I am sure you are thinking about the coronavirus and how it will affect or could affect our communities. I want to address this important topic first.

Governor Little has a well thought out plan to deal with the current crisis. He has asked the legislature, and we approved, $2 million that will be reimbursed by the federal government to help Idahoans. This is a low number and not anywhere near the cost that this virus will impose on the people of Idaho.

As the Governor mentioned in a news conference over the weekend, it is important to remember that, “There is no shortage of food. Stores will restock, so please don’t hoard. The water supply is clean and safe to drink. We are working to provide you with the latest, most reliable, and accurate information. We are in this together, so please take care of yourself and your neighbors.”

With all of this, the legislative session may be cut short, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of unnecessary and bad bills, and as we have seen in the past, some unfortunate shenanigans happen as we near the end. Our current situation may prevent that behavior, and we will be finishing the utmost important legislation, then head home.

ITD

Last week you may remember that I came down pretty hard on the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) about communication on its budget. The Director of ITD reached out and we had a good long visit about a better process. I am satisfied that he, and I, can communicate directly now and avoid the problem of too many intermediaries.

Leon Slichter, the passing of a dear friend

I haven’t given many tributes in my newsletters and I don’t plan to make them an area for such information, however our community lost an incomparable, contributing member this last week and I lost a dear friend.

Leon Slicther and I worked together  for at least 20 years. There was never a kinder, more positive man than Leon. He was always the first to arrive on a project and the last to leave.

Leon would do anything he could to help people, regardless of his own personal cost.

His only liability…I could never get him to quit liking those Hereford cattle!

I found an incredible tribute from Teri Murrison, administrator for the Idaho Conservation Commissioner, and worked closely with Leon as he served on their board.

Remembering Leon

“I can’t imagine an Idaho without Leon in it. I don’t want to, but I have to because it’s happened: he’s moved on. Leon left us this week, felled by cancer too soon after retiring from the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission.

Leon was an Irishman – you knew by the twinkle in his eye and his ornery disposition. Leon loved to tease. When he went before the Senate Ag Committee for his confirmation to the Commission, he couldn’t resist poking the good senators, telling them he’d been told to leave his boots, rope, and spurs outside in the truck. They were charmed and voted to recommend his appointment unanimously.

He was a fair man, a thinking man. He heard you out before making up his mind and once convinced that we were on the right track, he was unfailingly loyal. He’d been a District Supervisor for a long time before he was appointed by Governor Otter. In truth, as a Supervisor I think he had to rethink some of his perceptions about the Commission, but we grew on him. His perspective, demeanor, and insight was invaluable to us.

Leon loved his cows and good horses. He read my stories in Range Magazine and told me about Ben Greene’s books on horse trading. He shoed his own horses and promised if I hauled up to Grangeville he’d show me the most beautiful high mountain lakes with great fishing. I regret I never made it up there.

He worked eradicating noxious weeds in his county – on the range and in the forest. He typically missed our June meetings because they were spraying weeds by helicopter. He loved his job, I think. 

Leon was no fan of chicken. We knew better than to suggest a restaurant that couldn’t give him a good steak. Our deputy attorney general remembered last night that he wondered if a restaurant he was going to would serve beef sushi.

A few years ago we toured a large dairy with a group near Jerome and while watching them milk we all got splattered with cow poop. Leon’s crisp light yellow Wrangler shirt was covered, but by dinner that evening it was fresh and crisp again. He finally confessed that he had bought a bunch of the shirts when a Western shop went out of business – over 30 of them. He’d hang them in his car and swap them out as needed.

Leon loved his wife and kids and his place near Grangeville so when he told the Board he was stepping down to spend more time with them and horseback in the mountains he loved we weren’t surprised. Our paths crossed a few times after that in Boise and he was happy. From time to time I’d call and ask his opinion. It was always solid, always sound. Always appreciated.

Last fall I called with a thorny problem and was stunned when he told me he’d just learned he had cancer. He was at that point optimistic, and I really thought he’d beat it. So did he. But he didn’t, and now I’m left thinking about what a fine man, a good friend, so many of us have lost. 

Idaho was built by men like Leon. Good men who loved her mountains, their families and friends, and good horses. Goodbye, my friend. I’m so glad our paths went parallel for a time. My sincerest condolences to the family. His Commission family appreciates that you shared him with us.”

Chocolate Fantasy

The annual Saint Peter and Paul Catholic School fundraiser, also known as the Chocolate Fantasy, was help in Grangeville over the weekend.

This event is an amazing example of community spirit through giving and support! I’m guessing there were 250 people there and  the events that night raise a combined total of nearly $100,000 – not bad for a community that is not economically privileged!

We need more Americans to understand the kind of non-government community reliance displayed Saturday night in Grangeville!