Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Peterson”

Ken Burns’ Country Music


For many Idahoans, Ken Burns’ recent public television series, “Country Music,” was an opportunity for some serious nostalgia. It certainly was for me.

I grew up in the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. Local nightclubs had names like The Stables, and The Golden Spur, which gives you a hint at the kind of music they featured.

The local radio station featured a program called the Snake River Stampede, which was hosted by Clearwater Clem. (Clem’s real name was Keith Jackson and when he left his job in Lewiston, he went on to become one of America’s best known sportscasters.) When I moved to Boise in 1968, I discovered that Nampa had a rodeo called the Snake River Stampede. I assumed they had stolen the name from the Lewiston radio program, but quickly discovered that just the opposite was true.

I used much of my teenage spending money to buy albums by Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Rogers and other classic country artists. I still have those albums and wish I could find a new home for them. On Saturdays there were broadcasts from the Grand Old Opry and from a powerful Bakersfield station featuring Kern County Country Time.

While attending the University of Idaho, I worked part-time as a disk jockey at a country music station in Pullman, Washington. Also working there was Paul J. Schneider, who would go on to become the decades long voice of the Boise State Broncos and the best-known sports personality in southern Idaho. Yet another case of being a country music DJ as a steppingstone to the world of sportscasting.

As a university student, we used to occasionally go up to Spokane the see country music shows at the coliseum. These were shows that would feature up to half a dozen well known stars at admission prices that even a student could afford.

One night in the mid-60s, a friend and I went up to see a show featuring Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter and Hank William Jr., among others. There was no reserved seating, so we arrived early in order to get the best seats possible. Before going in, we stopped at the refreshment stand. I commented to my friend that the person I was really looking forward to seeing was Luther Perkins, Cash’s guitar player. The gentleman in front of me in line turned around, stuck out his hand, and said, “I’m Luther Perkins, who are you?” He invited us to be his guests backstage for the concert. During the course of the evening, he introduced us to all of the stars. Johnny Cash said that he was tired of being on the bus and in hotel rooms and wondered if they could come over to our place to party after the concert. I told him that would be great, but we were from out of town. “Where you from?” he asked. I replied we were from a town he had never heard of called Moscow, Idaho. He responded that he knew where Moscow was. “It’s just outside of Potlatch.”

He said that in the fifties when he and many other country stars were touring the country playing one night stands, there were two towns that everyone knew. They were Potlatch, Idaho, and Roseburg, Oregon. Both lumber towns. He said he would perform at the Riverside in Potlatch and spend the night in a hotel room with an old metal bed and a single light bulb that hung down from the ceiling.

At this point Tex Ritter overheard our conversation and said that he also knew where Moscow was and that he had spent a lot of time there. His daughter and son-in-law lived in Moscow where he was working on a graduate degree in mathematics.

Before we left the coliseum that night, Luther Perkins grabbed a program and wrote his name, home address and home phone number on it. Handing it to me he said that if we were ever to get to Nashville, we should call him so we could get together. Unfortunately, life went on and I never got to take him up on his offer. But I still have the program.

Idaho’s appreciation of country music wasn’t entirely focused in the north. Garden City had a number of night clubs featuring well-known country performers. One of those performers was Roger Miller. One day he was driving down Chinden Boulevard in Garden City on his was to the club where he was performing. He drove past a trailer park with a sign out front that said Trailers for Sale or Rent. That night when he got back to his room at the Hotel Boise, he sat down and wrote that would become his greatest hit, “King of the Road.”

Gone are the days of major country stars performing one-night stands in small night club venues in towns like Potlatch and Roseburg. This past summer, the hottest star in the current generation of country entertainers, Garth Brooks, came to Boise to do a concert at Albertston stadium. The concert sold out within minutes, prompting Governor Brad Little to call Brooks and ask if he would consider adding a second night to his schedule. Brooks agree and the Friday and Saturday night concerts both sold out with a total attendance of 86,000. By way of comparison, there are only three cities in Idaho that have more than 86,000 people.

