Meeting Mrs. Rambo in Idaho

Photo by Katie Botkin.

A Letter from Katie Botkin in Idaho:

Perhaps the scariest residents of Northern Idaho are not the cougars, the bears, or the wolves, but some of the people. Many of them live off the grid, up in the hills, where the government won’t be able to find them. I see a few in town from time to time. Even these off-the-grid people seem harmless to me — at least the ones I know. They might sympathize with Randy Weaver, but mostly, they just want to be left alone.

They can be a bit extreme about it, of course, so you do not want to trespass. Which leads me to my favorite story about a North Idaho woman. I didn’t catch her real name, but my friends affectionately christened her Mrs. Rambo.

We had intended to go for a hike on one of the region’s many trails, and rode in a pickup up the pock-marked gravel road to the trailhead. We noticed two things: first, that the trail was blockaded due to grizzly bear sightings. Second, that the trailhead also contained a tent, constructed next to a pickup with faux cowhide seat covers. We pulled out the map and started looking for another trail nearby.

But apparently we were not leaving fast enough, because a largish woman waddled up from the creek where she had been fishing, over to her truck. She pulled out a gun, and fired several warning shots into the air. Then she started yelling that we were on her trailhead. “This is our trailhead,” she emphasized. “We were here first.”

Mr. Rambo had come up from the creek by this time as well and was standing back apologetically. Mrs. Rambo came over to our vehicle, sans weapon, and tried to nudge us back in.

For some reason I was not actually frightened by this situation. Worried, yes, but Mrs. Rambo was so rotund, and so clearly drunk, and her fake cowhide seat covers were so tasteless, that it was hard to take her seriously. My friends were chuckling, which enraged her further. “Go!” she cried, waving her hands in the air.

My friends made a show of folding their map up and we left.


1 comment

  1. Barbara Stoner’s avatar

    I had a great uncle in Idaho. He was a uranium prospector. I thought about him, crossing Idaho, on my way west to Seattle, but I didn’t turn north at Couer d’Alene. I had heard about the Randy Weaver people; a few of them had migrated here and caused trouble from time to time. I wondered from time to time about my beloved grandfather’s brother – what had all those years tramping the mountains looking for uranium done to him? What had the uranium he found from time to time done to him? What were the chances that his family were all little Randy Weavers? I’m sometimes sorry I didn’t go find out.

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