Friday, July 3, 2009

The Wayback Machine #3 – Council, Idaho July 4th 1998

As regular readers here may recall, 1998 was the first year I lived in Indian Valley, ID; as such, how could I miss the big local event of the year, July 4th? Council, ID is a very small town (tho the largest in Adams County, & the county seat), with a bit more than 800 inhabitants (actually in the late ‘90s there were about 100 more residents than there are now), & is mostly a sleepy town. But July 4th is a grand celebration, with four particularly big events: a parade, the porcupine races, the logging skills contest & the fireworks. There was also a town softball tournament for a few years that was quite fun, but that’s now defunct. The Fourth of July festivities also run in conjunction with a month-long quilt show.

The logging skills context may seem pretty exotic to folks outside the U.S. west, but such competitions are fairly common in this part of the world. The unique event is the porcupine race. It involves timed heats: two men & a porcupine “race” down a course, in as straight a line as possible (there are plastic barriers to keep the porcupine “on task” & also quills out of the spectators, tho I believe a few too-ardent fans need to have the EMTs remove quills every year. One man is equipped with a garbage can & lid (the porcupine is in the can pre-race, & the other man has a broom. These implements are used to steer the porcupine down the course, but can’t be used for “propulsion.” Although this may seem hard for some to believe from my description, PETA monitored this one year & decided it was relatively benign. There’s betting on the races, too—folks bid on individual porcupines, & the person who “owns” the winner gets all the money in the pot. It’s usually a few hundred dollars. After the race, the porcupines are released into the woods.

I heard rumor that there’s a video on YouTube
of the Council Porcupine Race, but I couldn’t find it this morning with any search that seemed obvious. If anyone (especially anyone local) knows the url, please let me know & I’d be happy to add a video to the post. Barring that, hope you enjoy these photos taken in 1998!

Top pic: A pick-up full of bluegrass musicians in the Council Valley Museum pick-up truck. The museum is an interesting place with lots of artifacts from the town's frontier beginnings in the late 18th & early 20th century

I love this photo of the "old-time cowboy" on an ATV with a horse's head. In fact, the ATV has supplanted the horse for many ranching operations.

Pride of our hometown: Indian Valley Fire & Rescue; check out the dalmatian!

US Bank tellers qua horses, distributing candy

Rodeo Queens, of course! The Adams County Rodeo is held in late July; it's possible Robert Frost's Banjo may report on the event this year.

Norm the porcupine, one of the race participants. There used to be a pizza establishment in Council called Norm's (it was in business in '98), & this porcupine no doubt was its representative. All the porcupines are displayed in the pre-race parade.

Two llamas from the local Llama Joy Ranch; man, we never got ours to look that groomed!

Tractor on parade!

Last, but very far from least: porcupine racing!

UPDATE: Thanks to good friend & faithful Robert Frost's Banjo reader Jan B., here's the Porcupine Race video.


  1. I love small town America!!!

  2. ROTFL - for an awful moment, I thought the two men were racing against the porcupine. How silly, I thought. By the time I got to the end of the story, the race as it's actually run made much more sense. Isn't that scary?

  3. Fun!

    Happy 4th to you and Eberle!

  4. Hi Karen, Sandra & Willow:

    In case anyone's getting a feed & is interested, a local reader found the video so you can actually see the race now. I'm not sure it makes the concept of porcupine racing much more clear-- rather it shows it for the chaos it is!

    Karen: This really is small town USA out here. Thanks!

    Sandra: I can see why you thought that, tho, yes, that would be even scarier than the actual event!

    Willow: Glad you liked it, & a happy 4th to you & yours!

  5. You guys sure know how to have fun!
    (And I'm not being sarcastic.)
    There aren't a lot of things better than a small town parade.

  6. Well, that's something I have never seen before. Fun post John. Very much enjoyed the pictures.

  7. Hi T & Randy:

    T: Sounds like you folks had fun on the 4th too!

    Randy: Glad you enjoyed it-- the porcupine race is pretty unique.

  8. I lived in several small towns growing up and every single one had a drug store with a Rexall sign.

  9. Hi Jen:

    That's funny & true! That sign isn't there now-- it was auctioned off earlier this year. The drug store has been out of business since '99 I believe.


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