A Great Adventure, by Proxy

 Quick, do you know what a skoolie is?

  I didn’t, either.

  Skoolies, for readers unfamiliar with them, are school buses that have been converted into motor homes.

  They are, according to a website about such things, “an example of upcycling at its best. Upcycling is the art of taking something that can no longer be used for its original purpose and transforming it for a different use.

  “Once renovated, skoolies essentially become a cross between an RV and a tiny house on wheels. Like RVs, they don’t require a separate towing vehicle. The conversion process … makes them look and feel more like a tiny home on wheels.”

  So why is this a subject of this column?

  Because my granddaughter and her husband have spent the last year turning an old school bus into a skoolie. I saw them off recently on what I’ve come to call The Great Adventure, something I considered doing at their age but didn’t and still regret it. More about that later. 

  They left from our house for their adventure and, if all goes well, will be gone for about a year. Saying goodbye to them was bittersweet. I’m happy for them and, truth be told, am also a tad envious. While they’re free-wheeling it around the country on The Great Adventure, I’ll be home mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, cleaning the garage …

  The adventurers sold their house, which they’d remodeled, and bought their new home, the skoolie, in Missouri. They found one there that they liked and was in their price range and drove it back to Idaho. It was just an old school bus then, with bench seats that once accommodated elementary school students now in college or the work force.

  My grandaughter’s name is Kelsie. Her husband, Christian, is one of those people who can build or fix just about anything, and she’s become a skilled handywoman herself. They spent a year gutting the bus and building a new interior. It has a living room and a tiny kitchen, a bedroom and a tiny bathroom. It has a TV projector and roll-down screen. All the comforts of home.

  Much of it is solar powered. It’s as much a home on wheels as many RVs are, and on the inside an attractive home at that. On the outside, it still looks like, well, a school bus.

  The Great Adventure was a far cry from what we expected they’d be doing now. Kelsie graduated from BSU with a teaching degree, and Christian can do anything from rebuilding a car engine to building a house. We figured he’d have a jack-of-all-trades business and she’d be an elementary school teacher by now. Instead, they’re criss-crossing America in a blue bus.

  They’re in New Mexico now and plan to be in New England in time to catch the fall colors. From there they’ll head south, chasing the warm weather. Kelsie will do some online teaching en route; Christian hopes to land some handyman jobs.

  Their adventure put me in mind of one I envisioned, albeit on a much smaller scale, when I was their age. I’d finished two years of junior college and had spent several summers working for my father’s and and uncle’s business, installing lawn-sprinkling systems. It was hot, hard work, most of it on the end of a shovel, and I wanted to spend a summer traveling before leaving for active duty in the Navy.

  My vehicle of choice was, or would have been, a motorcycle. That I didn’t own a motorcycle and had never driven one were irrelevant. I had money from the sprinkler company job and playing in a band. I could buy a motorcycle and learn to drive it. How hard could it be?

   The idea was to drive the motorcycle, preferably a souped-up, glamorous looking one Like Steve McQueen or Marlon Brando would have owned, from Idaho to the east coast and back. I envisioned myself tooling across the plains and along the coastlines at breathtaking speed, free-wheeling without a care in the world. 

  The reality, of course, most likely would have been far different – driving rains and howling winds, breakdowns in godforsaken places and, worst case scenario, an accident that would have changed my life.

  Or ended it.

  Many years later, I came close to buying a scooter that a friend was selling. I had my checkbook out to pay him for it when he said the words that changed my mind:

  “Just remember that you’re invisible and everybody’s trying to kill you.”

  I didn’t buy the scooter and never did go on the motorcycle trip across the county. Instead I spent most of that summer digging ditches for the sprinkler company and, in August, left for the Navy.

  You hear it said that when they reach the end of their lives, most people don’t regret things they did. They regret the things they didn’t do. Decades later, I still wish I’d have taken that motorcycle ride. 

  Kelsie and Christian have been on the road for about a month now. I’ll be calling them for occasional updates (while trying not to be too much of a pest), imagining things they might encounter along the way, and envying them the experience.

  Their Great Adventure is my motorcycle ride. I’ll be living it by proxy, through them. And for them, the ones who are actually living it, here’s hoping it’s everything they dreamed it would be.

Tim Woodward’s column runs every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

April brings one mishap after another

Some months are just no good. Right from the start, with apologies to Murphy’s Law, everything that can go wrong does.

  That’s the way April has been at the Woodward residence. The month started, as readers of this column may remember, with a late-night visit to a veterinary clinic. We were dog-sitting Roux, our older daughter’s dog, when she (the dog, not our daughter) jumped onto the kitchen table when no one was looking and ate a shocking amount of freshly baked brownies.

  Chocolate, as most dog owners know, can be deadly for dogs. We arrived at the clinic just after midnight. Three hours and $400 later, the crisis had passed and Roux was cleared to go home. 

  This was on April 2. The month – and the challenges it would bring – was just getting underway.

  The day after the brownie fiasco, my prescription glasses broke. I was putting them them on when part of the frame snapped off. This was a relatively minor annoyance; a helpful technician had my glasses fixed in no time. The hardest part was driving to the clinic on Eagle Road, which was doing a passably good imitation of an L.A. freeway during rush hour.

  Next, the router that delivers wi-fi to our house broke. It’s amazing how much we rely on wi-fi. Without it, we couldn’t get or answer emails, use Google, shop online, etc. The guy who installed the new router spent two hours at our house drilling holes, running wires and fending off Roux, who’s a good watchdog when she isn’t sleeping or eating brownies.

  The old router was a black box. The new one looks a little like a blunt-nosed rocket ship with a green light in the middle. I half expect it to transmit a message from Flash Gordon or Ming the Merciless. It cost $150. The service call was another $150.

  This brings us to the amplifier fiasco. I sold a guitar amplifier online to a buyer in Texas. I’d always used Fed-Ex to ship gear, but the buyer insisted on UPS. Several days after shipping the amp, he emailed to say he had “horrible news.”

  The horrible news was that the amplifier I had spent hours obsessively packing to prevent damage had been damaged. The buyer’s email included a picture of the box. It looked like it had been dropped from a height, run over by a fork lift or hit with a battering ram. The amplifier’s new owner reported that when he turned it on, he saw a flash of light, followed by a puff of smoke. Never good signs.

  I contacted the head of the company that made the amp to ask if he knew a capable repair person near where the buyer lived. He did, but the buyer wasn’t interested in a repair. He wanted a refund. Bottom line: He’s sending the broken amp back to me and I’m refunding his money. So much for obsessively packing to prevent damage.

  The second week of April was when our granddaughter Kelsie and  her husband, Christian, installed new flooring on the second floor of our house, replacing threadbare carpet that had been there since she was a toddler.

  The job necessitated moving furniture from bedroom to bedroom to get it out of the way. This meant that the bedrooms where the furniture was being kept were all but inaccessible. I squeezed and wiggled like a contortionist to get to a dresser drawer with a checkbook I needed, only to learn that the drawer was under several hundred pounds of other drawers. I still haven’t found that checkbook.

  Midway through the flooring project, the hot water heater broke.

  The first clue that something was wrong was a diminished flow of water from the kitchen faucet. It wouldn’t get hot, either. The water heater at our house is in the furnace room, which is in the finished basement. When I opened the door to the furnace room, the  nature of the problem was all too apparent.

  The water heater didn’t just stop heating; it was doing a highly  successful imitation of an open floodgate. Its bottom had completely rusted out. Rising water had covered the furnace room floor and gone under the walls to an adjoining bathroom and the family room.

  Instant panic.

  “Call Christian and Kelsie!” my wife shouted.

  The family handyman and handywoman had just left for the day and weren’t far away. Christian shut off the valve that supplied water to the tank (it was hidden by a heating duct; I didn’t even know it existed), and we used every old towel in the house to mop up the water.

  The next day, we bought a new hot water heater. Christian had it installed in no time, and, for now at least, the mishaps seem to have passed.

  In some ways, we were lucky. The online company I sold the guitar amplifier through will pay for me to get it fixed. The new floors look great, and the water-heater leak could have been much worse. If it had happened in the middle of the night, an entire floor of the house would have flooded. And if Christian hadn’t been around to shut off the water, it might have flooded anyway. We’re fortunate to have someone in the family who can build or fix just about anything.

  That said, no one is happier than we are that April is hours from being over. May will never be more welcome. 

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Make Late Gov. Phil Batt’s ‘Centennial Idaho’ the Official State Song of Idaho

  Much has been written about former Gov. Phil Batt since his passing on March 4. He was praised as a human rights advocate, for his role in removing nuclear waste from Idaho, for his fairness, decency  and much more.

  One of my favorite memories of him, however, is of his music.

  My introduction to the late governor was unorthodox, to say the least. He was a state senator at the time; I was a fledgling columnist assigned to do color stories about the legislature. I’d just seated myself in the gallery overlooking the Senate when Batt and then state senator Jim Risch spotted me, stuck out their tongues, put their thumbs in their ears and wiggled their fingers.

  It could have been taken as an insult, but it was done in good humor. They both laughed afterward, as I did. And in years to come I got to know the former state senator, lieutenant governor and governor for the good man he was.

  A good man and a good musician and song writer. He was quoted as saying that playing the clarinet was “one of the most enjoyable parts of my life. I think music is magic.” 

   I heard him play his clarinet a few times and thought he played well, but what absolutely knocked me out was a song he wrote about Idaho. Hearing it for the first time at a grade school choir performance, my first thought was that it would make a great Idaho state song. 

  The official state song, of course, is “And Here We Have Idaho.” Originally composed more than a century ago, its melody and lyrics may have been fine for their time but seem dated at best by contemporary standards.

  These are the lyrics to the chorus, the one part of the song most of us can remember: 

  And here we have Idaho
  Winning her way to fame
  Silver and gold in the sunlight blaze
  And romance lies in her name
  Singing, we’re singing of you
  Ah, proudly too
  All our lives through, we’ll go
  Singing, singing of you,
  Singing of Idaho.

  Really? Winning our way to fame? And have you ever known anyone who spends his or her whole life through singing of Idaho?

  Compare that with the chorus of Batt’s Idaho song:

  Idaho, Idaho

  Where the winds of love and friendship always blow

  There’s a freedom in the sky

  And I’ll live here till I die

  Idaho, Idaho, Idaho

  Short and to the point. Like Batt himself.

