Having just returned from my long awaited hunting trip/vacation to visit my family in north Idaho, I am drawn to the similarities between our two small towns. Although Bonners Ferry is a bit larger than Esparto, driving down the main street of Bonners is like driving through any small town in Yolo County, or America for that matter.
Esparto has our local eateries like the Burger Barn, Hog Canyon Deli and Los Tios, Bonners Ferry has the Badgers Den, the Chic-N-Chop and the Friday night all you can eat fish fry at the Three Mile Cafe. The vehicles you see in town are very similar, with the exception there are more white Chevy trucks than white Ford trucks in Bonners. I guess farmers like Fords and loggers like Chevys, or they need a Ford dealer in Bonners, or both.
Having traveled to quite a few small towns in my time, one can meet the people, look at the places and the scenery but never really connect, because you are an outsider. This trip was a little different, not only did I have my mom and sister to show me around, I had a guide, a local.
My sister's fried Roy is the very definition of a local. Roy knows everyone, and everyone knows Roy. Even though my family has been in the Bonners area for almost 15 years, they are transplants, Californian transplants. They get along fine up there, but not everyone does.
As you can imagine, there is quite a stigma attached to folks who move up to Idaho from the golden state, and with good reason. Californians looking to "get away" from the rat race, escape to small towns in other states only to find the simple life found in places like Bonners is just a little too simple for them. They want to have all the conveniences, amenities, and culture they are accustom to, in a town of 2,000 people.
The local population is not very interested in how things work back where you came from, in fact they would rather you keep your ideas to yourself. If things were so great back there, why did you move up here? Small town people have an independent streak in them. They are slow to embrace change; in fact they want nothing more than to be left alone. This is true in almost every small town in this nation.
Not every small town longs to be just like Davis, California or Madison, Wisconsin. They really don't care if you have a PhD in city planning and want the city to revamp the downtown for better flow. They would just like you to go back to your custom built home and learn how to shovel the snow off your roof so you quit calling your neighbor for help every time it snows. We got along just fine before you folks moved up here, thank you very much.
As I said, I was fortunate to have a hometown guy showing me around so I was not too worried about being pegged as a Californian. I tried my best not to say Dude, and I was wearing my Carhartt jacket and Wranglers along with my hunting boots. I even bought a package of Red Man chewing tobacco. My north Idaho camouflage was complete.
Together, Roy and I ran errands in town and like most small towns, you couldn’t swing a dead cat around without hitting someone Roy knew. I think I met at least 10% of the greater Bonners Ferry population. At Far North, the local sporting goods/gun store, I met Chris and the gang. On Wednesday evening, my sister Lisa and Roy took me to Mountain Springs Church. It was a very nice service and I met some of my sister's friends. She loves introducing me as her "baby brother", but she did cut my hair while I was there, so I was on my best behavior.
On Friday night after the fish fry at Three Mile Cafe, we all went to the homecoming football game. The weather had warmed up from the teens to the mid 50s and although it was chilly, we all stayed warm in the stands as the Bonners Ferry Badgers beat the team from Kellogg. The football game was very similar to a game at Esparto, only colder. The kids from the high school look just like the kids at any high school in our area. Sure, there are many kids in Carhartt coats and blue jeans, but there are many wearing Famous Stars or DC shirts and hats with skinny jeans and even a few Goth kids. I guess if you have MTV in your town, that sets the fashion, and everyone from Malibu to Montana dresses the same.
I came home this weekend to temperatures in the 70s and my wife and daughter just getting over the flu. I was glad to be home, but I was also a little saddened because I had such a great time with my mother and sister and my new friend Roy. I hope to be back next year for hunting season and to see the family again.
By the way, before you start looking at real estate ads, Roy said to make sure I tell everyone that the hunting stinks, the town is full of backwards rednecks, and it snows every day from August to May. You really would not like it…..