Thursday, August 6, 2020
Judy Peterson Reaps a Farm Life in the Wood River Valley
Judy Peterson relishes life on the farm.
Thursday, June 6, 2019


Judy Peterson never needed to shop in the meat department.

She had rabbits. So many rabbits that she gave some away But, when she ran out of friends who’d take them, she had to put them on the dinner plate.

“We’d sell them at Easter time for little pets. But they kept multiplying and I got tired of building kennels for them so I had to butcher them. They were coming out of our ears,” she said.

Judy Peterson and Verla Worthington Goitiandia practice their rodeo waves for the four parades they will ride in, beginning with the Hailey Days of the old West Parade and ending with The Big Hitch Parade during Wagon Days.

Rabbits weren’t the only thing Judy and her late husband Tom Peterson grew on their farm on Baseline Road. They had chickens, ducks, geese, horses and cows. And Judy butchered plenty a pig for Sunday dinners.

“It was a regular three-ring circus on the farm,” she said.

Peterson depicts a lifestyle that was common to many of the early Wood River Valley residents in the south valley. That prompted the Blaine County Fair Board to nominate her for the 2019 Blaine County Museum Heritage Court.

She will be honored, along with Connie Grabow, Pamela Rayborn and Verla Goitiandia, during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at The Liberty Theatre in Hailey.

Peterson was born in California where her family had temporarily moved while her father built ships during World War II. But that was her only sojourn out of Idaho. Her family moved back to Idaho when she was 2 and, since, she’s lived in Gooding, Shoshone, Hailey and Arco before taking up residence in Gannett where she lives now.

“My father was a miner—he had his own mine west of Hailey.  We also moved up to Cobalt near Salmon for the summer when my father would go up there to mine,” she said. “He eventually finished up as a ski lift operator for Sun Valley Resort and at Sun Valley’s ice rink.”

As a young woman, Peterson worked at several cafes before ending up cooking for the dining room at the Hiawatha Hotel in Hailey.

“It was elegant and nice with white tablecloths, marble columns and a big kitchen. It even had an elevator—maybe the first in the valley. We served a lot of prime rib.”

She also worked at The Blue Spruce in Hailey, which she described as one of the first restaurants in the valley with a modern vibe.

“The menu was fresh and the owner cut his own meat in the back room,” she recounted. “One time one of the regular customers remarked that there was a fly in his coffee. I told him, ‘Don’t tell anyone. They’ll all want one.’”

Peterson met her husband—a young farm boy from Carey--at a country western dance at a bar that used to sit across the street from the Silver Dollar Saloon.

“I had babysat for his uncle who managed the Wood River Mercantile when I was in fourth grade. His uncle introduced us and I thought Tom was one of the best-looking dancers out there. He was captain of the football team. He played basketball. He was a catch.”

The couple went on to have four children: Tracy, Pam, Travis and Tyler. And their children gave them 10 grandchildren and five great grandchildren—most of whom live in the area.

Tom augmented the family’s pocketbook cutting and hauling wood, which he collected at Pole Creek near Smiley Creek. The family would accompany him and they often spent most of the summer there, swimming and fishing, in addition to chopping wood.

During the school year, Judy Peterson drove school bus No. 9.

“I usually had a full bus load. I had to deal with lots of snow in those days,” she said. “I remember having to go down one of the roads that hadn’t been plowed, and the snow drifts were so bad the bus would drift. In one place the gravel road had fallen, bottomed out, and I had to be pulled out by tractor.”

Peterson laments the growth that has occurred in the valley.

“It used to be very small compared to now. You knew everyone in town and everybody was friendly,” she said. “But I can’t think of any place I’d rather live.”



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