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Old/New West Valley Innovators

The neighborhoods of the Wood River Valley are filled with incredible and inspiring people. On the following pages we profile a handful of our neighbors, Valley locals who are helping keep the pioneering spirit of the West alive.

 

{THE BARREL RACER}

Haillie Taylor

Plain and simple, Haillie Taylor is an all-around cowgirl. Long blond hair flowing, big silver belt buckle shining, this 19-year-old can jump off a galloping horse and have a goat on its back with its legs tied up in a matter of seconds. She has been riding since she was a baby, and she always says her “pleases,” “thank yous,” and “yes ma’ams.”

A quintessential element at the heart of the West, rodeo is about speed, guts, boots and dirt—and Haillie has been competing in it since she was seven years old. Over her career in the arena, Haillie has wrangled high results in barrel racing, goat tying, pole bending, girls’ cutting, team roping and breakaway roping. Last summer, Haillie qualified in five events for the Idaho State High School Rodeo Finals, and although she just missed Nationals by half a point, she did finish fifth in the qualifiers and then went on to the Silver State International Rodeo to claim fifth in breakaway roping.

Haillie’s family moved to Bellevue from Boise when she was in second grade and her parents, Kelli and Brad, who were practically raising the infatuated young lady atop ponies and horses, found rodeo as a solution to her continually asking to go faster in her English riding lessons. Haillie beamed, “It’s fast and adrenaline-paced and it takes a lot of skill to ride horses that quickly while keeping them in control and knowing what they’re doing.”

Haillie was recruited by Grand Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado, for their rodeo team. In between her fall and spring college rodeo seasons (and her plan to compete in 20-30 rodeos this summer), she is studying to be an elementary school teacher. This, she points out, will leave her summers free to continue whipping up dirt on the western stage.

Haillie noted that, “I thought I was ready to leave the Valley, but now I really miss the Pioneer Mountains every morning. The mountains are what make it home.”

Nonetheless, Haillie has taken an ingrained Sun Valley riding practice with her to Colorado, as she remarked, “When I was growing up in Idaho and first started riding on my own, I’d always go ride on the trails and in the ditch plates. That was the best thing; it was better than riding in the arena every day. The trails in the Wood River Valley are still my favorite.” While at Grand Mesa, Haillie has three scheduled practices with the rodeo coaches every week, but on the other days, this Idaho girl gets the horses out on the open range, riding the way she grew up.

Whether it was competing on national television and in front of thousands of people at Nationals when she was in middle school, or having a goat’s collar break and chase her horse away in the goat-tying competition of a Junior Rodeo, this all-around cowgirl has had one wild ride.

Will we be seeing Haillie Taylor back in Sun Valley as she rocks the rodeo in the years to come? That answer is certainly a “Yes, ma’am.” The Wood River Valley mountains draw both the old and new back every time.- Kira Tenney

 

{IDAHO RANCHERS}

The Sherbine Family

 

On a starry summer night in the year 1871, in a covered wagon somewhere on the plains near Alder, Montana, a little girl was born. One day, she would decide to visit her sister in the small town of Bellevue, Idaho—taking a train that wound through the wild Indian territory of the Snake River Plains. Her name was Martha Montana Spray.  

Sometime during the dusty 1880s, in Lisbon, Ohio, there was a young man gazing westward with a curiosity that eventually made him hop in a stagecoach and hobble toward the red sunset. He found work transporting train passengers from a small town in central Idaho, named after the Shoshone Indians, across the hot plains and into the snow-capped valleys of the north. His name was George William Sherbine.

One day, George picked up a very fine-looking young woman in Shoshone, fresh off the train from Montana. Her name was Martha and she needed a ride into Bellevue because she was going to visit her sister.

George and Martha married on May 15, 1892, and bought a small piece of land near Stanton Crossing—some of the first homesteaders to settle in the Wood River Valley—where, five generations later, their great- great-grandchildren still live.

Today, things on the Sherbine farm (which moved near Baseline Road in the 1930s) are a little different than they were 100 years ago. With 15 machines, eight four-wheelers, six housing units, a combined 1,200 acres (plus 2,500 rented), 500 cattle and 14 employees, it is barely recognizable from the original dusty farmhouse staked out by George.

William Thomas Sherbine (better known as Rocky) now manages the ranch with his father, William Lumiere, where they grow hay and barley and raise cattle. As Rocky explained, “It took a long time to slowly get it going—almost 60 years—and it’s just been over the last 15 years we’ve been able to build our operation a little bit.”  

