Like Nothing You Ever Imagined: My Atlanta Endnotes

And finally, because earlier posts didn’t lend themselves to this content, here is an Atlanta wrap-up. Overall, despite the loooong road out, I give this Ramble to Atlanta an A+. If you haven’t visited in awhile or if you’ve never been, just do it. You’ll find, as did we, that there’s way more to the place and its residents than you knew or imagined. And please, if you have a recommendation for me to visit and blog about any place within 125 miles of Boise, let me know. I’m itching for my next Ramble. The Professor is too.

When we drove into Atlanta, there’s a park – I wish I had taken a photo. It was back off the road. A curious sign says it is closed at night and visitors should “Use At Own Risk!” I wondered if there are drug addicts or dangerous thugs prowling under cover of night. Over a beer at the Beaver Lodge I learned in fact that the sign is there because the park is private property and uninsured and that things like my imaginings are more likely to happen in urban areas.

I’m embarassed to say that my biggest misconception about Atlanta was that residents might be dangerous, menacing, or unfriendly. Instead, I learned that some flatlanders not content to live and let live are more scary (although Larry Arnold’s interview suggests that hasn’t always been the case and feeds the Atlantans as Wild Ones narrative). Regardless, the common denominator of Atlantans is that they make their own choices (and live with the consequences). If there are still dangerous people lurking in Atlanta, I didn’t recognize them as such.

The very first woman we met was sitting on the tailgate of her Pride float from a parade the day before. She answered every question I posed. She welcomed and pointed us toward the Beaver Lodge to make more connections. The new owner of the Beaver Lodge told us what he knew and then suggested we talk to Kerry Mossman who was born in Atlanta and would likely be found sitting on the front porch of the old Atlanta Club.

That’s where we found him visiting with a woman named after a day of the week (Sunday, I believe – nope, the Professor says it’s Tuesday) who willingly gave up her seat on a pew on the porch when she learned I was there to ask more than a few questions.

Within minutes of her departure, Allan Ireland showed up carrying a dutch oven meal for Kerry. I appreciated their willingness to visit (though neither Kerry or Allan wanted to be photographed – perhaps because of the questions I asked but ultimately decided not to include in these blogs. Those will remain our secret).

Both sets of Kerry’s grandparents lived in Atlanta – his parents married and worked there. Newspaper clippings identify him as the unofficial mayor of Atlanta (he’s been interviewed numerous times over the years). He’s a retired potter, an artist at Ft. Boise who spends the warm summer months there. From his command of all facts Atlanta I would have thought he was a history teacher. Years and names and events are on the tip of his tongue. He told us about Peg Leg Annie and Dutch Em. About how Atlanta and Rocky Bar used to be important places to the Idaho Territory and the state.

“Alturas County was divided by the last territorial legislature and became Elmore County,” he said. “Atlanta was the county seat of Elmore County until 1893.”

The 1940 census reported that at the time, 1,000 people lived and worked in Atlanta. I believe he also said that Rocky Bar was in the running for the Idaho State Capitol at least once and maybe twice.

At one time, there were four bars in Atlanta although now just the Beaver Lodge remains in business. Allan owned The Hub and Kerry, the Atlanta Club. He bought the Club in 1999 and has been restoring it ever since. Originally a wooden structure, fire damaged it so the owner rebuilt with cement blocks and stucco. Fire has repeatedly threatened Atlanta, burning parts though never the entire town at once. Up in the trees I noted an unlocked fire box by the side of the road. It looked to contain picks, shovels and other firefighting implements to stamp out a fire. The volunteer fire department has several trucks.

Then came Idaho’s Snowmageddon of 2017 that collapsed the old Atlanta Club roof and warped the dance floor. He’s repairing the damages a little bit at a time.

When I asked Kerry what misconception exists about Atlanta and Atlantans that really bothers him I expected him to point to my misconception (which I did not confess). But no, what really bothers him is the common belief that Atlanta was named and settled by Southern sympathizers.

“I’ve done the research,” he said, “and the 1870 census says that only 25% of Atlanta residents came from the southern states. Another 25% were from the North, and 50% were foreign born – Hawaiians, Germans, Swedes, South Africans, Chinese, and Native Americans. The Masons were very active here too in preserving law.”

In terms of their demeanor (and my misconception), Kerry and Allan say Atlanta is not such a rough place. People just live and let live, they said. I wish more of us did that these days.

I was drawn to Atlanta because of its name and its isolation. An Outdoor Idaho show piqued my interest about the place and its people. I knew it was an old mining town now populated by free-spirited people, but not much more. I found those I met there to be compelling and interesting. There are many more stories there. I wish I had time to gather them all.

Atlanta is like no place I’ve known. It’s accessible, not maintained in a state of arrested decay like Bodie or put behind glass. Lived in. Residents and visitors alike have ready access to the landscape, the history, the experience of being in a place that looks quite a bit like it did a century ago and wants to stay that way.

The biggest story of my Ramble though was the one I didn’t see coming. It was the story of two women who lived unconventional lives. Two women who marched in step with mining camp mores while out of step with the rest of society. About two women who were hardened, shaped by their past and the choices they made. About one woman who was defined by what others said and thought about her, and about one of whom little was ever said at all.

As a woman who hasn’t exactly followed a conventional path herself (I’ve never owned a minivan, am no domestic goddess, and am blessed to be married to the Professor, a man who is a strong person himself and supports my interests and dreams), they fascinate me.

Atlanta Ramble, A+. Do it.

I’ve posted the remainder of my photos below, but for a great account from some bicyclists who did the trip in 2008 (with a number of photos of landscapes I didn’t get), visit earthwormenvy here.

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