anything, just staring at me from his crib. I can still picture his big blue eyes and his head laying softly to the side as he watched me sleep and waited for me to wake up.
We had a lot of fun that summer with them because we took them out to dinner and to Red Fish Lake. It was not very common for us to have visitors, but when we did we always had a lot of fun.
I had that little goat all summer long and into the fall and then, the woman took him back to her farm because we were going to get too much snow to keep him there all winter. After that, every time I saw a goat and still to this day, I always ooo and aaa. Some times I laugh because I now have five goats and I still exclaim when I see goats in other places… “Oh, look goats!”
The Mad Hatters was like a second home to me growing up. Our house was 7 miles from town, so I was either there all day in the summer or at home. The people who worked at the Mad Hatters were wonderful. They were all very kind and funny and all very different. Because we had no relatives in town, they became my aunts and grandmothers that I grew up with.
When I was 10 years old, I worked at an office.
I was so busy, that sometimes I wouldn’t talk to anyone all day, so I could get everything done. It felt good to have a job in town. It felt good to get all cleaned up and put on my fancy grey sweat pants with the heart on the back pocket and my black, pat and leather shoes with the bows. I’d head into town early, catching a ride with my mom. We drive the seven mile dirt road, sometimes talking, sometimes in silence, both thinking about all we had to get done that day. I had a lot of orders to take care of. And, I had a lot to file and organize.
A few days before, I’d been in a dumpster looking around to see if anything good had been thrown out. That was back in the day when nobody cared that you were in a dumpster and when you might be lucky enough to find a stray kitten in there and take it home. I looked around and noticed a box. The top was taped shut, so I knew it had to be something good. I opened it up and to my wonder it was a box full of someones old checks. Yes, and my mind began to reel. I thought about all I could do with this box of checks. I’d have to file these, organize them, maybe even use a few to pay the bills. I taped the box shut and lugged it out of the dumpster and headed to my office. The checks had all been written neatly by someone by the name of Pam Morris and must have been paid, returned to her bank and then returned to her. She’d gone through them, organized them and then boxed them all up just for me. It was my job now to look them over and see just who they’d been written to and dream up why. I’d use them to pay my bills for my office. I’d have to figure out where to keep them in my desk.
This would kept me busy for many hours that day and the next. I think it kept me busy for a whole summer. Sometimes though, I would have to take a break from my desk job and put on my roller skates and skate back and forth on the cement floor in the hat factory. It was smooth and I could get going pretty fast if I wanted to. Sometimes I’d walk up the wood stairs to the second floor where people were knitting hats on machines. I would go and check on them to see how they were doing.
If I went clear to the back, I would see Annie, the woman from Norway, who I was helping to teach English and who was practically my grandmother. If my mom had to stay late and Annie was leaving early, then I could go with her, in her fast, red car. We would woosh over to her house, where she would make me something good to eat and I could watch T.V.. She was nice and always gave me chocolate on Easter, the only chocolate I got. My mom always gave me carob, which I grew to hate. Annie always had a birthday party for me and her other friend Willy who had the same birthday as me and was about 70 years older than me, but only in the way she looked. Not, in the way she acted. She lived in a trailer on the corner of Main and 6th that had a lot of the color pink inside. I didn’t know much about her, but now I wish I could ask her a thousand questions. We were all good friends and laughed a lot when we were all together.
Annie lived with a man named Chuck who was just as nice as Annie. He didn’t work because he’d been in a war and he was really tired from that and maybe hurt. Sometimes he have a drink in the middle of the afternoon, so he wouldn’t have to think about the war. He had lots of T.V.s in his house. Some were for watching and some were for fixing. If you needed a T.V. fixed he could do it just as soon as he finished with the ones he already had there. I liked seeing all those T.V.s cause where we lived, we didn’t have one. We couldn’t get any reception where we lived. It was too far away for a T.V. There was really no reason to have one. I got my fair share of TV watching though, when I went to their house. I’d watch the Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prairie and if I were there late enough I could watch the Dukes of Hazard or Knight Rider. I didn’t have to change the channel, much. When I did I skipped right over the news because it could be scary to see all that horrible stuff going on right near our town and I didn’t want to have to worry about it. Those images tended to stick in my mind and arise when I lay in bed in my dark room.
After Annie’s knitting machine, there was Deloris. Deloris lived in Hailey, which was 11 miles too far away to ever go visit her. It was only on one or two occasions in my whole life that we ever went to her house. Once was to drop off something like yarn or hats. I remember she lived on a side street, pretty close to the main street in Hailey on the second floor of an old building. We walked up some dark stairs and down a dark hallway to her apartment. This was the first apartment I’d ever seen. I think it was pretty dark in there too and full of stuff. I remember going to another room, that was full of dolls, hundreds of dolls. She collected them. It was dark and pretty spooky with all those old dolls in boxes that just wanted to come out and be played with. They were for shows though and money and had to be protected and kept nice and safe for the few days when they got to come out and be shown. Deloris was as nice as can be.
She taught me how to drink instant Nestle Ice Tea with ice and sugar, and a Tylenol to get rid of a headache fast. She showed me how to put sugar on a peach and put it in the microwave when it wasn’t ripe and it would sweeten right up. She was also the only person I know who salted her cantaloupe. She called me Sport and told good stories about her crazy family in Jerome. From a young age, I knew that writing a book about her life, would be writing a good book. She never seemed to have a dull moment even if she wanted to. She got married when she was young to a much older man. I don’t think her family was too happy about it, because she went to jail over it and had to escape. But she may have been the only one that made it out of that family and Jerome alive. Her husband was an electrician and he drove a pink truck because the company he worked for was called Pink’s Electric. His name was Pete, but we didn’t see him very often, because he was always working on a big house on the Fairviews in Sun Valley. They were building a big solar house there, (not very common in the 80s) so he’d be busy with that for a long time. He was a quiet man, with a kind smile and that was just about all I needed to know about him. The stories Deloris told weren’t about him, they were about her family and someone name Misty. Every once in a while Misty would come to the hat factory and spend the day there. She was younger than me, so I’d take care of her and make sure she was ok at least for the time she was at the hat factory with us. I couldn’t take care of her once she’d left and gone back to that crazy family in Jerome though.
If I kept going down the line of knitters, I come to Lynard. I think that may have been her nick name, but she was nice too and could put the back of her hand on my forehead and tell right away if I had a fever. She had two kids of her own at home who she’d have to do this to each morning before she left for the long drive to work. She needed to make sure they would be ok, while she left them alone. Her husband didn’t stay home with them because he worked for the Fish and Game and even though my dad was strongly against anything that had to do with money and the forest service, he talked my mom into asking Lynard if her husband could drive by our house on Saturday and dump a whole truck load of fish from the hatchery into our pond. Well, he did this, just as fast as he could so no one would see and our pond was suddenly turned into the Warm Springs Restaurant’s pond, ‘cause we could throw dog food to these fish and they would jump out of the water to get it. They were big and fun to watch and that made my dad happy especially when we had visitors.
Then, it was back downstairs in my roller skates, unless of course I’d taken them off already, to listen to a story . I would go to check on Lee. Lee worked the pom pom machine, which was a big wind mill that turned on a drill and wound all different colors of acrylic yarn around it until there was just enough. She would then stop it and put little zip ties on there just so. Next, she’d cut the colored yarn, in just the right place and then pull off the whole rope of it, so she could cut each pom pom out and trim them just so. I knew the most about what she did because it was big and fun to watch. Lee lived almost in Hailey, a little before, and she had a neat yard with a fence around it. When you went to her door the first thing you’d hear, maybe even before you knocked were a few small barking dogs. She had fancy dogs that probably wouldn’t survive where we lived due to the wild animals and large amounts of snow. You'd hear Lee calling and coming. She was always busy doing something when we got there, but I wasn’t sure what. It could have been gardening or painting or something. Her husband had a big work shop where he made things out of wood right next to their house, so usually she be in between her house and there. And, when we walked back outside I could peer across and see a garage with several old cars, what Glen, her husband, worked on on the weekends when he wasn’t relaxing and smoking his pipe. He had a long, grey beard that went well with the pipe and he too was quiet and nice with a kind smile.
If I roller skated back down the cement, I’d come to a door to the office where my mom was. Her desk was on the opposite wall from mine and there was a phone and a rolodex on it. She was usually on the phone or out seeing if the UPS man had come yet. During school, she had time to pick me up and take me to get a snack, but most the time we just worked, back to back in that office until it was time to go home.