  Reading the lyrics doesn’t do justice to the song, though. Its melody is catchy, charming. To truly appreciate it, you have to hear it sung.  Here’s a link you can use to do that: 

 It was performed in the Statehouse rotunda during a service honoring the late governor on March 9. Boisean Margaret Lawrence directed the choir that day, as she did many times with Batt playing his clarinet, including the first time I heard the song, in 2008 at Jackson Elementary School. It was the last choir performance at the school, which was closing after 48 years.

  Lawrence called the late governor’s song “a snapshot into Idaho’s history. It’s timeless in that respect. It touches on Chief Joseph, the sourdoughs in mining, farming. It’s an Idaho history lesson for children and adults also.”

  The chorus, she added, is “one of those joyful moments in life when you get to sing with gusto. Children love it and when I have invited adults to join in, they too have proven its melodic accessibility by the exuberance in which they perform – loud and proud.”

   With due respect, the same can’t be said for “And Here We Have Idaho,” which was written in 1915 and adopted as our state song in 1931. People don’t write or sing songs like that any more. We don’t drive Model T’s any more, either. Batt’s accessible melody and moving lyrics would comprise a state song we could sing loud and proud.

  Changing state songs isn’t without precedent. Oregon and Mississippi both changed lyrics that were considered racist in their state songs.

  Colorado, while not scrapping “Where the Columbines Grow,” added John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” as a second state song.

  Legislators in W. Virginia have tried to make Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” that state’s official state song. They haven’t succeeded yet, but time and public sentiment may be on their side. Adopted as West Virginia University’s theme song, it has been played to rousing applause before every home football game for decades.

  What better way to honor a governor that virtually everyone liked and admired – I never heard anyone say a bad word about him – than to make his song our official state song? It would be an improvement on what we have now, and generations of Idahoans would actually enjoy singing it.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.

Stocking Caps or Beanies? The Generational Language Barrier

 I went shopping for a stocking cap the other day and found a  language barrier instead. 

  Not the language barrier you experience in a foreign country where don’t speak the language; the barrier I have in mind is the generational language barrier.

  Yes there is such a thing.

  The setting was the Boise State University book store, where I went to shop for the cap.

  If you’re scratching your head after reading the last two words of that sentence, I rest my case about the language barrier.

  After wandering the aisles without success, I asked for help from a sales clerk, who, judging by her youthful appearance may have been  a BSU student.

  “Hello. Can you tell me where the stocking caps are?”


  I repeated the question.

  More silence. Her eyes weren’t exactly glazed over, but it was clear that we were nowhere close to communicating.

  “You know, stocking caps! Like you wear in the winter when it’s cold or snowing.”

  Now her eyes were glazing over.

  “Do you not know what a stocking cap is?”

  Judging by her bewildered expression, she didn’t have a clue.

  “You know, stocking caps! You put them on your head and pull them down over your ears to keep your ears warm. Some of them have fuzzy little balls on top.”

  The clouds lifted, the light dawned. 

 “You mean beanies!”


  “Yes, beanies. They’re right over here.”

  She led the way to a display of stocking caps, now apparently known to pretty much everyone of a certain age as beanies. I thanked her, bought one and wore it home.

  Curious, I checked the site where America shops for its take on beanies vs. stocking caps. Amazon listed 60 individual entries for stocking caps, 67 for beanies.

  The initial lack of communication with the young woman at the book store got me to thinking about other words subject to the generational language barrier. People my age, for example, use all sorts of expressions that not only have fallen out of favor with younger people, but are so outdated that young people have little or no idea what they mean.

  Bread, for example. When we were their age, we referred to money as bread. The term was universal enough that an album cover by a band of the same name featured its members’ photos on dollar bills.

  Now bread is just, well … bread.

  Drag was a noun for something that was boring or depressing. It still means that to baby boomers. To younger folks, it’s limited to its original meaning, to pull something with force or difficulty, as in dragging yourself to school or work on a Monday morning.

  Gas was a noun for something that was fun or exciting:

  “That Grateful Dead concert was a gas, man!”

  Now gas is just something you put in your car.

  Cats were cool guys, often musicians. To anyone under, say, 40, the usage is pretty much limited to felines.

  And there’s no point in even talking about “groovy,” a term so dated that not even geezers in their 70s or 80s use it any more.

  Unless they’re hopeless squares, another dated term that would leave 20-somethings scratching their heads.

  It works the other way, too, of course. Twenty-somethings use expressions that leave older generations scratching their heads. To learn what some of them were, I asked one of my twenty-something granddaughters.

  “What made you want to know?” she asked.

  “Something funny that happened at the BSU book store. I was shopping for a stocking cap, and the sales person didn’t know what I was talking about.”

  “What was it you were shopping for?”

  “A stocking cap.”


  “… What’s that?”

  I explained it to her.

  “Oh! You mean a beanie!”

  With that she offered some expressions currently in fashion.

  “Threads,” I was pleased to learn, is still used to mean clothes.

  The hip (does anybody still say that?) word for shoes is “kicks.” 

   My grandkids and their friends often refer to things as being “sick.”This initially baffled me because it seemed to make no sense at all. They described a litter of puppies, for example, as being really sick. I wondered why no one had called a vet – until it was explained that in their world, “sick” is the equivalent of “cool.”

  Cool, of course,  has been around since Elvis’s heyday and apparently is still in somewhat universal usage.

  “Sus,” in youthful usage, is short for suspicious.

  A “simp” is a weak, emotional man who tries overly hard to impress women. 

  “Cap,” according to my granddaughter, means lying to sound cool. Or, if you prefer, to sound sick. 

  There undoubtedly are more, but she couldn’t think of any offhand, which is just as well. It’s time to wrap this up. I need to put on my beanie and take the dog for a walk.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Adventures of a ‘One-armed Man’

  I buttoned my shirt this morning for the first time in two weeks. 

  Last week I drove for the first time, and I’m almost to the point that I can go up stairs without grasping the banister for dear life.

  Going down stairs is another matter.

  The event that led to these minor accomplishments: shoulder surgery.

  It was my second shoulder surgery in less than a year, which doesn’t seem fair. It wasn’t as if I was in a car accident, fell or otherwise injured myself. Both shoulders just started hurting for no obvious reason.

  The most likely explanation, according to the doctors, is that they were old injuries that caught up with me. I played a lot of baseball as a kid, some football in high school, skied a lot as a teenager and have played a fair amount of tennis. Sports injuries that seem to heal when you’re young can come back to haunt you later in life.

  Or maybe it was just some stupid accident. Like the time I got up in the dark on the wrong side of the bed, tripped over a guitar and fell on it, snapping its neck neatly in half. That’s probably more characteristic.

  The first surgery, in March, was a piece of cake. Hardly any pain and a mere two weeks in a sling. How much different, I naïvely thought, could another shoulder operation be?

  Answer: Night and day different. 

 The first operation was a relatively simple procedure to fix torn cartilage. The second was multiple procedures for multiple problems . I won’t bore you with the details except to say that it was a lot more involved, with a significantly longer recovery time.

  The worst part of shoulder surgery isn’t the surgery itself. You’re unconscious for it, and they give you a nerve block so you don’t feel any pain for several days afterwards. They also give you some high octane pain pills to use after the nerve block wears off. The worst part, without a close second, is the sling you have to wear after the surgery.

  The sling has what’s called an abduction pillow. The part with your arm in it is attached with Velcro to the outside edge of the pillow. Your arm is separated from your from body by about six inches and sticks straight out, as if you were reaching to shake hands with someone. You wear this night and day for as long as the doctor says, in my case six weeks.

  The sling is about as easy as a straitjacket to put on without help. One of my physical therapists laughed when I told her I was thinking of burning it when the six weeks were up.

  “You have no idea how many people I’ve heard say that,” she said.

   Unlike my first surgery, this operation was on the right shoulder. I had almost no appreciation of all that this would entail. Like 85 to 90 percent of the world’s population, I am right-handed. This has proved to be a continuing and – continually infuriating – problem.

  You have no idea how much you rely on your dominant hand until you can’t use it anymore. My first clue to what the next six weeks would be like came the first time I brushed my teeth after the operation. If you’re right-handed, it’s insanely awkward to brush your teeth with your left hand.

  Flossing your teeth with one hand? Forget it. 

  Putting on socks with the wrong hand is about as easy as typing wearing mittens. The same is true of putting on pants, shirts, coats, etc. Things you normally do in seconds without thinking about them are laborious, time-consuming, painful. It takes me half an hour just to get dressed in the morning. 

  Typing is a challenge at best. I’ve been typing ever since high school and normally type about 60 words a minute with pretty good accuracy. Now it’s strictly hunt and peck. 

  A five-minute shower takes 15 minutes, with the ever-present risk of slipping and further injuring yourself. 

  Eating with a spoon using the wrong hand is clumsiness personified. I’ve spilled more cereal and soup and dropped more things since the surgery than I did in the previous year.

  All of these pale, however, in comparison with trying to sleep. Injured shoulders hurt most when lying down. Bottom line: you can’t lie down. You have to sleep, if you want to call it that, sitting upright on a couch or a recliner. Add wearing a bulky sling and abduction pillow to that and you have a recipe for insomnia. There are nights when I could be mistaken for a character in “Night of the Living Dead.”

  No complaints, though. Yes, it’s been a bit of a grind. But it also has given me a better understanding of what those who permanently have lost an arm or leg go through every day of their lives. Compared with that, this is nothing. 

  Nor is any of what I’ve written meant to reflect negatively on my doctors or their co-workers. I have only good things to say about my surgeon, Dr. Michael Curtin, and his staff at the St. Luke’s Sports Medicine clinic. Ditto for Dr. Kurt Nilsson at SLSM, whose care bought me some pain-free years before the surgery, and for Physician’s Assistant Kati Johnson, Physical Therapist Jami Garver, and all the other good folks at the clinic who have helped in so many ways. They deserve medals just for putting up with all my questions.

  But not for much longer. Today is Day 30 of the six weeks in a sling.

  No more trying to sleep sitting up after that.

  No more dropping and spilling everything thing from pills to pillows with the left hand.

  No more clinging to banisters, taking forever to get dressed or shrieking four-letter words in the middle of the night because the sling has come loose, the blankets have slipped off of the couch onto the floor and you have to wrestle with whether to be up for the rest of the night or take a sleeping pill.

  Thirty days down, twelve to go.

  But who’s counting?

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.  

Glitter – the New Pine Needles

 Christmas at the Woodward household lasts until March.

  That, give or take, used to be when the last pine needle from the Christmas tree was swept or vacuumed up, officially ending the season for another year.

  The staying power of those pine needles defied belief. Those on the floor around the tree were swept up and banished to the trash several times during the holidays. A supposedly “final” sweeping and vacuuming took place after the tree was taken down and left at the curb to be composted.

