We walked in the door of the cafe and my nose filled with the familiar scent of grease on the griddle. Three men sat at a table off to the left. A cowboy hat, plaid shirt, and cowboy boots appeared to be the dress code. We wore none of the above. The men smiled kindly at Hannah and Simon and gave us the “your not from around here, are ya'” look. We found a table and sat down.
The room was decorated with photographs of scenery of the area interspersed with military decorations, a fallen soldier flag, and topographic maps. Upon each table stood a napkin holder of cleverly soldered horseshoes. Each in a different sportsman motif. One man held a rifle, another a pistol, and others were fly fishermen. Dust and a healthy layer of grime covered everything.
To start we ordered coffee for Derek and I, orange juice for Hannah. I had forgotten to pack the coffee for the weekend, a terrible mistake putting Derek on a wobbly precipice of normal happy versus caffeine deprived crankiness. The cabin had had Folgers and Yuban. The last time I tried either can only be described as a moment of pure and utter regret. My taste buds still cringe at the thought. We were looking forward to the coffee. The drinks came and we ordered hearty breakfasts including a veggie omelet, eggs, toast, hash browns, and a pancake for Hannah. As we were ordering a sudden waterfall of orange juice cascaded over the table, down Hannah’s entire front, down her chair, and onto the floor. She looked up with a teary face of surprised disappointment.
“No problem,” the waiter said. “Let me get a wash rag.” I took Hannah down the hall to the bathroom to clean up and as I walked by the kitchen noticed that no one was in there.
“Guess it’s a one man show, Hannah.” She looked at me blankly. “Let’s get you washed up.”
“More juice?!” she implored in a shaky voice.
“We’ll get you some more. Don’t worry.”
As I helped Hannah back to the table my fingers brushed the sticky residue of the orange juice on her chair. My shoes now made a squeaky sound as I moved. I sat down, relaxed, and took a sip of my coffee. Suddenly my mind was terrifyingly transported back to college when I used my roommates Folgers coffee and was forever changed. Is there a place to spit it out? I looked around. Nope. I swallowed hard.
“I think he borrowed the Yuban from our cabin,” I whispered to Derek. He smiled.
“At least it’s caffeine.”
I glanced out the window at the icy roads. The temperature this morning read 15 degrees. Just beyond the road was a peaceful river, snow covered trees, and sun. Beautiful sun. Warm sun. The inversion in the city for the past month had left us weary and renting a cabin was not just an actual breath of fresh air but also one for the soul.
The waiter brought our food to the table.”Sorry, the pancake stuck to the griddle but it’s still okay.” I glanced down at the clumped-up pancake.
“We’re not picky,” I said, being completely honest. Okay, maybe we’re picky about coffee, I thought.
My eggs were cold and my hash browns burned but I didn’t care. Nothing some ketchup and salt can’t cure. Derek leaned over and said, “I didn’t know bacon was part of a veggie omelet.” I laughed at the omelet and then a little harder at what this breakfast was turning out to be. We finished our meals and even had some leftovers to take back to the cabin as treats for Coda.
When the waiter brought our bill he asked, “So you guys visiting for the weekend?” We shared our story. We live in Boise, are sick of the inversion, and someday want to buy a cabin. We heard Featherville was a great place. We learned that he retired from the Air Force and lives in Featherville year round. When the Trinity Ridge Fire ravaged the mountains and threatened the town this last summer he and the rest of the residents sat nervously along the road and watched as the fire fighters fought on the ridge just above the homes and cafe.
The other gentlemen had left the cafe now and we were the only ones left. The waiter took a seat at a table next to us and we continued talking. He filled us in on the Featherville stats. There’s lots of fishing and floating the river in the summertime. Most people who own houses use them as cabins. Of full-time residents, he estimated seventy people between Featherville and it’s three surrounding towns, Pine, Deer Creek, and Fall Creek. When we asked about the Featherville residents here year round he began counting on his fingers. Five…six…seven…eight.
“Eight,” he said again definitively. I unconsciously gasped and my mind stumbled over this statistic. Eight people. I knew it was small but this was truly rural America. At this point another group of people entered the cafe and our friendly waiter stood to greet them. We thanked him for the chat and headed back to the cabin.
On our drive home Derek and I talked about the weekend. We didn’t get to spend much time outside since it was so cold but warming by the wood burning stove, drinking wine in the evenings, and playing a game of Yahtzee all qualified as relaxation in our minds. Check, check, and check. We talked about our dream of having a cabin and what it means to become a part of rural America, a unique and still preserved part of our nation. My heart swells with anticipation of this possible dream coming to life.
Featherville was just as expected. Peaceful, beautiful, quirky. Maybe I can’t ever call myself a native of Idaho but I sure would like to make a piece of this beautiful back country my own one day.