The first time I laid eyes on Rick, he had a screwdriver in his hand. He was explaining to those around him a way to make the washer work, when it seemed as if the machine would never wash again. Rick’s laugh is pure joy. He is well spoken and intelligent. If I stepped into this interview with any negative preconceptions about homelessness, they were proven wrong yet again. I thank Rick for his candor and for the many laughs we had together.
1. Where are you from?
“I was born in Boise in 1952. I grew up in the North End right across from Lowell Swimming Pool. One thing my dad always taught was to respect wherever we were. When we were camping we always left the campsite cleaner than when we found it. We didn’t have a lot. We weren’t poor but my dad didn’t make a whole lot of money. Later on my mom got a job working for a newspaper. She waited till all of us kids were out of school.”
“My folks were model parents. I never heard them quarrel or raise their voices up to each other. They were hoping for a boy but they had three girls, all two years apart. Then six years later I showed up. Really, growing up it was like I had four moms. There was no arguing among us kids either. It was just the way we were brought up. It wasn’t heavy strictness or anything like that.”
“My dad was an avid outdoorsman. We spent a lot of time camping and fishing. He was a fireman and he’d be on 24 hours and off 48. All through the year my dad would switch with someone and we’d get a five-day vacation with him. I don’t think there’s a mountain lake in the northwest I haven’t been to. He taught us to respect and love the outdoors. We were taught to respect the law. I still like to get out and go on nature walks. Any hunting I do these days, I do with a camera.”
“By the time I was in junior high and high school we moved onto the second Bench. I went to West and Borah. I took some classes at Boise Junior College when I was still in junior high. I took a science class in [an introduction to] genetics. I started my first business then too, breeding and raising tropical fish. I supplied them to local pet store owners and had 83 aquariums. When I was still in high school the government came around and gave everyone an aptitude test. I still kick myself about this because after graduation they offered me a full scholarship to learn about a little something called the computer. In those days computers were still so big they’d fill a room. They were still using punch cards. With no idea what a computer was or if it was anything I could earn a living at, I turned them down.”