Les and I have traveled through Idaho several times, once I even spent the night there. There are some pretty things in Idaho, some nice landscapes, but for the most part it’s a horrible, stinky place. Every time I say that, the Idaho defenders show up to tell me how I’m wrong and, “It’s not that bad.” Those people are entitled to their opinions, as am I. And my opinion is that Idaho is a creepy, cow-poo smelling, white-power-militia/prepper infested, Mormon wasteland. Nothing I hear about Idaho surprises me.
All of the time I have spent in Idaho has been driving across it, headed to somewhere else, usually while moving. In 2010 Les and I drove from Washington to Utah to surprise our families for his birthday. At one point we missed our exit and had to drive 13 miles to the next one to turn around. When we did there was a llama just standing on the side of the road, 20 feet from the freeway, staring menacingly at us. Later he was joined by several llama friends and they formed a llama gang to stare down semi-trucks. I know some people think Napoleon Dynamite is an exaggeration of Idaho for comedic purposes, but it is in fact a cringe-worthy documentary.
When we moved from Washington to New York we stopped in Coeur d’Alene for gas, I didn’t take any photos, but I had an experience that ties into why nothing from Idaho surprises me. I was wearing a full-length hippie skirt and a rain jacket, while pumping gas I was hooted at and catcalled from 3 young men who were riding in the bed of a large pickup truck. I’m not one of these people that think catcalling is akin to rape or anything, I just thought it was odd because the only skin I was showing was on my face and hands. At first I thought it was a joke, but then I realized that my skirt had somewhat of a camouflage print, especially if you aren’t looking close, and they thought that was hot.
When we moved back to the west coast from New York, we actually spent the night at a rest area in Nowhereville, Idaho (which really narrows it down, I know). It was during this trip that I saw some of the beautiful landscapes of Idaho, as we were driving US Route 20 which goes through Craters of the Moon National Monument. This might have been enough to change my opinion on Idaho (despite the cow poo smell), if not for the fact that before we stopped for the night we stopped in Rexburg for dinner.
I know Craters of the Moon is named because it is supposed to resemble the surface of the moon, but Rexburg felt far more like being on another planet than the Monument did. I have spent time in Utah County, Utah, and on the BYU campus, sometimes even voluntarily, Rexburg makes Provo/Orem look like a Vegas lounge show. Rexburg is home to BYU Idaho, the insecure, overcompensating, little sister to nation’s most uptight university. The people of Rexburg want to be like their Utah cousins, but always in the back of their minds is the knowledge that they aren’t, so they make up for it by being the most over-the-top, ridiculous, Mormon stereotypes on the planet.
My goal with my 50 States project is to take a photo that is representative of each state, and I know that what most people (who have never been to Idaho and had to smell it) think of potatoes first when thinking of Idaho. So I took a photo of a field of potatoes, just because. But it’s at least tertiary in my mind behind the cow-poo smell and the Mormons.