Crossing the Snake


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Crossing the Snake, by Randy Stapilus. September 2015. 288 pages. Softbound. ISBN 978-0-945648-30-7 Price $15.95.

Crossing the Snake is a collection of writing about Idaho politics and society from 2004 to 2015 – by a veteran Idaho political writer now living in Oregon.

From the introduction:

I lived in Idaho for almost exactly 30 years, first for a couple of months in the fall of 1973, then for a long time starting in August 1974. A few months shy of that three-decade anniversary, on March 17, 2004, I drove a Penske moving van west across the I-84 bridge at Ontario and set up shop and house about 500 miles to the west, midway between Portland and the Pacific, in the middle of rolling wine country.

Before this move, the last time that I departed a state’s residency was in August 1974, when I crossed the country to Idaho from Virginia. Then, I largely left my earlier state behind, other than for a few personal visits. My intent this time was to add Oregon (and to a degree Washington) to my life and work, rather than to leave Idaho behind. I planned to continue to write, research and comment on my former state, and visit it regularly. In the decade and more since, I have.

Even with periodic returns, there’s no avoiding missing some things. In the 2012 primary election, I watched streaming video ads, but in some ways watching them on the ground in Idaho, seeing them in context popping up in the middle of American Idol or whatnot, gives you a better sense of how they’re being received.

But there are advantages. From a distance, the peripheral shrubbage seems cleared away. From outside, you get a clearer sense of what the Idaho atmosphere is, what makes it distinctive from other places, which can be harder to tell when you’re inside. (Does a fish in an aquarium understand he’s swimming around in water – or what that even means?) And comparing Idaho politics with those in Washington and Oregon gives you something to bounce up against, the classic compare-and-contrast most people in the stovepiped media seldom try to make.

The picture from a distance is a little grainier, the personalities more remote. But I think the distance helps with discerning patterns, and moving past immediate emotional reactions. At least some of them.

Crossing copies

Also available on

Crossing the Snake, by Randy Stapilus (September 2015). $15.95. ISBN 978-0-945648-30-7