Posted in Idaho, IdahoAuthors, PostaDay

“Honey, out here we pronounce that ‘Iowa’…”

I actually got that response once, from an older lady (you know, probably about the age I am now) at a campground on the east coast, when I responded to her friendly where-ya-from by answering “Idaho.”  Unsure whether a third-grader were allowed to correct a Grownup, I defaulted by abruptly removing myself from the conversation, and the presence of the Idiot Grownup.  A few years later, at a national conference of high-schoolers, I scoffed at some other kids who asked me (entirely in earnest) whether we had electricity or indoor plumbing.

the state's single north-south "highway"

Truth be told, though, I know a few people who live without either–and the public restrooms along some of our roads are hole-in-the-ground outhouses.  For that matter, the single road which connects the northern and southern halves of our state is a windy little affair (often impassable due to rockslides or snow) that might not be deemed worthy of the name “highway” by folks in other regions of the country.

So although I have no wish to feed any stereotypes about a rural state, I do have to observe that there are some admittedly humorous peculiarities to be found here.  Take, for example, the two-week “Spud Break” we had from school every September in eastern Idaho, when the older kids and most of the school staff were needed in the fields for potato harvest.  Or the fact that, when I moved into my first Boise home just half a mile from the capitol building, my next-door-neighbors had a herd of goats in the backyard, while a number of horses pastured just down the street.  Well within city-limits, mind you, in the state’s capital city.  (I’m debating whether to use quotation marks around “city” in that sentence.  If Idaho HAS a city, Boise is it.  I’ll leave it at that.)

My sister and I used to play a “Travel Bingo” game on car trips; it was a scavenger hunt of sorts, setting us to look for items in an ascending hierarchy of difficulty.  But the game must have been manufactured on the East Coast, because the “easy” level included things like a traffic clover-leaf (which we’d never laid eyes on), while the most difficult level included “covered wagon” and “outhouse”…  Not a game designed for Idaho, where the “tractor crossing” sign is commonplace.

My other car-trip memory is my mother attempting to read aloud to us from books by Idaho outdoorsman Pat McManus.  As I wrote to him decades later, when I was setting up an internet chat with the students of my “Idaho Literature” class, my mom would get to such a point of wheezing, choking laughter that she’d have to pass the book to the backseat so one of us could continue the reading.  I still have my treasured copy of “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?“–signed by him at a Young Authors’ Conference in my gradeschool years.  If you’re up for some classic Idaho humor, his books will make any fisherman howl with laughter.

live bait vending machine
the Live Bait vending machine in front of our Grocery

With a nod to Jeff Foxworthy (whose Redneck observations are so funny because of the truths behind many of them), I offer the following observations on my home state:  

You may be in Idaho if…

  • The local car dealership offers a free rifle with your new truck-purchase.  (Not joking.)
  • Back-yard-chicken classes are advertised on your street corner.
  • There’s a Live Bait Vending Machine in front of your grocery store.
  • The roadside signs along the highway sport bullet-holes.
  • A man who loses his leg to a thresher buries it in the local cemetery, with the rest of him joining it later.  (Not joking.  You can visit Ben Waldron’s headstone AND his, er, legstone in Samaria ID.)
  • Participants in a mountain-man rendezvous, Indian pow-wow, or cowboy-poetry fiddle-fest are not people “dressing a part.”

When it comes down to it, though, how I REALLY know I’m in Idaho is that people don’t lock their doors, and strangers smile at each other.  (In fact, there’s still a law on the books in Pocatello ID that “a person may not be seen in public without a smile.”)  And on that cheery note, I’ll leave you with a little bit of hard-earned Idaho Wisdom: Don’t squat with your spurs on.

My (quirky) Home State!



I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

52 thoughts on ““Honey, out here we pronounce that ‘Iowa’…”

  1. That’s great, I love it! We New Hampsheirites are often called hicks by the nearby Boston crowd. even though I grew up in an urban area (S. FL), I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in rural & even back woods settings. Always the best memories!


  2. My husband moved from Puerto Rico to New England in high school. Some of the students at his new high school wanted to know if the “grass hut” he lived in had been nice and did they ever wear shoes down there.

    People, I tell you… ;-)


  3. I miss the old sign *sigh* It’s so plan now. Even though I do live in Idaho we must live in very different parts of the state. I live in a tiny little town that everyone is friends with everyone (and all the animals) but no outhouses and everyone has power. Or I should say, no outhouses except for during harvest when sometimes you have to have outhouse because the nearest house is ten or more miles away. :D Either way, I love Idaho and I’m okay with what people say about it. Because it’s more awesome than their state any day.


  4. Having grown up in Montana and Alaska, this made me giggle.

    Also, on our honeymoon John and I encountered some kids who were in Florida on their “Spud Break.” Which I consider a valid lifestyle choice. Lol.


    1. Except… If they were on Spud Break, why weren’t they home helping with Harvest? ;)
      Okay, I admit–that’s usually when my family took vacations. My dad worked at a potato research station rather than a farm, so we were out of school and “off the hook” during Spud Break…


  5. Howdy Neighbor,

    We visit Idaho whenever we can. Parents have property near Coeur d’Alene. No electricity, no running water, but beautiful beyond belief.

    Sister lived in Sandpoint a few years back. Funny how the landscape differs so from one part of the state to another, but the people stay remarkably the same.

