TAPEMINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
Tape 1, side 1
0-8:15 Domingo was born in Mountain Home, Idaho on 23 February 1921. His parents were Domingo Aguirre and Juanita Urquidi. His father was from Mallabi and his mother was from Aulesti. They met and married in Boise, Idaho, but his parents did not talk much about how they met. When his father first came to the United States, he went to work wheeling concrete, probably at the sawmill or the dam in Barber, Idaho. He wanted to find a job with a sheep outfit. He eventually did and settled in Mountain Home, where he started Aguirre & Sons, a sheep ranch. Before that, he had herded sheep in the foothills of Boise. He also herded around Atlanta, Idaho, close to where the mines were. He enjoyed working with sheep. His father was a very dedicated man, which Domingo says is a very Basque characteristic, and was a loving father. Domingo tells a story about his father acquiring a homestead in Prairie, Idaho in the Smith’s Prairie area, northwest of Anderson Dam. He built a little white house there for his family and sister-in-law, Hilaria. He would often camp at Roaring River. When Domingo started camp tending for his father’s company in the 1940s, he worked with a sheepherder who had been herding for Domingo Sr. for thirty-some years. Domingo details the sheep trail, or route, they would use for their band. He describes his job, which entailed a good deal of cooking. He describes their pack string (mules, etc.). One night, when Domingo and his herder were at the second camp on the trail, his father hiked up from the Middle Fork of the Boise River to the camp just to give Domingo the overshoes he had left on the ranch. He tells this story to give an example of his father’s dedication to and compassion for his children.
8:15-10:00 To give an example of how much of a learning experience camp tending was, Domingo tells a story about hunting, killing and skinning a bear. After killing a bear, a person had to show the scalp to the game warden so that it could be recorded.
10:00-10:30 Domingo’s father was very close to his workers. He treated them like his brothers.
10:30-13:00 Domingo supposes that his mother traversed the Atlantic Ocean by steamship, then stayed at Valentin Aguirre’s boarding house in New York, New York after a brief stay at Ellis Island. Valentin helped her and other Basques find the train to Boise, Idaho. In Boise they would have found other Basques. His mother worked for Mateo Arregui at his boarding house in Boise when she first arrived. Domingo’s wife, Dolores, adds that his mother spent some time with her cousins, the Goitiandias, in Bruneau, Idaho before arriving in Boise. She decided to move from Bruneau to Boise to meet more people. Domingo’s parents met at the Arregui boarding house.
13:00-18:30 Domingo remembers what the Basque community was like in Mountain Home when he was growing up. There were many large Basque families, most or all of whom lived “across the tracks” [on the South side of the railroad tracks], on the same side as the Anchustegui and Bengoechea boarding houses. In those days, there were not as many restrictions on sheepherding or grazing. They used burros to pack the sheep camp from place to place. In later years, camp wagons were used to house the sheepherder and camp tender. Commissary wagons were hitched behind the camp wagons and used to carry the hay, grain, and water for the camp in wooden barrels. They would use that set-up for the spring and fall, then switch to pack strings for moving into the hills and mountains where there were no roads. It usually took three full packs and two saddle horses. When trucks came into being, they made a big difference in the way things were done. He explains how they used to ship the lambs by railroad, but trucks were soon used instead of trains to ship lambs. When buyers started making trips out to the sheep ranches buy lambs, it made the operation easier because the lambs no longer had to be shipped to the buyers. Prices for wool and sheep eventually proved to be too low to cover costs. The last Basques employed by Aguirre & Sons came when the company started retiring from the sheep business. These days, Peruvians and Chileans have taken the place of the Basques.
18:30-23:00 In the old days, Basques went to the boarding houses to socialize. The houses were built in anticipation for the herders’ arrival. People used to be able to go from boarding house to boarding house to visit friends. He remembers the atmosphere in the Basque community during the holidays. Domingo describes those days as “a beautiful time.” A musician in town nicknamed Arrieta Soinolarixe used to play music on his accordion. Domingo found out later that the man was actually Italian and had been adopted by a Basque family. As a child, Domingo used to sit next to the accordionist during Basque dances. He shares some of his memories of the man. Sheepherders used to go from boarding house to boarding house to see their friends and dance. In those days, men and women danced together but only men played cards. They played muz and brisca.
23:00-25:45 Domingo says that although they did not realize it then, he and his friends used to observe the sheepherders and other Basques to learn tradition. He says that Basques were quite self-sufficient, raising vegetables in their gardens for themselves and their families. Domingo’s family did the same. He remembers working on the family farm in Prairie. The farm produced enough vegetables to support the entire sheepherding operation. He gives potatoes and garlic as examples. The farm also raised milk cows for milk and beef. Domingo would butcher a sheep once a week. He describes the process.
