A few springs back I traveled to Twin Falls, Idaho, to make a speaking presentation for the Idaho Ag Bankers Association. The first leg of my flight took me to Denver; and then it was on to Boise.
Boise is the home of the Boise State University Broncos football team. The football stadium there is famous for its blue artificial turf. You can’t miss that blue football field when you fly into Boise. They say, at certain times of the year, you can find dead ducks on that blue field of play. Evidently, some of those quackers confuse the football field for a blue lake and dive to the meeting of their maker when they hit the artificial turf.
I took I-84 East out of Boise for a two-hour drive to Twin Falls. The nice young lady at the Dollar Rental Car Counter informed me there was “nothing but sagebrush between Boise and Twin Falls.” Fortunately, she misrepresented the scenery that lay before me by a long shot.
As soon as I left Boise, I noticed two mountain ranges running parallel in the distance on each side of I-84. They were majestic, blue-grey mountain ranges highlighted by beautiful snow-capped peaks. The mountain ranges alone made it worth the trip.
The landscape was relatively green just outside of Boise — a combination of grassland and rangeland. But after a few miles everything turned to brown range highlighted by low green scrub. I was surprised not to see a cow for miles. Then the landscape really began to change. I saw mountains and rivers and gulches and plains and high plateaus. And then there were green irrigated valleys and fields in the shape of circles and half-circles brought to life by water from below the ground.
In doing research for my speech I found that Idaho ranks third in dairy production among the 50 states. So, I was not surprised when I passed a few “mega” dairies located along the interstate. One in particular I shall never forget — it was an all-Jersey dairy. I promise you, as I sped past this dairy, I saw more Jersey cows in a moment than I had seen in my entire lifetime. There were thousands of them. And every one a Jersey.
I was further surprised to see a number of beef cattle herds standing in “dry lots.” These cows were being fed hay the year-a-round. That is quite a departure from cows grazing among our Tennessee hills.
My biggest surprise came when I arrived in Twin Falls. As I drove south on Highway 75, I encountered, and crossed, the Malad Gorge. Known as “The Grand Canyon of Idaho,” it stretches 2.5 miles and is said to be 250 feet deep. It appeared to be much deeper. And I guessed it to be at least two miles across.
The conference center where I was speaking was situated right on the edge of the gorge. As I walked along the walking trail which wound its way along the edge of the gorge, I had a clear view of its floor. Far below the sheer walls of this spectacular gorge lay a beautiful, 18-hole golf course. It was a sight to behold.
On the day I left Twin Falls, I again crossed the bridge that spans the Malad Gorge. I was surprised to see a number of the younger set walking along the bridge. They were dressed like those people who jump out of planes. Then, I noticed they had parachutes on their backs. I quickly deduced they were preparing to jump off the bridge and into the gorge. I wished for the time to stay and watch that. But, alas, I had a plane to catch back in Boise.
As a footnote to my trip to Idaho, I recall a story I heard when I worked for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture many years ago. It was told among the state departments of agriculture up east.
It seems back in the earliest days of mass potato production in the United States the state of Maine was the clear leader. But the situation changed when some innovative and enterprising folks at the Idaho Department of Agriculture succeeded in establishing potato production in a big way in the great Northwest. They were accused of “stealing” potato production from the state of Maine. They even succeeded is giving the potato their name, “Idaho.”
The joke was “they could not leave well enough alone. In later years, the Idaho potato growers rubbed it in by putting up billboards along the roads in Maine which read ‘Enjoy your Maine lobster with an Idaho potato!’ ”
You ever heard of a “Maine” potato?
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional.” Copyright 2020 by Jack McCall.