“Those are just damn mountains!”
Bill Clements was an old timer 35 years ago when I met him. For him those mountains presented economic hardship.
He was right.
For the rancher, the logger, the trapper, the cowboy, those mountains make for a lot of work, risk, and expense. If you could take a gigantic flat iron and smooth them out, life would be a lot easier. You’d think the pioneers who settled this country would have known better. But then again, maybe they did. They certainly didn’t come to own the mountains…not in Lemhi County they didn’t. A vanishingly small total of 6% of the land here is privately held, and nearly all of that is in the river valleys.
The mountains be damned.
Yet much depended on the resources that lie in those mountains…timber, grazing, wildlife, gold, and water. But there was more than utility that made these mountains so compelling. The water and scenic beauty in a dramatic setting would serve as a magnet, counter balancing any other sensibilities. Somewhere along the way, these mountains fostered a sense of unique experience, a rare gift for those who dare. The mountains are accessible only to the tough. They are notorious for weeding out the unfit. Those who came and made their home here were the ones who found a way through the economic hardship.
The story of struggle, artistry, craftsmanship, and utility are on full display here. Nothing worthwhile is easy in the search for beauty, creativity, and function. But it’s a magical thing whenever they all line up in the mountains, on the work bench, or on the back of a horse.