  “That should do it,” I naively would say. “I think we’ve got them all.”

  We didn’t, of course. Pine needles would continue to pop up for weeks afterwards.  The tenacity of those pine needles was nothing short of astonishing.

  A few days after taking down the tree, putting away the decorations and cleaning up the pine needles (supposedly all of them), more would be spotted lurking in a  corner or communing with a baseboard. Get those up and more would surface in another part of the room. I’m not exaggerating in saying that it was March before the last of them finally were gone.

  This happened every Christmas until three years ago, when we ended our longstanding practice of buying real Christmas trees and settled on an artificial one.

  It was a long time coming. For years, artificial trees looked, to quote The Old Man in “A Christmas Story,” like they were made of “green pipe cleaners.” They got a little better every year, though. When we saw one in a store that looked almost real enough to be real, we succumbed and went artificial.

  And never looked back. No more perusing Christmas tree lots, no more sawing off the bottom of the trunk and soaking it overnight in a bucket of water to keep the needles from drying out, no more wrestling the tree through the front door. And, best of all, no more pine needles with half lives measured in months.

  All was well until this Christmas. That was when we discovered –  reminiscent of Orange is the New Black – that glitter is the new pine needles.

  No one who gathered at our house to unwrap gifts on Christmas Eve could remember so many presents that were wrapped using ribbon with glitter on it. Either glitter ribbon is enjoying a sudden surge in popularity or by sheer coincidence nearly everyone used it to wrap the packages that were under our tree this Christmas.

  It wasn’t just the ribbon, either. Some of the wrapping paper and even some of the gift bags were decorated with glitter.

  And the cards! At the moment, I am looking at a sizable pile of Christmas cards received from relatives, friends and acquaintances,  and just under half of them are literally dripping with shiny, sparkly, superfluous glitter. (The stuff isn’t really necessary, you know. The cards would look just fine without it.)

  No one thought much about all this until Christmas day. Cleanup with the Christmas Eve festivities still underway was limited to hastily putting wrappings in recycling bags and forgetting about them till the next morning.

  That’s when the profusion of glitter became all too apparent.

  “Look at this! There’s glitter everywhere.”

  “I’ve never seen so much glitter.”

  “It’s even outside on the porch.”

  Glitter was under the tree, on the rug, the couch, the chairs, the coffee table, the stereo cabinet. It was as if it had fallen from the sky in a bomb-glitter cyclone.

  We swept, vacuumed, dusted.

  “There. I think we’ve got it all.”

  We didn’t.

  In the days to come, glitter continued to turn up in one unlikely place after another.

  It was on the carpets and other floors, despite repeated vacuumings and sweepings.

  It was on the steps, the sidewalks.

  It was in the garage, in the cars.

  It was on our clothes, in the laundry, even in the beds.

  This continued to be the case for days – even weeks – after Christmas.

  How was this possible? Call me crazy, but I think the stuff was breeding.

  With glitter seemingly everywhere around the house, I wanted to learn more about it and discovered that it isn’t merely annoying when you can’t seem to get rid of it, it’s terrible for the environment.

  Much of the glitter used in everything from cards and wrappings to makeup is made of microplastic. Microplastics aren’t biodegradable. They last for thousands of years. They sink through the soil of landfills into groundwater and oceans. Birds and fish can die from consuming them. 

  There is such a thing, however, as biodegradable glitter, safe for animals and the planet. If you’re determined to use glitter in your makeup, wrappings or craft work, you can find it at https://www.todayglitter.com. 

  Other than that, it’s best to try to avoid using glitter at all. You’ll be helping the environment.

  And saving yourself a lot of cleaning up.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodward column@gmail.com.

A Day for Family, Peace, Good Will

 Some of my most cherished memories are of the Christmases of my youth, spent with family in our home of many years on Lemp Street in Boise’s North End. 

  Christmas was the best time of the year: decorating the tree with my mother and sister, Christmas music on the stereo, snow falling in the yellow glow of the old-fashioned streetlight. Dad in the kitchen whipping up Tom and Jerrys, everyone feeling merry.

  More than any other time of year, Christmas was a time for family. That included relatives we seldom saw at other times. Remembering them seems appropriate today, a day when families make memories remembered for life.

  Everyone’s favorite was Grandmother Susie. Susan Marquarett McCoy was easily the most interesting and beloved of my grandparents. She was my great grandmother, actually; all but three of my grandparents died before I was born. 

  Grandma Susie was born in 1865 – the year the Civil War ended – in Iowa. Family lore had it that she came west in a covered wagon. Grandma Susie had had many last names – Marquarett, McCoy, Black, Cuddy, Chandler – having outlived all of her husbands.

  She was a jolly old soul, despite having known more than her share of sorrows. Her last husband, who brought me pennies when they came to visit, had the uncommonly bad timing to die at our house in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. She also had a son who died. Despite her losses, she somehow remained positive, even jovial. 

 Grandma Susie didn’t come for the day on Christmas; she’d come and stay with us for a week or more. A week warmed by her marvelous cooking and baking – she had worked professionally as a cook – and by her good humor and genial disposition. We cherished  her visits.

  Relatives who came only on Christmas Day included Uncle Wayne and Aunt Helen, who lived in a rural area of Ada County, and Aunt Amy and Uncle Adolph, who lived on a hardscrabble farm near Star.

   Aunt Helen grew up in the mining town of Cripple Creek, Colo. She could tell the difference between gold and pyrite (fool’s gold) or silver and galena without batting an eye. She and Uncle Wayne had an adopted daughter, Barbara, who with my sister adored playing “Chopsticks” on the piano. Everyone else would have preferred Christmas music, but it was all they knew how to play. 

  Uncle Wayne was an Oklahoma native and part Native American. The most interesting things about him to my youthful way of thinking were that he was a master carpenter and had once been the foreman of a mine in Peru. Uncle Wayne was a self-styled banana connoisseur. He said you hadn’t really tasted a banana until you’d had one freshly picked from the bunch, as he claimed to have done often in Peru. For store-bought bananas he had nothing but disdain.

  Uncle Adolph and Aunt Amy were lifelong farmers. They arrived for Christmas dinner in their ancient Austin, arguably the ugliest car in Idaho, with their son Weldon.

  Weldon rarely strung more than half a dozen words together. He and Uncle Adolph wore bib overalls 364 days a year, but on Christmas they’d show up in dress shirts, old-fashioned suits and and gaudy hand-painted ties. It was their one chance to dress up, and they made the most of it. 

   Aunt Amy, who reminded me of Aunty Em in the Wizard of Oz, would be decked out in her best – a calf length dress, nylons with seams down the back and a hat with a veil. Seemingly from another time and possibly planet, they always left early to be home in time to milk the cows. We didn’t exchange gifts with the Star relatives. They couldn’t afford to do that, but their company was enough.

  Mom went all out for Christmas dinner – baked ham with clove and pineapple garnishes, Parker House rolls, a casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy and her signature mincemeat pie, all served on China used only at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Dad would light a fire in the fireplace, a feat attempted but once or twice a year, with universal trepidation. He was never sure whether the fireplace vent  was open or closed. A roomful of smoke was an ever present  possibility. 

  All those people are gone now, but they’re fondly remembered  these many years later. I mention them today because there are few times when being with family, and reminiscing about absent loved ones, seems more fitting than during the holidays.

  Our family, like most families, has had its share of spats and rifts, some worse than others. My late sister barely spoke to me the last eight years of her life and refused all invitations to join us for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

  A more recent rift had several members of the family barely speaking. Happily, that seems mostly to have been set aside, at least for now. We were together last night for Christmas Eve and will be together again today for Christmas dinner. My hope for you, readers, is that your family puts aside whatever grievances you’ve had and that you spend today enjoying one another’s company.

  Other timely Christmas wishes:

  That after almost three years and with effective vaccinations easily available, the pandemic will at last begin to fade.

  That we will be more tolerant of other viewpoints and our country will become less divided.

  That Putin’s war will end soon and there will be peace in Ukraine.

  “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”

  Isn’t that what today is supposed to be all about?

  Merry Christmas to you all.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Tim’s Memoir Book Almost Sold Out

“Finding My Niche,” my memoir published a year ago, will soon be out of print. Signed copies are still available at Rediscovered Books, 180 N. Eighth Street in downtown Boise, and today I’m going to Barnes & Noble, 1301 N. Milwaukee, near Boise Towne Square Mall, to sign the last of their stock.

If you’ve thought of giving this book (about growing up in a Boise of 35,000 people, playing in the Mystics and what it was like working 40 years at The Idaho Statesman) as a Christmas gift, this could be the last chance. There won’t be another printing, so once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. People tell me it’s a fun read. I hope you’ll consider it, and Merry Christmas!


A Childhood Friend, Just Quietly Gone

 One of my best childhood friends died almost a year ago. It’s a measure of how much we’d drifted apart that I didn’t find out until last week.

  There was, to the best of my knowledge, no obituary, no funeral service. He was just quietly gone.

  We met when we were four years old. My parents had just moved into their dream home in Boise’s still developing North End, now a long established neighborhood. The Hally family lived across the street and two doors down from us. Four-year-old Timmy was the youngest of four brothers.

  “What are you doing?” he asked me on the day we met. 

  “Playing with rocks.”

  Rocks in the gutter of the still unpaved street in front of our house. There were no X Boxes or Flying Orb Balls in those days. Kids played with whatever was at hand.

  “Ok if I play with you?”

  And so, over rocks in a gutter, a friendship was born.

  Another boy our age lived in a house in the next block. It wasn’t long before Bill Molitor, Timmy Hally and I were briefly inseparable.

  Our pastimes were typical for kids of those days – playing baseball and hide and seek, swimming in the municipal pool, making snowmen and snow forts, playing with toy trains, playing marbles in the alley, riding bikes with playing cards clothes-pinned to the frame to chatter deliciously in the spokes …

  Timmy was the unwitting recipient of injuries at the hands of yours truly, as I was reminded in a letter to the editor he once wrote. One of his former classmates sent me a copy of it last week along with the belated news of his passing:

  “I have known Woody since he, his sister and parents moved into our neighborhood at 25th and Lemp streets in the early 1950s,” the letter said. “At first his name was Woody Woodpecker, but his mom asked us not to use that so it became Woody, as I was Timmy. Yuck, I never liked the name Timmy.

  “One thing I will always remember is him hitting me over the head with a baton when we were about nine or 10.”

