Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A small sampling of Rupert House’s wit and wisdom

Quotes from a Blaine County pioneer

Rupert House was someone to approach if you wanted some perspective about, well, everything. "There is a lot of history before skiing," he once said about the Wood River Valley. "If it hadn't been for miners and trappers, there wouldn't have been beans around here."

Mining meant a great deal to House in his formative years. He said, "I loved it. It was the first time in my life that I felt really good about myself. I guess I liked the family attitude. I loved it because every day was different. Every morning and every night you had a challenge. When you blasted in a new area you were always anxious to see what it would produce. It took me a long time to appreciate the beauty of what we were doing."

He said, "Independence Mine in Sun Valley was very productive, but steeper than a cow's face. So it was eventually connected by tunnels and a tram to Triumph. It got to 36 below zero one winter in Triumph, and my pants were as stiff as stovepipes."


House graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1933 and worked in the Vienna Mine for a while afterwards. He felt he was lucky to have a job in those Depression years. But he left the mine when it stopped paying wages. "They still owe me $30," he said in 1996, 63 years later.

House started out as a mucker at the mine and climbed the ladder to become a mine boss. He said, "Miners made 50 cents more a day than muckers. I started out as a low man on the totem pole."

"I learned a lot of new adjectives in the mine," said Rupert. His father, Oscar House, even came to work with Rupert at the Triumph Mine, bringing along Rupert's four younger siblings, who all went to school in the Wood River Valley. "Dad came from Twin when he was 56 years old. I broke him in. I never cursed at home. I had to curtail it when Dad came."

Rupert House was one of the founding fathers of the Hailey rodeo tradition dating back 61 years to 1947. He said, "Lots of times we lost money, but through the winter we'd hold keg sales and fundraisers so we could do it again next year."

He loved the rodeo, but House maintained he was a miner and not a cowboy. "I've ridden bucking horses but not intentionally," said House, who occasionally spent time on the ground at Hailey Rodeo Arena after being bucked off during the rodeo's Grand Entry. "I got hurt worse on horses than I ever did in the mine."

One of the reasons Rupert House became a county commissioner in 1980 was, as he said, "Believe me, you've gotta have something to do when you retire." Being a county commissioner required one main attribute. He said, "It requires the patience of a grown tree."

Asked in 1996 about his post-county commissioner plans, House said he thought he'd "join the hippies. When you're 80 years old, it's kind of stupid to have long-range plans."

"I recycle my tin cans and feed most of the garbage to the birds," he said two years ago. "This property will all go to my children one day, but I tell them that I will be watching to see what they do with it from wherever I am."

House said at age 90, "People tell me I should move back to Twin Falls and get away from the cold, but sometimes in the winter when the snow covers the windows, someone, I don't know who, will come along and shovel me out. So I think I'll stay a little longer."

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