Christmas is a time of good cheer, a time of renewal, a time when families get together for worship or tradition or both. Bad news isn’t particularly appropriate for the season, but bad news there is, and like all unfortunate stories, there is usually a silver lining.
Recently, the Saddle Up Grill burned. Owned by Howie and Suz White, the Athol restaurant proudly put out smoked prime rib and other delectables. The ultimate smoke occurred on Dec. 17 at about 4 a.m. Apparently started from a portable heater in the seating area, it spread rapidly. Fortunately, the Timberlake Fire District main station is only a few blocks away and they responded quickly, limiting the damage and saving the kitchen.
The irony of the situation was somewhat miraculous, however. Due to sewer difficulties, the Whites had to stop using their motorhome as a home away from home. Because the Whites, who live in Post Falls, operate the restaurant for breakfast through dinner, long hours are put in daily. Howie started sleeping in the restaurant nightly, so that he would be on hand for the early morning breakfast prep. The night before the fire, Howie went home with Suz to celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary, leaving the restaurant vacant.
The obvious conclusion is that had Howie been in the building at 4 a.m. when the fire started, a smoldering smoky blaze, he may well have perished from smoke inhalation. This was a strange way of celebrating an anniversary, but the timing was superb.
It is uncertain just how old it is but it has been determined that it is the oldest standing building in Athol. Local historians recall when it was located next to the old train station. During World War II, if a late train came in with recruits headed for Farragut, they would be put up in the bunkhouse until the following day. Fortunately for Howie White, he didn’t use the building for its original purpose that fateful night.
Opened in March 2007, a lifelong dream was realized as Howie and Suz cranked out the first of many succulent smoked prime rib sandwiches slathered with Suz’s secret barbeque sauce, along with what Howie called the world’s biggest best burger. Twelve ounces of choice ground beef surrounded by all the fixins. Out back is a 500-gallon smoker, where they turn out their food from scratch. Oh, and did we mention the homemade barbecue ranch-style beans?
The Whites plan on rebuilding and opening just as soon as possible next spring, as there just isn’t any quit or even slowdown in them.
In other news
While attempting to open his road and that of his neighbors, Donald Faubian made the ultimate sacrifice. Don was plowing snow down the hill from his home when his ATV got stuck in a snow bank. Failing to extricate the vehicle, he trudged up the hill where he called a friend for help. When his friend arrived, Don was dead of an apparent heart attack. The unfortunate side of the snowy wonderland we are in, is that overexertion can kill. He will be remembered by the many people that he unhesitatingly helped over the years.
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