Idaho - What Happens If a Bishop Sins at Provo?
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 96 13:18:55 -0800
Subject: Idaho - What Happens If a Bishop Sins at Provo?
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <email@example.com>
Forwarded-by: "Keith Sullivan" <KSullivan@worldnet.att.net>
MOST IDAHOANS ARE LIVING ON AN EDGE
-- by Bill Hall, Lewiston, Idaho, Tribune, July 3, 1996
In 100 years of statehood, Idaho never before has experienced such bizarre
weather as the other night:
The NBC nightly news displayed a national weather map that got my attention
because I live in a house in Idaho that looks across the river at Washington.
The NBC map showed where it would be raining the next day and where it
wouldn't. According to the map, it would be raining all over Washington
but nowhere in Idaho. In fact, it would be raining all over Oregon but
nowhere in Idaho.
Most amazing of all, the eastern edge of the rainstorm exactly followed the
Idaho state line, all the way down from Canada to Nevada every curve and
turn, every bend in the Snake River. The map showed little drawings of
raindrops on one side of the state line but not on the other.
I considered taking the next day off so I could sit on my sunny Idaho deck
and watch it rain across the river in Washington. I was hoping to see some
of those little drawings of raindrops falling on the neighbors and listen
to them sing the simple Washington peasant song, "Drawings Keep Falling On
But of course, that wasn't destined to be. You never get a day off in
journalism. (What a sweatshop.) And the NBC weather map was full of it
anyway. And I don't mean rain.
I assume the people who put the map together had information indicating rain
the next day in Washington and Oregon, but didn't get any data on Idaho by
air time. So the computer that generates the map drew little raindrops all
over Oregon and Washington and nothing all over Idaho. And some years there
is a lot of nothing all over Idaho, depending on whether the 17th century
faction of the Republican Party or the 18th century faction is running the
legislature at the time.
I have lived in this state all my life, and I tell you from that perspective
it is entirely possible for something to happen in a neighboring state a
modern school system, for instance and not have it cross the border into
That is the nature of this geographical and political monstrosity called
Idaho. It is not so much a state as it is a collection of edges where
people live in the lap of the neighbors neighbors who often have things a
lot better and a lot worse than we do.
Washington, for instance. I sit here, literally on the western edge of
Idaho, looking across the river at Washington like a kid peering through
the window of the candy store. What I see makes me feel both envious and
lucky. I see a state with a lot more crime than we have and a lot more
dedication to education.
I see a state with an ocean that soothes the human psyche and with clogged
superhighways that don't.
I see a state with great apples and lousy potatoes.
Most of the people of Idaho have similar experiences. A huge percentage of
the population lives within scant miles of the state line, swayed and
directed by others from without. The old joke is that Idaho has three
capitals Boise, Spokane and Salt Lake City. It's true. Social and
financial decisions made at Olympia and Seattle and Spokane rattle through
northern Idaho. Decisions made in Salt Lake City rattle through the Idaho
political and religious community. Idahoans are rattled most of the time.
If a bishop sins at Provo, three people at Idaho Falls go to hell.
But the NBC weather map is wrong about one thing: If it rains in
Washington, it usually rains in northern Idaho in more ways than one. Or
more correctly, if they don't get rain, our wheat doesn't grow either.
And if a bank fails at Salt Lake City, another tumbleweed blows down the
streets of Pocatello.
Only the Boise Valley is pretty much self-contained and therefore capable
of influencing the neighbors more than it is influenced. But wouldn't you
know it? Boise Valley is located next to a portion of Oregon that mostly
is unpopulated. Our one chance to shape lives in another state and there's
nobody there to be shaped.
Most Idahoans live so near the edge of the state that they are really the
residents of two states. Nowhere is that more true than in Lewiston,
Idaho/Clarkston, Wash., a bi-state community (that is not to be confused
with a bisexual community where all the women live on one side of the
border, all the men on the other side and they are both the same person).
We have everything here because we live in two states at once. What I don't
have in Idaho, I can and go get at the other end of an interstate bridge
within sight of my house. I buy my liver in Idaho and my onions in
Washington, my ice cream in Idaho and my strawberries in Washington, my
Bibles in Idaho and my beer in Washington.
To the people who live here, Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Wash., are two
halves of the same town Lewiston-Clarkston, Idawash.
When we drive across that bridge, we don't think of it as going to another
state. When we are at Clarkston, we are here. When they are at Lewiston,
they are here. With all due respect to Gertrude Stein, maybe when you're
at Oakland there's no there there, but there's a lot of here here.
That has its advantages in both directions. People in this part of Idaho
had a lottery long before the rest of the state because it was on the other
side of town at Clarkston.
And to a Lewiston resident, the bars close when the Washington Legislature
says so, not when Idaho lawmakers say so.
Boise forbids us to sin. Olympia encourages it and uses the taxes to
upgrade services at Seattle.
Conversely, there are a lot of dry Sunday holes in southeastern Idaho
because the Utah Legislature doesn't like that sort of thing. The Utah
Legislature's idea of fun is a cup of hot chocolate with your Twinkie. In
fact, most of the political influence in Idaho comes from either Washington
or Utah. Not only is nearby Oregon too underpopulated to have any clout,
but there is too much nothing between Idaho and the neighbors in British
Columbia, Montana, Wyoming and Nevada for any of those fellow Westerners to
have much effect on our social or political tendencies. It is primarily
Washington and Utah that tug at this state. In fact, Idaho is probably such
a long state today because it is made of hot lava and has been pulled too
hard from both ends all these years.
But that is the strength of Idaho its cross-fertilization between a wicked
state like Washington and a saintly state like Utah. And you know the
answer before I ask the question:
What do you get when you cross a Washingtonian with a Utahan? An Idahoan,
But is that so awful? After all, the people of Washington and Utah have
been such good neighbors and friends these past 100 years that you could
say a lot worse about the people of Idaho than that they are a blend of
those two parts.
© 1996 Peter Langston