Today, they sell all of their barley to brewing companies Coors and Budweiser. “This is a nice valley for growing malt barley—it likes the high elevation and cool temperatures,” said Terry, Rocky’s wife and Wood River High School sweetheart (who also does the accounting for the farm).

In March, it’s calving season on the ranch. They spend the winter feeding and bedding the cattle and, once the calves reach a year old or about 850-900 pounds, they are sold to a feedlot near Idaho Falls to “finish ‘em out” before being sent to the slaughterhouse. But before the Sherbines have finished calving, they have to start planting seeds for the year’s crop. “With the cows, it’s pretty much a 365-day-a-year job,” said Rocky.

Rocky, together with his son Isaac, work from dawn to dusk to keep the ranch running—just like his father and his father’s father before him. “I probably started working before I could talk,” laughed Isaac. “I’ve been working my whole life.”

While advancements in precision agriculture, like GPS and GIS technology, center-pivot and wheel-line irrigation systems, and automatic mowers and balers, have streamlined a few of the more grueling processes, expenses (and competition) are still high. “A mid-sized tractor that we use around here, a new one, is $250,000. Add other expenses, fertilizer, fuel … I don’t think a 160-acre farm would even support one family anymore. You just gotta keep tryin’ to get bigger,” said Rocky.

Fluctuating climates and extreme weather patterns have affected the farm as well. “For the last 20 years, it’s been more of a concern than it used it be,” said Rocky, glancing nervously at the snowless hillsides in February. “We used to get a lot more snow than what we get now, and droughts are always a big concern.” Another nationwide dry spell like the one in 2012 “would be ugly for the U.S.,” said Isaac.

“You’re really at the mercy of Mother Nature when you’re farming, even with all the high-tech stuff and everything else,” said Rocky.

Isaac is the great-great-grandson of the original George William Sherbine and is now learning the ropes to take over the ranch. “I did the snowmobile racing thing for a while” he said, with a shrug (which actually meant he competed in the Winter X-Games for two years and travelled to Russia for the Red Bull Revolutionary Machines Tour in 2009). “Probably from here on out, I’ll just be at the farm.”

He lives in the house down the road from his parents, while his two sisters, Ali and Abby, have started their own families in nearby towns. The majority of the Sherbine family, now large in number and spread throughout the West, remains close to the original homestead of George and Martha. Perhaps, after five generations in Idaho, it’s something in their blood that keeps Rocky, and now Isaac, close to the home where their roots run deep—working the same soil and sweating under the same sun as their pioneering forefathers.

“It’s all I know,” said Rocky. “I never did think of college—I just knew there had to be work done here.” Sitting tall and erect, he added, “Anyway, I stayed long enough, there’s no gettin’ out. I was born and raised that way—it’s all I know." -Kate Elgee

 

{DISTANCE PARAGLIDER}

Nate Scales

“It’s spectacular!” Nate Scales declared. “You’re up there on what is essentially an upgraded bed sheet and shoestrings that European society somehow made into a toy that can climb to elevations of over 20,000 feet.”

Sound appealing? If for some reason it doesn’t, Nate, a Sun Valley local and record-setting cross-country paraglider, will change your mind the moment you see his wide blue eyes and magnetic smile light up at the mere mention of the word “paragliding.”

After growing up spending summers in the Wood River Valley with his grandparents, Nate made the official move here in 1990. Turning the over-stimulating summer-camp atmosphere of Sun Valley into his year-round playground, Nate started working at Ski Tek in Ketchum. One day, local resident Dave McCormick came into the shop to ask if the employees wanted to go paragliding. While his co-worker declined, Nate jumped at the opportunity to literally learn how to fly.

McCormick took Nate out to Greenhorn Gulch, more or less “threw” him off the hill three times, and then said, “Now you know everything I do.” Instantly hooked, Nate immediately moved to Salt Lake City, which has a large paragliding community of all levels, and after a couple of years of doing nothing but paragliding all over the world, he moved his home base back to Ketchum.

“This place is good because we’re right at the divide between mountains and desert; and it’s called ‘Sun Valley,’ so it’s always nice, “he said.” “Here, there’s nobody in the mountains. If you go to Jackson or Salt Lake, there’s one range and it’s crowded, while in Sun Valley we have so many mountains and so few people that the adventures you can have are unlimited. We can fly around eight different ranges and beyond.”

On July 31, 2012, Nate took off from Baldy and set a new U.S. Mountain Distance Record, U.S. Foot Launch distance record and an Idaho State Record by flying 198 miles in exactly eight hours all the way to Three Forks, Montana.

