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For the week of Mar. 15 through Mar. 21, 2000

Black bounces back

"I used to drag around a big logging chain. And when someone would ask me why I was dragging it around, I would answer, ‘Well, I can’t push it, so I might as well pull it.’" -Orville Black

Express Staff Writer

Orville Black, localOrville Black, a photo taken in Ketchum a couple of years ago. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

Orville Black is alive and well.

Which might not mean much to Ketchum newcomers, but for old-timers, it means a part of the local heritage lives on.

For decades, Ketchum locals knew of Black as the resourceful conservationist and bashful clown who worked the city streets collecting recyclables to supplement his income from his job at the now-defunct Louie’s Pizza.

During a telephone call early Tuesday morning from his new home at the Westwind assisted living center in Boise, Black, 77, talked about his recent struggle with a lung infection and his recovery.

After a lung operation last summer, Black said, "I was really sick for a few days…then I got better…. I’m in a home here."

"There’s mostly women here," he said of Westwind. "I think they’re all over 90."

Black said the home is "pretty nice," and that he’s been eating almost constantly to regain the 40 pounds he lost after the operation.

Most famous, perhaps, for his aluminum can-spearing device, which he called his "long arm," Black, for many years has earned a reputation as a clever prankster.

"I used to drag around a big logging chain," Black said during an interview by Idaho Mountain Express reporter Connie Nelson in 1978. "And when someone would ask me why I was dragging it around, I would answer, ‘Well, I can’t push it, so I might as well pull it.’"

In his younger days, he dumbfounded passersby with one of his more famous tricks: a standing somersault from the entrance of the Casino to the sidewalk below.

"I guess them days are over," Black said on the telephone Tuesday.

Having lived for many years in a log house on Ketchum’s First Avenue, Black said he’s settling in slowly but surely in Boise.

"I guess this will be home for awhile," he said.


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