Idaho Icon Perry Swisher, who died Wednesday at 88,, was a self-described grouch. As often was the case, Swisher was right on the mark.
He attributed his irascible style to a bout of polio as a child, where he was forced to stay in a Salt Lake City hospital without exercise.
What it reflected was the confidence of a man who soaked up knowledge like a sponge and could stand on his positions. He argued with everyone from Idaho Author Vardis Fisher to former Idaho Statesman Editor John Costa.
But if he took the time to argue with you, it was a sign of respect.
Perry understood the West as only the son of an Owyhee County rancher who joined the iconclastic cast of Lewiston Tribune writers and editors could. He was a liberal Republican when there were such things.
One of his best insights I have thought about since the late 1980s, was about the large number of emigrants coming into the rural West at that time and since. He said newcomers would be a lot happier if they sought to emulate the best characteristics of their new neighbors instead of trying to change them.
His advice wasn’t popular at the time among some of my newcomer environmental friends who saw the resource-development domination of these communities as one of the problems. But I took away from it the idea that we newcomers would be happier the sooner we became Idahoans.
A native like Swisher was ready to welcome us and help us make the turn.
He is best known to baby boomer Boisians for his late night protest of a Little Feat concert at Hawks Stadium in 1989. Swisher changed from his clothes into his pajamas, and showed up at the concert with an axe, threatening to cut the power line.
That’s how the 10 p.m. noise limit for concerts came about.
Joe Miller, the Boise attorney who served with Swisher on the Public Utilities Commission in the 1980s, described another side to Swisher.
“Despite his apparent demeanor, he was a very kind person,” Miller said. “He was always very considerate and very thoughtful.”