Monday, November 11, 2013

Another Dugout Dick update

Idaho state highway marker No. 502,
a quarter-mile north of Elk Bend.
I am not an anti-"guvmit" sort of guy. In many ways, I'm a liberal. I believe the best solution to health care is a government-controlled single-payer system. I believe there are many things our federal, state and local governments do that are essential to our way of life. I admire many people who spend their lives in government service.

Still ... our governments -- federal, state and local -- can be awful. Good people, once given a small amount of power, are capable of doing very bad things, particularly when provided the protections afforded to the "guvmit."

The destruction of Dugout Dick's life's work is an example, though, in the scheme of things, a minor one. No lives were lost, no serious harm was done to people or the environment. Some argue the environment was improved.

Instead, the destruction of Dick's dugouts on the banks of the Salmon River south of Salmon, Idaho, is an example of what people are capable of when they become complacent. With a little effort and thoughtfulness, a portion of Dick's former home site could have been preserved for many generations to come. It remains a sad example of how thoughtless we can be as people and a society in general.

So, once again, it was with mixed emotions that I drove up to the pullout that is now the site of Idaho historical highway marker No. 502, which commemorates Richard "Dugout Dick" Zimmerman and other hermits who once lived along the Salmon River. It took more than a year and a half to grind through the government bureaucracy required to get the sign built and placed. In the meantime, we created and dedicated a small interpretive site where Dick's original cabin still stands, fortunately preserved from the BLM's bulldozers.

Many, many thanks to Kathleen for her inspiration, John Parsons for his great ideas and assistance, many good people in Salmon for their help, and some new managers at both the BLM and the Idaho Transportation Department for eventually helping to bring some good out of the bad things that happened before.

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