For the past summer I’ve had a distinct lack of media here in remote Salmon, Idaho. I’ve been television-phobic for years, and don’t own one. My only Internet access was found at the Salmon Public Library (I’ve even managed to type up a couple of pieces there). And I haven’t heard Rush Limbaugh’s radio program in almost four months. But I do have KSRA-AM, Salmon’s “hometown radio station.” The format consists of music (a weird mixture of ’60s-’70s pop rock and bad contemporary commercial Nashville country western) and such spots as Evan Slack’s “Northern Ag Report” (literally corny), and at noon the legendary Paul Harvey, now 90 and in his 76th year of melodramatic broadcasting (“Hello, Americans, this is Paul Harvey. Standby for News!”).
One thing KSRA does well is accounting for the whereabouts of missing livestock. Wandering cows, horses, dogs, etc. “We’ve received a report that four goats are walking down 9th St. So, if you’ve lost your goats, they’re on 9th St.” When horses stray, the report is accompanied by a taped whinnying sound.
Salmon’s weekly newspaper (founded 1886) is the Recorder-Herald, published on Thursdays. This venerable broadsheet hasn’t changed much in 122 years, and as you read it you might think that this was the sort of paper where Mark Twain or H.L. Mencken got their starts. It may be one of the few small-town weeklies extant still lacking a website. It advertises itself as the “Official Newspaper of Lemhi County” (I know of no other), and it’s low tech state ensures that it will remain so.
The paper’s throwback status is further enhanced by the fact that it has yet to make the technological jump to color photos (though that’s a minor journalistic sin; after all, it took the New York Times quite awhile too.). The front page features typical small-town fare such as coverage of municipal government meetings, and black and white photos of local civic-minded folks receiving awards, etc. And there’s always a fire somewhere: a barn, a trailer, a brushy field.
I turn to the Police Blotter on Page 2 for the lowdown on Salmon’s crime scene. “Caller says she needs an officer because her 43 year old son is fighting with her over the TV and what to watch.” “Caller reports a dead deer on the lawn.” “Caller reports an individual on North Saint Charles St. in the middle of the street directing traffic.” “Caller reports a beaver dam between the river and Water St. is causing a flood.” “Caller reports a neighbor shot her daughter’s goat about forty five minutes ago.” (Was it one of those wayward four?)
I did get online daily at the public library (more on that later). And I read hard copy editions of USA Today, the Wall St. Journal, and the Idaho Falls Post-Register, the nearest regional daily, and published 160 miles away. The Idaho Statesman from Boise (250 miles) comes a day late. I can’t figure out why I can read the same day WSJ, but not the Boise daily. Maybe the WSJ air drops the papers. On the library magazine rack are found the usual suspects: Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, the Atlantic Monthly, and the New Yorker. Thank God for the magazine rack; without it I might have forgotten what Barack Obama looked like.
Access to the library’s half dozen computers requires you to sign up and limit your Internet or e-mailing time to a half hour. If you need more time, you sign up again, usually for a different computer. During all this time you also compete with kids using computer time to play video games, and view YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, etc. Public libraries are full of kids nowadays, unfortunately they’re not reading anything. They ignore the stacks and I never have to compete with them for newspapers and magazines. It’s a sad state of affairs that drips irony. America’s future libraries will be patronized by videotropic illiterates. In antiquity barbarians burned libraries; in the 21st century they’ll just wither away from misuse.
This is the first piece I’ve composed on a new computer, and my Internet problem has been remedied. I can actually read the Drudge Report and the online American Spectator in my living room again. What a blessing. I’ll see if I can live stream the Rush Limbaugh Show on WABC in New York next week. I don’t see a problem there. The World Wide Web is again at my fingertips.
But I wonder what happened to those goats.
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