I know she had some fun there though. One time she told me that she and Barbara, who did all the shipping, took the UPS truck while the driver was inside collecting boxes of hats. They drove it around the corner and left it there, so when the driver went outside he didn’t see his truck. He looked worried for a minute and wasn’t sure where to put all the outgoing boxes of hats, while he looked for his truck. The smile on my mom’s face made him realize his truck was not far away. When we’d go home in the evening, we usually talk, my mom and I. In the morning, we were too worried about all we had to get done, but by the afternoon, we knew we’d done all we could, so we could talk. If it were summer time, we’d usually go out in the garden and water or push the lawn mower around a bit. We eat something easy for dinner and I’d usually end up knee deep in the pond. Sometimes, my dad would go for a walk with me out in the field, we looked for frogs or he’d bring his fishing pool and catch a few fish to bring home in a bucket. We’d let them go, sometimes by hand, so I could feel their cool skin. Then, it’d be time for bed and if there wasn’t a radio show to listen to there was usually a good story on a tape that I could put on to help me to fall asleep. My mom and dad would go to bed early, so they could read all the books by their bed, in their loft.
If I didn’t wake up early enough to go to work with my mom and my dad wasn’t heading to town that day, then I’d have to spend my day outside. I could also go across the street and head up the mountain to check out the old mine that was up there. The climb was straight up and took a lot of energy, so I did not do this everyday. There was also the island in the river. It was close and easy to get to and if I stood in just the right place, it felt like I was on a boat headed up river. The island needed cleaning, rearranging and often that is what I would do there. Or, there was the upper river bank. It was a long walk and if I went there, I’d be gone all day. If I was up for it, I would follow the river to the pond and then keep following the river until it came to a bend and then I was almost there. It was fun to see how it had changed and what was new there. There were always lots of treasures that the river had brought. There was always lots to do, hours and hours of work, because of the changes the river had made. When I felt like it was near five o’clock I’d head home, hungry and thirsty and looking forward to seeing my mom. The dogs would go to the end of the driveway, when they weren’t with me and wait for my mom to arrive. They could hear the car from miles away. The dogs, were my company and they were our welcome home. I didn’t really know if I wanted to work in an office my whole life. It seemed pretty stressful for my mom. She never talked much about it, but I knew sometimes by the ways she sighed that it was.
My dad and I built a turtle box.
The turtle box came about when we got a phone call from our local pet store owner -a friend of mine being that I was a big pet owner. He knew someone with two large painted turtles, an aquarium, the whole set up looking for a new home for two turtles. I was so excited. Of course we would take them. They were inside in the winter time and then in the short mountain summer that we had, they could be outside.
My dad made them an outdoor box. Then, I created a pond and places for them to hide and thrive in the box. But, what we didn't think about was that turtles can dig, so one of them got out and was gone.
Some time later, I was reading my favorite section of our local newspaper, the Mountain Express, Pet Check and there it was. An ad “Found in Hailey in the river, a painted turtle. Call 788-3405” Without a doubt this was my turtle.
My turtle had made his way over to the river and traveled 18 miles all the way to Hailey, Idaho. He must have dug his way out of the box and followed the sound of the river. He must have jumped in and slowly floated down.
He must have past the campground where my dad and I would sometimes go for a swim, the mine at Basset Gulch where we used to park our car and ski in, the house where the Bionic woman had lived for a winter, the Bogner's cabins and their Burmese Mountain dogs, the section of aspens and dogwoods, the big corner, the bridge that my friend Dove and her Grandma had walked to one day when they tried to walk all the way to my house.
He must have made it past the shady area of the river that followed the road, past the houses on the Lower Board Ranch, past all my friends who lived there and played in the river and could have found him. He must have made it under another bridge where we had seen a herd of elk walking up the river on a cold winters night, past Penny Lake with all the fisherman fishing for hatchery fish, past all the beaver dams and coyote willow that blazed with color in the spring and fall, past the big house down in the trees, through the natural hot water, where the pool used to be that I always wanted to go, to warm my body.
He must have made it past the ski mountain, the bridge, the chair lifts, past my friend Lisa Fisher's house, and the Prospector pool, past the golf course and the Warm Springs Ranch Restaurant. He made it past jump rock, where my dad would stop to cool off on his way home in the summer, past my grade school, past my friends' houses who lived by the river in Ketchum.
He must have gone past Fred and Randy's beautiful garden and strawberries, and then down 11 more miles of river that I did not know.
Someone, probably a kid like me, would be playing in the river and see a turtle -a very unusual sight where I grew up- and catch him and bring him home. Then, the parents would tell their child, we need to put an ad in the paper and see if someone lost their turtle. They'd smile to themselves thinking no one would respond.
But, I did. It had to be mine. I called the number and made arrangements to pick up my turtle. That weekend, we finally got a chance to drive all the way to Hailey to be reunited with our turtle. And, yes, when we picked him up he looked just like mine.
We seemed to have a lot of cats as I was growing up.
It wasn’t uncommon for someone to be out in front of the grocery store with a box of free kittens and for me to absolutely need one. But, we also had a cat that was there my whole life. The cat was Lion. I got her from another famous Lion-like cat name George that had lived forever in Ketchum and now I had one that would live forever or over 20+ years. I had her starting in kindergarten and then as life would have it, she lived long enough to be held by my first son Nias, to sleep in his bed and to begin him on his journey of the love of animals.
Lion also had a few sets of kittens and this was an amazing experience for me to witness a birth. She had one set of them upstairs in my parents loft in a dark green laundry basket. They were tiny and had their eyes closed and Lion cleaned them off and fed them. My mom had given me this book, which I loved to look at and compare my kittens to as they grew.
When they were old enough to go to their own houses, I sat in front of Atkinson’s Market with a cardboard box with Free written on it. It did not take long for all of them to find good homes. I also found homes for all of the black puppies that my neighbor’s dog had too. They required a little bit bigger box, but once people saw them and handled them, they were taken home immediately.
One Kitten for Kim is a storybook that I still have about a boy who has to find homes for seven kittens that his cat had. He puts them in a box and puts the box in his wagon and wheels them down the road. At each stop of the seven stops he is able to give one away, but in return he is given another pet. When he returns home, instead of having an empty wagon, he returns with a wagon full of all kinds of pets. At one point, my life felt a lot like that.
Zoey was so tiny and black when they got her, curled up in the sun on top of a wool, patch work quilt and disappeared. We didn't find her until she woke up and came downstairs to eat. Zoey let me carry her around as a very young child and she received one of the names I almost got instead of Melissa.
One day we were driving back from Twin Falls and we were between Shoshone and Bellevue and I was looking out the window. We had just passed Johnny’s Country Store when, suddenly, I saw a white pigeon on the side of the road and I could tell it was alive and hurt. I told my mom. “Stop the car!”
She turned around and we drove back to where I had seen the pigeon and sure enough it was hurt. It had a very swollen eye. I dumped out the new shoes we had bought and scooped the pigeon up and put it in the box. I held it one my lap all the way home.
We found a cage for it and put it on our wood stove and gave it some good food and water. We might have put some thing on its eye like neosporin, but mostly we just let the pigeon heal instead of leaving it to die on the side of the highway. The pigeon’s eye got better and one day we were able to let it go outside. I put it out on our lawn and it flew up on to our rock chimney. It stayed there for several more weeks. I would go outside every morning and look up to see if it was still there.
Then, one day we were outside and we saw the pigeon flying up really high in the sky. It was headed over to my favorite spot on the side of the mountain, it circled back toward us and then suddenly it took a dive and looked like it was not going to make it, but the it became to fly again. We read that some pigeons do this. They are called tumbling pigeons. It came back and landed on our chimney. The next morning though, when I went outside to see if it was there, it was gone. The pigeon had tested it wings the day before and today it was on its way home. I had rescued it and allowed it to heal and now I had given it is freedom and a choice of whether it wanted to stay on our chimney forever or to go. It had decided to go. Later, I would get my very own homing pigeons from a blind man in Jerome. I would take them far away from my home and they would fly back to my house -where they called home.
Because I loved to go to pet stores, we went when we were on a visit to Oregon on summer and I ended up with two Guinea Pigs. We kept them at my Grandma Allen’s house which at the time seemed like no big deal, but looking back I bet she hated that. She was not very fond of animals and here I was holding them in her main family room.
There is something about having pets that people don't always get if they never grow up around animals. But when you do, you want them to be in your life forever in some form. Whether it be a fish that comes up to the water when you get close to it to see if you have food, a dog that wags his tail and smiles when you come in the door, a cat that wants to be fed and pet, a turtle that adds to the magic of your back yard and life.
thirty four and a half
One time when I didn't have a pet to bring home from a trip, I had a stuffed animal that was a skunk puppet. I put him on a leash and when we stopped at a rest stop, I very carefully drug him around on the leash. I got some very interesting looks from people. No one got very close.
Fall brought with it cool weather, brightly colored leaves and school.
It was a comfort to know that there would be some regularity in my life, but also a hesitation. The warm summer of jumping into the river, shorts and bathing suits, sunshine that warmed you and stayed out late. The sun would some times shine until 9:30 at night. It made days long and summer last. But, the fall, would come and it would cool me off causing the leaves on the Aspens to turn a brilliant yellow to a black if it came too fast. The wind would blow, the nights would come early and the sheep would go by our school.
I went to school everyday and I took it very seriously.