25:45-30:00 Domingo’s older brother was Richard; his younger is Felipe, or Phillip. Richard was born in 1919 and Felipe in 1931. Domingo was a pole-vaulter in high school. On the weekends, he and his friends played football along the railroad park. He describes Main Street, which was the center of social and commercial life in town. His family had a stone house in town separate from the ranch, which was about two miles north of town. The sheep company lambed at the ranch. In later years there was a feedlot for the cattle there. In Prairie, Aguirre & Sons had a farm and heavy equipment to clear the sagebrush and plant alfalfa and grain. He describes some of the equipment. Domingo remembers an accident his older brother had while riding the slip, a machine used to collect hay.
Tape 1, side 2
0-4:45 Domingo tells a few stories about Sheldon “Shelley” Pierce, one of their neighbors and a homesteader in Prairie.
4:45-9:15 Domingo spoke Basque to his mother and her sister, and English with his father. His father’s language of business was English. Domingo and his brothers went to school in Mountain Home. He gives the location of the elementary school. He talks about some of the games he and his friends played when they were children. He names a few of his friends: Jess Ituarte, Ramon Diaz, Pete Diaz, Elorio Uriona, Rash Iglesias, and Rudolf Iglesias. The Basque families lived on the west side of the railroad tracks. The Bengoechea Hotel was the big hotel in town. He remembers Luisa Uriona and Eulalia Ituarte.
9:15-12:00 Basques and non-Basque children got along well in school overall, even though there were some ethnic slurs made from time to time. He remembers “cotton head” and “black Basque” in particular. There was really no distinction made between Basques and non-Basques, but ethnic slurs were heard if children got angry at each other and wanted to fight. He remembers other ethnic groups. Many Chinese miners lived up in the hills and some lived in Mountain Home, where they raised gardens in an area northeast of town. They sold some of their produce in Mountain Home.
12:00-15:30 Domingo graduated from high school in 1939. Richard had gone away to the University of Washington. Domingo went to school there [for two years], but found he despised the big city. He returned to Mountain Home. One of his cousins, Tony Urquidi, and his family lived in Grandview. Tony and Domingo were good friends. Domingo worked hard in high school, both in the classroom and in school sports. He was a Salutatorian his senior year, recognizing his achievement in both areas. Even though he enjoyed school, Domingo found that he did not like college very much. He gives his reasons. He wanted to stay home and work for his father.
15:30-18:00 Domingo returned to Mountain Home in March of 1942. His brother had volunteered for the US Air Force in December of 1941, serving as a navigator in B-17s. His crew learned to “skip bomb.” Domingo explains how a skip bomb worked. Richard was killed in action. Domingo was working on the ranch and as a camp tender at the time.
18:00-21:45 He explains how a camp tender found the evening’s camp by locating the Dutch oven hole from the previous year. He also explains how he had to catch the mule and use the bell mare to lead the other horses and mules into the corral for the evening. He worked with Francisco “Maletero” Loyola, an old sheepherder and one of Domingo’s favorite mentors. Loyola worked for Aguirre & Sons for over 30 years. He passed away shortly after joining one of his brothers in San Francisco. Domingo supposes that the city environment was not good for him, either.
21:45-26:00 Domingo worked as a camp tender for two or three years before he started working more on the ranch and the farm. The farm used water from Deer Creek. He remembers the effect of recently reintroduced beavers on the creek. Looking back, he wishes he could have worked out a better arrangement with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game. He describes how beavers build their lodges.
26:00-30:00 Domingo explains how Aguirre & Sons worked with other wildlife management agencies, such as the Predatory Animal Control. He remembers Pat Reid (sp.), one of the Control’s trappers. Anderson Dam was being built while Domingo was working with Mr. Reid. They inserted strychnine pills into sugared balls of lard to kill predators, spreading the balls of lard along predator trails. They also used a large bear trap and dogs to hunt predators. Domingo took every opportunity to learn from the trapper. He describes the differences between bear and coyote behavior.
Tape 2, side 1
0-4:00 Domingo continues a story about trapping a bear. He describes the trap itself. Not all bears kill sheep, but it was necessary to trap the bears that did. Domingo used to do presentations about trapping at elementary schools, enjoying the children’s curiosity.
