Friday, Feb., 2, will be remembered here as the day 13-year-old Rodney Marks skiied to victory in one of the toughest tests of endurance children from this remote central Idaho community have ever faced.
The test saw the six children from the one-room schoolhouse here race the two children from neighboring Big Creek to the top of a 7,607-foot mountain pass named Profile Gap.
The two tiny hamlets, which lie on opposite sides of the pass in the rugged Salmon River Mountains, are cut off from the outside world during the winter by deep snow and do not have television or telephones. Practically the only way in or out is by ski-equipped light aircraft.
Bill Erickson, 37, teacher at the Yellow Pine school, proposed the race to "relieve the boredom" of the long winter isolation. His idea, attacked by some outside the community as a form of child abuse, was backed heartily by the parents, however.
The children, aged six to 15, skiied through some of the most spectacular scenery in central Idaho on a mostly uphill course that took them through glades of snow-frosted pine trees, deep canyons and soaring ridges lit by brilliant sun.
Life in the two villages, among the most isolated in the Pacific Northwest, can hardly be called dull.
That is why there was some comment in Yellow Pine after Erickson mentioned "boredom."
"Hell, boredom," said Don Millen, 65, head of the village council, "there is always something exciting happening here."
The last few days have been no exception.
A seven-foot-long mountain lion gave the town a thrill by stalking Erickson's wife, Peg, at the edge of town. After the shaken woman reported the incident, the best hunters from Yellow Pine tracked the animal for two days through deep snow. But it got away.
Then the water main froze, and the village borrowed a half-mile of fire hose from the U.S. Forest Service without asking permission, for a substitute means of supply.
Thursday night, Don Waller, 29, a Yellow Pine hunting outfitter, and Howard Buettgenbach, 45, a guide, pulled into town after a grueling 2 1/2- day horse-drawn sleigh ride over 71 miles of mountain road from the nearest paved highway. It was so cold on the trip that frostbite turned one of Buettgenbach's thumbs black when he took off his mittens to get dressed.
The 45 trappers, miners and hunters, wintering this year in Yellow Pine celebrated the safe arrival of the two men in the B & F Bar, one of two saloons in town, with round after round of beer and dancing to the music of trapper Dale Johnson, 26, on a honky tonk piano.
Yellow Pine, therefore, was in a fine mood Friday for the most exciting event of the week, the cross-country ski race.
There was some doubt whether the race would ever happen because of the temperatures that morning -- minus 20 degrees in Big Creek and minus 7 in Yellow Pine.
But after a short delay the Yellow Piners took their children on the backs of their snarling snowmobiles to a starting point on the east fork of the Salmon River.
Two hours and 35 minutes after the race began, Rodney Marks, 13, son of Larry Marks, operator of the Yellow Pine Lodge, flashed across the finish line. His brother, Russell, 15, finished in second place, five minutes behind. Lisa Minter, 11, came in only a minute behind Russell after struggling through bitter cold on a course that rose more than 3,100 feet in elevation.
Yellow Pine was in a mood to celebrate again.
Men in thick woolen plaid shirts gathered at the corner bar to listen to Dale Johnson play the honky tonk piano again. They danced the "Yellow Pine Stomp" across the wooden floor with their wives and girlfriends and let the children in to see the piano player do some ventriloquist tricks.
Bill Erickson, reflected on what happened that day. "Too bad," he said, "that children in the city never get a chance to find out what they can really do when they are put to the test."