I never missed a day unless there was an avalanche. They never seem to cancel school for anything, especially not for snow. At recess we would play Star Wars before the snow fell and we would run around by the large and small tunnels that are no longer there. I would be Princess Leia and so would my friend Nellie Price. Nellie had thick long hair that she wore in braids everyday and so when her mom put them into two buns to be the real Princess Leia at school the next day they looked way better than my tiny ones. I didn’t have much hair. In fact, when I went to the Play school after school and was with kids of all ages, I remember getting teased by the older kids about my plastic animal berets that held my hair instead of rubber bands like the big kids had. Kids were mean.
But, I was usually one of the first kids picked for the kick ball team. We had P.E. inside and outside. Kick ball was the best game, but we played everything including indoor gym hockey with no protection at all. My favorite thing to do in P.E. was to climb the rope. They would lower it down from the ceiling every once in a while and I could climb all the way to the top and ring the bell.
In the winter, I would wear snow pants everyday to school and we would play king of the mountain.
One of the boys, Stony, invited me over to his house to play and I remember being the only girl at K.C.s birthday when we sledded down Dollar. After that, Stony was playing at his friend’s house that was behind the Play school where I went after school. I saw him through the fence. He and his friend told me to come over and play, so I climbed over the fence, crossed a small alley street and went over his fence to their yard. I don't know if the teachers watched me do this and didn't say anything or did not see me and never knew. I played with them for a while and then I climbed back over the fences and went back over before everyone went inside.
My hand print is still in the cement in front of that Play school as is Andy Bonder’s hand print. I still place my hand over my tiny hand print when I am walking by there -40 years later. The road has been paved over many times, but they have always left the children’s hands there.
In Kindergarten, Stony came to school with a pink carnation on Valentine’s Day. He had given it to me and said “I think my mom said to give this to you.” I looked in my cubby every chance I got to see if I really had a pink carnation in there.
In second grade, I broke my arm and I had to write with my left hand for eight weeks. Mrs. Butterfield was a very kind and quiet teacher. She took a break from school, so we had a substitute teacher, Mrs. Fiddler, for months and months and months. I missed Mrs. Butterfield.
We had music class in school and we would have a performance about two times a year. I still have “Ice is nice, but it’s just not the same as snow. Oh, no. What it really takes are those fluffy white flakes to turn the world into some thing great.” in my head. Every once in a while I find myself singing it because we practiced that song so many times for the performance. It was always fun because afterwards we would go to Little Annie’s Ice Cream for a special treat.
We had a lot of different music teachers in Elementary school and so we learned a lot of different music. One of our teachers was blind and had a seeing eye dog. He was the best teacher we had because he always tell when some one was messing around and not paying attention. Some teachers wrote their own and some had their favorites. songs like, Let it be, Mickey Mouse March, When Johnny Comes Marching home again, Mr. Bojangles, El Condor Pasa, Yellow Submarine, Swinging on a Star, Fat Santa, The Sweetest Gift, Michael, Whatever will be will be, Silver Bells, Let there be Peace on Earth. We sang songs every week. Classes like P.E., Music and Art were important back then and they were a part of our lives. I love having these songs being the ones that I grew up with, the ones that popped up into my mind. The ones you could sing with friends and on a road trip.
In art class, when we were allowed to draw or paint whatever we wanted, I would draw palm trees and dream about being in a warm place some day.
In the third grade, we had to keep a journal and write in it everyday. It was one of the kind with the black and white covers. It was the type of journal your teacher would read and then write something back to you. We learned cursive that year and were supposed to practice our cursive in our journals. Miss Smedley, my teacher that year, was getting married, so we wrote back and forth to each other about her wedding. I remember being so excited each week to read what she wrote. I wish I still had it. I didn’t know too much about getting married, but I gave her the best advise I could and I encouraged her. As, I write this, I look over to where I have photograph and other archives I have found from my childhood laid out on the table. I see my Good Citizen Award that my dad framed for me and I notice it is from Miss Smedley. Her cursive looks a lot like mine.
I liked to be a good citizen and would some times stay inside instead of going out to recess to help a teacher clean up. I liked the teachers I had and wanted to not only be their student, but also their friend. My mom had given me really good Fiskar scissors at a really young age and taught me how to cut really well. Often, teachers would ask to help them cut things out. When I wasn’t out a recess, you would find me in a classrooms cutting things out for a teacher.
Our school always had a pet show every year and I always had a fun pet to share. The picture I found shows me walking my Grandma Bake’s dog Tinker. He was one of the smallest dogs I had ever seen and I was excited show him at the pet show. My friend Kylie is with me and she has her fluffy dog in the show.
One time I was on the metal swings that you can see in the pet show picture and I was with my friend Rio. We laughed so hard we both joked that we almost peed in our pants. You can also see the old metal slide.
October 31 was always first day it would snow. It made it difficult to wear any Halloween Costumes that weren’t warm. It got dark early and there were certain places were you could trick or treat and get candy quickly and be home before the heavy snow. Later, it became much more fun to trick or treat with friends and then go to their houses afterward and lay out all of our candy to see how many of each thing we got.
Mostly Halloween was just a cold, dark and often snowy night in the mountains.
My Grandma Bake lived on a farm in Oregon.
I got to go there in the summer time to visit. When, I was just five years old, I took a plane there all by myself. A woman name Rita who worked at Atkinson’s Market gave me a gift the day before and she said I couldn’t open it until I got on the plane. Of course, I couldn't wait to get on the plane. I sat down, got buckled in and opened the gift. It was a boy doll, that I can still picture, dressed in blue just like how I looked when I dressed up as a clown.
My Grandma picked me up at the airport and we went to her farm. She worked, so very early se would drop me off at my Aunt Donna’s house. My Aunt Donna worked nights so she was home during the day. She’d be tired, so I’d watch t.v. a big treat for me after growing up without one. She would eventually wake up and we would drive to pick blackberries on the side of the road and return to her small, crowded house to make black berry jam. The smell and the warmth of the jam would fill the air in the house and the one hot spoonful my Aunt would let me try, was the best. It would burn my the tip of my tongue and melt in my mouth. It was more sugar than I had ever been given to eat all in one bite.
I’d spend the day with my Aunt Donna and then my Grandma would pick me up and we’d go back to the farm. The farm had been a place for my Grandma to raise her three younger kids. They’d had summer jobs picking strawberries, they raised horses and sheep and turkeys there. They’d mowed the lawn and slept in the barn. And they grew up there. My Aunt Donna had also lived there, when she too had lost her husband and was alone to raise two boys. Now, the farmhouse just had me and my grandma in it. It felt big and empty to me especially when I had to go all the way upstairs alone to sleep in one of the bedrooms. Sometimes, my Uncle Don, the youngest son, was there and slept in the other room, but he was much older than me (12 years). I felt safe when he was there. He liked to watch the Little Rascals and cartoons with me on Saturday mornings. And, he would occasionally put me up on one of the horses for a ride.
At the Farm, as we all called it, I found my love for farm animals. My grandmother had a sheep that my mom said used to come into the kitchen and when I was a baby. She remembers me being in a high chair and the sheep would try to eat things off my tray. My grandma recorded a cassette tape for me of the animal sounds so my mom could play it for me when I returned to Idaho. I returned to the farm year after year. I remember one day I was walking down in the pasture and there was a sheep out there and I didn’t pay much attention to it. Suddenly, I woke up on the ground with the sheep looking down at me. It had come over and rammed me and completely knocked me out. Later, when it got to be too much for my Grandma to take care of, my Uncle Johnny (her oldest son) would exchange houses with her so he could raise his son Brant on a farm. His family had lived in a neighborhood in Tualatin in a one story house, which would be a perfect place for my Grandma to live for many years to come. It was on Blake street and I still remember how to get there.
My Uncle Jon loved living on the farm. He raised turkeys, chickens, pigs and other animals there. I remember going with him one day to pick up some baby pigs. I was excited picturing that I would be holding some tiny, adorable pigs. As it turned out, we went into a barn and he picked out some baby pigs, that weren't very small. He picked them up by their hind legs and before I knew it, he had handed two to me. They squealed and wiggled and tried to get loose and I held on to their back legs as tightly as I could, as they hung there. He was always made sure to tell me where the bacon came from that he made for breakfast and always reminded me of WHO I was eating.
My mom had two sisters, Donna and Buffy. Buffy got married at the farm on August 21, 1976. I was the flower girl and my cousin Brant, the ring bearer.
A fortune teller.
My Great Grandmother Royal had a cat figurine collection.
The first time I saw the cat collection was when I went to my Great Grandma Royals house for her 84 birthday. She was living alone at her home in the Portland Hills.
I leaned down and looked inside the glass cabinet that was full of all sizes and all colors of glass cats. She had started collecting them at her beauty shop and put the collection in her window. Now, it was in her beautiful home up above Portland, Oregon.
