Home | Other | Humor | From the Mouth of the River

From the Mouth of the River

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

Let's meet the bypass challenge

I received a letter the other day that started me to thinking about Sand Creek. The letter was from Pat McManus, and if you don’t know who Pat McManus is, don’t even unload the van until you read his work. He is the Hemingway of Humor, and he is to Sand Creek what Mark Twain was to the Mississippi.

Some national magazines have all of a sudden recognized our little community as the next Vail, the next Aspen, the next Sun Valley, the next best-place-to-invest-your-money. And apparently, all that publicity worked, because all you smell from the courthouse is burning rubber, from all the new transactions getting stamped and recorded.

The only thing that’s keeping this from being an Oklahoma land rush is that Sand Creek wasn’t mentioned in the articles. You see, Sand Creek is the most widely recognized creek in North America. It’s been every man’s dream to live on, or even near, Sand Creek, to have his children and grandchildren experience growing up on Sand Creek.

If you didn’t know that, then you really are new here. Because the stories Pat McManus writes are about growing up on that creek. His many books line the shelves of millions of homes and his feature article each month in Outdoor Life keep its sales so high it’s among the top outdoor magazines in the world. Now, had local developers gotten a story published in Outdoor Life, and happened to mention Sand Creek runs right through Sandpoint, Idaho, the U-Hauls would be backed up to Thompson Falls, and as far south as Coeur d’Alene.

The only thing that’s saved Sandpoint from the entourage so far has been Pat’s family and friends. They threatened to put him in a gunnysack and throw him into Sand Creek if he mentioned their names, or even the town where they lived—thus, he writes using fictitious names for both. However, he does use the names of certain landmarks, Sand Creek being the most prevalent.

Even without the public knowledge that this is the hometown of Pat McManus, construction along Sand Creek is going along at the speed of a nail gun. The old environmental hippies who got the clear-cutting stopped back in the 60s and 70s have been run over by the Granola crunches wanting fabulous homes built “out of lumber.” If you are young enough not to know what a clear-cut is, it’s those large, open places vacant of timber up on the sides of the mountains, visible in almost every direction. Your Realtor may have hinted they were alien crop circles! (That’s all part of the new language used by the US Forest Service.)

Every man has childhood fantasies of spending the night camped out with a young Pat McManus and his freckle-faced sidekicks on the banks of Sand Creek, fending off marauding chipmunks passing themselves off as Grizzly bear in the black of night, living off the land like the mountain men who were their idols—fresh, plump trout, snowshoe rabbit, mushrooms, huckleberries, 48 cans of pork and beans, a 50 pound sack of potatoes, all cooked over an open fire in a 300-pound iron skillet carried all the way from home.

But Sand Creek has changed, like everything else man has touched. Its rushing waters off the Selkirks’ eastern slope picked up sand from the glacier bed and carried it downstream to build Sandpoint, City Beach, Dog Beach and a huge delta beyond. (Okay, maybe some folks helped out a bit with City Beach.) Ask any plumber and he’ll tell you water carries stuff downhill. But man, in his inherent wisdom, put a dam downriver. When the lake level is raised to the height of the dam, it slows the flow of water from Sand Creek into the lake, forcing the stream to drop its sand and silt back up the stream instead of carrying it out into the lake. The sand and silt will continue to fill Sand Creek until lit reaches the height of the lake level—that’s the fact, Jack!

But wait! Man is going to intervene yet again with Sand Creek. Will this help? Given man’s track record—nah.

What brought all this to the surface was Pat’s letter. Seems he was cleaning out his sock drawer and found a large newspaper clipping dating back some time ago. The article related just how many famous and outstanding artists live in this area. Some of the most creative minds in the art world reside right under our noses! So if the Highway Department is going to create large, concrete canvases and pillars along the east side of Sand Creek (the bypass) we should take advantage of it. From the bridge crossing at City Beach, north to the bridge at Hwy. 95 can be a park that could be a showpiece. A life-sized moose cut from one-inch steel plate with a goose nest in his antlers, placed in the middle of the creek just south of 95, and further down, a herd of elk crossing the stream... there is a lot that could be done if we just put our minds to it. 

How many of you know that the monument at the Chamber of Commerce visitor center was an old, ridge abutment? It was going to cost the city $3,000 to have it torn down and hauled off, so my lovely and I built a monument to David Thompson and to the loggers who built this community, and on the backside we sculpted the two, world-record fish that came out of this lake, plus a painting of all the other fish. In the middle hangs a cut-out of a large bear hide and written on it is the history of the lake and our community. A gazillion photos have been taken of it by tourists from all over the world. It’s now in dire need of repair as it’s over 30 years old, but it really is a monument to what you can do if you put your mind to it, as we had never painted nor sculpted anything before that time.

We can do it—but this time, let’s make sure there’s a monument to kids and campfires and grizzly lurking in the dark. Let’s do that one for Pat.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0 posted)

total: | displaying:

Post your comment

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Quote

Please enter the code you see in the image:

  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Author info

Boots Reynolds Boots Reynolds The "internationally-renowned cowboy artist" Boots Reynolds has moved his comedic interpretation of life into the writing field with his regular column in the River Journal - From the Mouth of the River.

Tagged as:

Sandpoint, public art, bypass, Pat McManus, Sand Creek

Rate this article