Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Headline Hunting

Posting the “On This Day” item for today reinforced a notion I’ve had about that feature: Something truly important may happen every day somewhere in the world, but maybe not so much where you live. Thus, I had no “blockbuster” events for today, while my daily Encyclopedia Britannica message noted that the siege of the Alamo began on this day in 1836, and U.S. soldiers planted our flag on Mount Suribachi (Iwo Jima) in 1945.

So restricting my “On This Day” feature to events that are relevant to Idaho does limit my choices.

A few times – fortunately, very few – I’ve had to use events that required some fancy footwork to make the Idaho connection. However, lack of “excitement” for an event is much more common. Thus, on October 10, 1833, Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville camped near Soda Springs, Idaho. Not very exciting. However, the visit did produce one of the first, if not the first written description of the geothermal features that became a famous landmark on the Oregon Trail – commented upon and described by scores of later travelers.

Conversely, some events are exciting, but not particularly important to anyone besides the direct participants. Today’s blog about flooding in the Clearwater area is just one example.

If you’ve followed the blog for awhile, you’ve probably noticed that the most common events are birthdays. Given a choice, I try to highlight individuals who played a reasonably significant role in Idaho history: governors, legislators, judges, lawmen, and so on. If the choice is between a run-of-the-mill legislator and an engineer – a bridge, dam, or canal system designer – I generally go with the engineer. I also bias my selections towards women, given that choice … because so few of their contributions made it into the historical record.

Some of the individuals highlighted were not particularly famous people, and we might not consider their accomplishments important “in the grand scheme of things.” That’s all right: They too helped build the state and deserve to have their contributions remembered.

By the way: I don’t include people who are still alive; after all, they still have time to accomplish something else worth noting.

The feature does take a fair amount of work, but it’s worth it. I already have a list of project ideas – for articles and maybe a book or two – that’s longer than I’ll ever have time for.