TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-4:30 Leo’s father was Marcelino Basterrechea (from Nabarniz) and Rosario Apoita (from Munitibar). They had a small baserri (Torrechu) in Nabarniz where they raised a little of everything—and all of it by hand! Leo went to school until the age of 11, when it became more important for his family that he work at home. Leo’s siblings are: Antonio, Miren, Itziar, Ignacio, Sinfo and Elias; he is the youngest. Despite all the hard work, the family had a good time.
4:30-10:00 Classes were conducted entirely in Spanish, but since Leo’s teacher spent more time in the bars than in the school, he was seldom cruel to the students. As a child, Leo enjoyed handball, soccer, weightlifting and other sports. There were festivals almost every weekend, where rural sports figured prominently. Girls were lamentably proper back then… Leo had several brothers who went to America, but he rarely heard from them. He went to Irun at age 14 to work at a school in exchange for an education, but the priests worked him all the time and taught him nothing. He stayed for 2 years, then went to help his sister and her husband on their baserri. Leo had heard very little about the US before coming, but knew he wanted to go there before the army could draft him—his brothers had served in Africa. When his brother found a job for him in Idaho, he thought it wouldn’t hurt to try. Leo’s family had no problem with him going, but very much wanted him to come back. He spoke no English at the time he left for the US.
10-15:00 Leo arranged his sheep contract and visa at the consul in Bilbao, telling the officials he knew about sheep, when in reality he had never seen them. He was born on April 24, 1948. Leo was 17 when he crossed the Atlantic, traveling from Madrid to New York and eventually to Twin Falls. He came over with Nick Zabala and Jesus Gandiaga, and doesn’t recall most of the journey because he had drunk so much of they wine he had packed. Upon arriving in January 1967, Idaho was very cold, and there were 2 feet of snow on the ground. Fred Bradsford met him at the airport, and fellow Basques (like Andy Lejardi) helped him get the supplies he needed and get settled in. He remembers thinking that the distances in the US were much bigger, after driving so long to get to Buhl. Leo wanted to return to the Basque country after 3 years, but it never worked out. If he had it to do over again, he would travel to many different countries to learn their languages.
15-20:00 It took Leo quite a while to feel comfortable with English. His first job was feeding the sheep and new lambs with the 10 other Basque men at the ranch. He was very surprised by all the big machinery at American farms. On the ranch with other Basques, Leo didn’t learn much English, but he addressed this problem by dating American girls. He explains the route he used with the sheep, which were mind-bogglingly numerous. Bradsford himself had 6 or seven bands.
20-25:30 During his shepherding days, Leo didn’t write home much (he was pretty wild), although he enjoys calling nowadays. His sister is a nun. He met wife Carol Ann Molin in Gooding, and the couple was married in 1972, allowing him to obtain his naturalization papers and remain in the United States. He had decided way before this that he would remain in America—many good times in the wilderness—and never felt he had to marry a Basque girl. The couple wed in Reno and honeymooned at Lake Tahoe. Leo has taken Carol and his kids Randy and Nicholas back to the Basque country. Randy will work as a mortician and Nicholas is going to New York to study fashion. Carol, although she is not Basque, very much enjoys traveling to Euskadi, and the boys do, too. Randy even spoke Basque when he was young.
25:30-30:00 Leo’s first trip back to Euskadi was in 1973, when he brought his new bride. He noticed many changes: towns got bigger, he was unable to recognize his friends, young people weren’t as close to older generations, and more freedoms for the Basques. In 1990, Leo participated in the World Mus Championships (he won the US tournament) in Pamplona, competing against players from all corners of the Earth. France won (but Leo had beaten this team). He begins discussing his employment history: the Bradsford Ranch was in Buhl, but he only stayed there for 2 years, mostly in farming. Leo then went to Gooding to work for the Astorquia family for 2 years. He transitioned to the sawmill in Fairfield for 4 years.
0-5:00 After working in Fairfield, Leo went to work for the Blainco Meat Packing Plant in Gooding. He soon opened up his own landscaping and sprinkler company in Hailey, ID, and did this for 7 years, commuting from Gooding. Some of Leo’s clients included Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Hailey was not a healthy environment for his kids, however, and despite the fact that his business had grown to 14 employees, he moved back to Gooding. Leo now rents (with the option to buy) the Lincoln Inn (where this interview is taking place), and he continues with his landscaping operation on a smaller scale.
5-8:00 Leo was always looking to change jobs when he was young, but has settled down now. He prefers his lifestyle in the US to the one he had in the Basque country, and now that his parents have passed away, visiting Euskadi is not the same. His siblings can come visit him here just as easily! He still feels at home in the Basque country, but enjoys the freedom Gooding affords. The Lincoln Inn has become quite the social center for area Basques.
8-14:30 The Basque community in Gooding has changed over the years, with more Basque leaving and fewer new ones moving in. Mus, dinners and picnics used to be the best entertainment around, but activities like that are slipping. The Gooding Basque Association has tried to counter this trend, and Leo discusses its inception. The resulting increase in organization has been great for the community, and Leo hopes that the new Basque Center will be popular. Even non-Basques, who are very fond of the Gooding Basques, have supported this endeavor. Leo discusses the annual picnic—young and old are interested in the culture. This includes his two kids, who don’t speak Euskera but nonetheless enjoy visiting relatives.
14:30-16:30 Leo hopes that younger generations of Basques will keep their heritage alive in Gooding, and suspects the new Center will help. He says he will always be Basque, and does not want to change this. Leo’s life is in the United States now, and while he plans to visit the Basque country often in the future, he is content here.
NAMES AND PLACES
Apoita, Rosario: Leo’s mother
Astorquia family: hired Leo in Gooding
Basterrechea, Antonio: Leo’s brother
Basterrechea, Carol Ann Molin: Leo’s wife
Basterrechea, Elias: Leo’s brother
Basterrechea, Ignacio: Leo’s brother
Basterrechea, Itziar: Leo’s sister
Basterrechea, Marcelino: Leo’s father
Basterrechea, Miren: Leo’s sister
Basterrechea, Nicholas: Leo’s son
Basterrechea, Randy: Leo’s son
Basterrechea, Sinfo: Leo’s brother
Bradsford, Fred: Leo’s employer
Gandiaga, Jesus: Leo’s friend
Gooding Basque Association
Lejardi, Andres: Leo’s friend
Zabala, Nick: Leo’s friend
Basque Center (Gooding)
Blainco Meat Packing (Gooding)
Lake Tahoe (Nevada)
Lincoln Inn (Gooding)
New York, NY
Pamplona (Iruña), Naparoa
Torrechu: Leo’s baserri
Twin Falls, ID