An old phrase one does not often hear references the great state we share as “Gem of the Mountains.” The phrase applies in many ways, but especially when one contemplates the many hidden gems of profoundly interesting people that populate Idaho and fascinate in so many ways.
The living embodiment that the real gems in Idaho are its many individualistic and distinctive folks is a retired science teacher from Mountain Home who has become one of Idaho’s most prolific and best-selling writers in his twilight years: Bill Smallwood.
Political types in Idaho are most familiar with the fine biography (McClure of Idaho, Caxton Press) he wrote about the late distinguished senator. The book should be required reading for any student of Idaho history and politics. Full of detail and illustrative anecdotes, it tells both the history of the senator as well as the state as each grew in prominence.
The first chapter itself whets one’s appetite for more. It focuses on the rise of Kellogg’s John Mattmiller and his seemingly inevitable election to Congress only to have his ambitions and life cut short by a fatal plane crash in 1966, the same year in which Idaho’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Charles Herndon of Salmon, was also killed in a plane crash.
Smallwood all but says odds are better than even that neither Jim McClure nor Cecil Andrus would have emerged as the leaders they became except for fate creating critical openings for each man’s ambitions.
The book became a true labor of love for which Smallwood received no compensation despite a handshake promise from a representative of the University of Idaho’s Foundation that he would be paid for his labors. (more…)