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  sagebrush landscape title
 
 
head gate of an irrigation canal
Headgate
grasshoppers
Catching of Grasshoppers
Silt, cattails, willows
Silt, cattails, willows
Dry Snake River
Dry Snake River
Rabbit Hunt
Rabbit Hunt
Kolonizacni Klub
Kolonizacni Klub
Building of the canals
Building of the canals
Josef Zpevacek
Josef Zpevacek
Map of irrigation system - Rupert
Map of irrigation system - Rupert
Buhl
Buhl
Sagebrush
Sagebrush
Beseda Literary Club
Beseda Literary Club
Zapadni Ceska Bratrska Jednota
ZCBJ
Theater Books
Theater Books
Snake River
Snake River
In the sea of sage brush.

In 1787 Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that "those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God...". Jefferson, at the time the United States Minister to France, and owner of a large plantation in Virginia, strongly believed in the common man and especially the self reliant, independent farmer. His idea of American society was based on a democratic access to open public land for all. This public land was to be acquired after negotiating treaties with the Native Americans and after their legal titles were extinguished. In the next hundred years, the United States acquired by purchase (Louisiana 1803, Texas 1850, Gadsden 1853, Alaska 1867), cessions (Spain 1819, Mexico 1848), and by compromise (Oregon 1846) additional 1.6 billion acres of land. This vast landscape represented new opportunities for the rapidly emerging nation. Several scientific expeditions, sponsored by the Federal Government, set out to explore and survey these new territories. They brought back pictures and descriptions of varied geographic character, but one dominant pattern had figured preeminently. The aridity of the West was hard to ignore.
To attract more settlers to the arid West Congress passed the Carey Act in 1894 allowing private investors and entrepreneurs to built irrigation systems. Water was then sold to the new settlers. In 1902 Congress passed The Reclamation Act, which established federally funded water projects on public domain lands.
For more than a half of the new homesteaders in the arid landscapes of the prairies and Rocky Mountains the dream of working one's own land did not sprout into a triumphal story. The hostile environmental conditions, high cost of the railroad freight charges, fluctuating market prices, all contributed to the enormous hardship of pioneer life. "It was said", as historian Patricia Limerick points out in the Legacy of Conquest, "farmers raised three crops: corn, freight and interest". Only those who over time proficiently acquired large tracks of land and became large scale operators were able to overcome the economic and environmental obstacles and succeed. For Jefferson's common man the story was often written differently.

The irrigated land in Idaho was advertised in numerous journals and dailies and also found its way into Bohemian newspapers published in Omaha, Nebraska Pokrok Zapadu (Progress of the West) and Hospodar (The Farmer). Like other ethnic groups, the Czechs too had a desire to create their own communities. Many previous attempts had failed, but there were new opportunities in the freshly irrigated farm land in arid Idaho. A group called Cesky Kolonizacni Klub (Czech Colonization Club) formed in Omaha, Nebraska undertook several exploratory journies into Montana and Idaho to find a suitable land to host a Czech community.
Many Bohemian homesteaders in order to support their farming ventures worked as laborers during the canal building phase.
Josef Zpevacek writing from Rupert in 1905 gives a realistic picture of the area. "I am not encouraging the countrymen to come, because the country side is not pleasant at all: it is very dry, trees are in the distance of 50 miles; summer temperature reach up to 106. But the irrigated land has several advantages, hay and alfalfa is cut up to three times and the potatoes are harvest twice. There is a great demand for hay, because of the mines in the close proximity, the draught horses used in the mines need hay and also the sheep herding is widely popular. There are three new towns being established, so saddle makers and blacksmiths will have a chance to find employment. But as usual the Czechs do not want to come in the beginning and later on the good parcels are taken or are too expensive."

Buhl
The first impressions of the newly arrived homesteaders to Buhl were dismal: arid prairies was covered with sage brush, there were no trees, no water. When Blanche Suchan's family step off the train in Buhl depot in 1918 they were standing in eight inches of dust. But when they saw the strawberries and raspberry bushes at their uncle’s farm they reconcile themselves to their new home. In the beginning they worked in the ditch banks collecting white sweet clover with hand scythe and then hand threshing it collecting seeds for sale. The $300 they made seemed like a fortunate to young Blanche. Others, too, turned their allotted homesteads into working farms with their bare hands. As Vlasta Novacek, another Bohemian homesteader, pointed out: "Father, brothers, mother and I cleared the land with our bare hands. We took it right out of the sagebrush."

Like other ethnic groups the Bohemians also relied on their family ties and on each others. They formed a Czech Literary Club to supply their community with books published in their language. Most of them were members of the Zapadni Ceska Bratrska Jednota (ZCBJ - Western Fraternal Life Association). The association provided insurance services to its members, insuring them against hail damage to their crops and other natural disasters. But it also functioned as a social club. Every Saturday ZCBJ sponsored dances in their Hall in nearby Fairview. These dances were attended by the entire families and included a midnight meal of sausages. Home-brewed beer was served as well. There were so many czech bands that they had to take turns in performing at the dances. To keep their language and cultural heritage alive they formed dramatic societies. These then produced and performed czech plays in their native language. The settlers did not hesitate to travel a long distance to attend these dances or plays. Buhl Dramatic Club frequently traveled to other Bohemian communities to perform. In Nampa, located north of Boise, they found a wide audience eager to attend and participate in the plays.
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