Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Lemhi

Lemhi County, Idaho is firmly in the heart of flyover country. A river, a county, a mountain range and likely other features in Idaho all carry the label of an old Mormon saint. Mormon missionaries at some point in the 1800s set something up in the valley and began naming things Lemhi. At some point afterwards, I believe the locals showed them the door, but the names all stuck even after the Mormons were gone.

Why write about Lemhi? Because it is the fictional space where Dana and Cale begin the next chapters of their lives. It is also another of the real places and spaces upon which my fictional world of River and Ranch and New Grass Growing are based. It's real that the Lemhi River used to be wall to wall salmon. That's why the Northern Shoshone, who are part of both fictional and real worlds are the "Agaideka" - the fish eaters. It's real that Lemhi Pass, which Lewis and Clark crossed in their search for a northwest passage, is now again relevant for its rare earth mineral-rich ore bodies, something that has long been known but gone unused. In fact here's a great article on ranchers in the Lemhi valley working to revive salmon habitat.

It's part of the big space that we collectively call "out West". I was lucky enough to live "out West" for several years, including a fair amount of time in Salmon, a small town at the confluence of the Lemhi River and the Salmon River. It's big and wide open, full of history and mostly just gloriously empty and big, waiting for someone to take a random turn up an old Forest Service road and see what they see.

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