TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-9:00 Luis’s parents, Gregorio Basterrechea and Donata Yragabal, were from Mendata and Munitibar, respectively. Before getting married, Donata was a chef in Lekeitio for part of the royal family of Spain. Luis describes the great strength of his father, who, while working in a sawmill, once out-lifted the strongest man in Bizkaia. The family owned a little baserri with a flourmill in Munitibar, and they had an orchard, a few cows and pigs, and some grain. His father had been in the US from 1920 to 1932 and, because of hard times in the Basque country, returned to the US in 1950 to earn some money. He describes a bet that he made with some people to climb Mt. Cristóbal in the middle of a snowstorm, and how his bottle of cognac allowed him to win.
9-16:00 In April of 1953, Luis and seven other Basques went to Paris via Eibar, where they spent the night before leaving. He remembers how the plane’s engines were emitting fire and sparks before take-off and how glad they all were when the plane touched down in Portugal en route to New York. They took an Air Force plane to Chicago, and when Luis tried to talk to one of the black soldiers in Spanish he received a dirty look, and then told the other Basques that they’d better leave the soldiers alone! When they landed in Boise—there was no airport at that time, just a long field—his future foreman, Gallo Idarrega, came to take him to Bill Newman’s sheep ranch.
16-19:00 Luis stayed at that ranch for a week before he was taken to his father at the sheep camp. He was very glad to see his father, who would give him instructions every morning. Although the two foremen were Basque, the fact that they always spoke to each other in English made it hard for Luis to understand them; however, Luis did have fun playing with their children. Soon after his arrival, there was a big snowstorm while Luis was driving a team of horses back to the camp when he got disoriented. He got directions to a friend’s camp from another shepherd named Raoul. They were up north of Shoshone and made their way to Willowcreek for a few days before going to Little Smokey.
19-23:00 Returning to the topic of his upbringing in the Basque Country, Luis explains that he started learning Spanish at age six when he began school in Munitibar. He notes that he had a good teacher from Bilbao who taught him more in one year than his previous teacher had in three. Luis was 13 when he finished school and started working at his uncle’s baserri in Munitibar. Although Luis was crazy about the idea of coming to the US while still in Euskadi, if someone had given him a ticket back to the Basque Country he would returned with no qualms.
23-33:00 After his three years of shepherding, Luis bought a truck and hauled hay for a couple of years. He and his partner separated and Luis began hauling apples from the Boise valley to California, but once there he couldn’t find a load to return. He got a tip from a broker to get a load of produce from the Albertson’s that had just opened that year (1964) in Salt Lake City. Once he was loaded up, the manager Elton Clarke—who Luis describes as a very nice man—made a deal that he would call Luis any time he needed loads carried. At that time, Luis and Dick Simon would meet in Mosquite, Arizona on their way to Salt Lake City. Now, Luis’ trucking business, Basterrechea Distributing, includes 23 trucks, 7 diesels, and 53 trailers. Luis’ initial plan was to stay in the US for five years and then return, but once he learned more English and started driving trucks—some thing he has always liked to do—life became easier and he decided to stay.
0-6:00 Bill Newman was getting old when he decided to sell his sheep to Manny Patterson—and Luis and his father followed the sheep to the new owner. He describes how nice his father was to the sheep: one time when he and another shepherd were crossing a bridge a sheep wouldn’t follow, and the other man asked Gregorio for help to through it off the bridge. Gregorio answered, “Ok, but if that sheep goes over the bridge, you’re going to go with him.” They ended up taking the sheep to the pasture with the rest of them. Luis worked with Manny Patterson for a year, then in Elko for about three years, then as a bartender in the Lincoln Inn in Gooding for a couple of years, then as the bartender for Stockman’s in Elko.
6-15:00 In 1963, Luis met his future wife Doris King while he was working at Stockman’s and she was working at the Star Hotel in Elko. One time at the fairgrounds Luis competed against Ben Goitiandia with the 250-pound weights—25 pounds more than he normally lifted—and he lost. Later on at a picnic, he beat a bunch of people with the 225-pound weights. There is some more discussion about various weightlifters and competitions. After Luis and Doris got married, they had three children: Jeff, Ricky, and Tracy. Although Tracy speaks Spanish and has been to the Basque Country, none of the children learned Basque.
15-24:00 Despite some nerve-wracking passport problems, Luis managed to fly standby to Gernika to attend his father’s funeral in 1975. While there, he noticed that the Basque Country had changed a lot. He expected it to be the same as in the old days, but it was quite different: women were drinking and smoking in bars, kids were smoking who didn’t even know how to hold a cigarette, and there were cars everywhere. Luis still felt at home in the Basque Country, he was eager to return to the US to see his family and take care of his business. He tells about some other plane trips and funny situations with stewardesses.
24-28:00 Luis explains that he plays an integral role in the Basque Association, and enjoys spreading the heritage to other people, Basque’s and Americans alike. When first came to this country, the Association was a very small organization, but since then it has grown quite a bit. He describes the small nature of the Association at that time, its constituency of shepherds and ranch hands, and a couple of anecdotes about people in the Gooding area.
28-29:30 Luis describes himself as an American-Basque: American because he lives here, and Basque because he cannot and would not change his blood and heritage.
NAMES AND PLACES
Basterrechea, Gregorio; father
Basterrechea, Jeff; son
Basterrechea, Ricky; son
Basterrechea, Tracy; daughter
Clarke, Elton; business associate and friend
Goitiandia, Ben; weight-lifting rival and friend
King, Doris; wife
Lincoln Inn; inn in Gooding
Newman, Bill; ranch owner
Patterson, Manny; ranch owner
Raoul; a Mexican shepherd
Star Hotel; hotel in Elko
Stockman’s; bar in Elko
Yragabal, Donata; mother
Little Smokey, ID
Salt Lake City, UT
Changes in the Basque Country