House edit: An Idaho original

Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, did something unusual last week. She no-commented a reporter. When the Post Register’s Bryan Clark called to talk about her loss to Leadore rancher Merrill Beyeler in the GOP primary, Barrett, for perhaps the first time, had nothing to say.

Well, we’re not letting Lenore Hardy Barrett go out like that.

In an era where conformity is king, Barrett is an Idaho original. The environmental community hated her. The GOP establishment distrusted her. Even her allies in the far right would at times shake their heads as Barrett wandered out on one of her limbs.

Among those who spill ink for a living, however, Barrett was gold, a never-ending fountain of quips, quotes and anecdotes. And certainly we would never attempt Barrett’s political eulogy without including a few of her most creative offerings.

There was the time renovation of the Statehouse was a big issue. A selling point for those interested in spending millions on a revamped capital building was that the old elevators were too small to hold a hospital gurney.

“If I ever have a heart attack, just tie a rope around my ankles and lower me out the window,” Barrett told the Post Register.

Once, a reporter caught Barrett penning an RSVP on the back of a used envelope and asked if that was her normal practice.

“Damn right,” Barrett replied. “My grandmother saved aluminum gum wrappers and collected balls of string.”

And, of course, there was the time Barrett forgot to take a pistol out of her purse before attempting to board a plane at the Boise airport.

“I had no trouble convincing them I wasn’t going to terrorize that plane,” Barrett said, laughing. “They didn’t cuff me and do a body search.”

That’s good stuff, but it was not just the cleverness of her retorts that earned Barrett a grudging respect, even from those who thought her politics repugnant. It’s that she meant what she said. Every word. All the time.

Barrett’s legacy is that she found wonderfully entertaining ways to express her hatred for taxes and distrust of government. Barrett was effective as the loyal opposition, the person willing to point out that the emperor, even from her own party, was wearing no clothes.

But, everybody’s day comes and Barrett’s was May 20. Many thought it would arrive sooner. Five years ago, the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey asked Barrett about retirement rumors. She shot those down, but did say that when her day comes, “I hope someone will say, ‘Well done, faithful servant.’”

Rep. Barrett, we disagreed with you constantly, but boy did we have a good time doing it.

So, “Well done, faithful servant,” and thanks for all those memories.

Corey Taule