I was a kid in the 1950s and have always assumed everyone raised in Idaho spent every summer being drug over the Sawtooth Mountains with two or three horses in tow.
Mom and Dad rented horses for our annual Sawtooth walk-about. Light-weight sleeping bags and cooking stoves and dried food were in the future. To cook in the wilderness we carried iron skillets and a Coleman white-gas camping stove. Food was in cans and bottles — and, yes, fried Spam and cold Vienna Sausages on crackers taste mighty fine in the mountain air, all dusty from the trail. Or at least they did when I was ten.
We did have the latest in air mattresses, flimsy plastic tubes molded together that only stayed inflated if no one was on them. Our bedding was heavy woolen blankets carried over the pack boxes on the backs of the horses. The blankets also served as handy padding for us kids when we got tired and were hoisted up on the top of the horses for a ride.
Tents, made of thick canvas, were too heavy to bother with so a couple of canvas tarps sufficed, one under our beds and one lying over them. It kept the dew off as well as the two inches of snow we woke to one August morning.
Every morning Mom and Dad packed our camp into boxes and loaded the horses and every evening it was all unpacked and set into a camp. We kids were kept busy blowing up mattresses and gathering wood, which was lying all about and easily available by breaking off dead branches from trees. Then it was time to play, often by riding the horses bareback.
Summer after summer we were crossing different trails in the Sawtooths. It was National Forest land at the time, not a National Wilderness, and in all our treks we only twice ran into Forest Service trail-maintenance pack strings. And only once did we run into another family. It was so unusual we became friends. For years we visited them at their place on Sunnyslope along the Snake River.
So, folks — that was part of my perfectly ordinary childhood. Now, at seventy years old and starting to tell some stories about it, is the first time I’ve realized just how unique it was. Stay tuned for some highlights…