Betsy Pearson . . .
Living as Art
Photography Kirsten Shultz
illustrations: Betsy Pearson
(page 3 of 4)
At least as much as Idaho is the essence of her paintings, Betsy is a part of this Valley. A perpetual volunteer, although she professes to have “cut back” on that, Betsy’s mark rests quietly on many local events. Bob and Brad laughingly recall the huge paintings Betsy did for the Sagebrush Equine Training Center’s annual Cowboy Ball. Ten feet high by 40 feet long, Bob enthuses. Oh no, says Betsy, not quite. She thinks they were closer to 17 or 18 feet long. For Brad, the real story is more about scale than size: “Can you imagine this nearly 83-year-old woman climbing up and down the ladder to paint that canvas? Up to paint, down to get perspective, back up to paint a little more, then back down . . . Up, down, up, down.” The logistics didn’t deter her, though. A year later, Betsy tackled art projects for the Community Symphony and the Animal Shelter, and several more paintings for the Sagebrush Center.
Like many of us who visited a friend here and then decided to stay on, Betsy and Bob arrived in the Valley via their son’s Western adventure. Brad moved to the foot of King Mountain in Idaho’s Big Lost River Valley. He aspired to ranch there and, perhaps, given the spirit of the mid-1970s, grow a few organic crops. Bob and Betsy came out for a visit, and ended up buying 240 acres near their son. (Land was then $39 an acre, Bob remembers.) Everyone eventually migrated to the Wood River Valley, including daughter Wendy and family, who have a second home in Gimlet.
With sparkling eyes, Bob leans forward and recounts that it was Betsy who secured the land where their log home now stands: Sitting in the Silver Dollar in Bellevue, Betsy mentions that she’s searching for some land nearby. In typical saloon humor, a guy laughingly tells Betsy he’s got some land she could buy—except that “there’s no access from the road, so you can’t get to it!” The guy continues to chuckle at his joke, but fate intervenes. Also in the Silver Dollar is the man who can give Betsy an easement for access to that parcel, and he offers it to her. Betsy shakes the hands of the landowners and tells them they have a deal. The year is 1978. It is a Valley real estate deal guaranteed the old-fashioned way—with a handshake.
“Betsy was the architect and building supervisor on this house,” Bob says proudly. Betsy had worked one summer during WWII with an engineering company, where she had learned to draft. So, with her new piece of land in front of her, she drew up the plans for their log house, and then “worked with a carpenter in the neighborhood” to build it.>>>