Although paragliders carry GPS units, Nate usually doesn’t have a stated goal, but simply takes off with warm clothes, lunch and water—his only plan being to maximize adventure and to go as far as the day will allow.   

But as Nate comes in for a landing after another day driven by “having the most fun possible,” the adventure is only halfway over—now he has to figure out how to get home. Nate doesn’t let roads confine his flying, and he’s usually out of cell phone range, so he’ll walk to the nearest road, which could be a couple of hours away, and then simply look forward to meeting the person who will inevitably drive by and pick him up.

“People are always really friendly,” Nate said with a smile, recounting stories of being given rides and taken into people’s homes with the utmost hospitality throughout the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Bali and all over Europe.

Over the years, Scales has competed in national and international races. Fellow paraglider Nick Greece, who broke Scale’s Foot Launch distance record a couple of days later by going 204 miles, described Scales as, “One of the best in the country. Nate has flown more committing lines than most people in the world. He’s a mentor to a bunch of us that are now on the U.S. team.”

Nate’s goal for this summer is to fly farther than 204 miles, and of course, to have fun. He’ll also probably take advantage of the agreement he has with his very supportive wife, Lisa. that she’s not allowed to worry if he’s not home by lunch the next day. He’ll also take his daughters, Ripley (7) and Daisy (4), up for a couple of rides with him.

“Our deal is that the girls have to beg to go up. Most kids dream of flying, but mine actually can. Knowing that anything is possible is probably the best thing I can give them,” he said. “We’re pretty lucky because we live in the best place on earth.” -Kira Tenney

 

(BACKCOUNTRY PIONEER}

Galen Hanselman

Idaho is a haven for backcountry pilots. And here’s why: There are more unpaved strips in the Gem State, 80, than any other state in the lower 48.

 “A lot are in Forest Service areas and on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, which is really unique. Church (the late Idaho senator) was very specific that those strips in the wilderness area wouldn’t be closed. He wanted it accessible to people,” explained pilot Galen Hanselman of Hailey.

“My joy is flying and going places and sharing it with others,” Hanselman said with a smile. “There’s a niche of pilots who look for these out-of-the-way places. Backcountry pilots are different. Some do it for camaraderie and will fly together and some do it to get away. I like to explore things and go to places where people haven’t been before.”

The founder and former owner of Sentinel Fire & Security, Hanselman has lived in the Wood River Valley since 1962. He became a pilot in 1980, though his love of planes goes back to his “dirt poor” boyhood in Ohio. In the early 1950s, a neighbor used to pop by in his Super Cub.

“I thought I was pushing the envelope with technology—my father got me building radios. All of a sudden, my idea of technology was just blown out by the idea of flying,” said Hanselman.

The fascination continued, thanks to Ben Hurtig, who ran the Sun Valley Gun Club for decades. “He brought a headset to me to fix,” Hanselman said. “When I returned it to the airport, he asked if I wanted to go for a ride. It was my first time in a small plane. I was hooked.”

Hanselman shook his head, happily remembering, “That was half a million dollars ago.” He then erupted with what one becomes familiar within his presence: an explosive laugh. “I used it in my business quite a bit to load up a crew and tools and go anywhere in Idaho. It allowed me to greatly expand the region I worked in,” he explained.

After selling his business, flying gave Hanselman the opportunity to do something he really wanted to do, which was to fly.

“I’d heard about these airstrips in the backcountry. The curiosity opened up the avenue,” he said.

He considered making a video to support his habit of flying but realized the project made more sense when approached as a guidebook. Out of this was born Q.E.I Publishing, a one-man show with Hanselman as pilot, researcher, writer, photographer, drafter and publisher of high quality pilot guides and charts for unexplored regions. “I have a book that you have to have in your airplane,” he said.

In 1993, he published “Fly Idaho,” and followed it up with similar guide books to places like Baja and Utah. Hanselman’s also completed state-commissioned, intricate, hand-drawn aeronautical maps for, among other places, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, and two editions for the state of Idaho.

“There’s a growing appreciation of the work I’m doing,” Hanselman said. In fact, he’s a bit of a celebrity.

Hanselman, a board member on the Idaho Aviation Foundation, speaks to such groups as the Salt Lake City’s Short Wing Piper Club. But it’s still the flying for which Hanselman gets up in the morning.

“Idaho is recognized as the state for backcountry flying because of our strips. We’re so lucky we have this,” he said.

