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Farmers, Ranchers & Loggers

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Say What?

A few years ago the Bonner County Museum  kindly allowed me to go through ten years of Northern Idaho News, specifically 1910-1920. I was curious to accumulate only what was front pages news. In those days the paper was eight columns wide and reported on everything. When compared to  Bonner County 100 years later the differences are striking. 

The first observation is that in those earliest of days everyone worked. Life was not only tough but much more dangerous than these days even though there was no texting while driving. Railroading was a hazardous occupation. But then so was logging. Falling trees were bad. The environmental movement has managed to save many lives in Bonner County.

There never has been anything easy about mining. The active mines are long gone mostly because they could not be profitable. 

Despite the fact that many had little and only a few had much, those who came before us managed to build on what they could wrest from the land In fact they did so well that in 1915 Bonner County was regarded as one of the five richest counties in Idaho. Not being able to watch baseball on TV they played baseball. Every little community had a team. They once played a colored team and lost!

Since Ed Sullivan had yet to be conceived they relied on traveling road shows. The simplest things brought a laugh. 

The Spanish-American war came and went but most of the vets had been in the Civil War. We sent troops to Central America to try to keep the banana republics from disintegrating. Then along came the Great War. On each occasion when the local National Guard units were deployed they were sent off by a crowd of well dressed men and women. The same bunch were there to meet the train when they returned.

Raising money for the YMCA or for the war effort, was usually over subscribed not by people living on money from Calpers but by people whose brows sweat as they earned every penny. There were no virturcrats trying to make a case for diversity because as a group these working people were of one mind and they were driven by plain old common sense. That so called monument to diversity that sits on the Court House lawn today would have brought jeers. Most farmers had a burn pile that was more inspiring.

The other night I had a chance to see some FRLs in action as they met to defend the 4-H program; to rail against the idea our Fair should be a revenue producer rather than a showcase of our pride in the community and to insist that the Historical Society not be sacrificed.

Over the years we have had some great county commissioners from both parties. Likewise we have had some really pathetic commissioners from both parties. The other night we saw what happens when ideologues come to power forsaking common sense in their efforts to save us from ourselves. 

Now I applaud anyone who is willing to make the effort to run for office. I know they have to give a lot of themselves. I know that there is always an internal conflict about doing what is best for them as individuals and what is best for the county. Since I have yet to see any monuments on the Court House grounds for commissioners past, I would suggest that anyone who is elected to serve ALL the people remember to do just that. Please remember we are all replaceable and the world is going on after we have had our turn. 

Of course societal needs change. Of course the demographics have changed. And most certainly the economic base of Bonner County has changed as it has so many other places. But please let us protect  our value system. The principles that governed the lives of those who have gone before served us well. It was good to see they have not been forgotten. It was good to see they were not overwhelmed by those who seem to have no appreciation for doing what is right 

The fact that there are few farmers left, even fewer loggers and the miners are long gone doesn’t mean that their legacy is gone too. 

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Author info

Paul Rechnitzer Paul Rechnitzer Transplanted 30 years ago, Paul is a retiree from the oil business who knows no other place he would rather live and breathe local history.

Tagged as:

Bonner County, Bonner County Museum, Say What, Farmers, Ranchers, Loggers, Northern Idaho News, rural

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