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‘There’s just no place better’

Fitches to serve as Riggins Rodeo grand marshals

Jeannie and Buck Fitch: 2016 Riggins Rodeo grand marshals.

Credit: Contributed photo / Debbie Shaw
Jeannie and Buck Fitch: 2016 Riggins Rodeo grand marshals.

Riggins Rodeo set May 7,8

RIGGINS – The annual Riggins Rodeo is set to gallop in to town Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8.

The rodeo shows start each day at 1:30 p.m., MST. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for those ages 7-12 and 6 and younger get in free.

The Cowboy Breakfast is set for 7 to 10 a.m. each day at the IOOF Hall.

The rodeo parade, with the theme of “Mamas, DO Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” is set for Sunday, May 8, 11 a.m., on Main Street (north to south only).

The Riggins Rodeo is sponsored by the Salmon River Cowboys Association.

— see related story, page 1B

— “Who wouldn’t want to live here?” smiled Buck Fitch in his Riggins home located alongside the Little Salmon River.

The spring rush of the water, the loud crash as the swirling liquid throws rocks around, and a smiling couple on their deck looking down on it speaks volumes about how the Fitches feel of their riverfront property.

“It’s pretty quiet today,” Jeannie looks to Buck, who smiles back at her.

“There’s just no place better,” he grinned back peacefully.

It’s not a stretch to see how intertwined Buck and Jeannie are with the Riggins Rodeo, though they each started their lives away from the small river town.

He grew up and graduated from high school in Grangeville while she was raised and graduated in Buffalo, Wyo.

Jeannie rode horses from the time she could walk, then trained horses, participated in rodeos, and was the 1965 Johnson County Fair and Rodeo Queen in Buffalo. Buck participated in sports, hunted, and worked on his dad’s farm in Grangeville.

Buck went on to obtain his degree in math but first spent some time working in the food services and college maintenance industries. Jeannie obtained her elementary teaching degree, and the couple met in Montana.

They moved to Riggins in the fall of 1970 and began teaching school, celebrating their first wedding anniversary in the town. Buck taught math and history and other subjects as needed, as well as coached every sport at one time or another throughout his 30 years at Salmon River High School. Jeannie taught first grade 24 years and second grade one year as well as helping with elementary sports and music.

“I am happy I was able to take eight years off to be home with our babies, Jed and Julie,” she said. She was able to have Julie in her first-grade class and Buck taught both his son and daughter for high school math.

Now, Jed lives in Dillon, Mont., and is the Beaverhead County Attorney. He has two children: Finn is 6 and Darby is almost 2. Julie lives in Kuna, and teaches junior high math; She and Jason have two children, Kylie 13 ½, and Ty, 12, both of whom are in her junior high math classes.

The past 44 of their 46 years in Riggins have been spent in the same home, one they saved for and made a good-sized down payment on when they decided upon purchase. It rests right alongside the Little Salmon River and throughout the years they have made additions and changes, raised their kids there and now have their grandchildren visit.

It wasn’t all that long after the couple settled into Riggins that they settled into the things that help make a community run smoothly: volunteering. Through school, through church and through their community, the Fitches took on jobs as they were needed. Suddenly, like the river that flows past their home, the years have swept by as well.

The couple began their community volunteer work helping with the Riggins Labor Day Barbecue where Buck helped cut, prepare, and cook the meat in a pit in the Riggins City Park while Jeannie helped prepare and serve the dinner. The barbecue faded out just in time for Hot Summer Nights to carry on the Riggins celebration, where the Fitches also transitioned to help. Jeannie is the emcees for the event’s “Famous Talent Show.”

As far as the Riggins Rodeo goes, “At first we were rodeo participants,” Jeannie recalled.

“Then I began to help with the cowboy breakfast,” Buck added.

Add in ticket taking at the rodeo, American Legion hamburger flipping, helping organize and judge the Riggins Rodeo Parade, and — finally — announcing the Riggins Rodeo Parade – a job that has lasted for the past 27-plus years.

“I don’t know who they’ll have do it this year – but we’ll be in the parade!” Jeannine smiled at Buck.

The Fitches are members of the Salmon River Community Church and have served on its board, taught Sunday School and after school kids programs, and helped with many other church activities. Buck also served on the Riggins City Council for six years. For the past 30 years, Jeannie has also contributed to her community by writing the Riggins News for the Idaho County Free Press.

Buck and Jeannie have followed in their parents’ footsteps. Buck’s parents, Woody and Marge Fitch, were honored as grand marshals of Grangeville Border Days in 1998. Jeannie’s parents, Charles and Pearl Buell, were honored as grand marshals of the Johnson County Fair and Rodeo in Buffalo in 1999.

Buck also spent several years as a crop adjuster, retiring a couple of years ago. Since then he and his son have spent time working on family property near Grangeville.

Jeannie enjoys reading and said she has joined the adult coloring craze.

“We have loved giving our time and talents to the Salmon River Canyon,” the couple said. They are enjoying their “retirement” years — especially spending more time with their children, grandchildren, and friends, though they still find time to volunteer. They wish to thank the Salmon River Cowboys Association for honoring them as Riggins Rodeo Grand Marshals 2016.


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