After all these years, country music if obviously alive and well in Idaho. And thank you Ken Burns, for stirring up a lot of great memories.

Idaho summer reading


Summer is always a great time for reading. It’s the prime season for taking vacations, going to Idaho’s mountains and lakes, or perhaps even to the Oregon Coast. Regardless, it’s always a great time to relax with a good book.

If you pick your books, as many do, from the New York Times best seller’s list, then you have a great opportunity to read books by two Idaho authors. Remarkably, both the number one fiction and non-fictions books on the list are currently by Idaho authors.

Delia Owns’ novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” is the current number one work of fiction and has been on the list for 42 weeks. She lives near Bonner Ferry in Boundary County.

Tara Westover’s memoir, “Educated,” is currently at the top of the non-fiction list. It has been on the list for 72 weeks. She was born and raised in Clifton, in Franklin County.

Although one is fiction and the other non-fiction, both books focus on similar themes. They are about young women from dysfunctional families who succeed in making their way in the world on their own terms.
Idaho has a wealth of terrific authors and summer is the time to become more familiar with them.

In 2015, Boise author Anthony Doer won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his book “Al the Light We Cannot See.” If you’ve read that, consider one of his earlier collections of short stories, “The Shell Collector” or Memory Wall.”

Denis Johnson, another Boundary County resident, won the National Book Award in 2007 for his novel “Tree Smoke.” But my favorite of his books is “Train Dreams,” a novel about a common laborer in northern Idaho who helped build the rail lines over a hundred years ago that served the timber and mining industries. Johnson passed away in 2017.

Another Pulitzer Prize winner with northern Idaho roots is Marilyn Robinson. She grew up in Sandpoint and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005 for her novel “Gilead.” My favorite Robinson novel is “Housekeeping” which is about two girls growing up in a town modeled after Sandpoint. The book won the PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2012, President Obama presented Robinson with the National Humanities Medal.

Your summer reading can be both enjoyable and teach you things about our great state. “Educated” takes you inside the culture of a rural area in southeastern Idaho. “Train Dreams” gives you a close-up look at the struggles of working people who helped develop Idaho. “Housekeeping” gives you a look at the culture in northern Idaho, but 650 miles – and a world --away from the location of “Educated.”

When you are out enjoying all that nature has to offer in Idaho, you might consider taking along “Idaho Wilderness Considered,” published by the Idaho Humanities Council. The book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. It features essays and interviews by 25 contributors looking at the politics, history and esthetics of wilderness.

There are a number of fine Idaho guidebooks to take on your travels. One of the best is Cort Conley’s “Idaho for the Curious.” It’s a 700-page travel guide that will taker you to nearly every corner of the state and into places that you may or may not have ever heard of, regardless of how long you’ve lived in Idaho.

If you enjoy drinking wine and visiting wineries, pick up a copy of “Idaho Wine Country” by Alan Minskoff and Paul Hosefros. It takes you from the Magic Valley to the Panhandle and provides a fascinating history of Idaho’s wine industry that began in the 1870s in Lewiston. Hopefully, someone is currently working on a similar guide to Idaho’s substantial beer industry.

There is lots to see and experience in Idaho. I had a friend who used to maintain that the residents of Moscow know more about the moon than they do about Idaho Falls. So pick up some books by Idaho authors to both entertain you and help you to know your state better. Here’s a toast with a glass of Idaho wine to good summer reading?

The importance of Harry Huskey


Last week Harry Huskey died. He was 101. A death largely unheralded in Idaho, but worthy of a half page obituary in the New York Times.

In my mind, he is the most influential person ever to graduate from the University of Idaho. But if he was so influential, why have you never heard of him? Probably because you never tried to find out who was the father of personal computing.

Huskey came to Idaho with his parents when he was 18 months old. They settled on a ranch in Little Lost River, north of Arco. Harry’s father herded sheep and in his youth Harry did as well. The family next moved to Salmon and finally in the midst of the Depression, they moved to Pocatello to give Harry better access to a good education. His parents both had eighth grade educations and they were determined to make him the first in their family to attend college.

