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Stewards of a legacy Kuna family tends history on family’s land

4:36 pm October 19th, 2012

Photo by Bethany Riehl
The McCue family looks to the future while preserving the past on long-held family property in Kuna.

By Bethany Riehl

Special to the Kuna Melba News 

A little over two years ago, Jim and Lisa McCue were right on track with the majority’s American dream.

They built a grand new house in a nice neighborhood close to downtown Kuna. They had a beautiful lawn, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and plenty of space to home school their children.

Today, the McCue’s live down a quiet country road outside of town in a little house surrounded by acres of land. A flourishing garden grows behind a bunny-proof fence, and beyond the garden, the beginnings of a fruit orchard.

Fields of wild wheat, mustard weed, and cheat grass grow in one direction. A tired old barn sags to the side of the house, yet the stories soaked into the foundation and weary beams still whisper tales of hard work. A faithful hound stands guard at the end of the dirt driveway.

The house itself is unremarkable. A simple white box, concrete steps, windows. A pot of red geraniums perched on an antique chair next to the stairs provides a cheerful touch. For as unassuming as the house is, just behind the door, quite the opposite is true.

Inside is a sunny room graced with delicate touches of color. Lisa McCue has a way of creating warmth and hominess with items recovered and repurposed from the barn and house itself.

When asked which ones, Lisa said, “Oh, goodness. A lot of it! The china in the hutch was in my grandmother’s cupboards, the bookcase belonged to one of my great-grandmothers. The old dough box is our end table.”

A beautiful distressed door that hangs over the couch in the living room and is adorned with framed antique postcards was “rescued” from the barn. Pickling crocks were found in the well house. Cookbooks are displayed in an old wooden Home Dairies crate that was found in the milking stalls.

Where the McCue home is similar to many that are decorated with repurposed antiques and a more primitive flare, this is where a great many similarities between this home and others end.

For how many can say our children are the fifth generation to live on our land? How many of can look out our front window onto not only childhood memories but also onto traces of Kuna’s history?

The McCue land was at one time the home of Linden Park School, which was closed in the 1940s. While she’s not sure when the school was first opened, Lisa does know that her great-grandparents would give the schoolteacher a ride into Boise on their wagon. The crumbling remains of the foundation of the teacher’s house are still there. The sidewalk leading to the school and the flagpole are still there; the McCues have heard that time capsules from a class project could still be buried near the road. You can see where the swings for the schoolyard were once anchored.

When asked why they made the decision to move into an older and much smaller home, Lisa said, “It broke my heart to think of the land being sold to someone who didn’t know and didn’t care about the history of the land. My family has been here for a hundred years, living, working, and dying, and I couldn’t stand the thought of that story just being erased.” Her parents also live on the property, just a stone’s throw away, in the house where Lisa grew up, enjoying the same sense of history and family roots.

Her great-grandparents, Harry and Jemima, came to Kuna about a hundred years ago from Missouri.

“My great-grandfather had a tool supply business in Missouri that he thought could be more successful here. That turned out not to be the case, so they relied on their little farm to sustain them,” Lisa explains. “Jemima was from a wealthy farming family. Harry was respectable, but not rich. They had one child, my grandmother, Margaret, after they came out west.”

It was when Margaret’s health began to decline and she moved in with Lisa’s brother that the McCues decided to take action. Instead of allowing the house and land to be sold, they made plans to move out of their big new house and into the small historical one. They had a lot of work to do to get grandma’s home ready for a family to live in and, after two years of long weekends, there is still a lot to do. At one point, the couple wanted to run an organic co-op farm for the community of Kuna to enjoy. However, Lisa said that’s not necessarily a plan at this point.

“I think we’re more interested in growing our own food right now. The co-op may come some day down the road. Our thinking right now is to share what we have with friends and family. Again, maybe some day the farm will grow to be profitable.”

In the meantime, Jim and Lisa are enjoying the fresh country air and quiet country nights. Their home space is smaller, but the sky is wide and open around them. The kids are enjoying a life most only dream about. It is people like this that are the fabric of our little community. Choices like theirs are what will sustain us.

“Kuna is home,” Lisa says. “The land is a very deep connection to my family history. Our kids are fifth-generation on this land, and that’s a rare thing these days. It’s quiet here, and peaceful, and safe. There’s lots of hard work to be done, and the kids can get very dirty. We consider those good things. And, we can see the sunset every night and the wildlife every day.”

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Posted by on October 19, 2012. Filed under Features,News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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