It’s not uncommon for an editor to hand a reporter an assignment which the reporter knows nothing about. But with help from Google, and some very patient sources, she’s soon on her way to becoming an expert on the subject.
Well, this time I sort of volunteered.
I’m a relatively recent transplant to Idaho, having transferred to the Times-News in February from its sister paper in Elko, Nev. I’d heard the name Perrine Coulee once or twice in my reporting and seen it on a map. I figured it was a natural creek and thought nothing more of it. I hadn’t a clue who this Perrine person was, why everything seemed to be named after him, or even what a coulee really means.
So when Enterprise Editor Virginia Hutchins asked me if I’d want to do some in-depth reporting on the Perrine Coulee, I sort of shrugged and went along with her idea. If nothing else, it’d give me another few weeks to develop my Big Story idea for the next go-round.
Coming from Nevada, where to my knowledge we dig more mines than irrigation canals, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But it wasn’t long after getting the assignment that I realized it would be one of the most interesting so far.
One of the most rewarding experiences happened when I knocked on Tim and Sandra Soran’s door to ask about their bird feeder and chairs in the backyard. After they finished dinner, they invited me into their sitting room and told stories of all the wildlife they encountered.
I also was intrigued to learn about disc golf, something I’d barely heard of. Mike Stradley’s collection of lost discs, meticulously stacked by name and state, was impressive, to say the least.
Then there was knocking door-to-door south of Addison Avenue West. Although I started in the evening before sunset, I felt intrusive. Some of the houses were less than inviting, behind wooden fences and cobwebbed windows.
Until I circled back to the house of an elderly couple, who ushered me in without even knowing my name or why I was there. The husband and wife were friendly but, like many of the neighbors I encountered, didn’t know anything about the Perrine Coulee or its role in Twin Falls. They were also relatively new to the area.
But another assignment and excursion of door-knocking, at the house of David Detweiler, proved more fruitful. I was treated to a full tour of the farm on the edge of the canyon, where I learned about the irrigation system. Not only that, but I discovered I’d interviewed Detweiler’s son in Elko not long ago, before I moved to Twin Falls. It really is a small world.
After the final installment of the series was printed, five people I knew came up to me to comment about what they’d learned. I realized that I’d learned a lot, too, about a bit of Twin Falls which I’d never thought to ask about.
I look forward to seeing what other hidden gems can be dug up in the Magic Valley.