duck-shaped pain

 
 

2000-07-15
Where I Ramble On About Idaho, Sort Of

If I had a crapload of money, I would bid on this. I know that's not what you would buy. But I would.

One thing I try to collect when I have the money to are the guidebooks to each state published during the Depression by the Federal Writer's Project of the Works Progress/Projects Administration, one of the agencies of the New Deal. These books, called the WPA guides or the American Guide Series, were the first complete set of guidebooks to the United States. I currently own the WPA guides to Colorado and, of all states, Alabama. [1] I'm trying to obtain copies of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico next, but I'd like to have all of them someday.

The Idaho one is notable because it was the first one printed. This wasn't orignally the plan. The guides were to be published in an orderly fashion, starting with Washington, D.C., then New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and so on, moving further south and west. Doing this was difficult enough -- the staffs for most guides were poorly organized, under-funded, and some states couldn't find any writers to work on their guidebooks.

However -- the head of the Idaho project, Vardis Fisher, decided to just go ahead and write the whole Idaho guide himself, without any input from anyone from the national project. It was printed in Idaho, and its publication came as a complete surprise to the WPA back in Washington. Because of this, the Idaho Guide (real title: Idaho - a Guide in Word and Picture) is unlike any of the other guides in appearance, structure, and character. The ones that came later were much more standardized. If I remember right (I don't have any of my books or reference information handy), the Writer's Project administration was furious that Idaho, this state out in the middle of nowhere, had beaten out everyone for the honor of being first.

Anyway. That's what I'd buy if I had money. BTW, there's generous excerpts of two of the state guides -- Minnesota and Tennessee -- available on the net. These excerpts lack the entries about individual cities and the scenic route information found in all the guides, but they'll give you a pretty good idea what they're like.


Here's an irritating situation: you go out to get some Chinese take-out for supper. You think you're going to get some good food, but then the people a few ahead of you in line buy all the food. This happened tonight. Someone came to the dollar-a-scoop chinese place in town to buy food for their 25-strong band of hungry relatives, and ended up buying all their food, except for the crappy-looking wontons. So I had to wait around for them to cook new food, because I was dead set on Chinese food. On the other hand, it was extremely hot fresh when I got around to eating it. But it was sort of odd to be standing and looking at these people and realizing that, hey, they're buying all the food!

Plant emergency tonight. It's Monsoon Week here in the desert, so it's been raining off and on for the last few days. A few hours ago, it started raining all of a sudden, accompanied by very strong winds. I went out to move the strawberries off the ledge so they wouldn't blow away, and I got outside just in time to see the mint plant blow by, right in front of me. So I had to go chase the plant as it blew out of the yard and down the street. When I finally caught it, it was ok. Not too much dirt gone, not too much trauma inflicted. Poor little guy, though. I moved it and the oregano inside after that, since they're in little pots susceptible to such wind.

Hmmm....now that I read that, I feel all motherly or something like that. So I'd better tell you that after I saved the mint, I watched men lift logs and pull 70-ton planes around on TV for awhile. I was amused, of course, that they kept calling lifting logs and pulling planes a "sport." That's not a sport.


[1] Alabama was found at a thrift store. It's the only one I've seen at a thrift store, which I find puzzling. They were pretty popular in their day and were reprinted many times, so it's strange you don't find more of them around.

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