  What he mercifully failed to mention was that attached to the baton, which I’d found in an alley, was a ball of concrete about the size of a softball. I was behind our garage hitting imaginary villains over the head with it when, with astonishingly bad timing, Timmy walked out the garage door as I lowered the boom. I had no idea he was anywhere around. Luckily, he wasn’t unconscious long enough for me to get into serious trouble.

  In his mother’s opinion, my getting into trouble was overdue. In the not too distant past, I had shot her son with an arrow and almost knocked out his front teeth.

  The arrow incident was an accident. Its intended destination was a paper target tacked to a fence. Just as the arrow was released from my bow, out came Timmy – once again with impeccable timing – from through the aforementioned garage door. It was a kids’ arrow rather than a hunting arrow, but its dull tip still managed to draw blood and outrage the victim’s mother.

  The shuffleboard incident was not an accident. A shuffleboard court pattern was built into the Hallys’ tile floor in their basement. We were playing the game one day when Timmy did something that made me mad enough to toss one of the shuffleboard discs at him. No one was more surprised than I was when it hit him in the mouth, resulting in two loose teeth and inordinate bleeding. If Mrs. Hally had had her way, I’d have been grounded for life.

  Mr. Hally, incidentally, was one of the more interesting people in the  neighborhood. He and Bing Crosby, the famous crooner, were friends as students at Gonzaga University. A picture of them standing beside each other graced the Hallys’ living room. Mr. Hally drove a beautiful, black Buick Roadmaster, easily the coolest car in the neighborhood. He was an engineer who supposedly helped design the beautiful Rainbow Bridge north of Smiths Ferry. I never knew whether that was actually true.

  Timmy and I grew apart during grade school, as childhood friends often tend to do. My birthday was just in time for starting first grade while his was a couple of months later – different classes, different friends. The Hallys moved to Washington State after his sophomore year in high school. We lost contact after that for a number of years.

  One of his classmates, Russ Renk, sent me some life details about my old friend last week. It had been my understanding that he worked for a company that made paper products, but there was no mention of that. He worked for Boeing and later for Loomis, formerly Loomis Fargo, as a vault clerk. He attended Central Washington University for two years and was married for seven years, ending in a divorce.

  In his twilight years he moved back to Idaho and occasionally showed up at places where my band, the Mystics was playing. We’d chat during my breaks; he almost invariably turned the conversations to times past and friends long unseen. Most recently he lived in Payette County, where he spent several years on dialysis.

  His passing makes me the last of the old gang. Bill Molitor died four years ago.

  My great grandson is about the age we were when the three of us were childhood pals. Maybe next summer I’ll take him to the old neighborhood and teach him to play marbles in the alley. It seems as good a way as any for me to honor their memory. 

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Life With ‘The Naughtiest Dog Ever’

   A lot of years have passed since my wife and I had a dog, but we feel like we have a dog. This is only natural, considering that a dog is more or less a live-in visitor at our house.

  The dog’s name is Roux. She belongs to our daughter who works long shifts as a paramedic, meaning that more often than not we’re dog-sitting.

  This is a good thing because it’s nice to have a dog, even if it isn’t really ours. 

   It’s also a bad thing because Roux is not without certain faults. Enough faults, in fact, that she reminds me of a dog that belonged to the late humorist Patrick McManus. McManus said his family named the dog Stranger in the faint hope that he was just passing through.

  Our daughter sometimes refers to Roux as “the naughtiest dog ever.” Naughty enough that when she took her on a week’s vacation to the Oregon Coast, I breathed a sigh of relief. A whole week without whining, begging, barking, etc. 

  Roux is a mix of border terrier and several other breeds. A mutt, in other words. Our daughter got her from a rescue group in Lafayette, La. Thus the name. Lafayette is Cajun country, where roux, a thickening agent for sauces used in French cuisine, is almost as ubiquitous as potatoes are here in Idaho.

  If dogs’ IQs could be measured, Roux’s would be through the roof. Her vocabulary is formidable. We aren’t entirely joking in saying that she speaks English.

  Some examples:

  “Go get your busy bee (a stuffed animal).”

  She runs to the dining room and returns with it. 

  “No, not that busy bee. Go get your other busy bee.”

  She returns seconds later with that one.

  “You want to go outside?”

  She runs to the back door, waits for it to be opened, then runs outside and barks like a dog possessed.

  “Open the door.”

  She pushes the door open with her paw.

  “Roux, no barking!”

  She stops barking.


  “Roux, stop that barking!”
  “I did stop. (This is her speaking English. Not in actual words, of course, but her meaning through facial expressions and body language is abundantly clear.) Certainly you don’t expect me to stop barking permanently. Life without barking isn’t worth living.”

  Roux understands an impressive number of words and phrases. Among them:  Good night, high five, roll over. Stick ‘em up! Get in the back seat. Want to go for a walk? Where’s your leash?

   Drink, stick, sleep, squirrel, bone, toy, treat, catch, gently …

  And a few I’ve undoubtedly forgotten.

  She is an incorrigible tease. My wife keeps a stash of dog treats in our kitchen for Roux and our daughter’s boyfriend’s dog, Bolt. Instead of wolfing them down, as most dogs would, Roux waits patiently while Bolt wolfs his down. Then she sprawls out on the floor in front of him and does her best to make him jealous by nibbling her treat – ever so slowly – while he watches.

  “Roux, we know what you’re doing. Stop trying to make Bolt jealous!”

  “Who, me? I was just enjoying my treat. It’s not my fault he eats faster than I do.”

  Bolt spent the night at our house recently, a night we won’t soon forget. At 2:30 a.m., he whined to be let out. My wife obliged. Then, panic.

  “Wake up!” she said. “Bolt’s gone.”

  “Wazzat?” I asked, still mostly asleep. 

  “Quick, get up! I let Bolt out and he’s gone. The back gate was open and he took off.”

  We’d been warned repeatedly that “Bolt will bolt,” and the warnings proved to be prophetic. He was indeed gone.

  We must have been a curious sight, traipsing up and down the sidewalk in the wee hours, calling Bolt’s name loud enough for him to hear us but not loud enough to wake up the the neighbors.

  That, at least, was our hope. It would have been more than a little embarrassing for the neighbors to have spotted us in robes and slippers, or in my case somewhat less than that, prowling the neighborhood calling the name of a mechanical fastener. They’d have thought we were nuts. Or at the very least had a few screws loose.

  To our relief – neither of us was looking forward to explaining that we’d lost a prized hunting dog – Bolt trotted into our front yard as if nothing had happened.

  “You probably put him up to this, didn’t you?” I asked Roux.

  No response.

 “You probably knew the gate was open and woke him up so he’d get out.”

  “What if I did? He gets way too much attention around here. Attention that’s rightfully mine. I was part of this family while he was still in bird-dog school.”

  “You ate his dog food today, didn’t you?”

  Again, no response. But the guilty look said it all. 

  I could go on, but a full account of her exploits would fill a book. 

  Still, there’s just something about dogs.

  Even naughty ones.

  Roux got home from the coast yesterday. The first thing she did was jump onto my lap and lick my face. 

  It seemed like a good time to take her for a walk. Dogs do need exercise, after all. 

  And, truth be told, we’d missed her like crazy.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at  woodwardcolumn@gmail.com

Not Just a Car, a Time Machine

  It stopped me in my tracks as while crossing a supermarket parking lot. 

  It was only a car, but it might as well have been a time machine. In the space of a single step, it transported me from the present to my teenage years.

  It was a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, the same color and possibly the same year as one I bought in my senior year of high school. How long had it been since I’d seen one like it? 

  The Karmann Ghia was my second car. My first was a decrepit MG sports car, a ragtop –  emphasis on rags. Its windows were windows in name only, flapping pieces of plastic that never stayed in place and spent most of their time in the trunk. One of the car’s wheels fell off at a stop sign.

  It had a crack in the floor on the passenger’s side, discovered when I drove through a puddle one rainy night and a geyser drenched my girlfriend. We’d been arguing, and she refused to believe that I hadn’t done it on purpose. Her nickname for the car was “the cave,” to which it bore a passing resemblance – close to the ground, uncomfortable, cold, drafty.

  My father warned me me not to buy it. The salesman who sold it to me warned me not to buy it. It cost $400, and another $400 to keep it running for a year.

  Compared to the MG, the Karmann Ghia was a Rolls Royce. 

   “Wow!” the aforementioned girlfriend said when she saw it for the first time. “It’s not a cave. It’s a real car!”

  Karmann Ghias were Volkswagen’s attempt to turn its ubiquitous Beetle into something resembling a sports car. The idea was to take the Beetle’s platform and mechanical parts and dress them up with a sleek new body. Karmann Ghias were lower, wider and longer than Beetles and cost a few hundred dollars more. Fewer than 400,000 of them were ever built.

   Mine was dark red with a white interior. The transmission was a stick shift, four on the floor. (How many teenagers today know what a stick shift is, let alone how to use one?) The instrument cluster consisted of a speedometer and a clock, with a small, circular-shaped gas gauge between them. Simplicity itself. Everything you needed and nothing you didn’t. Digital instruments were yet to be imagined, let alone invented, 

  The speedometer went to 90 mph, about half of the upper speed limit on some contemporary speedometers but more than enough. Like all Volkswagens of the era, the only way it would reach 90 mph would be careening down a steep incline in an almighty tailwind.

  The headlight dimmer switch was on the floor. You pushed the button with your foot to dim the lights, and again to turn on the brights. Switching on the bright lights illuminated a small, blue light on the speedometer.

  The blue light may have been my favorite thing about the car. I’ve always been a sucker for glowing lights on dashboards, once giving my father the cold shoulder for buying a boring Buick instead of an Oldsmobile with a big red jewel light that gleamed mesmerizingly from its dashboard.

  It was the Karmann Ghia that accompanied me on one of the most memorable trips of my teenage life. Feeling restless one night, I succumbed to an irresistible urge to drive to San Francisco.

  “San Francisco! Alone?” my startled parents asked.

  “Late at night? Have you lost your mind?”

  You couldn’t blame them, really. They were rightly concerned about my safety. Most parents would react exactly the same way, probably even more so today.

  Convinced that their son was serious and hadn’t lost his marbles, they reluctantly relented.

  “Have you got enough money?” Dad asked.

  I had, if memory serves, about $40. That wouldn’t pay for an overnight trip to, say, Jordan Valley these days, but it was a different world then. The Karmann Ghia’s gas tank could be filled for about three bucks. A McDonald’s hamburger cost a quarter, and you actually could get a room at a Motel 6 for six dollars.