One of Hanselman’s very favorite spots is Soldier Bar on the Big Creek tributary of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. “There’s a bench on one side of the river with a dead end, cliffs on both sides. It’s best described as three, 500-foot runways, end to end, but not straight. It takes some skill. I like the fishing there,” Hanselman said while pointing to his fishing gear in the corner that always goes with him.

“It’s a beautiful area—salmon still run up the river, native cutthroat (trout) are there. You got to watch your step. One day I came across four rattlesnakes. Don’t stick your hand under a rock without looking,” he laughed. “It keeps the weak of heart out of there. I also like the trails. During the 1901 Gold Rush at Thunder Mountain, everyone was staking claims by following Indian trails through the mountains. It’s kind of neat to retrace those routes.”

Of course not all of his stories are quite as peaceful. There are tales of close calls, stranded planes and risky rescues. He once hauled a pregnant woman off the Middle Fork on a rafting trip.

“I think she was ready to go home too,” Hanselman laughed.” I didn’t ask questions.”-Dana DuGan
 

 

{COWBOY POET}

Bryan Dilworth

For as long as there have been cowboys working cattle across the ranges and prairies of Idaho, there have been poets riding amongst them.

“When you’re riding with the same group of people, day after day, year after year, everyone has heard all your stories and your jokes and they really don’t want to hear ‘em anymore. But if you can put ‘em to a rhyme, they’ll listen,” explained Bryan Dilworth, a cowboy poet who owns a ranch south of Bellevue.

Born in Hailey and raised in Carey, Bryan grew up “stealing rides” from his uncle’s ranch and was first exposed to cowboy poetry at a young age. His grandparents would cut out poems from Western Stockman Magazine and hang them on the fridge. Bryan quickly learned to love to read, thanks to the words of legends like Will Ogilvie, Bruce Kiskaddon and Badger Clark.

For Bryan, and lots of folks like him, cowboy poems capture the true essence of life in the West in a fun, rhythmic style. The first stanza from “Ridin’” by Badger Clark offers a good example: “There is some that like the city/ Grass that’s curried smooth and green/Theaytres and stranglin’ collars/Wagons run by gasoline /But for me it’s hawse and saddle/Every day without a change/ And a desert sun a-blazin’/On a hundred miles of range.”

“It’s hard to remember all the little things in life, but you can remember all the poems,” Bryan said about an art form that has traditionally been passed down orally. That’s why printed collections can be hard to come by, especially old, classic “pieces.” Bryan’s search for books for his impressive library of cowboy poetry even led him to explore Australia, where the unique style of verse has long been popular.

Cowboy poetry’s heyday was between the 1880s and the early 1940s. But despite losing mainstream popularity after the start of World War II, cowboy poetry never actually died out. It just went quiet for a spell. Its revival began in the early 1980s when the popular Elko National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was born and Johnny Carson was featuring cowboy poets on the “The Tonight Show.”

“I don’t know if poetry evolves with the person or the person evolves with the poetry,” Bryan mused about a passion that now finds him reciting poetry at all sorts of gatherings. Over the last half-dozen years, Bryan has shared pieces everywhere from senior centers and elementary schools, to festivals like the big one in Elko and the growing one in Shoshone each September called the “Lost’n Lava Cowboy Gathering.”

“Cowboy poetry talks about pulling cattle through terrible storms and about dealing with horses and people. It talks about having respect for God, people, animals. It’s something we need to keep alive,” he said. “ We need to bring back the cowboy way.”

Bryan has more than four hours worth of cowboy poetry memorized, but he can’t recite it all “without making a mistake,” he joked. As we wrapped up our interview while sitting in the Hailey Coffee Company on a rainy Thursday morning, he shared one of his favorites from Will Ogilvie, which begins: “The hooves of the horses - O’ Witching and Sweet/ is the music earth steals from the iron-shod feet/ No whisper of lover, no trilling of bird/ Can stir me as hooves of the horses have stirred.”-Mike McKenna

 

{ACTOR/FILMMAKER}

Clint Eastwood

The first thing you notice when speaking with Clint Eastwood is his voice. It’s that voice: The voice beneath the hat of Old West gunslinger Will Munny in Unforgiven (1992). It’s the voice of the man who allegedly wore the same poncho, without ever having washed it, as the “Man with No Name” in all three of his Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns—A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).

It’s a voice that sounds a bit like a dry and dusty rattlesnake, minus the rattle. But coiled, and waiting to spring. It’s not a voice that you want to mess with. After all, this is a man who spent a good majority of his career making movies about violence—good or bad, heroic or demonic.

