At the pre-dinner event at Ironman Texas, the announcer asked the crowd, "Let's see if I'm in the right state." Then he began to sing, "The stars are bright, they're big and bright..."
To which the crowd clapped four times in unison and belted out, "Deep in the heart of Texas."
I'm not going to lie to you: I thought that was pretty cool. Being proud of one's state hits near and dear to my heart.
Outside of Texans, Idahoans are pretty dang proud of their state.
Really? Why? You ask.
For one thing, it's bred into us as fourth graders learning about our state history. Everyone memorizes the Idaho state song, which I'm pretty sure ranks up there as one of the coolest, and possibly proudest, state songs ever penned.
There's only ONE state in this great land of ours, where ideals can be realized.
Did you hear that? Only one state in all the United States where ideals can be realized.
Let me continue with the chorus:
And here we have Idaho--
Winning her way to fame.
Silver and gold in the sunlight blaze
And romance lies in her name.
Oh we'll go siiiinnnnng...ing
Singing of you,
Ah, proudly too,
All our lives through
We'll go siiiinnnnnng...ing
Singing of you,
Singing of Idaho.
Are you in love with Idaho yet?
I have yet to find one Utahan my age that can sing their state song from memory.
We were also taught that if you ironed out Idaho's mountains, it would be as big as Texas. So take that, Texans!
However, taking that pride and placing it outside the state of Idaho is met mostly with jeers and laughter, at least in Utah. Let me illustrate this with an example.
On my first week at the best job I've ever had (and my current job), I introduced myself to my fellow co-workers of about 200.
I'm pretty sure I began with something like, "Hello, my name is Cindy Fisher. I am from the fantastic state of Idaho."
No sooner had I said the "o" than the crowd erupted in "boos" splattered with a few cheers. What I learned that day was that a real Utah/Idaho feud had been brewing in my workplace.
I'm not clear on how the love/hate of Idaho people had begun, but I suspect that when people from Idaho said they were from Idaho, other Idahoans in the room probably cheered. That probably got old to everyone else who wasn't from Idaho, and they probably started responding with "boos," which likely outnumbered the Idaho "yeahs."
That's not the only example I have of this stigma I feel from some Utahans about Idahoans.
Other co-workers of mine throughout my career have also made little backhanded remarks that made me think that they thought Idahoans were backwater hicks.
For example, I guess I don't always pronounce words correctly. And sometimes I flat-out use the wrong word. Let me assure you that is entirely due to my own stupidity.
So whenever I say the wrong phrase or mix my metaphors, I inevitably get a "your Idaho is seeping through," or a "I can tell you're from Idaho."
Idahoans, I'm sorry. You can blame me for reinforcing the negative stereotype of Idahoans being backwater, naive hicks. Me and George W. Bush: nukular cousins.
But where I falter on brain skills, I make up for in work ethic.
Idahoans are hard workers, and that's a stereotype I don't mind having.
In addition to my dad being a car salesman, he and my mom thought of a brilliant plan to teach us all to work. They started a night-time custodial business.
At first, my dad hired young men from our church group, but as we got older, we became the main employees.
On very busy nights where we had ball practice or games of one kind or another, we were awoken at 5 a.m. to do our menial jobs in the family custodial business.
I hated those mornings. But dang it if I'm not still getting up at the wee hours of the morning. I've learned to like the mornings. I paid my way through college working early morning custodial.
When I was 14, I joined my friends and worked in the beet fields all summer. To be fair, we worked from 8 a.m. until about 10:30 a.m. when it got too hot, and then we'd drive to the local canal and swim and pretend we were at a European spa having a mud bath. Working was a subjective term.
Still, I think we worked harder than most 13 or 14 year olds.
After a summer of work, we usually only made enough money to buy ourselves a pair of Birkenstocks and a trip to Lagoon, the amusement park in Farmington, Utah.
One time I tried working for my sister, who managed to secure a beet hoeing gig from some farmer. She fired us after one hour of work. I guess our weeding wasn't up to her snuff.
It was probably my own making in my own head, but sometimes I felt "less than" being from Idaho. Look a guy in the eyes at Lagoon or anywhere outside the state of Idaho when I was a teenager? Forget about it! They could probably see the potatoes growing out of my ears.
"Yep, she's from Idaho all right."
I just felt painfully out of my element in a big city, even though I loved big cities--still do.
When I was 20, my best friend Keri and I both found jobs in the Salt Lake area for the summer. At the end of summer, we agreed we'd take some of our hard-earned cash and go out to a nice restaurant.
We drove around for hours, but we couldn't find a place, or we didn't feel comfortable paying such high prices. We ended up eating at Taco Bell.
I wish I could take back that night now that I have more confidence and also more know-how of the ins and outs of high-end Salt Lake City restaurants. I'd plop down a $100 and say, "Dang it, I'm from Idaho. Make me something with a potato that would blow my socks off."
I've always been glad that I actually worked in a potato plant for at least one summer. Shouldn't that be some Idaho law: must work with potatoes for at least a month to officially be called an Idahoan?
My friend Keri, again (she's pretty much in every story I have from kindergarten to college), had a boyfriend whose dad operated a potato-processing plant called Mart Produce in Rupert, Idaho.
It was made up of probably 98% immigrant workers from Mexico, and then there was me, Keri, and the brother to Keri's boyfriend (by now, Keri's boyfriend was on a mission for our church).
We felt like Laverne and Shirley experiencing the blue-collar life. We helped bag the potatoes.
We had it down to a science, not like that's any big achievement. I would put a bag on the bagger, then Keri would push the button that would drop the potatoes into the bag; or vice versa.
We made $4.40 an hour, which was about .20 cents an hour more than minimum wage.
We made friends with a woman who knew Spanish and English, and she taught us some key phrases to say to our co-workers.
Through our extremely limited Spanish (we both took German in high school), we made friends. At the end of the summer, Keri took a picture of all the guapos we'd made friends with. It was a great summer, one of the best of my life.
I'm so proud of my Idaho roots and the things I learned. My cousin Chet, who is my age and works at the Idaho Department of Workforce Services in Burley, calls me every now and again with some job offer to tempt me back home.
"Cindy, they need a prosecutor in Cassia County. Do you think Kulani wants to move you home?"
I think of my Idaho summers swimming in canals; water skiing on the Snake River; working on beet farms; going to teen dances; cruising Overland.
Then I think of my current family home nestled in the foothills of Mount Timpanogos; our trips to Thanksgiving Point; the BYU football games, Bean Museum, and BYU Creamery; the concerts, plays, and culture within a short driving distance; various stores to shop.
I'm not ready to go home just yet, Chet. But I'll always have these potatoes in my ears, and in my heart.