Friday, April 17, 2009

Reflections on the Road from Salmon to Leadore, ID

On my previous trekking through the Northwest, I had been struck by a curious element and I recall it today as I am going through Idaho. Each place, regardless of its size or relative importance, has a unique claim to fame. I have never been too fond of history and, except for reading biographies of famous people in history, I hated to memorize so many dates, battles, feats of conquest or destruction. Yet, as I trudged along I was constantly assailed by signs recounting history in snippets, even along the most remote and difficult shortcut, namely the one that exacted two hubcaps as a right of passage. The signs informed me that I had been following the Lewis and Clark trail at times and that of Chief Joseph and his Nez Perces at others. In Tendoy, named after a famous Lemhi Chief, a sign sporting the name Fort Lemhi related how a group of Mormon pioneers settled there, painstakingly irrigating the area to plant gardens, building houses and eventually, an adobe fort, only to be chased away by some natives turned hostile. I learned about Sacajawea and her brother Chief Cameahwait and the Shoshone tribes of the area and how they had virtually saved Lewis and Clark's expedition (...and lives?) by lending them horses and advising them (Lewis and Clark, not the horses) about edible plants.

It is difficult to imagine the extent of the pioneers' courage and fortitude going through uncharted territories, facing untold climate hardships, having to survive picking either food or poison among unknown plants. I believe that we, the nomads of today's paved roads (well. . . some are), of rest areas with facilities, fast food joints, instant locomotion, and a warm bed wherever we stop, are seriously riding on our ancestors' shirttails, whether we realize it or not.

1 comment:

Pleinguy said...

I really appreciate your descriptions, and your pace of experiencing places as you travel. When I was younger, and during a period I was researching my family ancestors, the truth of your observations was apparent. Reading old letters and stories showed hardy folks with lots of courage and strength. They had a much better appreciation for what they had and a connection with the land. It's something I've yearned for but have not been able to reach. In a way my paintings are a way for me to make that connection.

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