Friday, January 15, 2010

Peavey goes off the air after 18 years

Public radio essayist to continue writing about ranching

Express Staff Writer

Diane Josephy Peavey and her husband, John, pose on their Flat Top Sheep Ranch near Carey. For 18 years, Diane read her essays weekly on Boise State Radio, telling listeners about life in the rural West. Photo by David N. Seelig

For the past 18 years, she has been a familiar voice on Boise State Radio, providing weekly essays about ranching and life in rural Idaho. But on Dec. 29, Diane Josephy Peavey gave her final on-air reading, stepping away from the microphone after nearly two decades to pursue larger writing projects.

"It's very hard to stop," Peavey said. "But it's a good time to work on some of the writing I wanted to be doing. It seemed every time I sat down to write something bigger, I would realize that I had to write something for the radio."

A quick glance at the Boise State Radio Web page hosting her program (where podcasts are still available) shows essays with titles such as "November on the Ranch," "Basque Restaurants" and "Wolves in the Sheep."

The ranch and sheep in question are located northeast of Carey, where Peavey has lived with her husband, John, for the last 28 years on the Flat Top Sheep Ranch.

While John is a third-generation rancher—his grandfather, John Thomas, started the western portion of the Peaveys' ranch—his wife had a somewhat different background.

Diane grew up in New York, well away from the sagebrush, cattle and sheep that now surround her and play muse to her creativity.

"Sometimes I wonder, 'How did I plop down in this all-male way of life and survive?'" she said. "I could write, but couldn't rope or ride."

This initial naivete about the West led to some humorous moments, such as the use of sagebrush for a Christmas tree, which John convinced her was an old ranching tradition.

But that didn't keep her from following in her husband's footsteps.

As her husband had ranching in his blood, Diane had a strong connection to Western literature, as her father, Albin Josephy, was a writer who focused on the American West and American Indians.

In addition to appearing on air once a week and tending to her ranching duties, Diane also found time to publish "Bitterbrush Country: Living on the Edge of the Land," a collection of her essays, in 2001.

Diane said she decided in late November not to renew her contract with the radio station.

"It's been really important for me to tell stories about the land and that's what I'll really miss," she said. "People have been really supportive and seemed to enjoy the stories."

Diane said that while she enjoyed humorous, self-deprecating stories, she liked her serious pieces the most, such as those about ranchers having to coexist with wolves, and conflict resolution between conservationists and ranchers.

"It's really been like documenting a huge piece of Western history," she said. "I've been traveling around the West and seen the changes that have been faced by people living off the land."

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