After graduating from high school, Harry moved to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho, where he majored in math. He lived in Lindley and Willis Sweet dormitories and graduated with highest honors in 1937. Following graduation from the UI, he received both masters and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University.

In 1946, he was one of the key members of the team that designed and built the ENIAC computer for the Army. The ENIAC was an 18,000 vacuum tube 27 ton behemoth that could perform calculation in 30 seconds that would require 20 hours to do manually.

The next year he moved to Britain where to joined the team led by British mathematician Alan Turing at the National Physical Laboratory. Turing had been the team leader of the top secret project that developed the techniques used to break the German Enigma machines codes and was the subject of the 2014 film, “The Imitation Game.”

At the laboratory, they designed the Automated Computing Engine, better known as ACE. It was one of the first stored-program computers.

Back in the states, Huskey was becoming increasingly recognized for his work in designing computers. At the item, the word computer wasn’t yet in wide use. Huskey used the term “large scale electronic computing machine” to describe his work.

In 1950 he was a guest and contestant on Groucho Marx’ radio quiz program “You Bet Your Life.” A recording of the show is available on You Tube. Listening to Huskey attempt to explain his work to Marx shows the small degree of public awareness of computers at that time. Although Marx makes wonderful use of his wicked sense of humor on the show, he also indicates that he recognizes that Huskey is involved in work that will ultimately have great benefits for mankind.

In 1956, Huskey rose to the zenith of his career. Working for Bendix Aviation, he designed and built the G15 computer. The G15 weighed 950 pounds and was the first computer that could be operated by a single individual. Because it could be operated by a single individual, it is generally recognized as the world’s first personal computer. It sold for $60,000 or could be rented for $1,485 a month.

At a time when the state of Idaho is giving a high priority to trying to figure out how to get more Idaho high school graduates to go on to some level of post-secondary education, they would use Harry Huskey as their poster child. From a childhood of herding sheep to attending the University of Idaho and eventually playing the leading role in the development of the personal computer. And all because his poorly educated parents were determined that he receive something they hadn’t.

There are lessons to be learned in Idaho from Harry Huskey’s experiences in the 1930s.

A national non-story


The New Year begins with the national media taking a non-story and blowing it up into front page stuff in the New York Times and the lead story of CNN. The story concerns a band of armed know-nothings from Nevada who have taken over the visitors center at Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

I have spent a lot of time in that area over the years. We visit there each spring and each fall relishing an area generally without cell phone service and more cattle than people. As a result, I have gotten to know a number of area ranchers and county officials quite well. I also know the area’s history. And, when you put that all together, it is little wonder that Harney County’s local officials and ranchers want nothing to do with these interlopers.

The catalyst for this effort is the sentencing of two local ranchers on a charge of arson for setting range fires on federal land. Just as people in Idaho’s Owyhee desert and Clearwater Valley take the threat of fire very seriously after major fires this past summer, range fires are also a major threat in the high desert area of Harney County. The Miller Homestead fire in that area in 2012 burned 160,000 acres and forced the evacuation of the community of Frenchglen.

The Nevada group says that they are prepared to occupy the facility until federal land in the area is returned to state and local governments. That is the first hint that these folks did no homework before staging their takeover.

In 1876, Dr. Hugh Glenn, a successful California rancher, dispatched one of his employees, Pete French, with 1200 head of cattle to be trailed to Oregon in search of pasture land. French found it in southeastern Oregon. Forming a partnership called the French Glenn Company. Eventually the firm owned over 70,000 acres of land and 45,000 head of cattle. But, just as today there are protesters upset with the federal government, in 1897 there were homesteaders upset with Pete French and his control of so much land. On December 26, 1897, one of those upset homesteaders, Ed Oliver, pulled a gun on French and killed him.

The property was eventually purchased by Swift and Company. By 1935, they determined that it was unprofitable and sold 64,717 acres to the federal government for $675,000. This is now most of the land that makes up the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The land which, although purchased by the federal government from private owners, the protesters think should be given to state and local governments.

