Shoppers may go to the Tendoy store for the groceries and dry goods on the shelves, but it’s more than a store. It’s where Lemhi County ranchers and retirees swap gossip and news, sometimes with dubious results.
Take the wolf story.
It all began Thursday morning in the parking lot when Joan Smith, the teacher at the town’s one-room school, told Tony Krekler that she thought she had seen a black wolf from her kitchen window.
“By noon, the rumor was that there had been a wolf on the Tendoy School playground and it was so close that the kids could read the number on its radio collar,” Smith said. “It had changed from a big animal in a hayfield to a wolf in the playground pulling kids out of the swings.”
A black wolf or wolf-hybrid was seen April 26 by several residents about eight miles west of Tendoy, 20 miles southeast of Salmon.
Flanked on one side by a hayfield, and on the other by Agency Creek, the Tendoy School and its students are no strangers to wild animals. Foxes, deer, coyotes, and an occasional bear wander past their windows.
But, when Quinton Snook knocked on the schoolhouse door just as Smith was settling into the tale of the “Three Little Pigs,” it scared her students half to death, she said. Snook, a local rancher who has lost two calves to a predator, possibly the black wolf or wolf-hybrid, wanted to ask Smith about her wolf sighting.
By noon, Smith had gotten calls from Magistrate Judge Fred Snook, The Associated Press, a U.S. Fish and Wildife biologist and KIFI TV-8 in Idaho Falls.
Smith said she spent most of the day on the phone trying to dispel the outrageous rumors, finally calling the sheriff to ask him to quash the reports.
The day produced a belly full of laughs. Postmaster Kelly Anglin called from the Tendoy Store across the hayfield, pretending he was an AP reporter.
“I heard you took a potshot at the wolf,” Anglin said.
“No, no. You’ve got the story all wrong,” she said.
“What caliber rifle did you use?” he asked.
That’s when Smith knew she had a prankster on the phone.
A few minutes later, a real AP reporter called her but Smith was ready for him.
“I said, ‘Now look, I’ve just had one prank call already,”’ she told the voice on the other end of the line.
This time, the caller really was from AP, regional writer David Foster of Seattle, who had been in the sheriff’s office when Sheriff Brett Barsalou fielded a call about Smith’s “wolf sighting.”
Smith told the reporter that if there were any story, it should be about how quickly wolf rumors can run wild.
In the meantime, Smith is doing her best to dispel rumors. She called her brother-in-law, a Fish and Game biologist, to alert him to the problem.
“If you hear any rumors about a wolf coming down the chimney at the Tendoy School and eating all the kids, it’s not true.”