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News >  Idaho

Ice-Blocking Finds Home On Simplot’s Hill

Billionaire J.R. Simplot doesn’t just have a home - he has a hill.

Simplot’s Boise home sits atop a high hill entirely covered with lush, green, well-mowed grass. A landmark visible from all over town, the bright-green hill stands out from the brown, brushy ones around it that frame the north and east sides of the city. The effect is completed by a huge, lighted American flag next to the house at hilltop.

Simplot’s hill has long been a popular sledding spot when Boise gets one of its rare (and usually light) snowfalls. But now Boiseans have discovered a way to play in Simplot’s front yard year-round.

The new sport is called ice-blocking.

Folks pick up large blocks of ice at nearby Shaver’s market, then trudge up all or part of Simplot’s grassy hill.

They remove and pocket the plastic cover and lay a folded towel atop the block.

Sit down on the towel, and an ice-blocker will find herself careening down Simplot’s hill.

On a recent sunny weekend, a couple of dozen people were out ice-blocking. Most were families with children.

Groups of young teenagers and even some older adults joined in.

Afterward, the sliders leave what’s left of their ice blocks on the grass toward the bottom of the hill, where they melt away.

Driving by, it looks like the remains of a strange storm - one that dropped large, rectangular hail.

Will he, or (sniff) won’t he?

A week ago Wednesday, Boise was basking under 94-degree temperatures. One week later, the city was shivering in a cold wind, with high temperatures barely climbing out of the 50s. Now, half the population here seems to be hacking and sniffling.

But wild weather and human misery have never been known to get in the way of politics. The big question down here these days isn’t what type of cough medicine works best or whether to feed a cold or starve a fever. It’s: Will he or won’t he?

Speculation over whether U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne will run for governor or not is reaching a fever pitch (and some of those speculating are running fevers).

Kempthorne, who made his political name as one of Boise’s most popular mayors, could set off a musical chairs game among Idaho elected officials and hopefuls if he leaves his Senate seat to step into the front-runner spot for governor. Or, if he opts to stay back east for six more years, Idaho heads into the election season with an open race for governor with no clear front-runner.

Expect an announcement next week.

The hairiest candidate

Gov. Phil Batt clearly has a soft spot for dogs, so much so that after signing a proclamation this week declaring today to be Walk Your Dog Day, Batt allowed a black lab mix named Peavine to pose for pictures in the governor’s chair.

But after the picture, Peavine refused to get down. As Batt tried to wrestle the dog out of the chair amid laughter, he said, “He doesn’t want to get out - he’ll be the next governor. He says, ‘If Dirk’s not gonna do it, I will.”’

Read ‘em and weep

Tony Paquin, the Coeur d’Alene high-tech specialist who’s taking on U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth in the Republican primary, says he wants to propose legislation to require members of Congress to read bills before they vote on them.

“It’s the least they can do,” he said.

Paquin is outraged at provisions he’s finding in the budget bill Congress approved this year and says Chenoweth must not have read the bill or she wouldn’t have voted for it.

Chenoweth campaign spokesman Graham Paterson said Paquin’s comments sound like those of an “armchair quarterback.”

“Helen has always been very fastidious in reviewing legislation,” Paterson said.

, DataTimes MEMO: North-South Notes runs every other Saturday. To reach Betsy Z. Russell, call 336-2854, fax to 336-0021 or e-mail to

North-South Notes runs every other Saturday. To reach Betsy Z. Russell, call 336-2854, fax to 336-0021 or e-mail to

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