There are a couple of other things the protesters seem to be oblivious to. The first is that even though the land is designated a federal refuge, it has continued to be managed as productive agricultural land. The series of canals and ditches originally developed by Pete French are still used to distribute water throughout the refuge where the huge expanses of natural hay that originally attracted French, continue to grow and are cut and bailed by local ranchers to feed their cattle during the winter.

There are also ranchers who have taken advantage of the flow of tourists that visit the refuge each year. The Jenkins family runs the Round Barn visitors center which has an expansive inventory of books, western wear and other consumer items. They also operate a commercial tour service.

The Thompson family owns and operates the historic Diamond Hotel in the center of the refuge. It is an important supplement to their ranching income and a major attraction for tourists visiting the refuge. And there are other ranching families who have also become part of the areas tourism economy.
But, perhaps most importantly, most residents of Harney County aren’t appreciative of outsiders coming in and trying to run their lives. That applies not only to external governmental forces, but also to out-of-area private citizens, whether they are well intentioned environmentalists or armed protestors occupying federal property.

I’ve spent some memorable evenings sitting with my friend Dan Nichols out at his ranch enjoying a finger or two of single malt Scotch. Nichols is a long-time Harney county commissioner and through him I have had the opportunity to obtain a fairly good understanding of the sensitivities of the ranchers in Harney County.

In the January 4 front page story in the New York Times, he was quoted as saying, “This county isn’t supportive of what’s being done here at all. Once again, it’s a bunch of those who live without the county telling us what we need to do, how we need to be doing it, and the repercussions if we don’t.”

My guess is that if the national media would pack up and go back to the east coast, this group of renegades would quickly dissipate and go back to doing more productive things. And they will. Just wait until they have spent part of a winter in the high desert country of Harney County, Oregon.

Church’s wilderness


Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has been receiving well deserved accolades for his tireless efforts during the last 16 years to have major portions of the Boulder- White Cloud mountains preserved as wilderness. The resulting legislation, now signed into law, creates three new Idaho wilderness areas: the White Clouds Wilderness, the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, and the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness. Together, they cover over 275,000 acres.

In addition to Simpson, there were many other players who helped make this possible, including a variety of environmental organizations, Senator Jim Risch, former Governor Cecil Andrus, and hundreds of individuals interested in protecting the area from future development. But I would suggest that none of this would have happened without the previous efforts of one Idahoan, the late Senator Frank Church.

I don’t suggest that because of Church’s leading role in passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of other Idaho wilderness areas. Rather, I suggest it because Church almost single-handedly made it acceptable for senators, congressmen and governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, to pursue the protection of Idaho’s natural resources.

Idaho became a territory in 1863 due entirely to the discovery of gold. From the beginning, Idaho was viewed as a place where there was money to be made by exploiting its natural resources. Mining came first, followed by agriculture and timber. Of equal importance was an abundant supply of water to feed those industries.

For 100 years, few Idaho issues received greater attention than the exploitation of the state’s natural resources. When the Idaho Constitutional Convention was held in 1889, one of the most hotly debated topics was what to do with the land that would be transferred to the state by the federal government. The debate wasn’t whether any of it should be protected from exploitation, but whether it should be immediately sold off to private interests or held and developed by the state. In the end, those interested in having the state exploit the state owned lands won.

Perhaps no major Idaho politician better exemplified the mind-set of the state on natural resource issues during this period than Senator Weldon Heyburn, a Republican from Idaho’s Silver Valley. Heyburn was an attorney whose practice focused heavily on representing mining interests. During his tenure in the Senate, from 1903-1912, much of his effort was focused on fighting the emerging national conservation efforts of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. Heyburn was opposed to the creation of national forests because he didn’t feel that government should control vast tracts of land in the western U.S.

