Portis' American classic "True Grit," returns to print

I wrote Tuesday about a real Western hero, who finally got his due, Idaho kayaker Walt Blackadar.

But I learned this morning that another one of my favorite fictional heroes is returning to print, Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn was the pitiless U.S. Marshal that narrator and heroine Mattie Ross hired to catch a killer in Charles Portis’ 1967 classic “True Grit.”

Most people think of “True Grit” as a movie and Rooster Cogburn as John Wayne, who one his only Oscar in the 1969 feature film. But the book itself is far richer and the characters grittier than their Hollywood substitutes.

Whitewater pioneer Blackadar finally gets recognition he deserves

Idaho kayaking pioneer Walt Blackadar has finally got the recognition he deserves.

Blackadar, a Salmon physician, was inducted into the International Whitewater Hall of Fame last month for his contribution to the sport of whitewater kayaking. Its board of governors recognized Blackadar’s courageous exploits and first descents down some of North America’s wildest rivers in its explorer category.

In 1971, at the age of 49, Blackadar shocked the outdoor world by running the boiling, deadly rapids of Turnback Canyon on the Alsek River in Canada and Alaska. This country doctor ignored the warnings of the best kayakers in the country and made his remarkable run in the isolated wilderness alone.

New farm bill reform aimed at healthy food could shift debate

Reform of the farm bill in 2001 meant shifting subsidies away from direct payments to rich farmers who were growing crops that didn’t really need subsidies. These subsidies, reformers said, were creating false markets that were hindering our trade efforts and preventing farmers from going through a transition to other crops and growing systems that were more environmental friendly.

Those issues are still around and the Environmental Working Group , with its powerful database of farm payments has educated millions of Americans about who is getting the money and for what. But as my story Sunday showed there is a new and potentially much more politically influential element to the debate, health and diet policy.

The Thanksgiving hunt

For most of the years my family and I lived in Boise my two boys, Dan and David and I and our Brittany spaniel have gone bird hunting on Thanksgiving Day.

For me the hunt was a return to a tradition I cherished as a young farm boy in Illinois. I first walked the corn fields of our family farm with my grandfather and my father.

Grandfather carried his Winchester Model 12 and my father a side-by-side double barrel. I carried an ax handle grooved on the side where a dowel rod became the barrel. The only other place I felt so close to my father and grandfather was in a fishing boat.

Eventually I graduated to a Stevens bolt action .410 shotgun. Mostly I walked through the middle of the corn field, chasing the running pheasants toward my grandfather because our dog was gun shy.

Former anti-nuclear advocates makes case for nuclear power

New York Times writer Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, the pop culture economics books that sold 3 million copies, caused a stir recently when he suggested that the person to blame for global warming was Jane Fonda. He was half joking, but his point was that anti-nuclear advocates helped force the United States to chose coal over nuclear power to produce electricity causing a sharp increase in the production of greenhouse gases.

Wada Farms puts potatoes on the table for millions around the world

Turkey is getting most of the attention this week as Americans prepare for Thanksgiving dinner.

But there is a place in the limelight for Idaho’s most famous vegetable. I know people in Boise hate our moniker, “Famous Potatoes.” But for Idahoans with ties to eastern Idaho and the Magic Valley our tuber pride runs deep.

One Idaho potato farmer has been getting a worldwide reputation as of late, Albert Wada of Pingree is featured in a story in the Times of London. Wada grows more than a billion potatoes a year on 30,000 acres just north of American Falls Reservoir.

Wolf lovers lose their taste for preeminent biologist's message

The idea that killing wolves is as necessary to the recovery of them as eating elk is to the predators themselves is an anathema to most of the people who love wolves.

It was the point ranchers made to me when I researched my story Sunday on living with wolves.

But the man who first made this point, long before wolves were released in Idaho and Yellowstone, is still regarded as the pre-eminent wolf biologist in the United States if not the world, David Mech. His study of wolf-moose relationships on Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior, redefined our understanding of predator-prey relationships.

The dying gasp of the Marlboro man

I can still see it like it was yesterday. Rugged cowboys in dusters on horseback in a downpour, punching cattle panicked into a stampede by lightning. The theme from the movie "The Magnificent Seven," blared from the background.

Finally, the herd calmed, and we saw the cowboys sitting around the camp fire smoking cigarettes as the sun sets. They were Marlboro Men.

Cigarette advertising has been banned from television since 1971 but the image of the Marlboro Man endures. It has weaved its way into the fabric of the myth of the American West.

Farm subsidies present paradox for Idaho conservatives

Ever since Bill Clinton and Congressional Republicans reformed welfare in the 1990s, there was no competition for the biggest government handout program, it was the farm bill. Yet this program, which funnels most of its dollars to middle income and rich farmland owners, is protected in Congress by conservative lawmakers including Idaho’s congressional delegation.

Congress is rewriting the bill again and its looking to expand the subsidies to more farmers. It remains a fascinating study of how political reality trumps ideology.

The Idaho Statesman and three other Idaho newspapers and three television stations did a series on Rural Idaho in 2001, the last time the bill was up for authorization. When we quoted House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, whose family has long been a recipient of farm subsidies, calling them “welfare,” many of his Republican allies gasped at his honest appraisal.

Gold glitters into the billions for mercury emitting Nevada miners

If you were prescient enough in 2001 to invest in gold you would have made a bundle by now. Gold prices have risen from $271 an ounce then to more than $800 today.

This rise in prices has prompted the latest gold rush in Idaho and the West as companies from all over the globe have a huge incentive to invest in finding new deposits or to redevelop old ones.

The big winner in this global treasure hunt is our neighbor Nevada. Its mining industry extracted $4.9 billion in minerals in 2006, $3.8 billion that was gold, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

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