A State of Mind

North Idaho is different.

The vast majority of my years in Idaho have been spent in the state’s Pacific time zone. Why do we operate an hour different? Obviously, because we are north of the earlier Mountain Time folks down south, and time knows latitude, doesn’t it?

I’ve heard our Governor insists we up here be called “Northern Idaho”, not “North Idaho”, lest we start getting ideas of independence. I’m sorry, but that ship has sailed.

The Salmon River is the border for our special craziness. Come on up. But pack your colander or tin foil hat and put it on your head as you cross Time Zone Bridge. You’ll fit right in.

We had a strong antigovernment streak before statehood. Florence (north of the Salmon River) was a booming mining town in 1862. A Federal judge ventured over from Walla Walla to offer justice. He convened a grand jury and asked for indictments. The miners obliged, calling President Lincoln, cabinet members, Union generals and the judge up for trial. The judge rode his horse back to Walla Walla post haste and resigned. We can discourage authority.

We proudly know our history. I’m not sure the 1890’s miners insurrection in the Silver Valley was crazy. The wealthy mine bosses lived in lavish Spokane mansions while miners starved and slaved. But the strikers crossed the government line when they blew up a mill. The means of production cannot be damaged. That got US government troops called in from Denver. Some have argued lily white North Idaho’s racism was founded on the fact that it was black US Army “Buffalo Soldiers” who rounded up strikers and stood guard with rifles over them in open pens.

The coda to this episode didn’t end with the former governor’s assassination or the famous trial of the Union mine bosses who might have ordered the hit, nor with their acquittal. Our special crazy up here might have grown out of that convoluted spectacle of injustice.

I have no idea if Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations knew this history when they came to Hayden, Idaho near Coeur d Alene. But they added to the aura we exude. We are still known for their wacko ideas, even though they are long gone. We’ve moved on to prepping for the apocalypse and wrapping ourselves in Confederate flags.

The 1990’s Ruby Ridge standoff put us back on the crazy map. Randy Weaver died this month. He survived the siege of federal gunmen on his isolated North Idaho compound, though his wife and son were killed. He too was acquitted of all charges except “failing to appear in court”. Government hasn’t learned how to handle us. Maybe we just don’t like authority.

My home, Moscow, Idaho has its own crazy streak. Indeed, one State Senator we elected to represent us called us a “cesspool of liberalism”. It wasn’t me.

I like the crazy creative twist some of our residents can exhibit.

One day over coffee at the Co-op, one of these artistic types told me of an old State Patrol car he had purchased at auction back in the day. It still had the spotlights and the black and white paint, but all the fun sirens and bubble gum lights had been stripped and it wouldn’t do 120 mph anymore. But it sure looked official. He sported a bushy head of hair and a big scruffy beard. He appreciated the odd looks he got pulling up next to a fellow citizen at an intersection.

But apparently, he went too far when he designed and installed insignia badges on the front doors. They looked too official. A real state trooper pulled him over and told him to take them off.

They were a gold shield with black lettering: “North Idaho” on top; underneath “A State of Mind”.

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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