Surviving Idaho

Okay, so this one is sort of a North Western. 

Idaho Cover ArtI’d always hated my dad’s Idaho mountain camp. Until 1984, the year that old Weevil Hodges blew himself up. I turned nineteen that spring.

Dad came by the whole survival thing honestly enough. Grandpop had built a bomb shelter in his backyard during the 50s and stocked it with cans of Sterno, Boy-R-Dee, and Chung King. Gram refused to even look inside. “If God wants me, he can have me,” she’d declared. “I love you, but I’m not livin’ in a cave, you old coot.” God has them both now. They went home in their sleep, years ago, within a month of each other. The folks who bought their place dug up the shelter and put in a pool.

Mom barely tolerated the camp, even after demanding numerous improvements that made our place more like a one-suite hotel. Weevil called it “the Ritz,” and we could hear him cackle at it every time he went by. Me? I preferred to sit at home and play Atari with my best friend Wilson Grant.

Since Dad was an accountant in Cedar Rapids, and the camp was in Idaho, we only went a couple times a year. So it’s no surprise that we didn’t even know Weevil was dead until that summer. We’d been there three days when a battered Dodge Power Wagon went grinding up the mountain, past our spot above Burke. It had a temporary plate duct-taped to a back fender. Since Dad was busy splitting firewood, he told me to take our ATV and see what was up.

The ATV was a contraption he’d bought used the previous year. It looked like a six-wheeled bathtub and steered with a pair of levers, like a bulldozer. I thought it was cool because I remembered watching the Banana Splits drive them on TV when I was little. After about twenty yanks on the rope, I finally got the thing going and clattered off in a cloud of clods and smoke.

Ten minutes later, I pulled up behind the mystery vehicle. It sat, engine grumbling, ten feet from Weevil’s shack. What was this stranger up to? Did Weevil know he was here? I climbed out of my tub and walked around to introduce myself and find out.

The windows were smeared with Idaho mud, so I knocked on the driver’s door to get his attention. When the glass came clanking down, I choked on my gum.


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