In 1944, my Great Grandma had a fortune teller come into her shop and she read her fortune. The fortune teller told her that she would be married within 6 months. Frances, a friend of my Great Grandmas, who had just gotten married and was headed to California came into the beauty shop a few days later to have her hair fixed as my Great Grandma said. Frances had forgotten the cat she had for my Great Grandmother’s collection and was very upset about it. Since she was heading out of town, she arranged to leave the cat at the home where she had been staying and the man there would get the cat to my Great Grandmother. Will Royal, the man who now had the cat, called my Great Grandmother to arrange to get her the cat. My Great Grandmother said she wasn't available until Saturday night. The story goes that instead of bringing my Great Grandmother the cat, he made up a story that he had a client who had a house with a view of the city. His client had said it would be ok for him to take Agnes, my Great Grandmother, up to see it. They went and looked at the view and then my Great Grandmother said “Let’s get out of here, they might come back.” He didn't tell her that it was his house until a few days later. Will sent her notes by special delivery everyday. They had met in April and were married in July. The fortune teller had been right. I never heard anything in the story about the cat from Frances. Maybe Frances had made it up so she could meet Will. My Great Grandmother kept a book that listed who had given her the cats and what year.
Eventually, my Grandma Bake (her only child) had the cat collection and in the summer when I was big enough I was allowed to take the cats out and look at them and dust them off. I would look at all of them, admiring them, deciding which ones I liked and didn’t like. I would rearrange them on each shelf. Some times I would look at the numbers so carefully taped to the bottom of the cats and look the number up in the book to see who had given my Great Grandmother the cat and when. Now, I have the cat collection.
December 20 was my birthday and we did what many people did for birthday parties, we would invite all my friends to meet at Louie’s Pizza. All you had to bring was a cake. I could invite many friends who would all be dropped off there and picked up later.
One year, we went to Atkinson’s Market, a few days before and I ordered a Candy Cane cake. I had come up with the idea for the design all on my own and I was so excited. I specifically asked that they make it in the shape of a candy cane and that it be red and white. They did it, so I got to bring that cake to Louie’s Pizza for my birthday.
Lou Mallane was a year younger than I was and his family owned Louie’s. His dad, mom and sisters were often all at the restaurant. It was in an old white church building and if you were lucky enough to sit up on the second floor they would bring your pizza up on a chain pulley lift. It was really fun to watch as a kid. My mom had hand-written the menus for Louie’s in beautiful Calligraphy. She had studied calligraphy at Reed College with Loyd Renold’s and she was extremely good at it. They had framed some of their first menus and had them on the wall and they were the ones my mom had written.
Louie’s felt like a second home, a place you could go and eat with your family, with a friends family, have a birthday party and later have a first date. I can picture the slippery, red covered seats in the booths that you would slide over to be near the wall, the chairs, that were never as comfortable as the booth, the bar, where every once in a while we would see if we happen to go through the side door, and the upstairs. Eventually, Louie’s closed, it was removed from its location. It was sad to see it go for many people. In my mind it still lives on.
One day, I happen to be in Meridian, Idaho and I was looking for a place to eat lunch with my son. Unfamiliar with the area, I glanced over and saw a sign that said Louie’s Pizza. I knew that it had been in Boise for a while, but I did not know it was in Meridian. I pulled in and told my son all about the one in Ketchum. We walked into the waiting room and there they were, the menus my mom had written in the 1970s, by hand in Calligraphy for that small town, family restaurant. I was so amazed, so happy to see them. Then, we walked into he restaurant and there was Lou Mallane sitting at table. He recognized me and got up to say hello. Although we had not seen each other for over 15 years, it was as though not a day had passed. He was running the restaurant now with his sister and happy to have us there to eat. It was the same, welcoming face and feeling that I used to get in Ketchum. It was a true reflection of what growing up in a small town is like and can bring you later in life and allow you to share with your kids.
Little Annie's was right across the street from Louie's and also a special treat when we got to go there.
Louie's is now located next to the original Picket Fence in Ketchum and is now a part of the Picket Fence. Here is an article I found about Louie's for those of you that want to read a little bit more about it.
Louie’s Pizza Celebrates 50 years.
An article from the Mt. Express 2015 by Jeff Cordes
Downtown Ketchum has changed plenty in 50 years. Along Main St., there is a row of banks instead of a row of gas stations and pay telephones.
Restaurants have changed, come and gone. Louie’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant, a down-town fixture and meeting place for 30 years, has been gone from Ketchum for 16 years now, but not forgotten.
On June 20, over 200 past employees and friends celebrated the success of a family tradition by marking the 50th anniversary of Louie’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant at its busy hub location in Meridian.
Louie Mallane, a ski bum from Ogden, Utah opened up Ketchum’s first Italian restaurant in June 1965 with a bank loan of $150 which he used to buy flour, mushrooms, napkins and assorted sundries.
Mallane and his wife Margaret had been hired by Ned Bell to manage the kitchen at the Nedders watering hole. They served pizzas and took in $29 the first night. Word spread quickly. Everybody pitched in.
Two years later, Mallane moved his business from the current Sawtooth Club Main St. location to the former First Congregational Church build-ing located around the corner on Leadville. He leased the building from insuranceman Ned Bell and Dr. John Moritz.
Louie’s first employee, Judy Whitehead, said, “Linda Vinagre and I were Louie’s first employees when he moved to the Sawtooth Club. He asked me, would you like to be a waitress? I said, Louie, I’ve never been a waitress. He said, that’s all right, I’ve never owned a restaurant. The three of us, we washed the dishes, did everything.”
Moving to the old church marked a turning point.
The church was built in 1884. It had been discontinued as a church in 1954 and became a beer bar known as Leadville Emporium, or Nedders. The historical building still stands, a working business called The Picket Fence at East Ave. and 6th St.
But its most colorful history came when it housed Louie’s.
The original rest rooms in Louie’s Pizza were located in the church confessional, which became the wait station. When Mallane, now 75, celebrated his 40th birthday in 1979, friends “mourned” the passing of his youth by transporting him in a coffin from Hailey to his be-loved restaurant in Ketchum.
Many good times happened.
After setting up shop in the church in 1967, Louie’s Pizza became so busy and gained such a reputation that the Mal-lanes added an upstairs banquet room and an expanded kitchen during the infamous drought year of 1976-77.
Louie Mallane was always a good businessman. When the restaurant marked its 20th anniversary in 1985, Pioneer Sa-loon owner Duffy Witmer said, “Louie is the premier businessman in town. Louie’s restaurant is an institution.”
The restaurant was a community gathering place, for one reason because it was such a well-run family business with good food. Everything about it was still small town.
For instance, one of the town’s doctors having dinner at Louie’s made it a point each visit to check the blood pressure of cook Pasquale Lampo.
Mallane expanded his restaurant business to Boise for the first time in 1983. He opened another restaurant in Idaho Falls. After closing his Ketchum restaurant in 1999, Mallane debuted the current Meridian restaurant in 2000. And that’s where the 50th anniversary party was held.
Past employees came from as far away as Sandpoint to celebrate with the Mallanes. They sidled up to the same bar that Louie had at the Ketchum restaurant, a bar he had purchased from Whitey Hershman at the Palace Club in Bellevue.
Former Blaine County Superintendent of Schools Phil Homer paid a special tribute to Louie for his support of Blaine County schools. Many other friends shared stories of their favorite Louie’s experiences.
Other friends that couldn’t make the trip to Boise paid tribute in a special video tribute that Kathy Mallane and Don Leonard had taped at their store in Ketchum.
Besides Louie and Margaret Mallane, the party included their four children and their spouses, Chris Mallane, Becky and Matt Jeffries, Maria Mal-lane, and Lou and Sarah Mal-lane. Grandchildren attending were Max Mallane, Sam Mal-lane, Wilson Mallane, Parker Jeffries, Allison Jeffries, Slader Jeffries, Noah Mallane, Harrison Mallane, Madelyn Mallane and Louie Mallane III.
Email the writer: email@example.com Jeff Cordes
It was always a big snow day on my birthday. Always very cold and the day before the shortest day of the year. “Put on your boots, my dad would say, in case we get stuck and have to walk.” If we could make it through the snow, past the avalanches and into Ketchum I would be able to have a birthday party at Louie's.
On other birthdays that I remember I had slumber parties. We would all sleep on the floor in sleeping bags and blankets and stay up most of the night talking -telling jokes and stories. One year, I requested a complete Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and mashed potatoes. My mom used a ricer to make the mashed potatoes and they were delicious. When they came out of the ricer she did not mix them, so they still looked like rice. Unbeknownst to me, my friend Muffy thought it was rice and got one of the biggest surprises of her life when the rice melted into mash potatoes in her mouth. Later, I found out two things about Muffy: her parents never cooked, but microwaved all of her meals and she never forgot how good those riced mashed potatoes were. She reminded me at her wedding reception at Galena Lodge and at Red Fish Lake last summer.