But beneath it all, Clint Eastwood also seems like a regular guy. He is at ease in Sun Valley, a place he describes as somewhere he felt he could be himself. “My parents had a place here and, later on, I just starting migrating back. And pretty soon I got to know people up there and I bought a house,” he said. “I liked it because it was never commercial in the sense that it was just a madhouse with people tripping over one another.”

That was before the filming of Pale Rider (1985), which was shot on location just outside of Sun Valley in the Boulder Mountains. “I thought Sun Valley would be the right place,” he recalled. “I knew as much about it as anybody down here [in Hollywood] and I scouted around and found the locations and went ahead with it.”

“When we did Pale Rider, I thought of the fall up there because I had been up there in September and October,” he added, “And I thought what a wonderful time to film because the trees are turning. In fact, I remember we were shooting one time in the town and I looked up; it had been a cold night, and I looked up the next day and all the trees up on the hill were turning. The aspens had all turned gold overnight. And there was snow on the ground. So I said, we’ve got to stop what we are doing and go up there and shoot some shots right now.”

And that’s what they did. Because when Clint Eastwood makes a suggestion, people listen. After all, this is a man who said “Go ahead, make my day.”
And he meant it too. Which is why it works.

So when Clint Eastwood says … he loves Sun Valley because it feels authentic and not commercialized, you know he means it.

I wouldn’t argue with the man.-Laurie Sammis

 

{WESTERN PHOTOGRAPHER}

David Stoecklein

“Taking a picture is telling a story,” explained renowned Western photographer David Stoecklein, while sitting in his Ketchum gallery surrounded by longhorn skulls, woven riding blankets and leather saddles. “I’m trying to communicate a story in every photo I take.”

Although Stoecklein grew up in Pennsylvania and his work became famous in the 1980s through an impressive client list that included Coca-Cola, Reebok and Chevrolet, his lens was eventually drawn westward. “I always wanted to be a ski bum, so I brought my camera with me and moved west to ski,” he said.

A self-taught photographer, Stoecklein shot skiing photos around the slopes of California and Utah until finally settling in Sun Valley with his wife Mary in 1979. Local ranchers and fishermen like Jack Goddard and Ray and Mike Seal (who, coincidentally, became his first unwitting models) introduced him to “the Idaho life.”

 “You can’t be a great photographer, or a specialist like I am, unless you do the activity you’re photographing. In other words, you can’t be a ski photographer if you’re not a skier,” Stoecklein said, which is how he got involved with ranching. He owns a working ranch near Mackay, Idaho, splitting his time between the Lost River Valley and his home in Sun Valley.

“It was sort of a relief for me to come here after the high-pressure world I was living in, and take pictures of Idaho and cowboys. It was the reality of working with people that are from the land, that work with the land. It was so relaxing to photograph people just doing what they do,” he said.

Captivated by the “spirit of the West,” and particularly by those stoic and lonesome figures gazing toward horizons that are so often at the center of his work, Stoecklein said he recognized not only a niche but a mission.

“It has been my goal for the last 30 years to completely document the West—to preserve it through my photography,” he said. Toward that end, he has produced over 50 books throughout his career.

To truthfully capture the “story” of the cowboy, Stoecklein said it was very important to first study and understand his subject—to gain their respect and trust. “I make an effort to know what the people are about, to understand their personalities and show them the way they’d like to be shown. Unless you know the subject, you won’t get them to open up to you,” he said. “That’s very important.”

That is why Stoecklein is able to reveal a cowboy’s soul in ways other photographers can’t, in one sideways glance or taut profile, in one calloused and cracking hand. It’s also why he has been hailed as one of the best photographers in the West, recognized with awards and an ever-growing list of clients like Stetson and Marlboro. Stoecklein is highly acclaimed for not only capturing the identity of an entire culture, but also for capturing a very important slice of American history.

 “The West is uniquely American,” said Stoecklein. “And I want to show what it was like while I was alive,” because it’s a story that “deserves to be remembered.”

Two of his three sons, Drew, Taylor and Colby, have followed in their father’s footsteps, photographing the West as they live and see it today, carrying on their father’s tradition of storytelling.  

“The stories that I tell are the same stories that have been told since the beginning of time,” said Stoecklein. “There is a famous photo of mine of a guy with a lantern and a calf, which is just the story of the shepherd taking care of his flock, and that goes back before Christ. Many people have told it before—it’s just how I interpret and tell that story differently each day. And after 43 years, I still can’t wait for the next photo shoot.”-Kate Elgee

 


 

 

 

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