Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The True Story of Heidi, Idaho

About a mile downstream from Banks, Idaho, on the Payette River is a spot with picnic tables and a beautiful little sandy beach. Although the sign doesn't say so, it's called Heidi, Idaho... and has been since the early '60s.



Dad loved to fish. But even more, he loved to be with his family.

As did Mom. I don't know about the fishing part... far as I know, she has never stepped foot in Cabela's, or had a fishing license. But she loved to spend time with her kids. Still does.

(I wasn't much of a fisherman, either. I tried a few times, but didn't have the patience for it. If a fish didn't bite my hook RIGHT NOW, I quickly lost interest. I preferred roaming up and down the shore, looking for discarded fish... so I could flip 'em over and look for creepy crawly maggots. Yeah... I was a sick kid. Still am.)

A favorite family outing involved driving in the forest and fishing in a beautiful lake or river.

Although Dad loved to fish, he didn't get much fishing in on these trips. He spent most of his time baiting hooks, clearing snags, untangling lines, rejoicing in the occasional kid-fish caught.

Mom was his assistant.

As I think back, I don't know if Mom EVER fished.

In the early 60s, Mom had six kids... at one point she had six kids aged seven or under. (And none of 'em twins. Think about that.) I was the oldest of the six; Heidi was the youngest.

At the time Heidi, Idaho got its name, I was eight pushing nine; Heidi was 1 1/2.

The day was a perfect spring day; we'd been on our forest drive in the old Plymouth station wagon (three seats - the rearmost seat faced backwards), and were headed back toward Boise, when that beach and that bend in the river beckoned in the mid-to-late afternoon.

We scrambled down to the beach and took our places. As I recall, we were the only ones there; it may be that it was still relatively early in the spring. But I also recall that it was a nice day.

As it was in the springtime; the water was running high and swift from the snow-melt. But we all knew to respect the river, and keep our distance.

Dad was making his rounds up and down the line, baiting hooks, helping the young'uns with their casting, untangling lines, etc. Mom was helping, and trying to keep inventory on her beloved babies.

As she made a head-count, she came up one short. And quickly determined Heidi - the baby - was missing. About the same time... here comes a tiny baby, a couple feet out in that swift-flowing river, floating face-down, drifting away from shore. HEIDI!!!

Dad started pulling off his shoes, removing his wallet, keys, etc., to effect a rescue.

He never got a chance.

Mom didn't have time for those formalities... she immediately waded out into the stream and plucked her tiny child by the arm, pulling her back to shore.

Heidi obviously hadn't been in the water long... she was gasping for breath, but mostly because of the coldness of that melted-snow water. A little wrapped-in-the-blanket time, and a new set of clothes, and she was good as new. We all felt grateful that she had gone in upstream, rather than downstream. Eight of us had left on the family outing... and eight returned home that evening. Mom was our hero. (Dad and Mom were always our heroes, but Mom shone particularly brightly on that day.)

Before we even got into the car and headed home, that beautiful little spot was named Heidi, Idaho.

It's got a nice ring to it.

(Click on either photo for larger viewing options. They were snapped on 21 Sept., 2007)

UPDATE: In my quest to make this story as "true" as possible, I'm adding some clarifications and corrections that my mother has supplied after reading it. (She was a little older than me at the time, and is qualified to make these corrections.)

- We had stopped for a family picnic, and all family members were gathered at the picnic tables up above the beach (minus Heidi... who was drawn to the beautiful water).

- Mom had to run down to the beach from the picnic area, and then swim out into the river to get to Heidi.

- Dad explained his hesitation later. He was mentally reviewing his Boy Scout rescue training... trying to remember if it's better to take shoes off or leave them on... wondering if he could throw his belt for Heidi to grab onto, etc. (Yeah... I can believe that.)

- Following her heroic and successful rescue, the rest of us wanted to eat our picnic, so we ate while Mom sat and shivered. (There was a change of clothes for Heidi, but none for Mom. Funny that she would remember that little "detail" better than me...)


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