Stories from the Stacks

The Monthly Liaison: September 2022

Version en español

An unidentified Basque sheepherder in central Idaho in the mid-20th century. Photo from the Pedro Salom Collection, The Community Library Jeanne Rodger Lane Center for Regional History. 

Trailing History 

Light still slanted down Cold Springs and Timber Gulch, but the shadows had overtaken most of the valley floor as I rode home from the Library on the bike path yesterday evening. The days are shortening, the aspen trees are showing fringes of orange and yellow, and the chevron formations of geese are pointing south in the morning sky.


I pedaled along the path that once had been a railroad line and passed a herd of sheep, their woolly bodies moving slowly through the clumps of golden rabbitbrush and graying sage. I did not see the sheepherders, but I know that they were there, perhaps obscured by the dim light at the foot of the mountains. They surely were guiding the sheep from the high country, as sheepherders have done here for more than a hundred years.


I thought of a Basque sheepherder from seventy-some years ago, pictured in a photo in the Library’s regional history archive (above). He is unnamed. The photo is undated. A note on the back of the photo says, “This is our friend where we had the big dinner. Basque sheepherder in camp with his dogs.”


Who is this man? Why don’t we know his name? What was his path from northern Spain to a grove of aspens and lodgepole pines in central Idaho? Did he carve the “J” that appears on the aspen trunk above his right shoulder? What story was he writing?


At The Community Library, we are thinking deeply about the history around us as we plan new exhibits for the Regional History Museum in a new location closer to the Library, where we can provide more professional preservation and exhibition of the historic artifacts we hold. We want to bring more stories to the foreground, with more nuance, for more people – because we believe that history shapes the character and resilience of a place, and we believe that all of us belong in history.


This sheepherder’s face, that I know only from a photograph, floated in my mind as I cycled down the path, along the Big Wood River, as the fall evening settled around me. I was trailing history all the way home. 

Jenny Emery Davidson, Ph.D.
Executive Director

The Tale of the Lost Trunk and

the Big Two-Hearted Fisherman

By Pam Parker

Circulation Manager


Late September in the Wood River Valley has delivered some memorable thunderheads along with piercing blue skies. It has the fish looking up, and the fisherpersons twitching at the thought of one more fish on the line before the snows arrive.  

On my nightstand is John Maclean’s Home Waters (2021), a family memoir that recounts the events fictionalized by John’s father, Norman Maclean, in his novella-turned-blockbuster-movie, A River Runs Through It (1976). 

Maclean the younger was the writer-in-residence at the Hemingway House this month. He was working on pieces related to the centennial of the publication of “Big Two-Hearted River,” an early stand-out short story by Ernest Hemingway published along with other early works in the collection In Our Time (1925). 

Pam Parker and John Maclean above the Big Wood River, outside of the Hemingway House

John conceived of this project when he delivered a virtual lecture for the Library last February, as part of our Winter Read that focused on A River Runs through It. As he recalled the deep affinity that he, his father, and his uncle, Paul, had for Hemingway’s work, he was inspired to re-visit his favorite short story, “Big Two-Hearted River,” in which Hemingway’s literary twin, Nick Adams, takes an overnight fishing trip to his home river in Michigan. The story, like so much of Hemingway’s work, has deeper undercurrents than the surface might tell.

John was asked to pen the introduction to an anniversary publication of “Big Two-Hearted River,” and he was excited to complete the essay at Hemingway’s final home. Upon arriving in Idaho from his family’s cabin at Seely Lake, Montana, John promptly got his Idaho fishing license and found his way to the Big Wood River to play a few rainbows to hand in relative solitude.  Off season is still a fisherman’s best friend. Of course, these are familiar waters to the Hemingways, and, in particular to John H. N. “Jack” Hemingway - Ernest’s eldest son who made his home in Ketchum.

This got me thinking about how I often hear that Ernest was not much of a fly fisherman nor did he fish here in Idaho. He preferred hunting, it’s often said. My inner flyperson bristles a bit at this contention. Having cherished his works that are often peppered with trout fishing, how is it that the story ends with, “Ernest did not fly fish”? And, more specifically, did he ever fish here in the Wood River Valley?

I decided to dig into this mystery, knowing that truth around Hemingway is about as hard to creel as a Silver Creek trout.

My findings:

As a young man, Hemingway most certainly swung a fly rod, from Michigan’s Northern Peninsula to Spain to Cooke City near Yellowstone. However, according to Jack, his father lost most of his fly fishing tackle when a trunk went missing in transit. The railroad lost the treasure trove of a lifetime of tackle. It was a deep blow to the family and Ernest, who was 40 at the time. It seems he gave up chasing trout on the fly shortly thereafter.

His son Jack gave an explanation in a 1972 letter to Field and Stream magazine:

“This rod, a Hardy Fairy, one of only two surviving items of trout fishing tackle owned by my father, the late Ernest Hemingway, is the one with which he fished on the lower Cottonwoods section of the Big Wood River on the one occasion that he trout fished here in Idaho.”

Jack explains: 

“The balance of his tackle, a trunk full of flies and other tackle items, were lost the following year by Railway Express Company.” 

The full letter can be read on the website of the American Fly Fishing Museum, where the rod mentioned now resides.

Cold case closed in my book — Ernest did fly fish in Idaho, ONCE upon a time. 


That said, Hemingway enthusiasts will keep the debate alive, no doubt. Around the Old Man, there is much that is less than firm ground on the whole. Perhaps few really understood the man, then or now.

