Journey to the Center of the Universe
Apparently when you drive 80 miles outside of Spokane, you arrive at the center of the universe. In some cultures, they call that Wallace, Idaho. It may be the coolest town on I-90 between Coeur d’Alene and Missoula. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is. It’s home to the Oasis Bordello Museum (a former brothel), the Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum and most recently, the Wallace Brewing Company. That was my first stop. I was drawn to the word, “brewery”, like a Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus is to a tree. Ten minutes later, I walked out with contact information and a list of their brewskis, but that’s another story for another time.
The real purpose to my trip to Wallace was to learn the ways of the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Department through a handy-dandy little thing called a ride-along. I was told Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to be the busiest days for their deputies. It felt like the cold open to a thrilling cop drama. The first five minutes of the ride-along with Sgt. Derek Dofelmire were spent cruising’ down I-90 at approximately 110 mph, lights flaring all the way to Kellogg. We were en route to what was a suspected burglary. We arrived at the scene with other deputies to learn that the suspect lived with his family and was only “breaking in” to obtain his backpack. Days earlier the man was part of a domestic abuse case. He showed off his wounds to deputies (above). His girlfriend allegedly attacked him. After all the hype, there nothing to see here.
Minutes later, a deputy pulled over a speeding vehicle outside Pinehurst on I-90. The driver had an arrest warrant for parole violation in the state of New Mexico. The deputy called for backup before approaching the driver again. We met up with other responding deputies at the scene. The male was already taken into custody prior to our arrival. It would be taken care of by other responding deputies. Finding this individual can be thanked to a grant provided by the Idaho Transportation Department to enforce highway safety and patrol for aggressive driving.
“We have deputies who specifically patrol for aggressive driving equaling to 110 hours,” said Dofelmire. The grant is designed to award the department with $20 per hour dedicated to patrols up to $2,200. That $2,200 goes to specific equipment like new radars for their vehicles. These grants are a way to improve their forces even with recent budget cuts that have cut their employee base in half.
After the first hour, activity in the Silver Valley died down. We patrolled the western part of Shoshone County for the majority of the ride-along. I saw the towns of Kellogg, Pinehurst, Smelterville and Kingston. They all blended together eventually. In the starting days of these towns, they all had the same goal: mining. Over time, they developed that same “look”. Dofelmire explained that there’s a chance that with an extreme warm up, the region will flood: “Thankfully most of the residents in these rural areas are self-sufficient. Even during the winter.”
During the summer, the region becomes a tourism hot spot especially with outdoor recreational activities at Silver Mountain. Floating down the Bumblebee and Coeur d’Alene River is another attraction to visitors. During the summer weekends, the sheriff department spends a lot of days patrolling near the river due to the high amount of traffic from the recreating public. Thankfully, most drownings are prevented due to the high density of nearby people to help in such a situation. The months of June – August always provide excitement for daily patrols in the area.
Dofelmire inspects the new Sheriff vehicles at Dave Smith Motors.
A panicked call from a resident near Kingston brought us along the Coeur d’Alene River and up a muddy and rocky hill that the Crown Victoria was definitely not made for: “Most of our fleet is getting old. My vehicle has already reached 113,000 miles. It’s time we start replacing new vehicles on our fleet instead of paying $40,000 on repairs every year,” Dofelmire continued, “Thanks to the Commissioners though, we will be getting some new vehicles: two Dodge Durangos.” (Above)
At the top of the muddy hill, a woman had called in a dog complaint. Two canines, medium-sized, we’re loitering in her front yard making it so she couldn’t leave her home. Dofelmire investigated only to find two malnourished young dogs who kindly jumped into the back of the vehicle to be taken to the pound. They sat quietly in the back and napped. They were not aggressive in the least. (I think they wanted some cuddles) We transported them to the Kellogg pound where they will hopefully find a new home. (For those of you in the neighborhood, they really were sweet dogs. Go adopt them! ) It only took some peanut butter to coax them out of the back of the cruiser where they left quite the muddy mess. That’s when it was decided to head back to the station to clean the back-end. I took that as my cue to pack it on up and return to Spokane.
The Silver Valley has a huge historical background that begins with the golden age of mining. The effects can still be found in the area especially with damage leaking into Lake Coeur d’Alene in the form of nasty chemicals. Besides that, the town of Wallace is full of adventure waiting to be had. I for one plan to return in the summer. I was in fact, invited to come back for another ride-along with the sheriff department. Specifically for their summer time patrols around the Coeur d’Alene and Bumblebee River. I plan on taking them up on that offer, testing the brews of Wallace Brewery and attending the 1st Annual Accordion Festival.