Each year since 2004, the Blaine County Historical Museum has asked community groups to name ladies to its Heritage Court, which honors women who have contributed to shaping the history of the Wood River Valley. The nominees must have lived in the valley for at least 30 years and be at least 70 years old.
This year’s nominees are Dorothy Ann Outzs of Hailey, Vivian Bobbitt of Bellevue, Elizabeth “Betts” Simon of Sun Valley and Joyce Edwards of Carey.
The women will be honored in a coronation ceremony at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey on Sunday, June 22. The public is invited.
The four ladies will ride in a vintage carriage in Hailey’s Fourth of July Parade, Carey’s Pioneer Days Parade, Ketchum’s Big Hitch Wagon Days Parade and Bellevue’s Labor Day Parade.
Between now and the coronation, each issue of the Idaho Mountain Express will include a story profiling one of the 2014 court nominees. This issue features Vivian Bobbitt.
Whenever a throng of kids, horses or even chickens gathers in southern Blaine County, there’s a good chance that Vivian Bobbitt is at the center of it.
A much friendlier version of the Pied Piper, Bobbitt is one of the four ladies being honored in the Blaine County Historical Museum’s Heritage Court. Bobbitt was nominated to the court by Cheryl Bennett of Swiftsure Ranch.
“Vivian is always surrounded by animals and loves being on the farm,” said local horseman and farrier Tyler Peterson.
As for the hordes of children she has delighted over the decades, Peterson said that “kid’s absolutely love her—they seem to swarm to her.”
Born in Sheridan, Wyo., Bobbitt has lived in the Wood River Valley for more than 30 years. Her husband, William, has worked for Idaho Power since the early 1980s. The couple share their home on a farm off Glendale Road south of Bellevue with daughter Michelle and Vivian’s mother, who will be 101 in December.
“Three generations of Bobbitts in the same house, and we haven’t killed each other yet,” Bobbitt said with a chuckle.
This is unsurprising, given Bobbitt’s bubbly personality and delightful giggle, as well as her extreme empathy—an empathy that she exhibited without hesitation during an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express. A lone and frightened dog scuttled up Hailey’s Main Street while Bobbitt and this reporter sipped coffee. Bobbitt was the first out of her seat and into the street to ensure that the dog got out of the road safely.
She is clearly passionate about animals.
“We have seven horses,” she said of her beloved Appaloosas. “We have cats and dogs, peacocks and oodles of chickens. They are all part of the family.”
Bobbitt’s love for all four- and two-legged creatures has manifested in her work with 4-H, the Sawtooth Rangers and her dedication to the rodeo. She has worked tirelessly to support kids and horse-related activities during her long stint as a valley resident.
“I was a 4-H leader,” she said.
She taught groups of children to show dogs and horses, many of which she loaned out from her own collection of animals. And she always insisted that her 4-H kids maintain exemplary standards of watchfulness over their charges: “You need to feed and water your animals before you take care of your own needs.”
Bobbitt also attended many shows with her 4-H group.
“We used to go to the show and create a ruckus,” she said.
One suspects she did slightly more at 4-H shows than cause the odd melee. In fact, Bobbitt was only looking out for the kids.
“I would go to the fair and take pics of every little kid and every little animal,” she said.
In other words, at 4-H competitions, Bobbitt made sure that all the kids had a special take-home photograph that she handed out when prizes were awarded.
Now many of her 4-H kids have grown and have children of their own. Of the ones who have made a living with horses, she is especially proud.
Bobbitt is an avid member of the Sawtooth Rangers, which donates money to many horse-related groups in the valley, and hosts the Fourth of July rodeo. William is president of the Rangers and Michelle is on the board of directors.
Much of the donation funds come from the rodeo. After money is put aside to fund the next year’s event, the rest gets contributed to community organizations such as 4-H, the Senior Connection and the Grange Hall in Hailey. In particular, the Rangers like to support local youth.
“If a child goes to the high school rodeo, we donate money,” Bobbitt said. “We like to help the community out.”
With the Rangers, Bobbitt organizes a variety of yearly rides.
“We have a breakfast ride and a Father’s Day ride,” she said.
The Rangers also organize overnight rides at different locations throughout the area.
“It’s outstanding fun,” she said Bobbitt.
Most of all, she loves the camaraderie.
But perhaps Bobbitt’s most exhilarating yearly achievement is her participation in the Chief Joseph Appaloosa Trail Ride—quite a feat for a petite lady in her glorious third age.
Indeed, each year she rides about 100 miles to honor Chief Joseph’s effort to liberate his people in 1877. Starting his journey in Wallowa Valley, Ore., Joseph surrendered some 42 miles from the Canadian border at Bear Paw Battlefield.
“She’s just a great lady,” said Peterson. “She contributes to the community, she does all kinds of volunteer work and I’ve never met anyone so sweet,” he said.