Commentary: Autumn in Idaho
Autumn arrived this week in Idaho. It has been windy and rainy and cool. Tuesday morning I climbed out of bed and realized it had rained heavily during the night. On the drive to work the Jeep briefly hydroplaned and it struck me we may have seen more water in one day than during the previous two months. It’s now Thursday afternoon and the weather has remained unstable with breaks of sunshine mixed with light or steady showers. When I left work today the temperature was only 58 degrees. The dust clogging much of the air for the last two months is temporarily gone as is most of the wood smoke.
This morning a spokesman for Idaho Fish and Game sat in the studio with me and commented rain is an enemy of wildfire. Just as he spoke we looked up at the TV monitor above the soundboard and the woman doing the morning weather on Fox & Friends displayed a map of the northwest. There are now only 4 fires remaining in what is called the Gem State. A few weeks ago I was at a racetrack and as the breeze roamed across the stands there was the constant aroma of a wood fire. One Saturday morning I walked outside at sunrise and thought it strange there was ground fog. Instead after a moment I realized it was smoke. Ranchers in neighboring Owyhee County are devastated. Herds have sometimes vanished and feed and forage are wiped away. None of this is out of the ordinary and especially following a dry winter. When I visited the county fair and walked through the agriculture barn there was a large container where a collection was being taken in hopes of buying winter feed for what remains of the winter herd. As I chatted with the State Director of Agriculture I commented it reminded me of old fashioned barn raisings I saw as a kid. People nodded in agreement.
Tomorrow the sky is expected to clear and the weekend and early next week look cloudless. Monday we expect a high temperature of 80 and this weekend we’ll see a rebound into the seventies. I’ll be at a casino across the state line in Nevada come Saturday afternoon. An ancient band known as Grand Funk Railroad is performing outside. The company was gracious enough to book me a room. I’ll leave the cat extra food and water before I leave and hope he’ll be fine until Sunday morning. He can be incredibly rambunctious. Even when I’m at home. He was a gift from our General Manager. She asked if I wanted him and I said I would think about it and then two days later called and asked when I was going to come and get him. I admit he has been good company for a stranger in this land.
In a couple of weeks I’ll mark a 53rd birthday and sometimes driving through town wonder how I landed here. When I started as a broadcaster 30 years ago I had notions of just where I would be in 5 years and then planned to plant roots and never leave. Instead the journey winds in unexpected directions and I long ago stopped making serious 5-year-plans. I look at pictures from friends on Facebook and realize the majority did plant roots. I try and imagine a happy alternate history for and then have a self-confession. The sameness of one place might not be satisfying. This isn’t to knock those who found happiness in one locality and if you found it with just one person I’m impressed and proud you’re a friend.
Someone asked me the other day, in confidence, what happens if you suddenly drop dead and those you are estranged from leave you where you are? Answer instead my question? Does it matter where you die? I’m much more concerned about the how than the where. Not far from here is a place called the South Hills. The highest place between some of the neighboring mountain ranges ringing the Snake River Valley. The hills are home to free ranging birds, moose and elk. Volunteers could take me out there and place me in shallow soil and the sun could daily rise and set over my remains. I don’t see it as depressing or morbid. No, the only thing I find depressing is I still haven’t seen more of this country. I see the signs pointing in every direction and on these blustery days I can hear the wind call my name.