This mind-set was understandable. The United States was a growing country. It needed lumber for construction, gold, silver and lead for manufacturing and farm commodities to feed the people. Idaho had them all and if its economy was to grow, it needed to exploit both land and water. In addition, Idaho’s growing population didn’t come from people seeking enjoyment of its many natural wonders. Rather, they came seeking to improve their economic lot.

Sometimes the argument wasn’t whether or not to develop natural resources, but rather who should develop them. The debate in the constitutional convention over future ownership of lands was one example. Another was the debate in the 1950s over who should build hydroelectric generating dams in Hells Canyon. There was little opposition to construction of these dams. The bigger debate was over who should build them.

When Frank Church was first elected to the Senate in 1956, the state had suffered through nearly three decades of economic restrictions. The depression had brought about a general economic collapse. Then followed World War II with rationing and the lack of manpower. By the mid-50s, with the depression, Word War II and the Korean conflict behind it, Idaho was ready to once again become a juggernaut of economic activity and most of that activity would depend upon the state’s plentiful natural resources. Conservation and environmental protection were not high on the state’s list of priorities. Idaho didn’t even have a state parks system.

But Frank Church had a deep appreciation for largely undeveloped areas of Idaho such as the Sawtooth Mountains and sought the means to protect them. His role in passing the Wilderness Act opened the door for subsequent pieces of legislation he would sponsor, including the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, creation of the Sawtooth National Recreation area in 1972, the Endangered Wilderness Act of 1978 which created the Gospel Hump Wilderness, and the Central Idaho Wilderness Act of 1980 which created what is now the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness.

Church’s actions demonstrated to other politicos that there was public support in Idaho for the protection of some of the state’s most treasured natural areas. His pioneering efforts opened the door to future Idaho officials such as Cecil Andrus, Jim McClure, Mike Crapo, Mike Simpson and Jim Risch to make protection of some of Idaho most scenic resources a part of their legacies. But it all began with Frank Church.

Nothing new here

peterson MARTIN

Recent actions by some of Idaho’s politicos have attracted attention and comment both within Idaho and, in a couple of instances, in the national media. But the truth is that individuals who have followed Idaho politics over the years may not have liked what they saw, but certainly shouldn’t have been surprised.

The first was Representative Vito Barbieri’s lack of understanding that the female reproductive and digestive systems are not one and the same. It was the statement that launched a thousand jokes across the country, making it one of the most far-reaching actions to take place in the Idaho Legislature this year.

But Barbieri wasn’t the first Idaho legislator to be confused about female reproduction. In the early 1980s, Bill Moore served a stint in the Idaho Senate. Like Barbieri, he was a California transplant who moved to Kootenai County and gained election to the Legislature. During debate on an abortion related bill, Moore famously stated that there was no reason for an exemption for cases of rape, since a woman who had really been raped couldn’t become pregnant. Given their similar backgrounds hopefully the fault lies with their California roots rather than being a reflection of the thinking of their Idaho constituents.

Next comes the outcry over Idaho’s two U.S. Senators, Crapo and Risch, affixing their signatures to a letter to Iran’s leadership concerning the Obama administration’s negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The letter originated with Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas and was co-signed by 47 GOP Senators.

It’s not the first time that southern cotton has divided our country. But for Idahoans, there should be little surprise about members of Idaho congressional delegation being involved. The stage was set for this decades ago.
In 1977, Idaho Congressman Steve Symms, travelled to Libya to negotiate with Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Qaddafi was known as the “mad dog of the Middle East” and an enabler of international terrorism. Symms and Qaddafi both wanted things that they thought the other could help them get. Qaddafi wanted to gain access to a shipment of U.S. military planes for his armed forces. Symms wanted to gain access to Libyan markets for Idaho agricultural products. Both efforts failed.

Speaking of Iran, let’s not forget about Idaho Congressman George Hansen, and his solo diplomatic efforts with Iran. In 1979 revolutionaries took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. Similar to the feeling of today’s 47 Republican Senators concerning executive branch negotiations with Iran, Hansen didn’t like what the Carter administration was doing to free the hostages. In fact he proposed that President Carter be impeached over the issue.

