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Amy O’Leary

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A dozen years ago, my husband and I signed on to run the Gem County Golf Course and restaurant. The Chuck Sawyer Field, Emmett Municipal Airport was there too, and was run separately. Operating a small eatery seemed like a challenge we could tackle, as my significant other had many years of experience in the restaurant industry, so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

The first thing we did was come up with a name: The Country Club Cafe, which was a play on words, emphasizing more country, than country club. Our logo showed a cartoon cow flying a bi-plane over a golf course, holding a nine iron in victory (fore!). Next we remodeled a bit; we painted the interior and exterior, hung new curtains, reupholstered stools, framed golf and airplane pictures, and put our personal touch on it. We hired a small staff, worked out our gastronomical offerings, and all that was left was to name our fare.

We started with the Bogey Burger, Double Bogey, the Triple Threat, and the mighty Quad. The Junk Yard Dawg, Lucky Pierre’s French Dip, a barnstormer basket of fries with our fiesty fry sauce, and Napolean Dynomite Hot Wings were also on the menu.

Then we thought we might offer up the Mayor Bill BLT, named for Emmett’s then-mayor, Bill Butticci. We also had a Gov. “Why I Otter Burger”, for then-Governor Butch Otter. As we were set to open in January 2009, just two months after the presidential election, we thought we would serve a presidential burger, the Obama Burger.

With the menu written on a white board over the counter, Gem County citizens marched up and gave us their thoughts on our Presidential beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, grilled Anaheim peppers with pepper jack cheese. Some comments I won’t repeat. Some folks asked us if we were Democratic loving ne’er do wells. I replied that our cafe was apolitical — we had no political affliction, and we were only loyal to offering great burgers and a round of golf.

But the disparaging comments kept coming. I was surprised by the negative remarks. It was only a hamburger!

After we’d heard “Well, if that’s on the menu, you can forget about me coming here to eat,” we took action.

The short-lived Obama burger became Johnny’s El Paso Burger, after the place where my husband had grown up. It was a non-partisan burger now. We had bills to pay and a great staff of people who wanted a paycheck, so we bowed to vox populi — the voice of the people.

The Lt. Governor at the time was Brad Little, a Gem County V.I.P. He stopped in early one morning while I was opening up. He was waiting for his pilot to take him up to check on something over our Gem State. I introduced myself, and we got to chatting. I told him I had toured his former home, the Little Mansion, and we spoke of local politics, and then I told him that we had a dish named after him. “Oh really? What’s it called?” he asked. I gulped. “Chicken Little Fritters with Country Gravy,” I whispered. He laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more. A very gracious man with a great sense of humor.

Running the cafe and golf course was a year I will never forget. We met so many nice people who golfed or came out to support us.

There were tournaments, luncheons, meetings, parties, ceremonies, and the Wings and Wheels event, just to name but a few. People still share memories of our year there with me. And a few former patrons still ask me for our fry sauce recipe (one day, Jeanie and Carolyn, one day!). It was a fun year. It was an eye-opening year... but fun. A lot of hard work, too. Wouldn’t change it for the world. Order up!

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