Thom George may have been a newcomer in North Idaho, but he wasted little time adjusting to the area’s outdoor lifestyle.
After moving to the countryside south of Coeur d’Alene eight years ago, the Queens, N.Y., native immediately set out with an Idaho-inspired shopping list: a pickup truck, a golden retriever and a 12-gauge shotgun.
“I’m a gun-toting Democrat,” said George, chairman of the Kootenai County Democratic Party, who has a concealed-weapon permit that allows him to carry the .357 Magnum he bought for personal protection when he sold real estate in rural areas.
In the past year, gun shop owners have reported record earnings. While the tidal shift in the political landscape played a major role, local store owners also attribute the soaring sales to economic uncertainties.
At Black Sheep Sporting Goods in Coeur d’Alene, sales have remained steady all year. The numbers, however, are not nearly as high as the spike seen in the fourth quarter of 2008, said company spokesman Brian Knoll.
Ammunition continues to be in short supply and even the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department is having a hard time outfitting officers with practice ammo.
A little bit of everything
What began as a need for space became a unique treasure trove of more than 100 years of American history and culture.
Located on the Gortsema family farm, the Lost Dutchman Museum is in a modest building at 202 S. Fifth St. in Fairfield, just east of state Route 27.
Most visitors are those who, when just driving by, notice the wooden sign along the road. More than 500 people have dropped by since the museum opened in June 2006.
“Stop in,” said Dorothy Gortsema, 84. “If someone is home, we’ll let you in.”
Among the thousands of items that fill the building are a collection of saltcellars, a Victor-Victrola phonograph, more than 40 restored engines and a copy of The Spokesman-Review from 1914 with the headline “Woodrow Wilson Inaugurated.” Hanging from the ceiling is a 46-star American flag.
“I just took it as it came,” Andy Gortsema, 84, said of the collection. “Really didn’t go around looking for it.”
The idea for the museum came when their son Gary, 53, was trying to set up a woodworking shop and discovered the two outbuildings filled with his father’s vast collection.
The city and the West Central neighborhood are joining forces to encourage property owners to clean up yards with too much trash and buildings that show signs of neglect.
“The city didn’t go looking for anything, it was the neighborhood that called us and asked for help,” said Jonathan Mallahan, neighborhood services director. “Properties with boarded-up windows, piles of garbage or abandoned vehicles can attract crime because criminals assume that people aren’t paying attention or don’t care.”
The West Central Neighborhood Council can arrange help for elderly or disabled residents who can’t clean up their own property. And $25 dump passes are available to cover part of the disposal fee at the Waste-to-Energy Plant or solid waste transfer stations.
Pia Hallenberg Christensen
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