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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — February 6, 2004


Listen up city slickers

‘Code of the West’ offers tips on rural LIFE

Express Staff Writer

Add Blaine County to a growing list of Western counties producing a pamphlet for residents with the catchy title "Code of the West," which is a knockoff of novelist Zane Grey’s romantic characterization of frontier life and hardy individualism in the untamed West.

But this pamphlet doesn’t deal with the cowboy culture that Grey (1875-1939) celebrated in dozens of novels. Instead, it discusses the nitty gritty of 21st century living in the West—or, as the title page explains, "A Guide to Rural Living in Blaine County, Idaho."

Blaine County Commission Chairman Dennis Wright authored the local pamphlet as well as personally hand-stapling the 12-page, 5 inch by 8 inch, cream-colored pamphlet.

Free copies are available at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. Wright also hopes to expand distribution to real estate brokerage offices and perhaps to public libraries.

He is quick to credit the genesis of the pamphlet to another Western county commissioner, John Clarke, of Larimer County, Colo. In fact, Clark’s original idea has since spread to Gunnison County, Colo.; Chelan County, Wash.; Gallatin County, Mont.; Franklin County, Wash.; and Willow Creek, Albert, Canada. Each version has been rewritten for local conditions.

Like most other versions, Wright’s Blaine County "Code of the West" is designed to acquaint newcomers—especially so-called former big city residents—with the vagaries of life outside of cities in unincorporated areas where services are scantier and sometimes slower.

"The message," Wright says, "is to think before you buy. Be aware of what it would be like next to an alfalfa field and the sound of sprinklers in the middle of the night."

Wright recalls in the pamphlet introduction a Southern California couple who bought a home in Blaine County a half mile from the end of pavement and four miles from town. When they discovered the county didn’t plow snow all the way to their driveway, they sold the home without moving in.

The pamphlet is divided by subjects: road access, utilities, characteristics of property, Mother Nature, nearby agriculture and required permits.

Typical of advice and cautions included in Wright’s "Code of the West":

  • County costs are kept down by willingness of people to forgo some services that urban families regard as necessities. "Rural counties survive on volunteerism."

  • Parents may need to drive children to school and not expect door-to-door bus service.

  • Rural residents probably will need to drill their own wells and install septic tanks in the absence of public services.

  • Noxious weeds are a landowner’s responsibility and must be eradicated.

  • Living near nature is idyllic, but "wildlife you may encounter could wreak havoc on your lifestyle."

  • Nearby farmers work long hours, and their tractors and bailers, spray airplanes and herd animals can be an unexpected experience.

As a final word, Wright writes:

"It is our sincere hope that your choice to live in Blaine County will be a positive experience. We want people to read this and then question their expectations and ask again of themselves if this is the life they want to live."

He also recommends that newcomers learn about the area’s historic and early settlers by reading materials available at the Hailey and Ketchum libraries, the Bellevue Historical Society and Blaine County Museum.



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