So Hansen made a solo trip to Iran to negotiate with the Iranian government for the release of the hostages. He wasn’t successful and, for the most part, was viewed as something of a nut, which shows how times have changed. Following in the footsteps of Idaho’s two congressmen, 47 Senators now see it as the role of Congress to get directly involved in executive branch negotiations with foreign governments. Who knew that eventually Symms and Hansen would be setting the stage for future actions in U.S. foreign policy?

And, finally, there is the refusal of three Idaho senators, Nuxoll, Vick and Hartog, to sit through a prayer offered by a Hindu cleric. Again, no surprise here. Religious intolerance is nothing new in Idaho. (more…)

Ending an embarassment

peterson MARTIN

The announcement that the United States and Cuba are attempting to normalize relations is over half a century overdue. For over half a century, we have attempted to change the course of the Cuban government through denying them diplomatic recognition, enforcing a trade embargo and numerous other activities. The thought has been that these actions would steer Cuba away from its communist form of government and get rid of the Castros.

So after 54 years, how has that strategy worked? The U.S. has gone through ten presidents in that time. In Cuba, the Castros are still in power and their government is still communist. At the same time, U.S. businesses have been denied the opportunity to profit from doing business in a county less than 100 miles from our shores and our citizens have been denied the freedom to freely travel there.

Obama’s decision will draw far louder cries of criticism that the previous decisions of Nixon with China and Clinton with Vietnam, which is troubling. In the case of both China and Vietnam, we had fought wars with them that cost tens of thousands of American lives. With Cuba, we lost four U.S. citizens in the U.S. launched Bay of Pigs invasion.

The Marco Rubios of Congress will rant that the Cuban government is guilty of having confiscated private property. Absolutely correct. But China, Vietnam, Russia, Mexico and other governments we recognize have done the same. They will also say that the Cuban government is a repressive government with respect to many of its people. Once again, correct. But we do business with numerous others governments guilty of the same charge, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Russia, Vietnam and many others.

Shortly after President Obama held his news conference announcing his decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, Florida Senator Marco Rubio appeared before the TV cameras. He gave all appearances of being in shock over the situation. And with good reason. He and a number of other politicians have built careers based on their opposition to the Cuban government. In most instances, they have represented states or congressional districts with a high percentage of Cuban-American citizens.

But times have changed. While the older generations of Cuban Americans – those who had lived in Cuba and immigrated to the United States – may still support things like the trade embargo, public sentiment has changed among the younger generations.

The U.S. maintains a fairly large interests operation in Havana. It will require little to simply change its name from an interests section to an embassy. Initially, confirmation of an ambassador will likely run into a roadblock, but with time that will also change.

Obama can take most of his actions to normalize relations via executive action. But the trade embargo is set in law and will require congressional action to be lifted.

Don’t expect that to happen any time soon. However, when a major effort comes to remove the embargo, it will likely come from the business sector, seeking to open new markets for their products. The petroleum industry will also likely make a push in an effort to gain offshore exploration rights from the Cuban government. Another U.S. economic sector that will make that push will be the resort and tourism industry. Cuba has huge potential for tourism and right now European companies are doing most of that development in Cuba. Unfortunately, the longer the U.S. drags its feet on lifting the trade embargo, the more likely it is that all of the prime beach front property will be developed by interests from other countries. (more…)

Something for Idahoans to celebrate

peterson MARTIN

When President Obama and his daughters paid a recent visit to a Washington, DC book store, two of his purchases were books by Idaho authors - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer and The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson. This was no fluke. Writers with Idaho roots are gaining more and more national prominence.

Earlier this week Idaho author and University of Idaho faculty member Kim Barnes was honored at the annual Governor’s Awards for the Arts with an Excellence in the Arts Award. She has also been a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Her husband, the much honored poet Robert Wrigley, also a UI faculty member, is a past recipient of the Governor’s Award. They are the first couple to be honored individually with the Governor’s Award.

