COTTONWOOD -- Bonnie Duman Gehring hasn’t landed too far from home throughout her life. She was born about two and one-half miles north of Cottonwood and spent all her married life about seven miles south of Cottonwood.
Gehring will serve as the 2019 Idaho County Fair grand marshal.
She attended the first eight grades at St. Joseph School and then went on to graduate high school from St. Gertrude’s Academy. She grew up with eight sisters and one brother.
“People ask if he was spoiled, but I think he may have been terrorized,” she laughed about her brother.
Her first date with Charles “Chuck” Gehring was a group date to the movies. He grew up in a ranching family on Graves Creek along the breaks of the Salmon River. In 1961, that became her home where she lived for nearly 50 years.
There, they raised their six children – three sons and three daughters. All of the Gehring children -- Peg, Jerry, Joyce, Mark, Carla and Jack -- participated in 4-H in a wide variety of projects, include hog and sheep.
“We had our first experience with sheep through 4-H,” she recalled. She said she learned right along with her children, and that precipitated her purchasing and breeding some ewes of her own.
“I just loved them,” she recalled.
Those ewes helped Gehring with an important piece of her life.
“From what I sold, I purchased my first washer and dryer – Maytag, in 1979,” she smiled. She still kept and used her wringer washing machine, but those electric appliances were “a lifesaver” with six kids.
Daughter Joyce added that work-for-what-you-want incentive was also passed down the family’s children.
“When I was growing up, Mom would have us kids help pick raspberries. She would pay us quarter for every two-cup bucket we picked -- I was between 5-7 at the time,” she recalled. “So, that way, we had spending money for the fair. Of course, I thought I was raking in the dough and enjoyed spending the money at the fair!”
In 1989, Gehring took on the organization and running of the now-4-H snack booth at the fair (formerly run by Idaho County home extension clubs), a job she completed for about 15 years.
“I loved it. I like to cook, and I enjoyed working with people, so it was a good fit,” she said. It also put her at the fair throughout the entire week.
One night when she and her granddaughter, Maria, then about 6 years old, were driving home after the fair and had made it to their driveway with about a mile still to go up the hill, the lights on her car flickered and went out.
“I didn’t know what happened and it scared me to death, but I told Maria to hold onto that money bag from the food booth that night and if anything happened, to jump out with that money – “ Gehring laughed. They did make it up the hill and later learned her car’s wiring had burned out. But the food booth money was safe.
During the past 50-ish years, Gehring has entered many items in the open class exhibition at the fair, including vegetables, crocheting and baked goods, and has won many ribbons.
“I love it when a lot of people enter because it’s fun to see what everyone does,” she said.
An especially fun entry for her and her children and grandchildren throughout the years has been the “Creature Feature” category. Entrants create a vegetable/fruit creature and Gehring said she has enjoyed the creativity of this.
Gehring worked in the Monastery of St. Gertrude kitchen as a cook from 2003-2016.
“I loved it – I really enjoyed working with the sisters,” she said.
Gehring’s husband died in 2002, and about seven years ago, she moved into town. Her son, Jack, lives on and runs the farm and ranch now.
“Because I’m able to go there as often as I want, I haven’t really had a chance to miss living there,” she said. Her new home in Cottonwood keeps her busy with yard work and she spends time helping care for others and bringing them meals as she can.
“I do like to take care of people and help them out,” she smiled. She also enjoys riding four-wheeler and cooking and baking.
Gehring has had a long line of family involved in the fair, including her six kids and their children – which includes 19 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her daughter, Joyce Sonnen, is currently the fair’s royalty advisor.
“I really enjoy the fair and have for many years, and I’m honored I was chosen as grand marshal,” she smiled.