COLUMN: My Haven Idaho

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

I have been to 25 of the 50 states in the Union. If I had to rank them from most to least favorite—using the sole criterion of personal affection—I would rank Idaho 4th.

Pennsylvania would be first because it is my home state. Take a short drive outside of my beloved hometown of Philadelphia and you will see some of the most awe-inspiring countryside ever to be viewed.

New Jersey is second. As a young man, I spent so much of my time down the Jersey Shore. I walked the boardwalks and beaches. I traversed the trails of the mighty Pine Barrens. My time there has left an indelible mark on my life; and you cannot write my biography without talking about my time there.

Utah would be 3rd. I owe much to the Beehive state. For all my criticisms of Utah (see below), I do love it here. I chose to raise my children here. It was a good decision.

And then comes Idaho. Why do I rank it 4th over such beautiful places such as Massachusetts and Montana? Because Idaho borders Utah.

That is pretty much it. I have yet to go white water rafting in Idaho. I desperately wish to do that. I have not camped nor have I spent much time in the many nature parks that litter the state. That is to my shame. I have been to Boise. Fun town.

The extent of my affection for the Gem State comes strictly from the fact that it is a 25 minute drive from my house; and that allows me to get out of Utah for an hour or two.

Utah can be vexing to those who do not practice the Mormon faith. Most Utahns love the outdoor activities, the scenic beauty, the unbelievably low crime rate and, for me at least, the level of education my children receive is impressive. But, I also like to drink a beer once in a while. And, like most people, I do not mind putting a few bucks towards the lottery for my own amusement.

Is this morally wrong? Do I have horns and a pointed tail? Am I a danger to the youth of Utah? Do these facts make me a strong candidate for the weekly “Worse Than Hitler” award?

Or, if I lived in any of the other 49 states, would it make me an average guy unworthy of distinction?

And that is the problem. There are 49 states and then there is Utah. That’s not a compliment.

In its illogical zeal to administer Mormon theology into state law, the right wing legislators of Utah have made any form of gambling illegal. And they have, through their Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, implemented and enforced liquor laws so arcane, inane and unreasonable that it has become a running joke to everyone who has visited Utah and tried to order a drink in a restaurant.

I have become an erudite scholar of the DABC and their methods in the past few months. I can come to no other conclusion than their main purpose for existing is to prevent businesses that offer liquor from prospering.

Idaho, and normalcy, is a short car drive away. I love you, Idaho.

As I get older, I drink less. The natural effects of age coupled with living on a modest budget precludes me from drinking like I did when I was in my 20’s. If you see me in the White Owl or the Eagles in Logan, there is a very good chance that my beverage of choice that day will be ice water. I frequent bars because that is where my friends are.

For me, Idaho is not a place to “booze it up.” I go there more to indulge in a lottery ticket now and then. I rarely buy any form of beer or liquor when I cross the border. But when I do, I like that I am just like everyone else. Whereas in Utah, buying a beer makes one what the Nazis referred to as the “Untermenschen”. The inferior ones.

Idaho, where self-esteem lives.

Consider, if you will, the town of Hyde Park. Recently, as was reported in The Herald Journal, the candidates for Hyde Park city council held a forum. Many of them jumped through hoops to oppose an upcoming ballot initiative that would allow beer sales within city limits. To those candidates quoted in the HJ column in opposition, it was a moral issue.

Question: Can you tax morals?

How many cops do morals pay for? When street workers fix potholes, are morals what paid for it? Schools? Civic events?

Hyde Park shares some of these services with North Logan. And without a ton of fanfare, North Logan recently allowed beer sales on Sunday. So, Hyde Park can mooch off of North Logan’s prosperity while holding on to their morals.

Hyde Park, the land of morally upright freeloaders.

I think Hyde Park is a beautiful town. I drive through it on my way to Idaho to give them my money. Thanks for the smooth roads, Hyde Park! It makes my drive to Idaho comfortable.

The people of Utah need to choose between tax revenue and theocratic rule. You can make things that are perfectly legal in the other 49 states more readily available here and then tax it. And unless proof is provided that the streets of America are strewn with dead children because of the proliferation of liquor, I will continue to scoff at the argument that loosening liquor laws in Utah will somehow bring forth a plague of beer-induced deaths.

Consider me a second class citizen all you want because I sometimes drink alcohol and gamble. Your pious scorn cannot possibly be equal to my ridicule of your ignorance. But know this as fact: the $20 bill in my wallet has the same monetary worth as any other $20 bill possessed by any other Utahn. The difference is that I take my $20 bill and spend it in Idaho.

And for that, Idaho is grateful.

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