    Miss D


  6. What a great post, Kana! My mom and brother live in Blackfoot, and when I was there in August, I discovered two of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes on. One was Driggs. I stayed in a cabin there for several days and had myself a little paint fest. One of the ladies I met while in Driggs, a local bead store owner, told me that if I wanted to do a little plein air painting, I just had to go to Felt. WOW! Felt (although I never actually saw a “town”) blew me away! Rolling hills and fields, where I was lucky enough to see a farmer meandering back and forth across his fields, producing that beautiful trail of dust just for me and my painting. Yeah, I was in heaven!


    1. Hiya, “AnonyBeth” :) Lovely there, isn’t it? I lived near there in Eastern Idaho till I was ten, moved to northern Idaho till college, ended up in Boise-area after my first marriage… As Miss Demure Restraint noted, SO many different types of landscape (but friendly folks everywhere)… :)


  7. The South gets those kinds of questions a lot– a few years ago, I read about an Atlanta hotel that kept getting calls along the lines of “I know you’re in the South, but you do have indoor plumbing, right?”


    1. Too funny! :) I do know a couple Idahoans who still choose to live without either electricity or plumbing, but when my husband and I visited one of the old mining towns in the mountains this summer, we stayed at the Idaho Hotel–which has had indoor plumbing since the 1860s! Go figure… ;)


  8. And people think us Texans are stuck in the early part of the century! Although, I do definitely relate to people having veritable “farms” in their back-yards (within city limits), including: horses, cows, goats, chickens, etc. It’s strange to go from a neighborhood, to a cow pasture and on to Wal-mart, all within a couple miles of eachother in a major Texas city. Great post!


  9. What an enjoyable post! Living in the suburbs (ugh!), and owning a bit of rural land just a couple of counties away, I can see such a difference between the two localities. Never been to Idaho, but it sounds wonderful. That’s a cute photo of you clutching the signpost.


    1. I remember that sign! :) I suspect the state has tried to “update” its image… but then, we still have “Famous Potatoes” on our license plates… ;)


  10. Idaho sounds like a paradise :) doors unlocked and smiling faces… no chance in London!!!!! :) Although we laugh with my friends all the time when people don’t know anything about Lithuania (which is fair enough) so we just say we have invented a wheel already but haven’t got to the electricity yet :)


  11. Greatpost- sounds very similar to my home of Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania….well at least the Tunkhannock of 10 years ago. Now we have a Super Walmart…..but it does have a live bait vending machine out front :)


  12. I loved your comment about leaving the doors unlocked and strangers saying hello to each other. I live in a small city in Pennsylvania and I remember being shocked when a stranger said hello to me when I first moved back in 2000. I had just moved back from New York City and a stranger was as likely to push you out of the way and knock you down as to say hello. Now the fact that strangers say hello to you is the thing I love the most about my hometown. Anyhow it was another enjoyable post, Kana. As always I love your humorous take on things.


  13. This post is too funny in the I-know-righ? kind of way! I have rellies spread out in Washington and Montana and can’t imagine life in the potato state is much different.

    I shall heed your last words of advice.


  14. I grew up in quite a small town and much of my travels have taken me to rural settings. While I must say I enjoy rurally, I even more enjoy visiting rural locales. Live bait machines and other wonders that vary from place to place in ways that metropolises just don’t. Thanks for an eye on Idaho; now I know a little more about what I’ve missed.


  15. This was hilarious! I lived in TX for a while and thought I had seen it all – I was wrong. Idaho has apparently been missing from my travel map. I need to get there and see this place for myself! Its on my to-do list now :)


  16. The same Idiot Grown-ups used to tell me I was from Idaho (I live in Iowa)! And my cousins from California were sure we had Indians riding the prairie along with the outhouses. Of course, growing up on a farm, we *did* have an outhouse–much to their glee when they eventually came to visit.

    I’ve always wanted to visit the Mistaken Identity sister state of Idaho! Someday.


    1. Generally speaking, the Pacific Northwest includes Washington, Oregon, and Idaho–so yes. A more specific descriptor for Idaho would be “Inland Northwest”… :)


    1. Not at all. :) We’re in the “rain shadow” of the Cascade range to the east of us, so our climate here in southern Idaho is probably classified as “high desert.” I think our average annual rainfall is under 11 inches.


  17. I LOVE Pat McManus! My mom introduced us kids to his stories on car trips too. They’re hilarious. Poof no eyebrows and the one about skunks are two of my all time favorites. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll have to borrow them from my mom and introduce my kids to them now ; )


  18. I’m from Maine where they are thinking about doing away with the spud breaks.
    A friend sent me some Foxworthy sayings about Maine. Some of my favorites:
    If you’ve had a lengt…hy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you live in Maine. ( this happens to me often)
    If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked, you live in Maine
    And finally, If you find 10 degrees “a little chilly”, you live in Maine.
    I love all your posts and you’ve inspired me to try NaNoWriMo!


    1. Love those gems! (And I love Maine, too–though it’s been a bit since I spent time there…)
      I’m not sure if it’s a *good* thing if I’m to blame for someone else’s NaNo-nuttiness as well as my own… ;) Well, it’s my first go at it too–so we can celebrate or commiserate (or both, maybe?) together.


  19. Great post! And to add to it; “You might be from Alabama” if…..
    1. Your wife/girfriend has jumper cables in her truck/car/jeep and KNOWS how to use them.
    2. Your 4-wheeler has more miles than your truck.


  20. OOPS! PLEASE ignore the spelling error in the previous post. I had my spell-checker set to “Winston County, Alabama English”.


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