Jean Schwieder


I was born and raised in Ammon, which at that time was a quiet small farming community. When I was a teenager I became acquainted with youth from Idaho Falls area/ Our Idaho Falls friends referred to us as “hicks from the sticks.” We laughed at that with them, knowing we couldn’t argue with those superior beings from the city. Besides, I think we worked hard at being “hicks.”

When some of our Idaho Falls friends left for college and came home, one commented to me that students at his college always said they were from Idaho Falls, even if they were really from one of the farming communities close to Idaho Falls. Probably because our mailing address was: Route 3, Idaho Falls, Idaho. I was determined that when I went to college, people would know that I lived in AMMON!

My husband, Boyd, tells the story of meeting with former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, one time in Washington, D.C., when Boyd was introduced to testify in former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle’s Senate Ag committee. Boyd was representing the nation’s wheat industry and was to this meeting to give information on the wheat industries stand regarding the reauthorization of the agriculture inspection service. Boyd was asked where he was from and he told them “Iona, Idaho.” “Where is that?” someone asked.

“It’s between Ammon and Ucon,” he replied. He just got blank stares but Sen. Craig laughed because he knew that Ammon, Ucon and Iona were small farming communities east and north of Idaho Falls. Boyd did explain after that. Yes, Boyd was and is proud of where he was raised and we all should be also.

When we were first married and traveled to the ranch each summer to live there with our family, we would buy our groceries at the small family-owned grocery store in Iona. As the farm bought the groceries, I asked one time if we could possible buy groceries in Idaho Falls because there was a better selection of fresh produce than what we could get in Iona. Boyd’s mother, Bertha Schwieder, then told me that it was important to buy from your local stores to help the economy of your own town. I’ve often thought of that and can definitely see the wisdom of it, thus try to utilize that wisdom in my purchasing now. At one time Iona had two grocery stores and a gas station and they did a good business, but now they are down to one six-twelve store and gas station combined. They have had cafes in Iona but not now. Supporting your local merchants is important.

When we lived in Ammon, the idea of an “Ammon Days” was introduced and accepted gladly. In fact our oldest daughter was runner-up for queen of Ammon Days once. I’m not sure when Iona started their “Iona Days” but when Boyd and I were dating we would go to their summer rodeo and celebration. Those two communities still hold their “days.”

Ammon has grown so much but “old Ammon” still has a grocery store that my grandfather worked in during the early 1900s. However a Maveriik has moved in as well as many other businesses. In fact, Idaho Falls and Ammon border each other which when I was young there were farms separating the two areas of the “hicks” and “nonhicks.”

As I’ve been putting together life histories of some of my ancestors I am impressed with their feelings toward the small towns they were born and raised in. And yet our friends in Idaho Falls had a strong sense of belonging to their town also, they were proud of it. I guess it doesn’t matter the size of the town you live in but the size of your feelings of belonging.

We need to be proud of where we are from! In order to be proud we need to be actively engaged in helping in our communities. It is so easy to sit back and be critical as things change.

Yes, I was and am proud of the town I was born and raised in. We might have been “hicks” according to the rating scale of our Idaho Falls neighbors, but the Ammon people were and still are our friends. These were people who would be at our door to help us if we needed them. This was my home!

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at straddlin

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