Newspaper Archive of
The Adams County Record
Council, Idaho
October 24, 2012     The Adams County Record
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October 24, 2012

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Page 10 Wednesday, October 24, 2012 The Adams County Record Community Spotlight Ken Sievert Just a Backcountry "I'm just one old geezer," Ken Sievert says. An active skier and hiker, and a baekcountry pilot, he's often a loner. "Bush country airstrips are not the kinds of places girls tend to hang out," he laughed. Ken was born in Santa Cruz, California in 1943, when Santa Cruz was a small coastal dirt-street town. His workaholic father was a successful sign painter in the days when movie theater ads were hand painted on windows. Popular and gregarious, his dad played drums for Grange Hall dances, where the farmers played music and danced until 2:00 AM. Ken remembers sleeping behind the Sge curtain as a youngster. By age 8, Ken was sweeping sidewalks and erecting signs with his father. His grandfather had been a carpenter, and raised chickefis on a small farm. Once, Ken traded his mom's prize laying hens for a pet raccoon -- not a very good move. Morn was struck by polio in 1952, her life overshadowed by a lifelong sentence to a wheelchair. Like Ken, his two older sisters loved to fish. Ken remembers his sister catching a big mountain whitefish with a worm. *'How could a girl do that?" he scoffed. He hated school, having to sit still when everything he cared for was outside. Being in nature always won out. His mother found him a correspondence course on the back of a matchbook, and Ken earned his diploma. At age 20 he enrolled in a pottery class, began winning state competitions, and became a local art show judge. Converting the family barn into an art studio and rustic home, he lived a simplistic life there for 30 years, with a hose on the roof providing his shower and hot water. For 20 years he molded pottery and sculptures out of clay and :bronze casting, his art reflecting the natural world around him. One day he drove his Harley down to the beach. Generally shy and introverted, he felt compelled to toss a rock to a lady there. "I still have that rock; he said. "I don't even know why I threw it." The tactic caught him a wife. Chris was an extrovert f r o m New York City, a layout artist for Sunset Magazine. But they had fun together, and she moved into the comfort of his laid back 60's lifestyle. Her visiting east coast family was appalled, especially when friendliest ones in their backpacks. His cat Smoky lived a long adventurous life, later flying with Ken into the wild backcountry of Alaska. "These were the happiest times of my life," Ken recalled. Intrigued with the Foxfire books, he studied the history of making stringed instruments, and built 1800's banjos with intricately carved maple necks and apricot wood bodies. Unfortunately he and Chris drifted apart. Ken returned to sign making. In 1980 his logger friend, Peter, took him for an airplane ride that would change his life. "I could do this; Ken exclaimed. Ken butchered a chicken, "It would be neat to say cooked it in his ceramic kiln, and served up dinner in the wheelbarrow. One day he and Chris visited the SPCA animal shelter, and freed all the cats, packing the two I was a pilot." He never thought he could own a plane until a 1950 Cessna 170-A came up for sale. "I didn't know enough to ask any questions about it:' he laughed. He dubbed it "Root Beer," and soon landed on his first backcountry air strip in the Chamberlain Basin of Idaho. He was hooked. His Cessna became his magic carpet to remote fishing and wilderness areas, and he loved the maintenance work. Narrow, overgrown backcountry air strips pose incredible landing and takeoff challenges. Small planes are steel tubes covered with fabric that a bear or moose could easily chew up. Pilots carry big rolls of duct tape. Huge mosquitoes and predators roam freely. His first Alaskan flight landed near the isolated Kougarokik River. Blood spattered rocks and huge footprints announced grizzly fishing grounds. A few empty Eskimo huts gave the only semblance of human occupation. Vulnerable, he carried a shotgun, but he was Pilot? ecstatic, and returned to Alaska again and again. Even when stranded with his plane entangled in the woods, he never became discouraged. "The backcountry is the only place I feel totally at home," he admitted. He began writing backcountry flying articles. In 1988 he published a book, Sportsman Pilot, How to Bush Fly, filled with observations, suggestions and anecdotal stories of bush country piloting. In 1990 he bought his current plane, "Slammer," a 1985 235-horse- power Maule, the jeep of the backeountry because its wing design allows . for short take offs and landings. He completed airplane mechanics school in Fairbanks, Alaska and maintained flight school aircraft for 9 years before moving to McCall. He housed his plane at the Council airport. He found a dream job at an upscale new California flight school and state of the art facility for light sport airplanes. He put 30 new European aircraft together and test piloted them. Overextended, the owner lost the business By Deb Wilson in the 2008 economy downturn. "I couldn't picture myself retiring in an old Airstream trailer," Ken realized. He moved to Council, bought a house and hung up his shingle at the Council airport last year: One Old Guy Airmotive, airplane maintenance and inspection. Ken is meticulous with maintenance, valuing the safety of flying. He began grounds maintenance while hanging around the airport and joined the city airport commission. With Dick Tnompson's leaving, he is ready to step in as the airport commission chairman. "I'd feel more comfortable if it was just the get out there and dig out the runway light that the snow plow just ran over position;' he admitted with his slightly irreverent grin. "I'd have probably been a ceramic professor, but flying borders on some kind of mental obsession for me:' he admitted. "I think it was all about destiny and fate that I did it, but there doesn't seem to be an end to the destiny just yetF He thinks he'll build cigar box fiddles; in the old days musicians couldn't afford wood, and used cigar boxes for the bodies instead. He's Worn his old mountain bike out, and just put together a new suspension model out of its crate. Ken never thinks of himself as anyone special. "I'm just a guy who likes to play a harmonica;' he'll say. He's just a guy who needs the backcountry air. Bear Facts Smith Mountain got the first hint of winter Sunday afternoon. When the clouds raised, the Mountain was a beautiful white so guess it is that time of year. I was surprised by a couple of Wicked Witches that stopped by my place, but finally realized it was only Sarah Warner and Jan Young dressed up for the Annual Halloween Party in Council. Lowell Tietje and Nan Rankin enjoyed a visit with the Ray Kranz family in Donnelly last week. They. met in Arizona in F R I G I DAtRE The first snow the winter two years ago and have enjoyed visiting here each summer. Dan and Sauni McGahey had a houseful of family over the weekend. Their son, Jack, and daughter Emily, and son Jim and his sons Will and Collin; all came from Boise. i think they came up Friday night for the weekend to brag on their mother, Sauni, who got her deer. Gail Routson from Weiser was McGahey's guest for the past week as well. Sharon Lee has been a trave!ing lady for most By Tina Warner -- 258-4471 of the summer. She is working at home this week while Jerry is busy getting ready to move back to Arizona for the winter. Rod Greenwood drove his tractor to Cuprum Saturday and moved a trailer over to the Martin Carter location at Bear. This is the last of the trailers that the mining company put in thirty- some years ago when the mine was working. Several others are in use around the area after the mining closed down.