   Oddly, I remember very little about my time in San Francisco on that trip. I probably went to the beach and Golden Gate Park, maybe Chinatown and Coit Tower, but it’s hard to be certain. What I do remember vividly is the drive itself. 

  There was something immensely satisfying about being 18 and taking a trip by yourself in your own car that you paid for yourself, enjoying the freedom and independence of being on the open road on a starry night. Even the Nevada desert was beautiful in the moonlight.

  The Karmann Ghia hummed along without a hitch, gliding through silent, empty spaces and occasional towns. Even economy cars need to stop for gas now and then, however, and on a lonely stretch of desert with no town anywhere within an hour or so, the needle on fuel gauge was pointing perilously close to empty. The unexpected lights of a gas station in the middle of nowhere couldn’t have been more welcome.

  The station appeared to be open, but no one seemed to be around. No attendant to pump the gas, no one in the office. A peek into a back room revealed the reason why. The attendant had zero interest in pumping gas at that hour. He was otherwise engaged with his girlfriend. I filled the tank myself, quietly left some bills on the office desk and left, wondering about the scene that would have played out if I’d been his boss instead of a customer.

  My companion on that night drive was the friendly blue light on the speedometer. Its steady, dependable glow was reassuring, keeping me company in the long stretches of darkness.

  A new Karmann Ghia in those days cost about $2,300. Mine, used, would have been hundreds less. Today, a restored one like it would sell for more than either of my first two houses cost. 

  I should have hung onto it. The memories alone would have been priceless.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

The Things We Take for Granted – but Shouldn’t

  It’s difficult to impossible to think of all things we take for granted in our daily lives – until we don’t have them.

  Things like three meals a day. We take them for granted, until we miss one. 

  Or a good night’s sleep. We take it for granted and don’t appreciate how important it is, until a night when we lie awake with insomnia.

  Or the electricity that powers our homes and so many other things. We take it for granted, rarely if ever give it a second thought.

  Until we don’t have it.

  The power went out at our house recently. We figured it would be one of those fleeting outages, power back on before you really miss it, but it stayed off for quite a while. Long enough to realize how much we rely on it.

  “This would be as good a time as any to mow the lawn,” I said to my wife. “There are a lot of other things I want to do but can’t with the power off so I’ll mow the lawn instead.”

  Except for time in the Navy and college, I’ve been mowing lawns regularly since I was a kid. Some of my neighbors who used to mow their lawns have hired a guy who does it in a fraction of the time with a riding mower. One of the few holdouts in the neighborhood, I continue to mow mine not because I enjoy it but because giving it up is a concession to aging that I’m not ready to make.

  That, or maybe it’s just stubbornness.

  So, out to the garage I went to get out the mower. It’s an electric mower, but the battery was charged so it didn’t need power.

  The garage door opener did, however. Without power, it was impossible to open the door to get the mower out of the garage. So much for that idea.

  Wondering how long the power would be out, I picked up the remote to turn on the TV for the noon news. Maybe there would be an update. 

  Duh. No power, no TV.

  “We could call the power company for an update,” my wife suggested.

  “Good idea. Why don’t you do that while I run an errand?”

  Some things ordered from a store downtown had arrived the day before, and with the power out it seemed like a good time to drive down and get them.

  The mower wasn’t the only thing stuck in the garage, of course. I realized this after getting my keys and striding confidently to the car – temporarily rendered useless by the inoperable garage door. 

  Slow learner.

  What to do? Couldn’t mow the lawn, couldn’t watch the news, couldn’t go anywhere in the car. Maybe it would be a good time to catch up with emails.

  Or would have been if my computer had been working properly. Some of the emails that had been there the night before had inexplicably vanished. Quite a few of them, actually. You wouldn’t think the power going out would affect a laptop.

  Or would it? Could it have affected the router? It seemed possible, even likely. Whatever the reason, the laptop had gone on strike.

  Along with most of the clocks in the house.

  Including the sprinkler-system clock. It would have to be reprogrammed, a task that involves resetting the time of day, the time the sprinklers would start in the morning and the time each station needs to run – all while being sandwiched into a minuscule space bordered by two walls, a work bench boxes of books, bags of lawn-care products, bicycles, a kiddy pool and an air compressor. Just thinking about it gives me claustrophobia.

  The power was off an unusually long time. A long time, that is, for this part of Idaho. We’re accustomed to reliable power with infrequent outages, usually of short duration. We take that for granted.

  That’s not the case in many places. At our family’s cabin in Washington State, the power goes out often and for long stretches. Neighbors who live there year-round tell winter tales of wearing coats and huddling under blankets around wood-burning stoves while waiting, sometimes for days, for the power to return.

  We take so many things for granted. Our homes, our health, our families … 

  Until we hear about people who have lost those things in a heartbeat and pray that it doesn’t happen to us.

  The people who lost everything to Hurricane Ian may have taken their homes and lifestyles for granted, even living in a state where hurricanes are regular occurrences.

  People in Ukraine may have taken their lives for granted, until a ruthless dictator turned them upside down.

  The scariest thing to take for granted is our democracy. We thought we’d always have it. We’ve taken it for granted all our lives. Now there are multiple threats against it. 

  You might want to think about that when you vote next month. 

  Maybe we shouldn’t take anything for granted. 

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

An Icon That Needs To Go Home

A downtown Boise icon hasn’t been within almost a mile of downtown Boise for ten years.

  It was charming.

  It made people smile.

  It was admired by Boiseans and visitors alike.

  Can you guess what it was?

  If not, it’s because you’re a newcomer who’s never seen it or it’s been so long since you have seen it that you’ve all but forgotten it.

  It’s Keepsies, the sculpture of kids playing marbles that occupied a place in the Grove public plaza and the hearts of its admirers from 1987 to 2012. It was “temporarily” taken down and moved a decade ago to make way for a construction project. 

  And it still hasn’t returned to where it belongs, to where it should be displayed and enjoyed in one of the city’s most public settings. Its supposedly temporary location has been at the Dick Eardley Senior Center, 690 Robbins Road.

  Eardley was a Boise mayor. The center named for him is in a quiet neighborhood in East Boise. Too quiet, arguably, for a piece of public art that should be in a busier, more public place.

  “It’s in a lovely little quiet square, but there used to be so much traffic and so many more people who saw it at the Grove,” Mary Grandjean said. “Children and old people and everyone in between loved that piece. It speaks to everyone.”

  Grandjean has a personal interest in Keepsies. Her children were the models for the kids in the sculpture. And Ann LaRose, the artist and former Boisean who did the sculpture, is a good friend of hers.

  “It was Ann’s first life-sized sculpture, and she really put her heart and soul into it,” Grandjean said. “That’s why it’s touched so many people and why they respond to it the way they do. I’d love to see it back in the Grove so it can be seen by more of our citizens. It’s truly a jewel.”

   Keepsies may have been LaRose’s first life-sized sculpture, but it’s far from being her last. She sculpted the figures of Esther Simplot and three children at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Center, a larger than life (nine-foot) statue of College of Idaho Founder William Judson  Boone and a life-sized sculpture of grocery store magnate Joe Albertson and his wife, Kathryn, which graces the headquarters of the Albertson Foundation.

  Her work can be found in public buildings and private homes  around the county. She’s done sculptures for the owner of the Chicago Cubs. Her bust of an admiral and Medal of Honor recipient is the only sculpture by a woman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

  Keepsies remains special for her “because it was my first,” she said. It was the first time I had to think about how I was going to go with my career and not let any negative comments get to me or change my style. I had to remain true to what I wanted to do, and it established my later work. People looked at Keepsies and said, ‘Oh, yes. We want something in that style.’ It was the base that I worked from.”

  Like Grandjean, she’d like to see Keepsies back at the Grove. Its current location at the senior center “isn’t a terrible setting,” she said, “and I’m sure the people there like it. But it’s not where it’s supposed to go. When the city called and told me they wanted to move it and asked if that would be okay, they told me it would be brought back, that it would be temporary.”

  Neither she nor Grandjean – or I, for that matter – could remember what the construction project was that made the city want to move it. Not surprising after ten years.

  Anyone who grew up with them can relate to playing marbles. It was a favorite pastime in the neighborhood of my youth. We’d draw a circle in the dirt of an alley and play for hours. We played keepsies, of course; I kept the marbles I won in a bag with a drawstring and spent hours admiring and polishing my favorites. Those were happy times.

  Do kids still play marbles today? I don’t know. My kids didn’t, but the first place they went when we took them to the Grove was Keepsies. It didn’t matter that they didn’t play marbles. They could relate to the kids playing marbles in the sculpture. 

  Grandjean plans to hand-deliver a letter to Mayor Lauren McLean asking that Keepsies be returned to the Grove.

    In a Facebook post, Grandjean wrote that Keepsies “has been known, loved and treasured by young and old for over three decades.  It represents what we as Idahoans and Boiseans value – childhood, family, community, and the pure joy to be experienced on a summer day with a couple of friends and a bag of marbles.”

   Her post led to dozens of people ‘reaching out to me on Facebook and Instagram. People from all over the U.S. and even Europe – friends and friends of friends … People have come out of the woodwork. They couldn’t believe Keepsies had been moved. They want it back.”

  “It’s nothing against the senior center,” LaRose said. “It’s a nice location for the right piece. They could have a sculpture in both places.” 

  Mayor McLean, if you read this, I hope you’ll look into having Keepsies moved back. It’s part of what made downtown Boise a fun place to go for a long time, and ten years away is more than long enough. It needs to go home.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Born Forgetful, And Getting Worse

 Forgetfulness is so common that countless writers have ruminated on it, often humorously. 

  Mark Twain, whose writing and witticisms are anything but forgettable, observed that “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.”

  That was the only quote I could remember about forgetfulness. So I looked up some others:

  Science fiction-fantasy writer Vera Nazarian wrote that, “The only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness. Good thing we have other people to help us remember.”

 One of my favorites:  “My ability to remember song lyrics from the ‘80s far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.”

  Not sure who came up with that one, but it makes perfect sense. It’s probably happened to you. You confidently stride into a room to do or get something and stop the second you get there, unable to remember what the devil it was.

  I’ve been taking this a step further of late, not just forgetting why I walked into a room but walking into the wrong room altogether. It’s more than a little disconcerting when you recall, while standing slack-jawed in the bathroom, that what you were after was lunch.

  Such behavior isn’t necessarily a function of getting older. Some of us are born forgetful. The missing-shoes story is a perfect example.