I took ballet from Hillarie Neely for many years. I had good balance from it and from crossing logs. We had performances just like in the book my mom had given me called A Very Young Dancer about a girl who was in the Nut Cracker and practiced ballet a lot to become very good. There were kids of all ages in the performances. I remember doing one outside in the summer time by the Sun Valley Art Center, when it was where the Community School is now. Another time, I remember it being in Hailey and being a big deal in a big place. I can still see the neon light lit halls of what was Wood River High School seen through a young child’s eyes. It was exciting to wait with everyone out in the halls and then to get our turn on the big stage under the bright lights.
Some one brought us a baby deer.
A friend of my parents was driving out our road and he saw a baby deer all by itself. So he picked it up and put it in his car and brought it to us. We put it in our kitchen and it was so scared. My mom left me at home with it while she went to town to buy it some milk and a bottle to feed it.
When she got home, we fed it and it was very happy. But, it was still very frightened and not at all like my baby goat that had followed me around. It would hide in the corner and run around the kitchen running into chairs and anything in its way. It was wild and not supposed to be inside, not supposed to be comfortable around humans. My mom called the Fish and Game to see what to do. We put it in our Rabbit House for the night because we knew it would run away if we let it go outside. I fed it with the bottle a few more times and then a person with the Fish and Game came to get it. We asked where it would go and he said “Probably the Boise Zoo.”
Years later, I would go to the Boise Zoo and look for the deer.
"California here we come...."
The summer of 1981, my Grandma Bake decided she wanted to take, my mom, me and my cousin Brant to Disneyland. We drove to Portland and then we got into my grandma's blue Volkswagen Rabbit and drove to California. We had no air conditioning. No one did, so we weren't worried. I packed my roller skates. First stop was at a Cactus surrounded hotel in California. I laced up my skates and skated up and down the side walk until it got dark. The next day we drove to San Francisco and stayed in a fun hotel that was tall and skinny. It was like no building I had been in before. We spent the night there and then went to the crookedest street in the world, Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. We saw where fortune cookies were made and ate Dim Sum at a restaurant that I would return to 20 years later and it would look exactly the same. Next stop, Disneyland. We stayed at the Candy Cane Inn, in Anaheim, California right near the park. I had an earache and so my mom and Brant got to go to Disneyland the first evening and my grandma and I stayed at the Inn. The next day though, we did all the rides. Its a Small World, Magic Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean. We had a lot of fun especially taking photographs with all the characters that were there.
Then, next stop, San Diego. We went to Sea World and saw all kinds of amazing animals and fish that I had never seen before.
Last stop, Tijuana. My first time in Mexico was in 1981 and my Grandma Bake was driving and we had no idea where we were going and all I remember is her asking “What does alto mean?” She must have been joking, but it makes sense because no one seems to stop at the altos in Mexico. It was an amazing trip. I can’t believe we went all of those places and my wonderful Grandma Bake showed me all those wonderful things. Brant and I were both only children, so we got in a fair share of fights. After all, we were in the back seat of a small car with no A/C for many hours at a time and no electronics, nothing but maybe Brant had a book. I always got car sick so I couldn't read so you had to stare out the window, day dream or fight, but we also bonded on that trip as cousins.
Later, I would be looking at a photo album of my husband when he was a child and there were photos of he and his sister when they were in Disneyland. I would ask, what year was that and Irma, his mom, would say the summer of 1981. My mind would reel, had I seen him? Had I been next to him on a ride? Did we almost meet then and then not again until 1993? I’d look at all of his photos of Disneyland at the backgrounds to see if I could see myself there, near him in 1981. I’d go home to Idaho later and look at my photos of Disneyland and look for him in the back ground of my photos. I still do this today. He had to have been there. We had to of crossed paths at some point. Just to think we were both there the same summer, is pretty amazing, taking photographs with all the same characters.
I’d leave a letter out for Santa Claus each year.
I’d have a small Christmas tree in my room with lights and there would be one in the room with the wood stove. They would serve as night lights on those long dark nights.
My dad would bring in a metal ladder covered in snow making my mom gasp and sigh as the snow fell off the ladder and melted on the floor. He would climb up to the attic above the bath tub and pull down boxes marked Christmas. Inside the first box were the Santa Clauses my mom had made one year out of cones that once held yarn. There was a porcelain Santa with a chipped nose, and my favorite a little set of metal angels that went together and had little candles to light under it that would make it spin. Tedious to put together, tedious to get to work and usually after the messy wax, disappeared or was never lit again until the following year, but I loved that. In the other boxes were all the old ornaments. The wooden ones, the ones I had made over the years in school, the ones people had sent us for Christmas. There were Sculpey ones my mom made one year and white dough ones she had made another. And little mice in walnut shells. My dad would put lights on the tree and then we were free to hang the ornaments. Each ornament brought back memories. Remember this one? This is the one from Brant. This is the one from the Barniks. Some how, even though we only saw them once a year for a few weeks, we remember each one and who had made them or given them to us. The beaded bells my Grandma Bake used to make. The Hallmark ones my Aunt Donna would send. My Aunt Donna was determined that I would have enough ornaments for my own tree as soon as I had grown up, so she gave me an ornament ever year. She also had a sign above her front door, year round, that said Believe. I still do.
It would be dark and cold and everyone would go to bed early. I would lay awake as long as I possibly could to see if I heard Santa, but never managed to. I would always leave him a treat and sometimes I’d leave something for the reindeer too. One year I asked him if he could please take a photograph of Rudolph for me. It would just help me to know more about them and that they were real. Verification, thats all I wanted. I never heard Santa and I never got a photo of Rudolph. I did however always seem to get what was on my list. The stockings were always full in the morning, often with oranges and tooth paste and other things we needed and there was always a big surprise under the tree unwrapped, next to all the wrapped presents.
The wrapped presents accumulated through the month of December, mostly arriving from Oregon saying Happy Birthday Melissa, Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday Pret. I had to organize them all under the tree and double check them often so that they would be opened on the right day. I would usually wake up early and get my parents out of bed or I’d bring the stocking upstairs to their loft and we’d open them in their bed. Wow, oranges again. Yep, it was definitely Santa because he did the same thing last year. My long letter would be gone and the carrot I’d left for the reindeer, gone. The cookie half eaten. Santa amazed me. How did he do it every year? You start to think about it and then decide, he was magic, he could do it. It was way beyond my understanding.
Those were the days when you would look through a Sears catalog to see if there was anything you wanted. There were no big stores in Ketchum, no internet, and no TV for me, so there was no way for me to really know what I was missing out on. I might have seen a few things at friends houses, but never anything to leave me envious. We really didn’t want much back then and when we got something we were thrilled with it whatever it was. A toy like a Simon meant hours of entertainment, a doll that could eat and poop would give me busy all winter, the tiny digital clock that the Barniks gave me lasted, battery and all, for 15 years. These were treasures that showed up in the middle of winter. The gifts under the tree were as wonderful as the opening of them because of all the expectation and dreams of what they could be. What my grandma might have knit for me that year, what my Aunt Donna or Aunt Buffy had sewn.
Turkey dinner or maybe a Leg of Lamb on Christmas Day. My dad would go skiing and sometimes I’d join him for a trek out to the field. If the slough was frozen we might shovel it off for hours and hours to create an ice rink. I get out my ice skates and skate all day, thinking I would skate all winter, but the next day it would be covered in snow and we’d be too tired to shovel it again. My parents always made Christmas Day very special for me inside and outside of our cabin.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.
“Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree came by special delivery.” The rest you could read by just looking at the pictures. It started with a man in a fancy house getting a Christmas tree delivered that was way to large even for his mansion. They cut off the top that is bending into the ceiling and chuck it outside into the snow. There, the first animal a fox finds it and takes it home to his family, but the tree is too big for his den, so he cuts off the top and throws it into the snow. This goes on through several animals and the last tiny part that is left is taken by a mouse. The mouse just happens to live in the house where the big tree is where the story began. I loved that story. It showed animals and it showed being resourceful and using what you find. There is a gardener in the story and a mouse.
I went to Ona’s funeral.
I had known Ona for a long time and right before we went to the funeral we went to the grocery store, Atkinson’s, and while we were there I saw her. She was in the produce section buying some fruit. I couldn't figure out why she would be at Atkinson's market if she had died. I asked my mom about this and she said that it was common for people to see some one who had passed away, right after they had died.
We went into the big Catholic Church on Sun Valley Road by the Val de Sol, the condominium where I had lived when I was born. This was my first time in a church and it was for a funeral. After the mass, we had cookies and tea in the room with all the sunny windows and I told everyone I had just seen Ona at Atkinson’s right before her funeral and that this was my first time at church.
Pentel Pens and a Snoopy Dictionary.
We had a large box of Pentel Pens. Every color one could imagine.
One day I was determined to transcribe the entire Snoopy Dictionary. I always worked best on our kitchen table and I still do today. I feel a bit like this, writing down these stories at my kitchen table today. Determined.
