Sometime in the last year I sent out an email to my staff asking for suggestions as to what I could do to make their jobs easier, more rewarding or more fun. Most of them just snickered and thought “There goes Bob again, paying lip service to being a concerned boss.” But one person replied that she would like more of my stories. That was a motivating factor in starting to blog. I had a couple of blogs going at a different location and then one evening I was in the basement and saw Q’s link to Xanga and thought, “what’s Xanga?” And that’s how I ended up here. I’m probably the oldest guy here and my life has settled into a pretty normal groove so for a change of pace now and again I’m going to reminisce.
I call the summer of 1972 the summer of a thousand stories. Both my companion, Bill and I feel that there’s at least one novel for each of us in that year. Bill graduated on time and I had to go back in ’71 to finish two quarters I’d missed because I dropped out senior year to go to Europe. So after I finished up in the early Spring of ’72 we decided that we would head out to Wallace, Idaho, his home town, and get jobs building I-90 through the Silver Valley. Wallace is tucked into the Mountains of the Idaho Panhandle, just across the Montana border. It’s primary industry is silver mining, it’s population in those days was about 1500 and it had a reputation as a wide open town. It had one of the highest ratios of single men to women in the country. There was gambling in the bars (lot’s of bars) and had five bordellos with neon signs and names like Lux Rooms and The U and I. One of our college classmates who was also from Wallace did a research paper that involved interviewing the hookers.
The summer took had a somber start because the day before we got there, there had been a fire in the Sunshine mine and 91 miners died. When we got to Bill’s house, his dad, who was on the fire rescue team, had not returned from his shift the day before. All his mom knew was that he had gone down in the mine to pull guys out and hadn’t gotten back yet. I’ll elaborate on this later. That’s one story.
When we went to get out highway construction jobs we found out that you couldn’t get a job without being a union member and you couldn’t join the union unless you had a job. No kidding. So there we were stuck in the west with no income. We briefly found work laboring for a local contractor Harry Votalini. But Bill broke his ankle playing basketball (there are lots of bball stories as well) and Harry fired me the next day. Harry loved Bill, Bill was a hometown hero. Harry didn’t like me much, I was a soft city kid who couldn’t dig like a badger. I ended up getting a job with the Forest Service, which whipped the softness out of me and Bill ended up going to work in the mines when his ankle healed. It was a summer of love, laughter, adventure and mind altering substances. Here’s a quick sample story.
It was during Lead Creek Derby, Wallace’s local festival, when they release little balls with numbers into them into the South Fork of the Cour d’Alene River, known as Lead Creek or Shit Creek (for those of you who haven’t lived in the West, that’s pronounced “Crick”) because of the horrible industrial run off from the mines.They sell numbers on the balls and the first ball under the bridge in Wallace wins the jackpot. I was drunk as a lord and coming out of one of the bars. They had one of those little gypsy carnivals set up on the main street and when the ass of a merry-go-round horse presented itself to me, I decided to do my Gene Autry impression and do the flying rear mount (rache, don’t) of the plastic pony. I took a run at it but in my stumbling drunkeness, I slammed my shin into the edge of the merry-go-rounds metal deck. Even with lots of pain killer flowing through my veins that was one of the most painful things that has ever happened to me. There’s still a scar there and my shin had a tender lump on it for years afterwards. I’m not sure but that might have been the same night that Bill came out of the bar and kicked his shoe into the air only to see it land on the roof of one of the whorehouses. He had to go upstairs and ask to get on the roof to get his shoe. He claimed it was an accident anyway.

20 thoughts on “

  1. so gene autry was a horsefucker, huh?  who’da thunk it.  i’m not sure if i believe any of this, but it’s good readin’.

  2. I knew you couldn’t resist.

    It’s all true…filtered through an alcoholic haze, but true. Except for the parts I hallucintated, of course.

  3. Believe it or not, I only was inside the whorehouses once. And that was just helping a friend shop after a good night at the blackjack tables.

  4. Ayieee!          any bear stories?    I remember in that part of the country, we’d drive to the dump late at night, when the bears came out to feed.    They’d show up as silhouettes in the headlights. 

    One bear had 3 legs.   No kidding.

  5. Damn, I feel like I’ve been wasting my life. And, in fact, I have. *sniff*

    I wanna hear more whorehouse stories.

  6. As much time as I spent in the woods, and in fact working in the middle of huckleberry patches, I never had any bear encounters. Unless you count my usfs crew boss, who was about the size of a bear.

  7. ah yes… the old “shoe on the whorehouse roof” gambit.  works like a charm.

    (knowing my luck, it’d quickly become “the whorehouse bouncer’s shoe kicks steve in the ass” gambit)

  8. reminds me of, what’s his name, the A River Runs Through It” guy, the other stories in his book, great stories, and I’ll assume they’re true though it really never matters, does it?

  9. Of course, Norman Maclean, I should’ve googled it and not looked dumb. No, I haven’t read the other. Obviously I should. Not just great stories but proving the value of the novella, which I think, as unpublishable as they seem to be, it’s a fantastic form.

  10. Great story!  It’s a lost art, telling a story, knowing when to quit one and start the next.  You’ve got me hooked for the next one.

  11. Ride the plastic pony!  I think I’m gonna try the shoe trick whenever we visit Vegas.  At least I’d have an excuse to tour the bordello while Heike waits outside, you know?

    ’71.  I was born in ’71.

  12. Bill here.  I’ll vouch for all of this, but it just begins the saga.  This only gets us to Lead Creek Derby, an early June event.  Bob has 3 or 4 more months yet to cover.  One correction.  Only one very large, orange ball gets dumped in the creek and winners are determined by the time required for its journey.  At one time prizes were substantial.  1500 silver dollars was common and none of those were of the sandwich variety.  1957 must have been a particularly prosperous year.  A brand new Studebaker Hawk supplemented the cash.  Still have one of the promotional buttons from ’57.  The ball’s progress from Mullan to Wallace is monitored by a flat car load of Gyro club members who dislodge it from sweepers or eddys in the creek in a vain attempt to get themselves and the ball to the finish line before utter intoxication sets in.  One of the highlights of my summers growing up was watching drunk city fathers fall off the flat car or into the creek trying to retrieve the ball.

  13. Damn, I was confusing Lead Creek Derby with Duk Duk days where they drop a bunch of little plastic ducks in the creek at Hopewood park. There’s not much current in this creek/slough, so it’s not nearly as exciting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.