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Hidden History: Did I.B. Perrine have a sense of humor?

Hidden History: Did I.B. Perrine have a sense of humor?

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I.B. Perrine

I.B. Perrine, seated, is adorned by clumps of fresh-picked cherries at his Blue Lakes Ranch in the Snake River Canyon. Also shown is Ezra Meeker, far left, Hortense Perrine, center, and Hortense's sister Stella Brown, far right. The photograph was taken in 1906.

I.B. Perrine wore a serious face in public, but did the founder of the Magic Valley actually have a sense of humor?

One newspaper reporter made Perrine’s wit front-page news in 1927 while making fun of his own gullibility chasing a news story in a “jitney” (a taxi of sort) into the canyon.

“There was a rumor oozing through the air Saturday afternoon (Feb. 19, 1927) of a near tragedy, with promised thrills aplenty, of a brave jitney buster coming within a fly’s eyebrow of catapulting with his faithful gas wagon into the depths of the Snake River Canyon,” the Idaho Citizen article began.

No byline accompanied the article, which ran the following Tuesday in the bi-weekly paper published by Tom Blodgett, but the writer called himself a “tenderfoot” in the article.

“A Citizen news hound sniffed the scent of a big league, front page story and gathered a camera, a hand full of goosequills, a fresh bottle of ink and an armful of scratch paper,” the reporter wrote. “With throttle wide open he rushed to the scene of disaster, fully expecting to write a story that would make his name immortal.”

Apparently, a “Boise music peddler with well packed cargo of jazz and classic harmony” had lost brakes on the Blue Lakes Grade and would have perished in the river had a boulder not been there to stop the auto from plummeting into the river.

On his way down the grade, the reporter envisioned himself shooting a photograph of himself with the rock that saved the life of the music peddler, planning how he would pose “like a news speed king, with one hand on the rock of rescue, while the other pulled the string on the camera lever.”

Perrine, however, had turned loose an exaggerated story of the peddler’s close call to lure the fledgling reporter to his ranch, the article said.

When the reporter reached the Blue Lakes Ranch deep in the Snake River Canyon, he found Perrine — dressed in true farm fashion — on his hands and knees in one of his orchards, dissecting the carcass of a peach tree borer, the article said.

“The face of the pioneer promoter blazed into a genial glow of humor...,” the reporter said.

“Pointing to a few broken bunches of sage brush at the foot of a little knoll, right on level ground and no where near any possible danger, Mr. Perrine indulged in a good old fashion fit of laughter,” he said.

“The irate reporter, limp from preconceived excitement and mental anguish, slumped into his jitney, kicked it in the ribs and said something that was drowned out by the sputtering exhaust of his gas wagon, and drove back to the office and took his spite out on his defenseless typewriter.”

Mychel Matthews reports on rural issues for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and at If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at or call her at 208-735-3233.


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