But people keep trying to do so, and the Library has been gifted a trove of Hemingway ‘ephemera’ for future writers and researchers to ply. The David Meeker Collection consists of over 40 boxes of materials now held in the Library’s Center for Regional History archives. John Maclean explored this archive enthusiastically during his residency here. 

John Maclean fishing on Silver Creek.

As far as losing a cherished piece of fly equipment, I can personally attest to the damage it does to a big two-hearted fly fisherperson. When John Maclean showed me his dark-green rod — the Winston BIIIX mentioned in the first chapter of Home Waters and which is etched gracefully with his name — my heart skipped a beat. 

I once owned the exact rod also etched with my name only to leave it behind in Rocky Mountain National Park while fishing with my nephew. John gets it. He left his BIIX behind one time. But he’s a Maclean, and someone found him on the internet and got it back to him. I was not so lucky! However, he let me cast his now-recovered Winston this past week while we fished together on Silver Creek. The grace of a fly line delivered from a fine rod onto a spring creek beneath an Idaho sky is still heaven-sent. 

Watch for the centennial edition of "A Big Two-Hearted River" from Harper Collins with John's introduction and some very fine woodcut illustrations next summer. A little bit of our own local waters may run through it. 

Herald from the Hemingway House

You are at the very top of my list these days as the custodians of the most wonderful place where I have spent any significant time.

The Hemingway House was like a dreamscape, untethered from almost all of life‘s distractions. I was able to focus, like never before, on some aspects of this memoir that I am writing. I couldn’t have done that in my normal life. . . . I found numerous doors open to me only because of you and the Library.

Thank you for taking such good care of me!

~Jonna Mendez, author, former Chief of Disguise of at the CIA, and recent Writer-in-Residence at the Hemingway House

Mendez captivated a full house at the Library with her behind-the-scenes presentation

on ARGO, the story of the daring rescue of six

individuals from Iran in 1979.

You can check out ARGOthe film, e-book, e-audiobook or print bookin our collection.

Check out the DVD, or book in print, ebook, and eaudiobook.

Recommended Titles

Recognizing Banned Books Week (September 18-24) for raising awareness of censorship attempts over history, and celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October15) by exploring literature by Latin American writers, we've curated a collection of books that have been challenged or banned in different places and at different points of time for different reasons. All are available through The Community Library.

Find these and more recommendations, across genres, here.

by Eduardo Galeano

Galeano was banned by three South American dictatorships.

Available in print.

by Garcia Marquez

Challenged in some places for sex and language.

Available in print in

English and Spanish

and DVD.

by Isabel Allende

Challenged in some places for sex and language. Available in print/Spanish.

by Sandra Cisneros

Banned in some places for themes of race, poverty, and sexuality. Available in print in English and Spanish.

Available in print, ebook, and eaudiobook.

by Sandra Cisneros

Banned in some places for themes of race, poverty, and sexuality. Available in English and in Spanish in eaudiobook.

by Rudolfo Anaya

Banned in some places for occult occurrences and sex. Available in print, ebook, and eaudiobook.

THANK YOU to Our August Donors

for Supporting Stories through the Library

Summer High School Interns: Back (left-right): Gretel Huss, Josie Gilman, Zach Quesnel. Front (left-right): Noemi Hurtado-Chavolla, Ally Orihuela. Not Pictured: Zariah Johnston.



Mary Ahern and John Chlebowski

Janet Barsy

Dell-Ann and Thomas Benson

Megan and Andrew Bornstein

Loy Carrington

Frances Cheston

Daphne Coble and Patrick Murphy

Mary and Michael Colhoun

Martine and Dan Drackett

Peggy Elliott Goldwyn

Heinz Family Foundation

Dana and David Hollister

Anne Kalik

Randi and John Kanellitsas

Kirsten Kolkmann

Elise B. Lufkin

Wilson McElhinny

Jeanette and Charles A. Miller

Kathryn Keefer Reynolds

Carlyn Ring

Duella Scott-Hull and Tom Hull

David Seelos

Louie C Spencer III

The Estate of Athene C. Grabow

Janis and Donald Trossman

Christie and David Vik

Ellen and Bill Whelan

Rachel Wolfe and David Lloyd

Wood River Jewish Community

R.B. Wooley, Jr.

Tribute Gifts

Mary and Michael Colhoun in honor of Lynn and Bruce Kaplan

Anne Kalik in honor of Buffy McDonald

Randi and John Kanellitsas in honor of Donna Delahorne

Randi and John Kanellitsas in memory of John Grabow

Lynn and Dr. Bruce Kaplan in memory of Chris Cord

Lynn and Dr. Bruce Kaplan in honor of Rita and George Golleher

Janis and Donald Trossman in honor of Nancy Kneeland

Page Turner Society

Robyn and Todd Achilles

Big Wood Landscape

Kathleen Diepenbrock

Claudia and John Gaeddert

Kyla Merwin

Elaine and Mike Phillips

Narda Pitkethly

Gay Weake

Anita N. Weissberg

Tax Tip

The Community Library is supported by people who believe in the free flow of news, entertainment, and information.

It’s never too early to start planning to make a gift from your IRA (also known as IRA Charitable Rollover Gifts). Money can be transferred directly from your IRA to a 501(c)(3) charity, such as The Library, TAX-FREE! Donors must be 70½ years of age, and a gift from an IRA helps you meet your Required Minimum Distributions.

Strategize now to save on next year’s taxes. Director of Philanthropy, Carter Hedberg, is here to assist you. 
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