December 20, 1972
Dear Pret and Marilyn,
I’ve been on Cloud nine all day just thinking about little Melissa. A Christmas granddaughter is just about the finest thing that has ever happened to me and I wish to thank you, her parents, for giving me this great happiness. Hearing that cry over the telephone when only an hour old was absolutely unbelievable!!! -and talking to two such happy parents -I know how you feel having shared this fundamental experience-and I am so proud of you both. Bravo! Needless to say -I’ve been calling all of our nearest and dearest to share our good news -the long distance lines have been busy- Wally in Fresno, Cecile in Chicago, Loyd in Corvallis, my Uncle in Virginia, the Abernathys in Hillsborough, etc. -as well as so many here at home. It has been an exciting day -And of course Audrey and I have congratulated each other.
Marilyn, you were so dear to call me again -it meant so much to hear from you on THE DAY.
Lots of love,
“grandmother” to Melissa
P.S. Everyone wants to know her middle name -I forgot to ask.
My middle name was wind. It was twenty below zero and windy on the night I was born in Moritz hospital in Sun Valley, Idaho.
My Grandma Lacey and I were good friends. She sent me some nice clothes for Christmas and when I went to visit her in Oregon, I got to dress up. The rest of the year I never wore dresses except for a special occasion. It was fun to dress up, but just as nice to take off the dress and put on some comfy clothes when I got home from visiting her and to jump back into the frog pond. I knew enough not to do that when I stayed with her. I had to be the little girl she never had, when I was there visiting her. She had two sons, like I would later in my life.
My dad stayed out in the mountains.
He worked out there in his workshop alone. He would go to town to buy cigarettes and a beer, and he would take his time. Sometime he’d go visit friends in town or they’d come out and see him, but most the time he was alone. He liked it because then he could get his furniture built just the way he wanted it. It took him a long time to get things just so and he couldn’t have done this if the phone was ringing or if someone were wanting to tell him a story, right when he was gluing or cutting the expensive wood from all over the world. Koa, Cherry, Mahogany, Maple, Teak, were all the words he used when he showed me his furniture or pulled out a piece of wood and ran his hand along it to clean off the sawdust. I knew what it was like to be out there all alone all day. And, I knew how much the heart looked forward to the silence breaking in the evenings when a car pulled into the driveway. I knew why the dogs went out by the road to wait even if they had had fun all day by the river. I knew that I’d have to have a little of both of these worlds. I’d have to have the quiet and I’d have to have the stories. I have to wash off the mud and put on some nice shoes to go to town. I’d have to have some phone calls to make and some bills to pay. I’d have to have the mountains and the river and a desk some where and, I knew that I might even like a little T.V. to turn on, every once in a while.
There would be eyes glowing in the dark on the way to school.
If it were school time, it would be dark when we left for school and when we came home. It would be cold and snowy and we usually see lots of animals on our way home. There would be eyes glowing in the dark. Cold animals and hungry staring at us as we drove by in our warm car. We get home to our warm house, barely finding the path to the door, the only part not covered with snow. We go inside to the warm fire. My mom would put a brick on the stove and heat it up. Once it was warm she’d wrap it in a towel and put it in my bed. I would hug that brick all night to stay warm, especially when they fired died out. Keeping the fire going meant going out into the snow to cut more wood, mom and dad would let the fire die and climb up the ladder to their room. Their room stayed warm because it was about the fire place, so they’d go to sleep warm. My room was away from the fire, so it was cold in there.
My room was close to the road, so sometimes I felt alone and scared, like someone might stop their car on the road out there and come to my window. I used to imagine a lady who’d come to my window, when I lay in bed, but she was nice. She told me lots of things I didn’t know about myself, like how I had been adopted and that I really used to live with her, but she couldn’t take care of me. I had to tell myself a lot of stories in that room, cause my parents went to bed so early. I would have been all alone if it weren’t for those stories. My parents always got up early in the morning when it was still dark. They’d get the fire going in the winter and make coffee. I knew not to get up until they were up and had been for a while or the house would be way too cold. Even after our chamber pot, turned to a composting toilet, if I could wait until the house was warm it would be much better. It didn’t take long though and once I smelled the coffee brewing and felt some heat come through my door, I knew it was safe to get up. I quickly put on long johns or kept on the ones I had slept in and pulled snow pants over them. A turtle neck, sweater, socks and boots and I was ready. I’d eat a good breakfast, usually cooked by my dad and then, my mom and I would make our way out to the car to head into town.
My dad might go cross country skiing out in the field while we were gone or he would tie flies for the fishing stores in town for the following summer. He’d make furniture for people or for my room. He made me a bed, with four big drawers under it. The bed had little ladder to get up to it and a place for all my stuffed animals to go across.
Then, he’d make me a desk in the place of the bed, when I became a naturalist and had home work to do from school. He made me a door for my room when I needed more privacy and a door for my closet. They were all beautiful and made out of special wood. He worked in the living room, the cold room that we didn't heat in the winter. Then, he worked in the building that we moved out there for him to use. He had grown up around beautiful furniture that had been passed on from generation to generation and his parents and grandparents like to take good care of things and they made that known. He had a real appreciation for things that would last and he figured that if a beautiful Koa tree had to be cut down in Hawaii than the wood from it should make some thing that would last forever.
When people knew about what my dad did and appreciated it, he would build some thing for them. He build doors, bed frames, shelves, entertainment centers, furniture for Steve Miller’s music studio, and many other things. He once built three Santa Fe tables for a man, but the man ended up in jail for steeling a horse, so we still have those tables. He went to Santa Barbara one summer to build furniture for Fred. He built screen doors for the Baskin’s and showed everyone who came by how well they worked. He built all the cupboards in our house and added on a laundry room, bathroom and art studio for my mom when I was older. He built the walls, the floor and the roof. he plumbed it and put in the electricity. He finished the walls. My Grandmother gave my parents some money so we could buy a composting toilet and we named it Lacey’s thrown.
Every once in a while when we were on a trip we would go to an exotic wood store. I always remember those places to be big and dark and I wasn’t sure how my dad could tell what he was buying because it was so hard to see. But, he knew. He would bring home what looked like a big long piece of wood, wipe it off with his hand or a cloth and spend the next year letting it speak to him about what it should become.
One time a man who was traveling around the country came to our house to interview my dad about the chests he had made. He was writing a book about chests and a few years later he would send my dad a copy of the book.
My dad described what he did once when won a furniture fellowship from the Idaho Commission. Here is what he said:
We make things of Wood. We intend them to be useful, wish them to be durable and hopefully beautiful. We do it to give a tree another life, to keep a business afloat, to express something of ourselves and the slate of our work. We live with the object, invest it with our efforts and then let it go. We are left with what the making of it has made us. The things we make ultimately must stand free of us and all our words and feelings about them. They take on their own life in the world. My log states: “Furniture: durable, functional, beautiful”- this is the goal for the pieces I fashion.
My dad wore a hat from the Mad Hatters all winter long. That’s because he was constantly going in and out of the house. He would go out to his workshop and light the fire. Then, he would come inside and wait a little while for the place to warm up. Then, he’d go back out. My mom thinks he wore the same hat for 30 years.
My dad picked me up from school a lot when I was in Kindergarten. We would go to the Western Cafe and have a BLT, hold the tomatoes and no ketchup for our fries. I’d follow what my dad did. If we went straight home, my dad would make me a big bowl of pop corn with lots of butter. I’d sit and eat it, while he finished working on his furniture. Then, I would go outside to play in the snow under the Aspen trees.
During Christmas or on the weekends, I could cross country ski with my dad. We had a hill right outside the back of the house that we could ski down, landing on or pond that was frozen for the winter. Some times we would make a jump. Some times we would clean off the pond and make an ice rink. This would take hours, but I had a pair of ice skates and the ice was perfect under all that snow. Or, I would have a friend over and play out in the snow all day.
My dad got me a inflatable boat and we would fill it up as soon as the ice melted off the pond and the snow was gone and leave it tied in the slew all summer. I go out in the boat often some times bringing a dog or a friend. I could paddle down towards our neighbors house, or lift it over the bridge and paddle the other directions. Both very nice options.
My dad found a very long piece of wood one day and made a bridge to go across the slew. He also got a dock and so, with waders and four large pieces of what looked like firewood, he put in the dock. It became a place to sit, a place to play, a place to leave my dolls when I went in my boat. When a cotton wood tree fell in the back yard, my dad cut the trunk that was left standing to make a life guard chair for the pond. No one ever sat there, but that is what we called it.
He had made me a swing and a little shed into a playhouse. He had made our home. Our life.
My dad took me to frog island on a canoe.
Not, very often, but once we went camping as a family, at Bull Trout Lake. We brought a canoe and my Dad’d friend Fred’s truck. We parked near a camp site, and then put all of our stuff in a canoe and went across the lake to the other side, where there was no one but us, to camp. Once we got our camp set up, my dad took me out in the canoe to an island. I loved frogs and this island was absolutely covered with frogs. Tiny frogs jumping every where. I was in heaven. Never before or again have I seen anything like that.
The Western Cafe.
