Nevadan’s gamble on Winchester paid off

Linda Perry is this year’s Winchester Days grand marshal. She moved to the small north central Idaho town 47 years ago from Reno, Nev., and says now she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

WINCHESTER — When Linda Perry was a young wife and mother, she moved with her family from Reno, Nev., to Winchester, and now, 47 years later, you couldn’t get her to budge from this small community if you tried.

“My girls, they keep saying, ‘Oh, Mom, you have to move down here (to Lewiston).’ I don’t want to move to Lewiston. Why would I want to go to Lewiston? It’s too hot down there,” she said. “I went to my daughter’s birthday party … and it was 92 degrees down there. I got home and it was 72 and, oh God, this is beautiful. This is God’s country up here.”

Perry’s devotion to her adopted hometown got her named grand marshal of this year’s Winchester Days celebration today and Saturday. Activities tonight include a talent show, awards ceremony and silent auction; a cowboy breakfast, parade and street fair are set for Saturday. There will also be a community softball game Saturday and a street dance with a live band. The big bang fireworks show will be held over Winchester Lake Saturday night.

Winchester was a neighborly place when Perry moved here in the 1970s. Neighbors visited across the fence and got together often for lunch or to play cards.

When Perry’s three children got a little older, she got a job tending bar at the old Woodshed Bar and Steak House.

“It was a neat old place,” she said. “A lot of the old cowboys used to come in, that’s what I enjoyed. Hearing their stories. They were all from back here. They’d come in and just sit over there and tell lies and drink a lot of beer.”

Later in the 1970s, the Woodshed burned to the ground. Perry said she remembers watching the flames from her doorstep.

“My son remembered that fire,” she said. “He was just a little boy standing down at the end of the street watching it.”

Through the years, Perry worked at other bars and restaurants in town. Her three children attended school at Highland in Craigmont, graduated from there and moved away — for awhile. Eventually, the homing instinct kicked in and they moved back to the area.

The dynamics of the town have changed over the years. Perry said people don’t congregate at one another’s homes the way they used to. Many of the old-timers have died, and new people have moved in. Many commute to jobs in Lewiston or elsewhere.

But there seems to be a small effort to regenerate the old town. A farmers market is scheduled to begin this summer, and while Perry thinks that’s a good idea, she’s skeptical about where the produce will come from.

“I think it would be great but, you know, our summer are so short. Our growing season up here is just like the farmers’. They could be out there cutting their fields in the middle of November and it’s snowing.”

Winchester, sitting at about 4,000 feet elevation, is one of the last places in the region for snow to melt. Perry said there have been times when the snow is 3 or 4 feet deep in front of her shop where she parks her car.

But the neighbors have helped out to keep her walk and driveway shoveled when she needs it.

These days, Perry’s neighborhood circle has grown to include the tourists who come to camp at the lake.

“We get a lot of campers up here and people stop and ask questions — how to get where,” she said. “I try to give as much information as I can. The tourists are friendly.”

And sometimes, when she’s in an adventurous mood, she might toodle on over to Cottonwood, or the big city of Grangeville.

“I go to Cottonwood a lot to get my hair done, and I know the girls there. I don’t know anybody in Grangeville, but I just like to go there and look around and have lunch once in awhile.”

And then she heads back home.

“I love it up here,” Perry said. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.

Recommended for you