TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-5:30 John’s father, George Ensunsa, was born near Lekeitio in 1902 and lived there until he was 18, when he moved to the Castleford area. He herded sheep in that area for the next 15 years, after which he started farming. John’s mother, Linda was half-Basque and born in the US: her dad was José Achabal, and died from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and her mother was German and related to the Wilson’s, who still live in the Bruneau vicinity. Although George didn’t like talking to his children about his life in Euskadi, John does know that George’s family was very poor, he was one of 11 or 12 children, he quit school in the fourth grade, and he didn’t return mail from his family once he arrived in the US. It was like he had closed a door to that chapter of his life.
5:30-13:00 John’s sister Edith died about two years prior to the date of this interview. John was born on November 24th, 1947 in Castleford. English was spoken at home, and the only time he heard Basque was while attending funerals, marriages, and other events. His father said that Basque wasn’t good for anything, but he did seem to enjoy speaking Basque to others in the area. Socially, John’s father farmed and that children didn’t do much outside of the weddings and funerals already mentioned. Prior to John’s birth, his father herded sheep for the Utah Sheep Company and later for “Maurice” Guerry, Sr. John doesn’t recall having eaten much Basque food much growing up.
13-19:30 John speculates that there were probably five or six Basque families permanently living in the Castleford area during his childhood, and several Basque sheep outfits. John started school before he was five—a year earlier than he should have—and attended school in Castleford until he graduated. He received a degree in Agriculture from the University of Idaho in 1960, and says attributes his decision to go to university to his friends, who were all of a mind to better their selves. He was never discriminated against because of his Basque heritage, and doesn’t feel that it played a large role in his upbringing. Community life during his childhood revolved around the high school, and apart from that there were shepherd’s balls in the surrounding countryside. John has always been drawn to agriculture: watching and helping plants grow, the independence, the style of life all attracted him.
19:30-27:00 After graduating from the U of I, John worked for 6 years in the production division of the Asgrove Seed Company, and worked along the Columbia River Basin as the middleman between the farmers and the company. After those six years, he returned home and again helped his aging father with the farm work. John’s wife, Jesse Diane Draney, was born on February 21st, 1941 in Burley, Idaho. They met in Warden, Washington one day when mutual friends invited them both to go water skiing. They were married in a Catholic church in Bule on September 21st, 1963. John was never pressured to marry a Basque woman; in fact, there weren’t even any Basques his age while he attended high school. John was fraternity brothers with Phil Oleaga, and Phil was the first Basque John ever really became friends with. However, Diane was pressured by her family to marry an LDS boy, and both she and John were saddened when her father didn’t come to the wedding.
27-31:30 Despite the fact that she wanted to live in a larger city, Dianne is glad that her children were raised in a good community. Their children, Dave and Gina, have always been very proud to be Basque: Dave is very active in the Basque community in Boise and Gina has helped found a Basque Association in Portland. John and Dianne are members of the Gooding Basque Association and the Boise Basque Museum.
0-10:00 From John’s perspective, his children’s experience with Basque culture was different from his own. In short, John and his family have participated more in Basque functions than he had ever done as a child. John had never attended a so-called organized Basque function until he took his family to an Elko gathering. As a child, life revolved around farming and there was little time or willingness to engage in Basque festivities. Dianne has thrown herself into Basque life in her cooking and so on, and her very best friend is married to Carmelo Zomorra. She admires how this distinct culture has perpetuated itself in Idaho, and has always liked and been welcomed by the Basque people. On a different note, John’s father would talk to Dave and Gina about his life in the Basque Country, when he hadn’t been willing to around John.
10-14:00 John plans to take Dianne and his children to Euskadi some time, and feels that it’s something that he has to do before he dies. The two work for the same insurance company—John as an agent and Dianne as a secretary—and deal primarily with farm and ranch accounts. In the 1980s the national farm crisis led to a financial situation that required a cutback in the land they farmed and a change of careers. Now the 80 acres of hay that they grow is more of a hobby than anything else.
14-25:00 John chose to become a member of the Gooding Basque Association and the Boise Basque Museum because it’s fun and he enjoys walking through the Basque Block in Boise. He reminisces about the terribleness of his 11-year-old father’s journey away from his mother and homeland and to America. Dianne notes how complimentary George always was toward her. Changes have occurred in Castleford: whereas once young wives worked at home, now one would be hard-pressed to find a wife who doesn’t also have a salaried job; people don’t entertain others the way the used to; and the TV seems to dominate family life. The scale of farming and ranching has increased dramatically, such that an 80-acre farm can’t support a family any more. There is a larger gap between labor and management than there used to be, because they used to be one and the same. There have also been lots of Dutch and Portuguese immigrants to the area, which John sees as good because it broadens the cultural base of the community.
25-28:00 Basque identity is not really an issue for John. He is proud of his Basque heritage, but lucky to be an American. Without the much-discussed Basque notion of independence, Basques would not have survived as a cultural entity in Idaho.
NAMES AND PLACES
Achabal, José; maternal grandfather
Achabal, Linda; mother
Asgrove Seed Company
Basque Museum and Culture Center
Colline, Edith; sister
Draney, Jessie Diane; wife
Ensunsa, Dave; son
Ensunsa, George; father
Ensunsa, Gina; daughter
Gooding Basque Association
Guerry, Mauricio ‘Maurice’; sheep owner
Oleaga, Phil; friend
University of Idaho; alma mater
Utah Sheep Company
Zomorra, Carmelo; friend
Columbia River Basin
Closing the door to the past
Marrying a non-Basque
Marrying a non-LDS: tensions
Raising children to appreciate the Basque heritage
Keeping in contact: trips to Euskadi