4:00-16:15 As his father aged, Domingo and Felipe took over more responsibility at the ranch. They brought in more cattle and pared down the number of sheep. They built a new lambing shed in Mountain Home. A carpenter from the Basque country helped to design and build the shed. He describes the various parts of the shed and how they worked. Domingo and his family were proud of it, but shortly after it was built, it had to be destroyed to make way for the new interstate that was to come through. They sold their sheep to Mitchell Quintana in Homedale, Idaho. From then on Aguirre & Sons focused on cattle. Domingo remembers how they acquired heifers every now and then. A veterinarian gave the cows and steers their vaccines. From the last week in October every year, Aguirre & Sons trailed their cattle through Dead Horse Flat, allowing them to feed on re-growth left from the alfalfa harvest. It was a very efficient system. He describes other areas on the trail. Looking back, Domingo says that the construction of the interstate and the subsequent destruction of their lambing shed was the turning point for Aguirre & Sons to move out of sheep and into raising only cattle. He describes the feed yard, which was built with excess concrete from Morrison Knudsen Co. Lawrence and Alex Berry (sp.) fed the cattle at the lot. He describes other aspects of the business, including the evolution of their brand, the lazy “S.”
16:15-17:45 Even though the operation was efficient, Domingo says that the sheep and cattle businesses are very marginal. The name of the company changed from Aguirre & Sons to Basque Ranches around the time they sold their sheep and switched to cattle.
17:45-22:00 Domingo met his wife at a boarding house in Mountain Home. To place the date and time, he says that his family’s sheep company was lambing at the Bennett Corrals in Indian Cove (1942) and Echevarria’s Hotwell Corrals in Grandview (1943). He met his wife at a dance at the Anchustegui boarding house around 1944. Domingo remembers the experience vividly, putting it into context of what it was like to be young and on the home front during World War II. His mother and aunt, both of whom stressed the importance of tradition, wanted him to marry a Basque girl. He married [Dolores Barinaga] at St. John’s Cathedral in Boise, Idaho in 1946.
22:00-27:15 On the subject of tradition, Domingo talks about how he raised his daughters, Sylvia and Diana. He, his wife, his mother and aunt spoke Basque with the girls, but the girls switched to English when they started school. He points to other times during his youth when he was conscious of tradition. He and his wife started speaking English with his daughters so that they could be ready for school, where they would have to speak the language. When he was growing up, Domingo learned a great deal of English from his friends. The Basques at his school were good athletes, especially Alfonso “Al” Sillonis, who made his mark in the pole vault and in football. Al eventually served in the US Army during World War II, losing his life during the war.
27:15-29:30 Domingo explains how he learned to box. He mentions how Angel Erdoza earned a reputation as a fighter. He had lived in Castleford, Idaho and eventually opened a club in Bruneau.
29:30-30:00 Domingo visited the Basque country once with his wife and daughter [see Dolores Aguirre’s interview summary]. He talks about his trip. Domingo was disappointed when he had difficulty finding people in Bilbao with whom he could speak Basque. He noticed how different the landscape and farms were.
Tape 2, side 2
0-11:00 He discusses the evolution of the Basque community in Mountain Home. Very few Basques are immigrating to the United States anymore. Even so, he is confident that Basque “tradition will stay.” He cites Basque music and points to the younger members of the Basque community and Basque organization in Mountain Home as examples. Domingo discusses his involvement in the Basque club. He used to help bring cottonwood logs to town for wood chopping competitions. John Bastarrechea would peel the logs to prepare them for the competition. Domingo was also the master of ceremonies (MC) for the Basque picnics. He and his family would donate a lamb for the auction every year. In the 1950s and 1960s, the annual Sheepherders’ Dance was held at Gary’s Sugar Shack, which John Bermensolo owned. He tells the story of bringing a black lamb to auction one year. Basques from Gooding, Idaho attended Mountain Home’s Sheepherders’ Dance, and Domingo used to serve as the MC for their function as well. He enjoyed meeting other Basques from Grandview, Gooding and the area. He remembers a tug-of-war during one of the Basque picnics. (Aside: sipping his coffee, he comments on the difference between today’s coffee and the coffee he used to brew up in the sheep camps.)
11:00-18:00 When asked to identify himself, he says that he considers himself to be American. He still speaks fluent Basque and gives credit to his parents for making a life for his family. Thinking again, he says that he would call himself part Basque and part American. Looking back, Domingo says that he became interested in preserving the Basque culture when he became an adult. He remembers how hard his father worked, and shares a mental picture of him hoeing the garden even after a long day at work. While he and his brother worked alongside their father, Domingo was conscious of the fact that he was helping to maintain tradition and a way of life. He mentions Basque dancing and festivals in Elko, Gooding, Boise and other places. He enjoys Basque music and dancing, and says that he still feels good when he goes down to Elko for festivals. He particularly enjoys chatting with old Basques at the festivals. He is also proud of Boise’s Basque dancers.