On the same day that Barnes received her Governor’s Award, the New York Times arts section had a front page review of Boundary County resident Denis Johnson’s latest novel, The Laughing Monsters. Johnson has also been a Pulitzer finalist – two times. His book Train Dreams takes place in Idaho’s panhandle and won the Aga Khan Prize from the Paris Review. Train Dreams was reviewed in the New York Times by another Idaho writer, Anthony Doer.

Doer, who lives in Boise, has received wide acclaim. His latest novel, All the Light We Cannot See, occupies the number 8 spot on the Times best seller list. It has been on the list for 28 weeks. Longer than any other book currently on the list. The book was a finalist this year for the National Book Award.

Another finalist this year for the National Book Award, was Marilynne Robinson for her novel Lila. Robinson was born and raised in Sandpoint. In 2005 she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book Gilead. She is currently on the faculty of the Iowa Writers Workshop, perhaps the most celebrated creative writing program in the country.

Mystery author Ridley Pearson is a part time resident of Hailey, Idaho. Pearson has written 48 novels. Many of them NY Times best sellers. His series of books featuring the fictional Sherriff Walt Fleming takes place in Sun Valley. A measure of the esteem in which he is held by other writers is his membership in the musical group Rock Bottom Remainders. Other members of the group include Amy Tan, Steven King, Dave Berry, Robert Fulghum, Barbara Kingsolver and Roy Blount Jr.

Idaho has been home to other prominent writers. Lawrence Gipson grew up in Caldwell and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1903.In 1904 he was a member of the third class of Rhodes Scholars. He became a noted historian and in 1962 won the Pulitzer Prize for History.
Mountain Home native Richard McKenna’s best known work was The Sand Pebbles. It won the 1963 Harper Prize and was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen. McQueen was nominated for the Academy Award for his performance. (more…)

An Idahoan in Israel

peterson MARTIN

On election day, while many Idahoans visited their polling places, I was 7000 miles away on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For Jews, Temple Mount, the former location of their two historic temples, is their holiest site. For Muslims, the mount contains the Dome of the Rock and al- Aksa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The commonality for both Jews and Muslims is that the mount is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Both religions are descended from Abraham.

Temple Mount has been the focal point of differences between Muslims and Jews that have set off the current round of violence in Israel and Palestine. The day after we visited the mount, an Arab with ties to Hamas drove his car into a crowd of people at the base of the mount, killing two people.

I had two things I wanted to accomplish in Israel. The first was to visit a number of historic sites, including many that form the foundation for Christianity. There may be more historic sites and ruins in Israel than any other country. The second was to spend time in the Palestinian areas to try to get a better handle on things that are driving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I began my visit as a fairly staunch supporter of the Israeli government.

The Jews have a sad history of suffering from discrimination, oppression, apartheid, confiscation of property and worse. Unfortunately, the more time I spent in Israel, the more it became obvious to me that the Israeli government has adopted a modified Golden Rule that goes something like “Do unto others as others have done unto you.”

There is no doubt that Hamas and other such groups provide a major threat to Israel. However, Israel doesn’t seem to understand that for a growing number of Palestinians, especially the young, things appear so hopeless that revolution is the only possible way out. Apartheid isn’t working any better in Israel than it worked in South Africa. In the United States, we launched a revolution against the British for much less cause.

Looking down on a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, I saw a group of teenagers throwing rocks at Israeli police cars, with the police firing tear gas at them. Watching this unfold I was told that such acts have become a recreational activity for Palestinian young people, since they have no parks, no recreation programs and little else to occupy their time. The Israeli government has responded with a law that provides up to twenty years in prison for throwing rocks at vehicles with the intent of damaging them.

Most Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land aspire to visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem happens to be a West Bank town controlled by the Palestinians. Israel is now in the process of constructing a 26 foot high wall around Bethlehem and other Palestinian controlled areas. When completed, the wall will be 500 miles long. By way of comparison, the Berlin Wall was 12 feet high and 96 miles long.

The eastern border of the West Bank consists of two heavy duty barbed wire fences roughly ten yards apart, with the central area planted with land mines. (more…)