  I was preparing to go somewhere – where exactly seems to have escaped  me at the moment – and wherever it was necessitated wearing shoes. Maybe it was a considerable distance away or required walking over rough terrain – the details are a little hazy – but shoes were definitely needed.

  I looked everywhere for those shoes. In closets, under beds, outside on the patio, you name it. It hadn’t been that long since they were on my feet, but it was as if they’d dematerialized. For the life of me, I couldn’t recall where they were. 

  Then I remembered that a little while earlier I’d fixed myself a snack.

  Was it possible?

  No, the very idea was outlandish.

  It was possible. My shoes were in …

  The refrigerator.

  This didn’t happen a few months ago, or even a few years ago. I was a teenager when it happened.

  This was about the time that I started playing in a band. My main instrument has always been the guitar, but for a few years I played a bit of keyboards as well. Our group was setting up to play for a dance in Oregon one night when I realized that I’d forgotten the keyboard. We asked the audience members if any of them had one we could borrow. The result: a child’s toy keyboard that sounded like a cross between a kazoo and a calliope. 

  It was a very long night.

  Forgetfulness can be expensive. A couple of weeks ago, I forgot to turn off the water in the back yard, which has a small fountain that needs to be refilled every week or so. It only takes a few minutes, but I got sidetracked and left the water onall night long. The water bill hasn’t arrived yet. Luckily, my wife is out of town and may never see it. 

  “Forgetting to turn off the water doesn’t mean you’re getting Alzheimers, Dad,” one of my daughters said by way of reassurance. “Anybody could do that.”

  Well, maybe.

  But what about this?

  Regular readers may recall a recent column about a vacation rife with medical emergences involving pets. Roux, our older daughter’s dog, got in a fight with another dog. The results included a scratch on one of her eyes. Three weeks later, we’re still putting antibiotic ointment in it. Max, my wife’s pet lizard, got a lung  infection and had to have injections every other day.

  Anyone who think it’s easy to give a lizard an injection has never had to do it. Max was on full lizard alert the second he saw the needle coming. One person had to hold him while the other did the dirty work. 

  Usually that job falls the aforementioned daughter, who is a paramedic. On one of the days that Max had to have a shot, however, I was the only one available.

  “Don’t worry,” she said. “I called the vet, He’s going to do it. All you have to do is get the medicine out of the freezer and take Max to the clinic. Be sure to remember to take one of the needles, too.”

  “Of course! What do you think I am, forgetful or something?”

  I made absolutely sure to put both the medicine and the needles in the car. I also put Roux in the car, which wasn’t easy. She’d spent the night at our house and, assuming that I was taking her for her morning walk, bolted out of the garage and down the street. It took some doing, including a doggy-treat bribe, to get her in the car.

  The clinic’s receptionist’s eyes lit up when she saw Roux.

  “She’s so cute!” she gushed. “Would she like to have a treat?”

  This would have been like asking Elvis if he’d like to have a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Roux is the Joe DiMaggio of dogs when it comes to catching treats tossed from impressive distances. She is also a ham. She entertained the receptionist, and just about everyone else at the clinic, by catching treats until the novelty wore off and the applause ebbed.

  “So,” the receptionist said when things returned to normal. “You brought Max’s medicine?”

  “Yes. It’s right here.” 

  “And a needle for the injection?”

  “Right. It’s in this bag.”

  She looked at me expectantly …

  “Did you forget something?”

  “No, I think that’s everything.”

  “Are you sure?” 

  “Sure I’m sure. I gave you the medicine and the needle. What else …”

  Leaping lizards! I had forgotten Max!

  Who takes everything to the doctor except the patient?

  It would be nice to think there are supplements that would make a person less forgetful, but my doctor says he doesn’t know of any that help much.

  So it looks like I’m stuck with being a modern-day version of the absent-minded professor.

  If this column isn’t in the paper the next time it’s supposed to be, you’ll know why.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Will This Vacation Ever End?

  It had all the makings of a memorable vacation. It was the first time my wife and I and all three of our kids had taken a vacation together in many years.

  Our vacations used to provide fodder for columns. The kids invariably got colds, our cars broke down, I got chicken pox … Readers looked forward to our vacations because they made their own vacations look good by comparison.

  Those days are behind us, of course. The kids are grown now, and one of our daughters would be driving us in her recently serviced, high-tech SUV. What could possibly go wrong?  

  Our destination was the family cabin in Washington state. We got up in time to get an early start and were on the road by 7:30. That would put us there by 5:30. Plenty of time to unpack, have dinner and enjoy a relaxing evening. 

  We stopped in Ontario, Ore., for breakfast. We stopped in LaGrande, Ore., for snacks and a bathroom break. We stopped in Boardman, Ore., for lunch. With five of us in the car, the stops took longer than expected. The odds of having dinner and a relaxing evening were steadily shrinking.

  Just out of Baker City, Ore., my wife noticed a problem with Max.  Max, her pet lizard, was accompanying us on the trip, along with Roux, the family dog. (Roux was named at a shelter in Louisiana, where roux, a thickening agent used in sauces, is practically a food group.) 

  Max clearly was in trouble, opening her mouth and gasping for air. This had happened once before. A vet had diagnosed it as a lung infection and prescribed antibiotic injections. Within a few days, Max was her old self.

  “If only this had happened yesterday!” my wife lamented. “I could have taken Max to the vet then and everything would have been fine.”

  Unfortunately, we were several hundred miles from our vet. A Google search yielded veterinary offices in half a dozen Oregon and Washington cities, calls were made to all of them, and all but one either didn’t treat lizards, weren’t taking new patients or were so busy they couldn’t see Max until the following week. 

  The exception was an emergency clinic in Portland.  Not being all that familiar with Portland, I was a bit uneasy about our chances of finding it.

  “No worries. We’ll use Google Maps.”

  This would be the same Google Maps that has steered us wrong on multiple occasions, including one that resulted in driving two hours in the wrong direction on a remote stretch of desert. 

  The woman who answered the phone at the clinic asked us where we were and said it would take about 40 minutes for us to get there. An hour later, we weren’t even close. Google Maps had taken us on a scenic tour of Portland and greater Multnomah County. This included driving over the highest bridge in Portland, with a dizzying view of the Columbia River and the city. Or so I’m told. A lifelong acrophobiac, I had my eyes tightly closed.

  When we finally got there, the clinic looked like Costco during a toilet paper sale. It was jammed to the rafters with customers. There were cats in crates, dogs on leashes, kids crawling on the floor …

  I don’t spend enough time in Portland to know the current fashion trends there, but the clinic’s clientele was, shall we say, colorful – shaved heads, Mohawks, chains, piercings, facial tattoos … 

  We waited. And waited, and waited …

  This did not sit well with Roux. Roux is a dog that craves attention, and Max was getting all of it. She responded by lying down in the car, sulking and playing dead. 

  Roux is smart. So smart she speaks English. Not in actual words, of course, but her expressions and body language speak volumes.

  “You want to go for a walk?” I asked her.

  “ A walk? Do you really think a walk would make up for everyone ignoring me while that stupid lizard gets all the attention?”

  With that she sniffed haughtily, turned her back on me and played dead again. 

  To kill time, I chatted with a lavishly tattooed woman who was there with her bull terrier.

  “What’s wrong with your dog?” I asked her.

  “Swallowed a plum pit.”

  “Excuse me.”

  “My dog swallowed plum pit.”

  Of course. Plums are a staple of any canine diet. 

  “Did the vet get it out?” 

  “We haven’t seen the vet yet. We’ve been here for hours, and they say it will be two more hours.”

  We continued to wait. An hour passed, then another, and another … Midway through the fourth hour, my wife was called to the inner sanctum for a consultation.

  “They want to do blood work, an X-ray and a bronchoscopy,” she reported upon returning.

  “A bronchoscopy on a lizard? They’ve got to be kidding!”

  “They aren’t. The total would be $1,200. I told them to just give Max the same medicine they gave her in Boise last year.”

  Max has been receiving regular injections ever since and seems to be doing better. 

  Roux is another story. When relatives came to visit us at the cabin, she bit their new dog, Louis.

  “Bad dog!” we admonished her. “No treats for you today.”

  “Fine. I’ll just get up after you’re asleep tonight and raid the refrigerator. And if Louis come back I’ll bite him again.”

  Now Roux has an eye infection. That, at least, is the unofficial diagnosis. All of the vets we called were so busy they couldn’t see her.

  Personally, I think she’s faking it.

  We’ll be heading home in a few days, and none too soon.

  I’ve had about all the vacation I can stand.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

You Can’t Go Home Again?

Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that you can’t go home again. He was right in the context of his book, but sometimes you can go home again.

  And maybe it won’t look very different.

  An errand recently took me within a few blocks of my childhood home. It had been years since I’d spent much time in the old neighborhood so I decided to stop and see what the years had done to it.

  The first stop was the corner where I met my first friend in the neighborhood. Boise’s North End was still developing then. The street in front of my parents’ house hadn’t even been paved yet. Now it’s an old, settled neighborhood.

  My friend’s name was Timmy. We both would have been four years old at the time. Kids didn’t have as many diversions in those days, certainly none of the electronic variety that occupy so much of kids’ time today. We sat on the curb and played with rocks in the gutter. 

   The home were I grew up had hardly changed. The window shutters  had been taken down and raised beds for plants dotted the lawn, but other than that it looked pretty much the same.

  This was also true of what had been the Robertsons’ house next door. My sister was smitten by one of the Robertsons’ sons. She literally married the boy next door. A picture of his sister, Timmy, yours truly and some of the other neighborhood kids, taken in the Robertsons’ back yard, graces my office to this day. The yard hadn’t changed at all.

  The next house on the block didn’t appear to have changed, either. It had belonged to a dentist, who may well have considered me the bane of his existence. All kids do stupid things from time to time; the good doctor’s house was the scene of two of my more memorable efforts in this regard.

  The first was cutting down a tree he’d planted in his front yard. My intention was simply to do a little carving on the trunk with my pocket knife. One whittle led to another, and to my surprise the trunk snapped and the tree toppled over. My parents were mortified. I was grounded for the next year.

  Not really. It was probably only a week or two. It just seemed like a year.

  The second incident could have been a disaster. In his spare time, the dentist enjoyed woodworking. Beneath the table saw in his garage was a large pile of sawdust, which (it’s still hard to believe I actually did this) struck me as a good place to toss a lighted match.

  Well, now!  You can imagine my surprise when, in less time than it takes to scream “call the fire department,” a blaze of shocking proportions erupted. That match might as well have been tossed into a tub of gasoline. Horrified, I compounded the problem by running home and pretending as if nothing had happened.