When I was in Kindergarten my dad would pick me up from school most days and because it was at lunch time we would go to the Western Cafe. The waitress got to know us there. She knew my dad would always order a BLT with no tomato and french fries with no ketchup. “Do you need ketchup with that?” No, my dad would say. He only said it once and she remembered. I, not knowing what to order, would order the exact same thing and I never tried ketchup until I was an adult.
One night I was sleeping and our dog was outside. I woke up and heard her jumping up on the side of the house as though she were trying to get in. She was trying to tell me some thing. My window was open and I could hear her panting and running back and forth. I got up and looked out the window to where she was and she ran around to the front of the house where the door was. I walked in the hallway and looked out the window. There I could see some light. An unusual light. My eyes began to focus as I began to wake up and I realized it was fire.
There was a fire outside and our German Shepherd knew. She knew it was bad and she knew that she had to tell us. I climbed up the ladder to tell my parents. They were groggy too, but they knew what to do. My dad went outside to look at it and my mom dialed 911.
A power line had rubbed up against an Aspen tree and the tree was on fire. Our dog had saved our lives and the forest too.
A pocket knife.
In 2014, my family was out visiting the place where I grew up.
We were lucky enough to be staying at a neighbor’s house at the far end of the field and I felt at home just being out there. I had come to this realization that it wasn’t the house I needed to visit in order to feel at home, but the place. As soon as I start driving out the dirt road and pass the old mine, Basset Gulch, where we had to leave our car all those years ago and ski in, I feel at home. I knew the turns in the road, the trees, the spots in the river where I liked to go. My head automatically turns to look up at where avalanched used to slide. The only thing that kept me from going to school. Being out there, walking again in the field and putting my feet in the river is like being home again for me.
I was curious though, now, to see my house, so when the caretaker, offered to let us go see our old house we all decided to go. Luis, my younger son, had never really seen it because he was very young when my parents sold it. Nias, my older son, had been there as a new born baby and a child and had his memories of it. My husband, too had been there in the cold fall and winter. He had heard the sound of my mom coming down the ladder, lighting the fire, grinding the beans. He had smelled the house as it filled up with the smell of strong, hot coffee.
We all seemed to go different directions when she let us into the house. I headed for my room and the old living room, my mom looked at the kitchen and her old bed room, Raul walked into the room where my dad used to tie flies. None of us could believe how different and how the same everything was. Sizes seemed smaller than we had remembered. The wooded cabinets, the hard work my parents had done to create a home was all still there. The old beautiful stove was gone, but the microwave of the 1980s was still there thirty four years later. The piece of wood that the cat had scratched, the big cupboards that you had to push and then pull to get to open, were all still there.
There had been one for food, with deep shelves where things could get lost. Every once in a while I’d take everything out of there and look to see what we had. There were high shelves which I could never reach and so I would never know what was up there.
The middle cupboard had a shelf on top that I couldn’t reach and room for a vacuum. But at one time it had had a bin full of rice in it. My mom used to put a piece of mint gum in there to keep the rice fresh, and for me, a child with very few opportunities for sweets, that gum tasted like a million dollars when I discovered it one day and put it in my mouth. Never again will gum ever taste that good.
The third one was the coat closet with a shelf below and under it shoes. That closet always seems very deep and mysterious too.
I would look in certain spots and want to see the same thing that was there for years like the photograph of the girl in the dress full of flowers that was always next to the front door by that closet. My mom’s neighbors the Cowdens had given her that was a young girls and I as a young girl had grown up with it too. Certain things that we saw that day, I couldn’t help seeing as they had always been. I feel as though the phone was still there on the wall with its long cord, but I don’t think it was.
What was still there was my playhouse. And, it didn’t look like anyone had been in there since I last was. My “guest book” was still there and had a few signatures of the guests who had visited it. The shelves. The little bed. The chairs were all still there. The chairs I had used when pretending to play school with chickens and at my restaurant for guests. My name Melissa still on the door. Even when we moved my playhouse to its new location, by my pretend restaurant, the sign had remained on there.
Just before we left and Heather locked the door, to keep us out of what seemed like ours, Raul had brought me into the little room off the kitchen. This is the room where the wood stove was and where my dad had spent a life time. It was the room our Christmas tree had been in and where my dad used to sit for hours and tie flies. He had his stereo there and had played music that would stick in my mind forever. Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle, George Winston, and many others on records, tapes and then CDs. Never a female voice Fred would remind me. Raul reached his hand up to a log beam. It was one of the beams that held one end of all my dad’s skis that lined the ceiling. Raul felt around and then pulled out my dad’s pocket knife. I had never known that that was where my dad kept it. After all this time it was still there, and no one probably knew that but my dad, Raul and now me. Raul quickly put it back as though my dad would want it there, when he needed to use it again. We left it there, because it felt like that was where it belonged.
I loved crossing the bridge to go to my friend Marina’s house.
Marina had grown up even farther up the road than I had and her first house out there had been a teepee. She lived closed to the hot springs and the river wrapped around her yard. She and I both loved to make forts, play by the river and sled down steep, snowy hills. Some times her grandma would be there, knitting hats for her and she would make us tapioca pudding when we came inside from the cold.
Marina and I took ballet together and ate bean burritos from Desperados. When Marina was in Kindergarten she decided to become a vegetarian all by herself. And, she still is.
I only made it up to the bear cabin two times in my life. One time was with my dad in the summer when I was determined to see this bear cabin he talked about skiing to every winter. We walked all the way up the field to the Baskin’s, crossed the bridge and then headed up the gulch to the cabin. It was an uphill climb and there were lots of trees down, logs to limb over, bushes, high grass. I wondered how my dad and I had skied this in the winter. There must have been a lot of snow covering all of the ground and the logs. We climbed and climbed not talking. Part of me was tired. My heart was beating fast. I was out of breath. I wanted to get there.
We walked and walked. It seem to get greener up there and the terrain began to change. The valley took a turn to the right and we followed it. My dad finally said “It is right up here. Bear cabin.” We walked and walked some more and then finally there it was. A collapsed cabin. It had sunk in the dirt and was very low to the ground, the door was so small from the sinking and the collapsing from all the snow the only way to get in would have been to crawl. My dad said it had been the perfect place for the bear to sleep all winter.
The second time I went up there, all the way, I had sun flower seeds in my pocket. I was with my mom, Nias, Luis and my husband Raul. We were staying across the street from the Baskin’s at the cabin, where Raul and I had stayed for our honey moon. Now, we were there for a funeral. We walked and walked. The sun was shining through the trees. I wondered if it would be enough sun for the sun flowers to grow. I sprinkled a few around. I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t feel out of breath. I just kept walking, hoping that everyone could keep up. Raul could carry Luis if he needed it. We walked and walked until it turned to the right and I could hear my dad saying “Its right up here.” We got there to the collapsed cabin, with the greenness of spring surrounding us. I spread the seeds and my mom spread my dad’s ashes up there. It was early enough that there was a spring running from there all the way down to the river. It was the water we had followed up there. My mom told her grandsons that my some of dad’s ashes would go down that spring, into the river, they would go into other rivers and make it to Boise and they would pass us in Boise on their way to the Ocean.
We headed down the path that my dad had skied down so many times in the winter. I had gone a few times with him, but never from Bear Cabin, always lower. It was fast in the winter on skis to go down, but slower today as we followed the spring with the ashes. The sun went away and the valley grew dark. It began to rain, actually it poured. I laughed I cried, I stood by my husband as thunder ripped through that valley. We were sopping wet. My husband and I knew that my dad was right there.
A truck picked us up and drive us to the cabin. We dried off, cold and got ready to go to Minette and John’s house at Frenchman’s Bend. There my dad’s friends were waiting for us, to say good bye to my dad. People shared stories in the rain and then when the sun came back out, we went outside and put some more of my dads ashes in the river. My friend Rio talked about how my dad used to tell us funny stories when he was driving us home on the the long dirt road. Richard said that my dad had taken him fishing once and he had just sat on the bank while Richard fished. Richard wasn’t catching anything. My dad was looking at the river. Then, my dad got up, walked over to the river, cast and caught a fish. These were some of the stories people shared.
There is a song my dad used to play that goes “Spending our time waiting for the weather and all my friends to come together yeah….”
We watched an elk die on the side of the mountain.
My dad and I both noticed that there was a large elk all by himself on the side of the mountain about half way to town. He stayed there which was very rare for an elk to do. We watched him everyday. Eventually, he was laying down as we drove by. My dad told me that he had probably left his herd to die there, on the side of the mountain. He told me this not as a sad story, but as a part of life. It was time for the elk to go and the elk knew it, so he left the herd and found a place, a comfortable place to die.
Yellow aspen leaves and sheep.
The sheep, the sheep dogs and the Basque Sheep Herder, came by our home each fall. It was a beautiful sight to see. It was also a welcomed visit and moment of excitement in an otherwise very quiet valley. I’d be riding my bike down the road or out in the field and suddenly thousands of sheep would come round the corner, trampling the dirt road, breaking the silence, under the yellowing Aspen leaves. It would stop me in my tracks and I couldn’t move, watching them and watching them, until the very last one was out of sight. It was as though I was holding my breath or time stopped as those sheep when by, like time past, present and future were all together at once in that moment with the sheep.
