The rockslide south of Riggins that has closed Highway 95 for the foreseeable future has given North Idaho the chance it has been denied since statehood; independence.
The odd shape of this state was no doing of our own. Back in the territorial days, the timber barons in Olympia could see no use for the slower-growing panhandle trees, so they drew their line just east of Spokane. The copper barons in Helena wanted nothing to do with impassable north Idaho (they doubted the ore deposits), so they kept the Clark Fork and Missoula for themselves. The cattle barons in Wyoming were fixated on a sweet rectangle shape (easier to fence), so they drew their state line that established our southeast corner. Mormons had already colonized southeast Idaho Territory, so Utah had no need to incorporate that region. Nevada and Oregon both looked north and east and said, “We don’t want it”. Idaho is the leftover state.
North Idaho made early threats at independence. A delegation from the panhandle went to Boise (after they stole the territorial capitol from Lewiston) and said “We want out!” The thieving territorial businessmen in that dusty new capitol didn’t want to lose the taxes of the Wallace silver barons. So, Boise made a deal, like they always do with taxpayers’ money and offered the north a flagship University, an insane asylum and a prison. Moscow called dibs on the University and left the others to fight for the rest, little knowing a university would grow through time to encompass all three institutions.
But the attempts to unify this best (North) part of the state with that dismal desert south of us only became a reality when a road was built. It didn’t have to be much of a road, but they sure take credit for it.
I don’t know how many times I have driven to Boise and noticed that long vertical crack in a notable two-hundred-foot tall basalt tower next to the road south of Riggins. I have thought it wouldn’t be tough to divert the spring runoff into that crack and pretty soon, some freeze and thaw would ease it over. I even got some takers late one night when I suggested such a caper around a campfire.
Independence isn’t as crazy an idea as the campfire one. Lord knows, we have the militias to defend ourselves. I doubt it will come to that, but the Hog Heaven Musketeers are ready.
The politics might be right just now for the move. The real partisan animosity lies in the Idaho Republican factions. The mainstream Idaho Republicans with their soft round elephant symbol, with gentle tusks, short trunk and a lump on the hind flank indicating a full billfold are at odds with the radical Freedom Republicans who use a rearing angry elephant with manly, aggressive tusks and a long waving trunk. You get the differences. We Democrats do. We have tried to rebrand our donkey into a hybrid, sterile elk/mule cross. Symbols are powerful.
There’s no doubt our governor is in that friendly elephant camp and he’s crossways with the angry elephants. Nobody really needs us sterile hybrids right now; we are confined to the Boise area where they bugle off-season and gallop on the greenbelt. Oh sure, there’s pockets in Victor, Sun Valley and Moscow, but little chance of growth. We are hybrids after all.
I’m sure the governor’s political team has tallied the votes and he just might want to get rid of this northern angry elephant pain in his thick-wallet behind. He hasn’t won primaries up here and neither did his predecessor. And he sure hasn’t needed hybrid votes in a general election. But the real selling point will be shipping his Lieutenant Governor north to run this new state.
So, I’m expecting his ready agreement to our declaration of independence. Last night around the campfire the guys said I should give him a call. I’m sure Brad will answer.