  It took about five minutes for the doc to put out the fire with a garden hose and arrive, fuming, on the doorstep of the neighborhood troublemaker. This led to a scene almost as heated in our garage, with my father chasing me around his Buick while I unsuccessfully attempted to outrun a spanking.

  Up the block and around a corner was the onetime home of the witches. They weren’t witches, of course, but no one could have convinced the neighborhood kids of that. The “witches,” two elderly, reclusive women, lived in a tiny house on an alley. The house had an ancient smokestack from which plumes of dark smoke ominously rose. We were reasonably certain that the source of the smoke was a fire under their caldron.

  The house next-door to theirs was the home of a girl who spent countless hours on a swing in her back yard. It was a big, home-made swing, and she  swung so high it looked as if she was trying to reach the clouds. My folks worried that she might go over the top and come to earth in a painful crash. She not only never did that, she went on to take flying lessons and, the last I heard, was well on her way to becoming an airline pilot.

  The opposite end of the block from the witches was home to Ed and Anna Chamberlain. Anna was rarely seen, and on the infrequent occasions when she was she almost always seemed to be dressed in black. We’d have suspected that she was a witch if she hadn’t been married to Ed, a pleasantly gregarious old fellow who vied for the honor of being the slowest driver in town, if not the entire state.

  Ed drove an Oldsmobile station wagon. You wanted to avoid getting behind it, especially if you were in a hurry, because it seldom exceeded the dizzying speed of 10 mph. Ed routinely had a parade of angry motorists behind him. He was not a man to be rushed, and was happily oblivious to the cacophony of horn honking he provoked, which had no effect whatsoever.

  Howard Snyder, the neighborhood handyman, advised him to take the Oldsmobile out on the highway and drive it fast enough to burn the carbon deposits out of the engine. To universal surprise, he actually did it.

  “Took it out on the highway and drove the hell out of it,” he told Howard.

  “How fast did you get it up to, Ed?”

  “Like I told you, I drove the hell out of it. Had it up to 40 mph.”

  Howard’s was the only house in the neighborhood that had significantly changed. A modest home during his tenure, it had been enlarged and attractively remodeled.

  When my childhood home went on the market – this would have been a couple of decades ago, give or take –  a real estate agent asked me if I’d like to go through it. I did, and briefly toyed with the idea of buying it. The price was reasonable, and the idea of moving back to the old neighborhood wasn’t without a certain appeal. My wife and I were happy in the home we’d built, however, and decided against it. 

  My folks built their dream home, including the lot, for $13,000. Its estimated value today, according to Zillow, is $779,000.

  That, without a close second, was the neighborhood’s biggest change.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Giving Back: The Winner is …

  Maybe there’s something to be said for almost dying.

  Or at least thinking you could be.

  Readers of my last column will recall that I inadvertently took two prescription  drugs recently that shouldn’t be taken together. I’m usually careful about checking drug interactions, but one of the two seemed so harmless that it didn’t occur to me to check until after the fact. You can imagine my reaction upon reading that possible reactions included “extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, coma and death.”

  Obviously, I didn’t die that night or you wouldn’t be reading this. A Poison Control Center volunteer told me to try to stay awake for three hours – it was then close to 1 a.m. – and that my wife should get me to the nearest E.R. immediately if I fell asleep and couldn’t be wakened. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary. I fell asleep, but an alarm clock and timer woke me repeatedly until the three hours were up and the risk had passed.

  Two good things came out of that night. One was a lesson learned. From now on I won’t take so much as an aspirin without checking interactions with other meds. It’s easy to do, only takes a few seconds and it can save your life. The drug interaction site if you’re interested – and you should be if you take or will be taking multiple prescription meds – is drugs.com.

  The other good thing that resulted from that night is a new way, for me at least, to do something useful.

  For those who missed the earlier column, an explanation:

  When you get a scare like that, one that conceivably could have been your last, it’s natural to want to make the most of the time you have left. You feel an obligation to do give something back, something to express your gratitude for not being six feet under. To that end, I asked readers for suggestions on ways to do that.

  Writers never know what will happen when they ask readers for suggestions. Sometimes the response is a resounding silence that makes you wish you hadn’t asked. Other times, the response is gratifying. This was one of those. Readers suggested oodles of volunteer opportunities. Here are some of them:

  Reader Nancy Viano suggested volunteering for What The Vote, which she and a friend began in 2018 as a non-partisan effort to encourage young people to participate in our democracy by registering, becoming informed and voting. To date, it has registered 7,200 of them. A worthy effort, and never more so than during the times in which we’re living. Its website is whatthevoteidaho.org.

   Ray Guindon didn’t have a suggestion, but offered condolences for “what you recently went through. Glad you had the presence of mind to realize something was wrong right away and were able to react to your situation immediately.

 “ … My wife is always trying to get me to volunteer at a hospital, like giving support to people with certain ailments, but with Covid out and about that’s probably not a good idea yet.”

  Point taken. The shelter where my wife and I volunteered pre-pandemic had us stop coming for that very reason.

  Selina Harris and Linda Hieb suggested working as a driver for Meals on Wheels, delivering meals to homebound seniors. Harris also suggested  volunteering at the Boise Rescue Mission or Big Brothers and Sisters.

  St. Vincent dePaul has a program to pick up people newly released from prison and help them with food, clothing vouchers, transportation and other essentials as they reenter society. Reader Mareesa Rule described voluteering for it as “an unforgettable experience.”

  Jeanne Huff, my Idaho Press editor, is a longtime volunteer for the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline, where she works a shift a week and has logged over 700 hours on the phones. Her email suggested the hotline and two other possibilities – the Women and Children’s Alliance and the Agency for New Americans,. 

  Jan King took the prize for offering the most suggestions:

  * Volunteering at shelters for battered women and families.

  * Helping volunteers at Nampa High School provide essentials for homeless teens.

  * Taking clothing, laundry soap and other necessities to Hope’s Door (a shelter in Caldwell), the Salvation Army Shelter and the Justice Center in Nampa.

  * Checking with schools about providing backpacks, school supplies, clothing and food packs for at-risk students.

  “Often the only meals some kids get daily are breakfast and lunch at school,” King wrote.

  Shauna Sanders encouraged me to check JustServe.org, which features literally dozens of volunteer opportunities. If you can’t find something that interests you there, you’re pretty picky.

  It was gratifying to receive such an enthusiastic response from readers, and to learn that there are more ways to volunteer locally than I dreamed possible. Scores if not hundreds of them.

  So which seemed like the right fit for yours truly? Picking one wasn’t easy, but the one that truly spoke to me came from Boisean Gene Dillner.

  “You asked for ideas on causes that allow you to give back to the community,” he wrote. “I’d like to recommend the Learning Lab of Boise. … With your career experience, you would be a perfect candidate as a tutor.”

  Dillner has worked as a tutor at the Learning Lab for over 20 years and says it’s “the only volunteer job that has never gotten boring or that I didn’t feel I got more from the experience than I gave.”

   The learning lab, according to its website, is “a literacy education center for low-income adults and families with young children. Instruction is individualized, based on students’ needs and goals. Adult students may work on basic skills including math, reading, writing, spelling, and, for many, English language learning.”

   That sounded like a good fit. The last thing anyone wants a right-brained person like me teaching is math, but reading, writing and spelling I could handle. And what more appropriate way for a writer to give back to the community than by teaching people to read?

  With that in mind, I called the lab, was told that there is always a need for volunteers there and that I’d be welcome to stop by and learn more about it. I’ll be doing that this week.

 I can’t think of many things more rewarding for someone in my line of work than teaching people to read, write and spell.

  And it definitely beats being six feet under.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

The Night I Though I Might Die

All my life I’ve been lucky with my health. Some illnesses, of course, but nothing life threatening. Even when a doctor said I had cancer, it was a small tumor, removed with no recurrence. Not once was there concern that it could be fatal.

  That kind of luck can make you feel almost invincible. Last week, though, an incident occurred that could have been fatal. It made me appreciate as never before that none of us are invincible, that good luck can change in an instant when we least expect it.

  The incident involved prescription drugs. My doctor recently prescribed one for a mild case of peripheral neuropathy. He said to take it every night at bedtime.

  No problem, until one night last week when I couldn’t get to sleep. Frustrated with tossing and turning, I got up and took a pill to help put a stop to that.

  You’ve probably known people who are forever popping pills. Not me. I take them as infrequently as possible and am borderline neurotic about checking drug interactions. 

  Except on this particular night. The pill to help me sleep was one I’d taken before with mild, almost unnoticeable effects. It seemed so gentle and harmless that it didn’t occur to me to check what could happen when taken after the neuropathy medication.

  Until I got to thinking about it, decided to check just to be safe and read the online drug interaction warning:

  Concurrent use can result in extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, coma or death.

  Death? Could that really be possible?

  I read it again.

  It hadn’t changed.

  I checked some other sites.

  Same warning.

  Suddenly it seemed unbearably hot in the room. I was sweating; my stomach was in knots.

  Death? Really? Had my good luck run out? Run out because of a careless oversight? I could see the headline:

  “Newspaper columnist dies of terminal stupidity.”

  What to do?

  There was only one thing to do – get the pill out of my system if possible. It had only been a couple of minutes since I’d taken it. Maybe it wasn’t too late for the old finger-down-the-throat maneuver.

  Nothing came up that looked like a pill. It may have already dissolved, which wasn’t encouraging. 

  It was after midnight. My wife, who is recovering from surgery on her Achilles Tendon, was asleep and would have been as flummoxed as I was about what to do next. What was needed was an expert. I looked up the toll-free number for the National Poison Control Center and called it.

  “You vomited?” the woman who answered said.


  “We don’t recommend that. You could have aspirated into your lungs.”

  Well, yes, if we were talking about a bottle of poison. This was a pill smaller than a BB. 

  She asked me the dosages of each drug and asked me to hold while she checked on the interactions.

  “Are you alone?” she asked upon returning.

  “No, my wife is here.”

  “The danger is that you could fall asleep and not wake up. Try to stay awake for the next three hours. If you fall asleep and can’t be aroused, your wife will need to get you to the nearest ER immediately.”

  Right. My wife who had one foot in an orthopedic boot and wouldn’t be able to walk for another three weeks.

  “Don’t worry,” she said after being awakened by her increasingly anxious  husband. “If you go to sleep and I can’t wake you, I’ll call 911.”

  By this time it was nearly 1 a.m. Determined to stay awake, I went downstairs, turned on a bright light and started reading. That worked for about an hour. Then my eyelids got heavier, heavier … Time to go back upstairs.