Just a few times, the sheep would get off course and go through our yard, trampling my moms flowers or her small, newly planted tree. She call someone and let them know and they’d leave a bag of potatoes on our porch to apologize. This made it better.
Once, one of the sheep, separated itself from the herd and ran up the mountain side. The dogs and the sheepherder kept going. I couldn't figure out why they didn’t stop for that sheep. What would happen to it? I followed it up the steep mountain side where it had gone. It ran farther up. I followed it. I would herd it back to our house and give it a good home. It kept going up the face of the mountain, farther and farther up. I could not keep up with it. I was scaring it. I stopped. I stopped and sat down on the mountain side. What had been behind me, while I was climbing up and focused on the sheep, now lay before me. I could see the field, the pond, where I caught frogs, I could see how the river carved out a path for the water between the mountain and the field. I could see my home and my life from above.
That spot became my favorite spot that day. I was sad that I lost the sheep, but happy to find that place. Living in the mountains I was given the gift of seeing things in many ways. I could see things up close, the details, the intricacies, I could see things from above and from a distance. I could see the big expanse of the world, just by looking up the field, or up the mountain or up at the solid blue sky. I felt the openness and the expansion.
I also learned that day that losing one sheep, was not worth risking losing the whole herd. Sheep herders constantly having to made life decisions for the good of the whole herd had to leave a few behind. That sheep would probably make it up to the top of the mountain. The top that I would never reach. It would eat for a few days and then a coyote or a bear would find it and eat it. It would not live long without the rest of its herd, without the protection of the sheep dogs. It would die there on the side of the mountain and its bones would be covered with snow.
As winter approached, as the sun lowered in the sky and hid behind the mountain, the cold winds would come to blow the leaves off the trees. I would feel like I was in this tiny corner of the world, alone in the dark and cold. I would wonder if there were light and warmth beyond these mountains and this valley.
I would return to the spot on the side of the mountain many times. I would only bring special people up there to share it with me. One was my sister from my exchange student family in Mexico. Her parents had driven her all the way to Idaho in the fall. They were there to see the Aspen leaves change, feel the cold wind and see the sheep come past our home. She had shown me many things in Mexico and many things about myself. Now, it was my turn to show her Idaho and to show her who she was. We climbed up the hill, where I had chased the sheep years before. We climbed and climbed, our back to the view. Then, we sat in my special place and turned and faced the field, the river, the pond and the piney hills. It was beautiful, wind, water, mountains, blue sky and sisters from two very different lands.
The only other person I brought up there was my husband Raul. We went up there and we had two rings that fit together into one ring, like we did. We sat on the mountain side and gazed into each other eyes, we gazed out at the field, the pond, the river, the mountains and then we gazed down at the two parts of the one ring that we each held and carefully found a place to bury them. We revisited them many times, looking for them under the rock where we had put them. I often could not find them, but Raul always could. He even found them the day we went up there and really needed them. We really needed to remember that feeling we had felt all those years before when we had been up there gazing.
That spot is still there. It is truly a test of time. A mountain, strong and proud, hiding secrets and stories in its caves and crevasses, pulling us upward to explore, unveiling things we never thought were up there. It has soft areas and jagged ones. Safe places to hide from the cold winds and shale impossible to climb up and exposed. It gives deer and animals food and pathways to walk on, birds high safe trees to put their nests in, bears a place to sleep all winter. It is rock solid and strong, there to bare the burden of anything shared with it. It was there when Native people walked across it freely, when miners climbed it to find treasures inside it and when a little girl ran around on it to explore. It was there to share a moment when two sisters sat on its side and then when a man and a woman needed some solid ground below them again to keep their footing. It will be there for me to bring my children, my grandchildren to visit, so I can share with them the stories of the mountains.
May be then, we can find the bones of that sheep, that I tried to help so long ago and yesterday.
Easter and piano recitals.
I rarely wore a dress except for a photograph and then I would inevitably end up falling in water, getting dirty or jumping in. I remember being all dressed up once and falling off the bridge into our slew or maybe I jumped. It is hard to say, but dressing up was never my thing. I remember having friends who would have to take off their school clothes before they played outside after school. I thought that was a great idea, but was I ever able to do it. No. I would get new shoes and promise myself I’d keep them nice only to be wading in the river a few hours later. Life was too exciting to waste time changing your clothes or shoes.
In fact, I finally decided that dressing up and the world that went a long with it just wasn't for me. I took piano lessons and I really enjoyed it. I have two teachers: one whose name was Mary Poppin and the other was Patty Parsons. Patty taught me piano at the Presbyterian Church on their piano once a week, so I got to go to church. She arranged to have a piano recital there and it was my chance to dress up and show what I had learned. I was shy, but confident and ready to take this on. I would put myself into the shoes of some one who dressed up and performed and see what that would be like.
On the evening of the performance, it must have been in the fall, because it was dark when we were getting ready to leave. I was all dressed up and feeling a bit awkward now in my fancy dress and shoes. I was tugging on my dress and had slipped my shoes off in the back seat of the car. We headed into town. We passed the first camp ground by our house and the curve by the river and then, upon reaching the next camp ground we all looked over and noticed it was all light up. My dad pulled over and we all looked. There was a fire. My dad turned around and drove home to get a shovel and the neighbor. My mom ran inside to call the fire department. I was still in the car. We went back. “Stand by the road Melissa and flag down the fire truck when they get here.” They rushed over to the fire. I stood by the road and waited. We were seven miles from town, so I had a while to stand there and think. It was dark except for the flames. I thought about my piano recital, my dress, my shoes, the song I’d play. I looked at the fire and knew this was much more important than my recital, in fact this was really my life, much more than any short recital or short performance. No, I was not meant to wear fancy clothes and preform. That would never be the life for me. My life was in the woods, protecting it, taking care of it, waving down the fire truck and any other neighbor that passed by. Asking them to help. I wasn’t sad or disappointed to not make it to the recital, but happy to be a part of this, a part of something that to me really mattered. My dad and my neighbor Robbie waded across the river and I believe they managed to get it out by shoveling soil on to it. The Firetruck came, I waved them down. I never dressed up for another piano recital again after that.
I spotted a trout.
One day, in the summer of 2007, we’d been out at my old home in the mountains, staying at the neighbor Edie’s house, just a couple years after my dad had passed away. I wanted to take my two sons and my husband for a walk in the field, to the pond where I had caught frogs and my dad had fished with me. I wanted so badly to share that with them, to share where I had spent so much time as a child. We walked to the pond, which is a ways for the other end of the field. We walked to the edge and I began to tell them that we used to look for fish from this side of the pond. My dad showed me how to look for fish both in the pond and in the river and my eyes had been trained for that at a very young age. I wanted to see if they could see them. We got closer and walked down to a little beach right by the water. I spotted a trout. Usually, they were out in the deep part of the pond, but this trout was near us, in a shallow area. We could all see it in the crystal clear water and we all watched it as it wiggled and swam right toward us. None of us said anything. Before we knew it this fish swam right up to us and jumped out of the water right onto the beach in front of us. The sun was shining making the water bright and sparkling and the fish was the most beautiful, shiny rainbow trout I had ever seen. I immediately pick it up, but carefully as to not hurt it. I looked at it, in total disbelief and put it back into the water. None of us said anything, but as I write this now I have tears in my eyes for on that day that we went to visit the pond and I shared the special place with my children and my husband, the place was magic, as magic as it always was. And, my dad was there with us jumping out of the water into my arms.
A Starry Night
One star filled night, we were all standing outside. I had on a long, blue corduroy jacket that someone had grown out of. It had a hood with fake fur around it and felt safe and warm up around my face. We stood outside as a family to watch the lights of the snow plow as it plowed our driveway. Maybe we had been snowed in for a few days and we hadn’t seen or heard anything. Maybe we were out there watching the silence break, watching our path to be cleared so we cold once again leave our little cabin and go into town. My mom could get back to work and I to school. Mostly though, we just stood out there and watched. I remember it so vividly and I remember looking up at all the millions of stars. I had a feeling of complete satisfaction and happiness as I stood there. The warm cabin behind me, my future ahead. I felt completely safe. And I remember feeling like someone had their arm around me that night. I smiled to myself and believed, that I would always be taken care of.
The Mountains hold onto you tight. They hug you and make you feel safe. They give you a solid foundation, an anchor, a place to sit and think. They hold your secrets, your dreams, your tears, your foot prints. They surround you majestically, holding onto all they have seen from way before you were even there.
One year, there was so much snow that I cut the letters THINK DIRT out of brown construction paper and taped them to my wall. I couldn't wait another day to see the dirt, the tiny plants coming up, the leaves bursting out of the buds on the trees. I was cold and tired of all the white. The letters stayed on my wall for years. When my mom packed up our home to leave the last thing she did in the empty house was scrape those letters and the scotch tape over them, off the wall.