Friday, November 24, 2006

Picabo: It?s in Nick Purdy?s blood


Nick Purdy

When the five Kilpatrick brothers from Scotland called it quits helping build railroads that were pushing westward through Idaho, they settled in picturesque flatlands that some 120 years later are flourishing ranchlands and farms managed by their descendants, the Purdy family.

Today, the center of this flourishing agricultural spread covering thousands of acres is Picabo, little more than a spot in the road to somewhere else on east-west U.S. Highway 20 some 45 minutes drive from Ketchum.

But the snapshot image of a sleepy burg is deceiving.

Now, with about 50 residents, Picabo is in the final stages of being replatted to allow several dozen new homes. In time, it might become known as one of Blaine County's most desirable new exurban areas—tranquil and remote from the bustle of the Wood River Valley's larger communities, but convenient enough to the shopping areas of Bellevue and Hailey and even Twin Falls.

Presiding over the careful development of new residential lots is Nick Purdy, 66, whose reputation as a cattleman and farmer as well as planning and zoning visionary in Blaine County in the 1970s extends far beyond Picabo.

Purdy has spent more than $100,000 and several years guiding his plans through the bureaucratic labyrinth to revise and modernize plats originally drawn up in the 1800s by his forbears. Purdy is more devoted to quality in the future of Picabo than quantity in growth. Purdy foresees a total population in time of just under 200 people.

With 3,000 acres under crops, 600 cows and 3,000 yearlings, leases on several thousand other acres, and convenience, feed and seed stores in the family enterprise, as well as two Boise-based companies that specialize in computerized irrigation and dust control, Purdy might seem adequately occupied.

But, no. His new project—really, a labor love—is to build new habitats and increase the wetlands around world-renowned Silver Creek, the celebrated waterway and conservation area that snakes through his property. The name Picabo is from the Native American, word meaning "shining waters," presumably the result of early inhabitants seeing Silver Creek.

None of the successful Purdy businesses have managed to stifle the quaint, unpretentious family atmosphere of Picabo. Purdy is painfully modest and shy. The most public celebration of the Kilpatrick and Purdy families was last year's publication of a family history, "In The Blood."

Purdy's wife of nearly 50 years, Sharon, manages the convenience store, where people in the area gather for lunch and conversation, and travelers stop to ponder a unique artifacts collection covering the history of the area from the Kilpatrick settlement through more than 100 years.

Nick's father, Bud, a rugged 88-year-old, is out on the ranch and farm lands every day doing his part.

Purdy also boasts another unique feature—a private airport with a 3,000-foot grass runway used by eight aircraft based there, and by transient pilots of small aircraft that land, then taxi to the convenience store's gasoline pumps and refuel before going on their way.

Purdy, a pilot of more than 40 years, hangars his own two planes, a Cessna 210 high-altitude Centurion and a Cherokee 235.

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