18:00-22:00 Domingo tells a few stories about Aguirre & Sons’ water truck and how easily it revolutionized the way sheep were trailed. They no longer needed to be kept close to water because the truck could get water to them as they grazed away from streams.
22:00-30:00 Domingo remembers two instances when he felt his brother, Richard’s, presence after his death, and how a dice an old sheepherder gave him proved to be lucky.
NAMES AND PLACES
Aguirre, Dolores Barinaga – wife.
Aguirre, Domingo Sr. – father.
Aguirre, Felipe – younger brother.
Aguirre, Richard – older brother.
Aguirre, Sylvia – daughter.
Aguirre, Valentin – owned a boarding house in New York City, helped Basque immigrants reach their final
Arregui, Mateo – Domingo’s mother worked for him at his boarding house when she first arrived.
Arrieta Soinolarixe – a musician in Mountain Home.
Bastarrechea, John – helped Domingo prepare logs for wood chopping competitions.
Bermensolo, John – owned the Sugar Shack in Mountain Home.
Berry, Lawrence and Alex (sp.) – worked for Basque Ranches.
Bush, Diana – daughter.
Diaz, Pete – a childhood friend.
Diaz, Ramon – a childhood friend.
Erdoza, Angel – mentioned in connection to boxing.
Idaho Department of Fish & Game – Domingo remembers working with wildlife management agencies.
Iglesias, Rash – a childhood friend.
Iglesias, Rudolf – a childhood friend.
Ituarte, Jess – a childhood friend.
Ituarte, Eulalia– a childhood friend.
Loyola, Francisco “Maletero” – old sheepherder and mentor.
Morrison Knudsen Co. – provided concrete for the Basque Ranches feedlot.
Pierce, Sheldon “Shelley” (sp.) – neighbor and homesteader in Prairie.
Predatory Animal Control – Domingo remembers working with wildlife management agencies.
Quintana, Mitchell – sheep owner in Homedale, Idaho.
Reid, Pat – trapper.
Sillonis, Alfonso “Al” – Domingo remembers him as a tremendous athlete.
Uriona, Elorio – a childhood friend.
Uriona, Luisa – a childhood friend.
Urquidi, Hilaria – mother’s sister.
Urquidi, Juanita – mother.
Urquidi, Tony – cousin and friend.
Aguirre & Sons, Mountain Home, Idaho – an early name of the Aguirre family’s sheep company.
Anchustegui boarding house, Mountain Home, Idaho – Domingo remembers this boarding house from his youth.
Anderson Dam, Idaho
Atlanta, Idaho – his father herded sheep around Atlanta.
Aulesti, Bizkaia – mother’s birthplace.
Barber, Idaho – Domingo’s father probably worked here when he first came to the United States.
Basque Ranches, Mountain Home, Idaho – Aguirre & Sons became Basque Ranches.
Bengoechea Hotel, Mountain Home, Idaho – Domingo remembers this boarding house from his youth.
Bennett Corrals, Indian Cove, Idaho – the Aguirres lambed here briefly.
Bilbao, Bizkaia – Domingo visited Bilbao during his trip to the Basque country.
Boise, Idaho – mentioned in several contexts.
Castleford, Idaho – mentioned in several contexts.
Cathedral of St. John, Boise, Idaho – Domingo and Dolores were married here.
Dead Horse Flat
Deer Creek, Idaho – the Aguirre farm pulled water from Deer Creek.
Echevarria’s Hotwell Corrals, Grandview, Idaho – the Aguirres lambed here briefly.
Elko, Nevada – Domingo has attended Basque festivals here.
Ellis Island, New York, New York – Domingo supposes that his mother passed through Ellis Island when she
arrived in the United States.
Goitiandia home, Bruneau, Idaho – Domingo’s mother stayed in Bruneau before moving on to Boise.
Gooding, Idaho – Domingo mentions his involvement with the Basque community in Gooding.
Grandview, Idaho – the Urquidi family lived here.
Main Street, Mountain Home, Idaho – Domingo remembers this as being a social center in town.
Mallabi, Bizkaia – father’s birthplace.
Middle Fork, Boise River, Idaho
Mountain Home, Idaho – birthplace and lifelong home.
Prairie, Idaho – the Aguirre sheep company’s farm was in Prairie.
Roaring River, Idaho
San Francisco, California – Francisco Maletero had a brother here. Maletero passed away here.
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington – Domingo attended school here.
Basque clubs and organizations
Non-Boise Basque communities
Other Ethnic groups
US Air Force
World War II