  We set the alarm clock and a timer to wake me up in half an hour and an hour respectively. They did.

  I set the timer for another hour. Same result. By then the three hours the Poison Control woman recommended were over, and I was – to my boundless relief – still alive.

 The day before, a car had come inches from running over me on my bicycle. Was God trying to tell me something?

  It reminded me of a dream I had years ago: My wife, our son and I were standing on the steps of my old high school with a tsunami bearing down on us. It swept us into the school, where, with seconds left to live, my last thought was that I should have done more to help other people. It wasn’t long after that that I happened to meet a director of a homeless shelter and began volunteering there. 

  That was just a dream; the pill incident was real. Frighteningly real.

  A natural result of such experiences is a desire to make the most of whatever time we have left. The night I thought I could die made me want to spend more quality time with friends and family, to do things my wife and I have been putting off, to try to be kinder and more helpful to people. 

  The homeless shelter where I worked, and my wife later worked, made us  stop volunteering until the pandemic was over so I’m looking for some other way to help people. We’re not just here, after all, to pursue our own ends. Ideally, we spend at least some of our time trying to make our part of the world a little better.

  If you have suggestions on ways to do that, I’d love to hear them. Please email them to the address below. The results will be in a future column. 

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

A Murphy’s Law Kind of Day

  Some days are just bad from the start.

  You wake up feeling great, looking forward to the day, and before you know it things begin to unravel.

  It happened to me on a recent day when my older daughter and I went to a concert in Portland.

  Not everyone travels 400 miles to attend a concert, so a word of explanation is in order. Actually, a confession. We’re both addicts. We are addicted to the music of Steely Dan. We’ve been fans forever. We’ve been to at least eight of their concerts – she claims it’s more – in cities as far away as Boston.

  So for us a one-hour flight to Portland was nothing.

  Until the fateful day dawned.

  The trouble began with the morning coffee. When I took the coffee grounds from the day before out of the coffee maker – something I’ve done countless times without incident – the filter broke.

  It broke in a rather spectacular fashion, actually – an avalanche of soggy coffee grounds. Coffee grounds on the kitchen table, a chair, the floor, an area rug, me … It took 15 minutes to clean it all up. 

  Until then I’d been on track to drive to my daughter’s house in time to take an Uber from there to the airport. The coffee fiasco would make us borderline late for catching our plane, 

  And that was without the John Leo Ryan frisking in the TSA line.

  John Leo Ryan was my late father-in-law. John Leo Ryan was also, apparently, the name of someone on the TSA watch list. 

  My father-in-law was the farthest thing from a terrorist. He was a World War II veteran who proudly wore a “Kamikaze Survivor” ball cap wherever he went. Not that that mattered. Every time he went through the security line, he was taken aside and all but strip searched.

  Now it was my turn.

  “Sorry, sir, but we’re going to have to check you. Would you prefer to do this here or in a private room?”

  “Check me? Why?”

  “The scan is showing something in your pants.”

  “It is?”

  “Yes. Are you absolutely sure you removed everything and put it in the bin?”

  “Yes. Even my picture of John Leo Ryan.”


  “Nothing, just kidding.”

  “Well, the scan is showing something in your pants. You can see it on the screen there.”

  There on the screen was an image of a brightly colored box. In the last place you’d want it.

  “I’m going to have to pat you down. Are you okay with doing this here?”

  I was. Going somewhere else would have made us even later.

  “I’ll be using the back of my hands to pat you down,” the agent said. “Are you comfortable with that?”

  “I don’t know. Will you buy me a drink first?”

  Just kidding. I didn’t really say that.

  The pat-down took an uncomfortably long time, which wasn’t surprising because whatever the agent was looking for wasn’t there. There was absolutely nothing in my pants that shouldn’t have been in them. My daughter, meanwhile, was all but choking with laughter. 

  By the time I got everything back in my pockets, my shoes on and my dignity back intact, we were late getting to our boarding area. Happily, no one was boarding yet.

  “That’s odd. You’d think they’d be …

  “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry to announce that our flight to Portland has a mechanical problem. We’ll let you know when it’s available for boarding.”

  So we were there in time, after all. Plenty of time. So much time, in fact, that instead  of getting up before dawn, we could have slept in. The delay, we were told, would be about an hour. Then, another hour. Then half-hour increments for a total of over three hours. We were starting to worry about whether we’d get to Portland in time for the concert when at last the flight was called. 

  “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re ready to board. We apologize for the delay and are giving you vouchers good for $12 at restaurants in the Portland airport.”

  At the Portland airport, we had a choice of two restaurants. At the first, an employee greeted us with a bizarre statement: 

  “Sorry, we don’t have any food. We’re having growing pains and are shut down for sterilizing.”

  The other restaurant may or may not have had growing pains, but it did have food and honored our vouchers. At our hotel, however, the desk clerk greeted us with another bizarre statement: 

  “Actually, I have three reservations for you.”

  It took a while – quite a while, actually – for him to figure out that two of the reservations were scams. This was a relief, because until then he seemed bent on charging us for three rooms. A bit paranoid by then, I began to wonder if he was going to ask whether I wanted to be taken to one of them to be patted down.

  The concert, at least, was great.

  Or would have been if the guy behind us hadn’t talked continually, trying to impress his wife with how much he knew, or thought he knew, about the music. Why is it that some people at concerts think that everyone around them paid for a ticket, and perhaps traveled hundreds of miles, to listen to them blather?

  With everything else that happened that day, there hadn’t been time to have dinner. The next morning, we couldn’t wait to get to the breakfast buffet.

  “I hope it’s a real breakfast and not just one of those cold cereal bars.”

  “Me, too. I’m starving.” 

  At the breakfast buffet, a sign was taped to the door:

  “Sorry. We’re closed. We’re out of food.”

  Some days are just bad from the start.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

Barefoot and Lucky in Hells Canyon

  One of my most memorable vacations was a raft trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It gave me an appreciation for the beauty and power of river rapids.

  The Middle Fork’s rapids pale, however, in comparison with those of the Snake River before it was dammed in the late 1950s and 1960s. The late river-running guide Georgie White Clark, the first woman to run commercial rafts through the Grand Canyon, called it “the only major whitewater river in the Northwest.”

  Boisean Cort Conley, who has worked as a river guide throughout the West, agrees:

  “Before the dams, the Snake in Hells Canyon was one of the Northwest’s most spectacular stretches of whitewater. It had incredible beaches and huge rapids, some of the best river running stretches in the West.”

  A writer and publisher as well as a river guide, Conley recently received a manuscript for a book about a raft trip through Hells Canyon just before it was dammed. It had been rejected by other publishers, but Conley found the story irresistible and published it. The result is “Barefoot in Hells Canyon,” by Bryan Gould.

  I’m not a river runner or a book reviewer. But, like Conley, I found Gould’s tale of derring-do on a legendary stretch of Idaho whitewater that no longer exists too compelling not to write about it.

  “Barefoot in Hells Canyon” is the story of two teenagers, Gould and his friend Glen Burns, and their unlikely trip through Hells Canyon in 1958. Unlikely because they had never run a whitewater river before. Unlikely because there are bathtubs bigger than their raft was. Unlikely because they didn’t live in Idaho, or anywhere within hundred of miles of Hells Canyon. They were from San Francisco.

  “We just wanted to run the wildest river we could,” Gould said in a phone interview. “A lot of people told us we were crazy, and they were probably right. But you know, we were 19. We’d live forever.”

  Burns, sadly, died last year without ever seeing the book. Now 83, Gould looks back on their trip as one of the great adventures of his life, and the bedrock of a lifelong bond with his late friend.

   The adventure began not on a raft, but in a railroad yard in Oakland, Calif. The boys didn’t drive to Hells Canyon; they hopped freights, hobo-style, and hitchhiked. But for a sure-handed fellow “passenger” who caught him, Burns would have been killed when he fell asleep and nearly fell off of a tanker car.

  Riding the rails was tame, however, compared with rafting the Snake pre-dams. Veteran river runner Blaine Stubblefield warned the boys that the river through the canyon was “deceptively calm, punctuated by steep drops and half-mile rollercoasters over boulders and whitewater runouts.”

  They were to experience the potentially deadly rollercoasters time and again. The danger was compounded  by a lack of gear that contemporary river runners would deem all but suicidal. Their  undersized raft was almost comically unsuited to the challenge. Their “helmets” were baseball caps.

  “We flipped faster and harder than a flapjack,” Gould wrote of their passage through one set of rapids. “The dump was so immediate that we never saw its cause. We swirled helter skelter in chaos. I was plunged six feet below the raft, helpless as a rag doll. My knees scraped rocks.

  “… The raft was upside down and, for now, there was no righting it. We both surfaced, fighting for air, clinging to the raft, which was intent on dragging us through endless rapids.”

  At another rapid, “the river descended sharply. It was like being heaved down the treads and risers of a long, steep stairway, and I wondered if our raft might toss me directly into a boulder instead of sliding around it. The river sank into another hole, then bounced me to the surface in time to grab another frog breath and then go under again.”

  As if the river weren’t enough of a challenge, the boys lost their shoes in one of the rapids and spent the duration of their journey barefoot while negotiating the canyon’s rocky river banks and prickly pear.

  They could have come close to starving as well. They didn’t have fishing poles, they only had enough money to buy three days worth of canned food, and the passage through the canyon would take a week.

  They were incredibly lucky, though. Not only did they survive multiple rapids that could have killed them in a heartbeat, they chanced upon a cabin where they sheltered from a storm and feasted on its comestibles – canned hominy, chili, pork and beans, Campbell’s soup and sardines.

  Their luck held for the duration of the trip. At the landing where they left the river, they met a fisherman and his son, who gave them a ride to within walking distance of White Bird. There they met a telephone operator who knew exactly who they were, told them Gould’s father had been calling and connected the two of them on an ancient switchboard.

  Sixty-plus years later, I asked him if he felt lucky to have survived.

  “Yes, I do, he said. “I most certainly would have drowned if I hadn’t had a rope to hang onto when I was dumped. I didn’t know how to swim.”

  He still doesn’t.

  On the back cover of “Barefoot in Hells Canyon,” Conley noted that he could not recall, “since the steamboats, a Snake River journey that quite rivals this one for interest, mettle and fortuity.”

  No argument.

How to get it: “Barefoot in Hells Canyon” may be ordered online at backeddybooks@hotmail.com, $23.95 plus shipping. Also available at Rediscovered Books, 180 N. Eighth Street, in downtown Boise.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.