Viva la Gem State


So – here I am, blogging away like there’s no tomorrow after a hiatus of what seems like at least 6 months. Somewhere along the line I fell off the blogging truck (although my blogging truck was never going very fast in the first place!) Last you heard from me I was probably in Oxford . . . and no doubt having some crisis or other and fussing about English groceries. But now I’m back in good old Idaho for the whole summer, and have nothing to complain about in the grocery department. We’re wallowing in the American sized packages, and the fact that we don’t have to ration the peanut butter.

But although we are in the land of limitless peanut butter, as it turns out, Idaho has somewhat less in the way of historical interest than England has. As I’m sure you all know, you can drive for days and never once hit a spot where anything of historical import has ever happened. The “Historic Site Ahead” signs on the highway keep you motivated for miles as they hint of great things to come – but when you pull off the road into the mini parking lot to see what all the fuss is about, it inevitably turns out to be a billboard that explains in painful detail the fact that Lewis and Clark caught fish for dinner in this very creek and wrote that shocking fact down in their diary. (I’m not making that up. We’ve been snookered by that one more than once.) But somehow, even though you KNOW that nothing interesting has EVER happened along Highway 95, you can’t help but be curious about some of those signs. And after you’ve driven past a sign enough times, you finally weaken and eventually you just have to give in and pull off the road and find out just what it is that we’re all supposed to be so impressed with.

This little scenario unfolded a few days ago while Ben and I were driving back from Grangeville – and strangely it was just the two of us that day without all our little roadies in the car. We drove past the little green sign that pointed to the “Weis Rock Shelter” and Ben snapped. He had to find out once and for all what the Weis Rock Shelter was, and so we turned around went back to follow the signs and see what we could see.

The small road took us winding through wheat fields and then eventually turned down into a crazy gorge. This was looking promising. At the very least it was a gorgeous drive. We went down and down and down and 6 miles later we saw the sign that informed us of a “Historical Site Ahead.” Since we were now very far down in the canyon with ridiculously big cliffs on both sides of the road, a rock shelter seemed like it might be kind of neat. So we pulled over, hopped out of the car, and went over to read the sign. I truly wish I could quote that sign word for word . . . it was too utterly priceless. But let me sum up as best I can from memory:

The Weis Rock Shelter was a cave dwelling for the Nez Perce Indians and was continuously inhabited for 8,000 years.

So far so good – cave dwellings are interesting. And making necessary adjustments for chronology and so forth this still seemed like it was actually a pretty neat thing. I mean, come on! That’s got to be at least in the same category as Uffington Castle! I was starting to get excited and take back all the rude things I’ve ever said about Idaho history. But the sign continued.

Excavations have revealed numerous artifacts that were all very interesting. Cooking implements and weapons and what not.

(Paraphrasing perhaps a touch.)

This was an important shelter because of the water source, loads of game, fish from the Salmon River which make for amazing salmon chilis, and a few other things which I’ve forgotten. This is a very sacred place for the Nez Perce people and they can truly say that they have ALWAYS lived here.

At this point it was starting to sound like we were running out of things to say but were determined to at least get a paragraph out of it, so there was some guff about being rooted to the land or something. But then we got to the punchline. The zippy end that really just made my day.

The cave has been backfilled in order to protect it.

I ask you! Backfilled in order to preserve it! And sure enough, we walked over to the cliff face, pushed our way through the blackberry bushes, and there was a large pile of dirt jammed into the hole where there had once been an ancient Nez Perce cave dwelling! And whatever cock eyed reason they had for backfilling the thing (in order to protect it don’t forget) they then went to the bother and expense of signposting it from the highway which was a good 10 miles away at least! Intentionally luring people away from their busy driving and waiting until they’re all the way down in the canyon before springing them the news that they’ve actually backfilled the important and sacred site of historical interest!

I was just intensely pleased by that little experience. Just made my day. I love Idaho.

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11 thoughts on “Viva la Gem State

  1. Hang on, I should clarify that. I love NZ and all that, but sometimes we tend to make a big deal over nothing (like your fish example). Though I have to add that I don’t think they’ll ever allow the backfilling of a cave! I think the Maori must be a lot more vocal about such things than the Nez Perce people.

  2. My husband laughed all through breakfast over this.
    Something faintly similar happened with us just north, maybe a bit west?, of the Grand Canyon. We were zipping past all these tantalizing historical markers, and I finally persuaded my husband to stop so we could all be enlightened.
    He pulled over and the marker told us that somewhere out on the horizon some Spaniards had traded with some native Americans and there had been a brown horse involved which was depicted in the diary of the Spaniard.
    Our six year old daughter at the time said, “maybe the rest of it is carved on the back.” But the back was of course bolted to a post, so we’ll never know.
    Now whenever we come upon such a marker, Jon winks at me and asks if I want to stop…

  3. There is some great truth in there about how our government works, but I’m too foggy this morning to pin it down. I’m going to be laughing about that all day – what a story!

  4. Thank you for checking that out, Bekah! During my numerous Moscow to Boise and back pilgrimages I had always wondered what that was. Of course, it sounded cool, but cool enough to take a 10-mile detour across gravel roads? Boy am I now glad I never ventured out during that one time in a blizzard…

    Of course our family’s homestead is only a few miles away from that sight, which although it’s deserted now, holds a little more historical significance for me!

  5. Bekah, You should write for a sit-com. Thanks for another ‘laugh til you cry’. BTW there is a funny sitcom on WGN called “Corner Gas”. Y’all may want to check it out sometime. Cheers!

  6. This is so enjoyable to read. And although you may feel you wasted time, think of all the time you would have wasted just daydreaming about WHAT that Historic Site could have offered, had you not gone.

    Unlike me, who still wonders what “MYSTERY SPOT AHEAD” holds for those adventurous enough to visit, in Michigan’s U.P. It promised “WORLD FAMOUS, MILLION VISITORS, FUN, FUN, FUN”, but we just kept on driving.

  7. Rebekah, thank you for the good reading! You are very talented at creating word pictures and bringing laughs to my day.

    I can thoroughly sympathize with repeatedly driving by the signs and wondering whether it’s really worth stopping to see what it’s all about. There’s a “Natural Bridge” somewhere between Knoxville and Wheaton that I’ll finally have to visit sometime, but who knows what it actually is or how far it is off the interstate. I’ve fogotten all the “interesting” places we must pass between Knoxville and Kansas.

    Missy, your story’s great too! πŸ™‚

  8. If it’s anything like the Natural Bridge in Virginia, it’s probably pretty amazing. πŸ˜€

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