I should have just titled this blog “I swear to God I am not making this up.”
I relish in poking fun of the residents of the Gem State. And rightfully so, a lot of the time. But the truth is that the part I live in (Boise) is really pretty urban, and has a lot of California transplants. You could come to Boise and not really have an idea of what IDAHO is all about. Boise is like any other small city. Recently, however, I had occasion to visit my family in St. Maries. That’s about 8-10 hours’ drive north of Boise, deep in the forest. I’m not kidding you, I drive through there expecting the big bad wolf or the cast of ‘Deliverance’ to jump out of the woods and accost me. And this is red-frigging-NECK country up here, folks. I hadn’t visited the north Idaho relatives since I was a kid. I expected this to be a run-of-the-mill adventure. It wasn’t. I was highly entertained by the entire trip. Jeff Foxworthy himself would have been impressed.
First off, north Idaho is Indian country. You drive up I-95 (including through my hometown), and once you’re up the Salmon river a ways, you start hitting the reservations, which means Indian casinos, folks. Good stuff. Most of the north Idaho tribes are Nez Perce, Benewah, Clearwater. Southern Idaho has Blackfoot, Shoshone, etc. And you’re in the forest on the river. North Idaho is gorgeous. The towns are few and far between, and where they have population signs, they say things like “72” and “14.” I wish I had brought my camera. You will have to live with my descriptions of some of the things that I saw. And this is to say nothing of the conversational highlights of my weekend. First off, picture me doing an 8-10 hour drive in a small SUV with both of my parents and two dogs, including devil dog from hell. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the good Lord for iPods.
So without further ado, here are the top ten awesome red-neckinest things I saw/did this weekend.
1. The first night, we stayed at a place 21 miles outside of St. Maries on the St. Joe river, called “Big Eddy.” My uncle had made us reservations. The directions we got were “go ‘cross the bridge and turn right, and it’s ’round 16 miles out thataway.” We found it, after forty minutes of winding through the woods. Mom asked “Is this a hotel, or is it a man named Eddy that your uncle knows, who is allowing us to stay?” I said I didn’t know, but in the phone book, it was described as a resort. We all felt better after that. After all, it was a resort, right? We arrived at ten o’clock that night, and it was a clapboard shack decorated with Christmas lights and neon beer signs. The barefoot hostess (Mrs. Big Eddy?) wandered out to meet us. “Y’onna beer?” That’s redneck for “Would you folks care for a beer?” We politely declined. It was a campground about twenty paces from the river. We had rented “the cabin.” Yes, there was only one. Your other choice of accommodation would be to pitch a tent or park an RV. We also wanted to fill our car with gas, whereupon Mrs. Big Eddy pull-started the generator that works the gas pump, and we filled up. She said “Y’all have to come in and tell me how much gas you pumped. We don’t have a meter. And when y’all go out to the cabin, it ain’t locked. Key’s in it.” The “cabin” was about 120 square feet. It was a bed, a sink, and a toilet. We had asked for a rollaway bed for me, and jammed at the foot of the bed was a child-sized rollaway with a stained, ripped, sagging mattress on it. No bedding. I sat on it and my ass immediately went through the springs and hit the floor. It was fucking awesome. So I slept with my feet hanging off the bed on this filthy cot, using the dog blanket from the car. The two dogs slept on my back and fought the entire time. So between the mosquitoes that had infested the room, the horrendous bed, my father snoring, and two smelly dogs sniping at one another all night on my back, I got a great deal of sleep, as you can imagine. The next morning, we explored the facilities. The shower door didn’t shut and neither did the window in the bathroom (explaining the mosquitoes), so as you were showering, the door would pop open and you’d get a nice ice-cold breeze right up the ol’ keister. The sink, where one would normally expect certain amenities in a place you’ve rented, had a cracked bar of soap (obviously used) and a dirty ashtray next to it. Classy joint, this. There were also, despite us requesting the rollaway bed and being explicit about a third adult, only two towels in the bathroom. We elected not to stay another night.
