Southeast Idaho Fieldwork Survey Part 4: Oneida County
This short series is a snapshot of a month’s worth of work conducting folklife fieldwork in the far southeastern corner of the state. Unless otherwise noted, photos were taken with Jack Daly’s camera and text was taken from Jack Daly’s field notes.
My first stop in Malad was to boot lane… Boot lane sits out on North Deep Creek Road, a rural road in the north part of Malad. This road features a chain link fence that has metal and wooden poles, on top of which are placed hundreds of cowboy boots. The site runs along the property of the D. Nielsen Dairy, which rests only a couple hundreds of yards off the main road.
I then drove to the Blue Goose Country store in Samaria. [Founded in 1868, Samaria was the largest town in the Malad Valley until the railroad was placed ten miles to east in Malad City.] Inside there was an elderly woman working, as well as three older gentlemen sitting around a table. I spoke with the woman, telling her of my purpose in the area, and she told me a bit about the history of the building. It was first constructed in 1892, and in 1978 the owner died of a heart attack, after which the building fell into disrepair. In 1998, the owner of the property wanted to burn it down, but Sherrie Johnson and a local group fought to move the building across the street and to restore it, which they did in 1999. Now, the building is operated by community volunteers.
On Tuesday the 14th, I made some calls to the artists listed on the sheet that Jean Thomas had sent me. I called Doug Adams and Bonnie Howard, but neither of them picked up. I then called Nathan Eliason, who answered. I asked if he had a few minutes to talk, which he did. Nathan is a leather worker who in the past has received the traditional arts apprenticeship at the ICA, which I was unaware of until the end of our interview. Nathan began doing leather work when he was in high school, and he learned to do it from his dad, who showed him how to use starter tools. He makes saddles and other various cowboy gear. He told me that in today’s highly industrialized world, he thinks it is important to use both traditional techniques and modern techniques with one’s hands. I asked him what kinds of designs he incorporates in his art, and he says that it is mainly floral, but that he will alter the designs if someone asks him to, noting that he has recently incorporated butterflies into his work.
On Thursday, July 16th, I spoke with Annie Wangsgard, a silver jewelry maker from Malad. It took a few minutes of speaking with Annie to uncover that she had already been awarded an apprenticeship from the ICA. It was this apprenticeship, turns out, that got Annie into silversmithing in the first place, as she told me she worked with a silver worker during her apprenticeship. Before that, Annie began working with leather in her 4H club, and later took metalsmithing classes at ISU. She told me that she mainly focuses on making jewelry because people mainly want rings. Annie said that Western style inspires her designs, as she is from Malad and currently lives there.
I drove back to Malad and stopped at the last place in town that I had not yet been: the Oneida Pioneer Museum. This museum houses a wide variety of historical objects from Oneida County, many of which have been gifted to the museum by residents. The walls are full of old pictures of prominent county residents, and behind the worker’s desk there hangs the fur of a large brown bear, that the worker compared to Old Ephraim, noting that although this one isn’t as big as Old Ephraim, it is still known as one of the biggest in the region. I took note of a model of the Church of the Seven Spires and asked the worker if she knew anything about it. She said that it was supposed to be made in Malad, but that at one point the LDS Church almost ceased to exist, and that building had to be halted.