"Great Grandpa and Grandma Edinger came from Iowa in a covered wagon and were the first white people to live in this immediate area," Gary Edinger shared of his family's settlement in Price County. Born in 1951 to Jess and Albina (nee France), he was number six of eight children. "I went to a one room school, Meadow Creek, through the first four years, then Kennan Elementary, and graduated from Phillips High School in 1969." For the last 42 years he has been married to Leanne (nee Hill). They currently live on the North Fork of the Jump River on land that has been in the family since 1903. They raised their two children, Garrett and Aubrey, on the homestead. They now have one grandson, James.
As a child, Gary thought he would be a professional baseball player, but he says the fact he could not hit a curve ball halted that dream. Instead, Gary became a logger and has been self-employed since 1986. He made his logging career known to most of the community when he got in a terrible logging accident in 2007, which cost him part of his leg. "My leg was sheared off in a bad logging accident and I somehow managed to survive." The overwhelming kindness of everyone after he lost his leg is what stands out to Gary. "That includes family, friends, community and complete strangers. If I tried to list them all I would certainly leave someone out and that wouldn't be right. It's one of the finest things about living here. When a neighbor is in a bind, people will help you."
However, if you thought that was the most interesting thing about Gary Edinger's life, you would be mistaken. He has led a full one and has done, as he puts it, "all sorts of interesting things." "I raced sled dogs for 19 years, and after Leanne joined me, rose to the professional level and won a Worlds Championship in 1987. I was a commercial salmon fisherman with a fishwheel on the Yukon River in Alaska for 3 summers. I've been a log cabin builder, an elk hunting guide, and a mule packer out in the mountains of Montana and Idaho."
Using the logging accident as the "hook," Gary wrote a book about his life, which was published in 2010. There is a YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79sVMMesYxk&t=3s which explores Gary's life a bit more. "Despite my fake leg, I'm still logging, hunting, and packing mules out west." Nothing slows Gary down, and he feels the younger generations should heed his advice on that. "Live life, don't just breath air and take up space. Like John Steinbeck said, don't trade quality of life for quantity of years."
In ten years, Gary wants to find himself "Still above ground and not in a nursing home!" However, if he had the chance to live in another time, he knows exactly when it would have been. "I would have liked to live in early 1700's in upper New York and Pennsylvania, in the period James Fennimore Cooper wrote about in his book The Deerslayer & Last of the Mohicans."
Given this was the time period Gary was destined to live in, though, he has made his mark and contributed to the community in many ways. "I coached Little League and Girls Softball, served on the Price County Fair Board, served on the County's Smart Growth Committee, was president of Price County Waterways Association, co-founder of Friends of the Jump River, served on the Citizens Advisory Committee to the DNR for Water Quality for Logging, worked hard to save the Kennan School (but lost that one), took fifth graders to the stream every spring to teach them about stream health for 21 years, talked to the Phillips Outdoor Education classes every spring for 15 years, and taught and called square dancing, although that last one can hardly be called a contribution because it is so much fun!" Gary remarked.
The one contribution Gary would love to make, if he could choose a super power, would be the power to heal, especially the diseases he called "wicked," like cancer and Alzheimer's. "Those diseases are so unfair."
With fairness and goodness being important to Gary, his favorite holiday is Christmas. The "favorite" things he might like to find around his Christmas tree are rifles, traps, canoes, horses and mules."
Just like a true outdoorsman, he made up his own favorite quote while pulling his pack string in the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho as he started wondering how many people were doing what he was doing and what they were thinking. His thoughts at that time were, "When you are in the back country by yourself, you are not alone, I am there with you. I know why you are there, what you are thinking, what you are feeling. When you wake in the morning, I too hear the stream just outside the tent. Just before you fall asleep at night, I too hear the last feeble pop of the fire, before it lays down. The only thing I do not know is what you dream. I hope you go to the wild places every chance you get, so I can be there too!"