2. There was some discussion about the family getting together for breakfast in St. Maries. My uncle, who lives there, said “Well, we could go to the restaurant.” I said “That’s not a terribly creative name for a restaurant.” He said “Oh, it’s called something else. I just said ‘the restaurant’ because it’s the only one in town. And it ain’t that good.”
3. St. Maries is a logging town. This is their town mascot, who greets you as you ride into town. The official (and hilarious) explanation: “The axe wielding Bunyan has been here since townsfolk found him in a field in 1967 (rolled off a truck is the accepted explanation). According to a local account, “Vandals set off homemade bombs under his footless legs and leave unsavory calling cards in his huge hands.”
|Exploiting the fear that you might be brutally axe-murdered in the woods here since the ’60’s.|
This raises more questions than I care to address, but I love the idea that any old thing you find that rolled off a truck should simply be erected in front of an elementary school.
4. I went to the grocery store with my cousin, who graduated high school the same year as me. At the store, we ran into a friend of his from high school who was a few years younger than we were (making him about 22), carrying a baby. My cousin said “Is that your first baby?” He said “No, third!” Yeesh.
5. We passed a place on the way there called “Big Bud’s Eats, Fixins, and Gifts.” By way of description, there was a sign on the door which read “We sell fish n’ game.” Uh…wha? The truck parked out front had a hand-lettered bumper sticker which read “scurts kick ass.” Can anyone help me out with that one?
6. We passed a sign coming through Grangeville which was one of the “Adopt-A-Highway” signs, where your group gets to put your name on the sign if they pay to adopt the highway. No big, right? I swear to God, I shit you not. This one, where the group’s name should be, read “Yahweh’s 666 Warning Assembly.” Who says you can’t be both insane and environmentally conscious?
|The sign in question. I told y’all I was not making this up.|
7. We had a run-in with “the law” in Genesee. We flipped a U-Turn in the middle of the road, at which point, a flatbed truck was behind us. There was a man in the flatbed truck flashing a light at us as he was driving. A red one. We assumed he meant to stop. We did. He got out of the truck and ambled up to our car, and he was wearing a white T-shirt and blue overalls, a mesh baseball cap, and had a toothpick in his teeth. His flashing red cop light was a regular high-powered flashlight with red cellophane rubber-banded over it, which he was simply turning off and on manually. He rolled the toothpick around in his mouth, and said “Where y’all from?” We said “Boise.” He said “Y’all flip them dye-doos up there in Boise, d’ya?” We said “No, sir.” He said “We don’t go in for none of them dye-doos up here in Genesee, neither.” We said “Yes sir.” I don’t know if he was an actual representative of the law or what, but it was hilarious. Side note: What the hell is a “dye-doo”?
8. We get to some one-horse town and we’ve stopped to use the bathroom, and an “announcement” comes over the radio in the gas station which said “Don’t forget, June is accordion awareness month in Fruitvale, so stick around for the polka!” Ummmm…. accordion awareness month? I can’t say it didn’t surprise me. I’m also not sure a whole month is required to become “aware” of accordions, unless it is to warn people. The clerk was wearing a T-shirt which read “I like both kinds of music. Country AND Western.” We did not “stick around for the polka.”
9. Council, Idaho was advertising a quilt show. The signs for the quilt show started miles outside of town, and continued every few feet in town. It was lasting from June 10-July 8. Must be one HELL of a quilt show. Oh yeah, Council? Population 816.
10. Coming through Riggins, we were listening to the one local radio station up there because I like to hear the announcements in each town. We heard an announcement on the radio which read “And if you come to Larry’s hardware this weekend, you can get a FREE prostate screening!” Who here thinks that it would be a good idea to get a prostate screening at a hardware store? Raise your hands. Anyone? I didn’t think so.
To top it off, Fuck-O the Wonder Mutt rolled in something at the last rest stop which smelled approximately like what would happen if you stuffed a dead weasel with sauerkraut and cottage cheese and left it out in the sun for two days. The last fifty miles were NOT pleasant. Stupid dog.