Sep 17, 2021

A Wedding in Marsing

Behind the scenes of a scenic marvel

By Ed Goldman

The young couple, Larsen and Sarah, were determined to have their wedding on a completely undeveloped 10-acre lot they own in the middle of scenery in Marsing, Idaho.

And what scenery it is. Across the road from their property looms a row of perfectly flat-topped plateaus. Beyond the plateaus flows the Snake River, in which an abundant mountain snow-pack melts and keeps this mostly rainless state green and fertile.

Edgy Cartoon

The Rules of A Tractor

Abutting the couple’s land on one side is a ranch where two lively bays and an especially stunning Appaloosa graze peacefully, perhaps enjoying some time off from their principal jobs in horse therapy. From another angle you can see foothills and farmlands and a handful of homes thousands of yards from each other.

The couple and the dozens of guests they’d invited to this plenair party knew that a heavy downfall and gale-force winds were predicted. And sure enough, the hourlong drive from Boise to the wedding defines the overused word “fraught.” At times the rain comes down with such sweep and volume that visibility extends only as far as the car in front of you (for us, our focal point for several miles is a construction-site toilet on a trailer, inspiring the variation of a familiar phrase: Any old Porta-Potty in a storm).

The young couple had absolute faith that the storm would be over in time for the wedding. It is, leaving in its wake dramatic light on the string of plateaus and in the sky behind the couple and their officiant, the sun daggering its way through clouds that had been sketched in charcoal but no longer loomed menacingly.

After the couple exchanges wedding vows, the three horses stroll and scamper down the hillside in front of the guests and behind the wedding party, backlit with the kind of glowing shafts nature occasionally provides.

Even in this era of cellphone madness, it seems as though most of the attendees are more interested in capturing the imagery in their hearts than on their devices today.

The groom had been a radiologic lab tech focused exclusively on analyzing the material of melanoma biopsies. He is now beginning a job in medical billing so he can work from the pastoral home he’s building. The bride is a hospice consultant who travels to family homes and clinics from county to county. Serious-minded young people, planting their feet firmly on their own land and banking on their own hopes.

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The modest home’s foundation has been poured. The couple’s first purchase has been a red, 1939 Farmall H tractor which the wedding guests take turns posing on during the reception.

The newlyweds, in their 20s, plan to raise crops and animals on their land.

In an era of cynicism which tries to disguise itself as the seemingly more benign irony—and at a time when young people who opt to buy their first home want it to come equipped with every electronic and recreational convenience imaginable—it would be profoundly foolish to dismiss the bride and groom as naive, as self-deluders or as throwbacks.

They’re none of the above. They’re pragmatic dreamers, contemporary reboots of the homesteaders whose own dreams helped pave the way for the rest of us. It doesn’t take much imagination to acknowledge that each was raised by parents who placed a premium on values, not things, while raising their kids.

Why do we find the rituals of our cultural life so compelling and emotionally evocative when they pay their respects to the past?

A prairie wedding, funeral or barn-raising in, say, a John Ford western—whether in the textural black-and-white that seems to have more nuances and gradations than its counterpart in glorious Eastman color—stirs up memories in us of times and priorities we may never have experienced but somehow recognize as being quintessentially American.

That’s what I watch, hear and feel this day when I’m privileged to attend, in the final days of summer, a wedding in Marsing, Idaho—a ceremony and celebration that defies cynicism. And rain.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).