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Irons in the fire: This is my town

Paul Marchant Published on 24 September 2014

I was hustling home from Jerome one late afternoon a couple of weeks ago. I was a little irritated because I wanted to get home to get a horse shod before the sun went down. September irritates me anyway, because it brings with it the end of summer, the start of school, fewer daylight hours and colder nights.

I’m not an autumn hater, by any means. It’s just that September, the harbinger of winter, always reminds me how far behind and unprepared I am for the next five or six months and what they bring. It irritates me that with shorter days and fading evening light I’m reminded by my fading eyesight that despite my best efforts, I am actually aging. That was the backdrop for one of my latest epiphanies.

I was irritated that my 70-mile journey from Jerome to my home in the Oakley Basin would take me through Burley and its 11 stoplights. Although none of the locals believe me, two years ago I actually made it from the north end of Burley to the south end of Burley without having to stop for a red light.

That’s something that just does not happen. It’s like the Ghost Riders trying to catch the devil’s herd. But, I swear, I actually did it. Anyway, my point is that I was already in an irascible mood, and anything that’s slightly urban only adds to the stench of my foul mood.

Now to most of the population of the U.S., I realize that to refer to anything in the entire state of Idaho, much less Burley, Idaho, as urban is absolutely laughable.

But to me, a town with a stoplight and more than two gas stations is a bit oversized. If there’s a McDonald’s within 15 miles, you’ve got a metropolis on your hands.

Since it was near the beginning of football season, and I hadn’t yet lost patience and interest in the college season, I had the radio tuned to a syndicated sports show.

The two know-it-all hosts had temporarily ceased with their Ray Rice obsession and, as well-travelled announcers and analysts, were listing their top 10 favorite cities.

This piqued my interest. I’ve travelled to many different parts of the country and have come to appreciate everywhere I’ve been, though my appreciation usually stems from something other than the variety of ethnic restaurants, the nightlife or the venerable sports stadiums.

While my radio hosts were in love with Seattle, the Pacific Northwest’s emerald crown jewel, I prefer Yakima and Ellensburg because they’re up near Okanogan cow country.

California, sans the throngs of people, is the most amazing and potentially productive agricultural land on earth. It’s a shame they built cities in L.A. and San Francisco. Though the big boys draw raves for their ethnic and cultural diversity, I prefer the vaquero and buckaroo cultures of Siskiyou or Tehama Counties.

I think Red Bluff would make a great state capital, and I’d take Willows over Sacramento any day. The vice and lights get all of Nevada’s press, but the nighttime Las Vegas strip can’t hold a candle to a view of the Ruby Mountains from the Clover Valley side. And why drive all the way to Reno when you could stop at Battle Mountain or Winnemucca?

The Midwest has its Chicago, Kansas City and Twin Cities, but the black dirt and perfect rows of corn and soybeans around Redwood Falls, Minnesota, hold much more appeal to me than Wrigley Field.

If I want a city in Kansas, I’ll go through Dodge City or Garden City and marvel at the wheat fields and thousands upon thousands of cattle on feed on my way to see the corn and the cathedral in Park or to feel the quaintness of Quinter.

Texas has its share of impressive cities from Houston to Dallas, and it’s hip to be enamored by the weirdness of Austin. I can tolerate Austin, just because of its proximity to the amazing Hill Country.

I love the panhandle because it’s what Texas is supposed to be: cattle and big country. I’ll issue a word of caution, though, if you ever drive through Cactus during a winter squall and a shift change – it is possible to get a $175 speeding ticket. The police officers are quite friendly, however.

The southern hospitality of Doe Run, Georgia, in the middle of pecan orchards and peanut, cotton and hayfields seems much more hospitable than Atlanta or Savannah.

Denver and Salt Lake grab the attention in the intermountain West, but the vastness of Wyoming’s big lonesome steals the thunder that any Western city might drum up. To me, there’s nothing tougher or more wistful to the mind and ear than the name of a small Western town.

Montana’s full of them: Big Timber, Big Hole, Big Fork, Big Sandy, Twin Bridges, Deer Lodge or Absarokee. Come to think of it, if you put Wyoming or Montana after any name, it sounds tough. Try it. Afton, Wyoming. Like a New York gangbanger stands a chance against a muleskinner from Arlee, Montana.

There’s an old saying about something that might be frowned upon in a little, out-of-touch town, “It wouldn’t play in Peoria.” In Utah’s case, it wouldn’t play in Peoa. I think the more of the modern world that doesn’t play in the hick towns and cow towns of America, the better off we’ll be.  FG