Alex Urquhart passed through Boise in the fall of 1994 with two buddies on the tail end of a summer road trip through Montana, Colorado, Utah and Idaho in his Toyota pickup. He never left. Since then, the 35-year-old has led a self-described "trichotomous" lifestyle as a Boise State biology student who is employed by the Army Corps of Engineers as a park ranger at Lucky Peak, and left his mark on the local punk rock scene as a member of the Wilson Street Pub and Sluthouse Band.
Tell me about your job as a park ranger at Lucky Peak.
The rangers basically take care of the place along with our maintenance crews. We do everything from cleaning bathrooms to dealing with medical emergencies. Ada and Boise County sheriff deputies patrol [the lake enforcing] state and local law, and park rangers handle federal regulation enforcement. It's a really diverse job. You never know what you're going to do.
How did you get involved with the Army Corps of Engineers?
I came back to school in 2002. In 2003 I was studying for finals and saw an e-mail that said they're looking for park rangers. I needed a summer job. So, I called them up, went up for a quick interview, got along with the park manager and the full-time ranger, and I went to work with them. Since then I've worked up there four summers, and a couple years part-time throughout the year.
Don't you have to be an engineer to work for the Army Corps of Engineers?
For the park ranger job, they tend to like people that are in a biology position. The ones that build the dams, obviously, they're engineers. I didn't know this before going to work up there, but the Corps of Engineers is this huge entity of many different functions. I work for the Corps of Engineers which is part of the Army, which is part of the Department of Defense. But I'm not in the Army and none of us [are], at least up at Lucky Peak. There are some retired Army and retired military guys up there, but [the Corps of Engineers] is the civilian side of the Army. They build a lot of things and also manage public lands. It's one of the biggest things we explain to people because they have no idea what we're doing there. What is the Army doing at Lucky Peak?
You are a graduate student studying fish at Boise State. What kind of fish and where?
It's an oriental weatherfish, which is an invasive fish from Eastern Asia. We don't really know how they got here. We know they've been here since 1951, which was the first collection out in the Eagle Island area. But nobody's had the time or money to do any research on them, so we don't know if [they cause any] detrimental effects. I'm doing some primary research on them in the Northwest, primarily in Idaho. They're a little eel-like fish. About 22 centimeters long is the largest I've caught. They tend to be found in irrigation canals and ponds, but they're also found in the river. We don't know if they're living in the ponds and irrigation canals and using the river as dispersal pathways, or vice-versa. They're pretty interesting.
Tell me about your education.
I have an associate's degree in criminal justice, a bachelor's in biology, and I'm working on my master's degree in biology. I spent three or four semesters studying business, but didn't really like that. I was a trainer at DirecTV for a while, then decided to come back to school and get my undergrad at 30.
Tell me about your band.
It's Wilson Street Pub and Sluthouse Band, a country-zombie-punk band. Right now, we're not really doing anything because the guitar player is doing a tattoo apprenticeship in Kansas City. And the singer is currently running 1332 Records, which is a local punk label. And I'm obviously doing my grad work. The drummer works also. I don't know if we're gonna get back together. It was pretty fun. It was supposed to be a four-song little joke that we put together. Three years later, people still really want us to come play. We have a little following amongst the punks. You wouldn't hear us on the radio. I don't think you could hear any of our songs on the radio. They're fairly offensive.
Why? What topics do your songs address?
Primarily necrophilia. A lot of zombie and horror movie topics like that. I play bass.
How did you come up with the name for your band?
Byl [Kravetz], the singer, who's 6'9", blue Mohawk, he's a very noticeable man. He lived on Wilson Street. He doesn't drink, never has. He always thought it would be fun to own a bar. If it's going to be a bar, might as well call it a pub. If it's a pub, might as well be a sluthouse, which would be akin to a brothel, only there's no money changing hands. They're just sluts. So it's Wilson Street Pub and Sluthouse Band. We're the house band for a fictitious pub and sluthouse.
Do you play any other instruments?
[Growing up] I started piano, then I played cello, then trumpet and French horn. Then I picked up a guitar when I got to college. My brother [and dad] play guitar. My mom and my sisters play piano, little sister plays saxophone. Fairly musical family.
Were you good on the horn?
Oh, it was high school marching band stuff. Whatever skill level that gets you to.
You are very multi-talented.
I guess you could say that. I generally describe my life as "trichotomous." As in dichotomous, but with three things going that are very different from each other.
I know at this point I don't want to work in a corporate world in an office. I just can't do that. I like working outside. I love working with water and fish, so I know biology is what I want to do. The ranger gig is an opportunity to work outside. I want to live on a boat eventually somewhere, and I do a lot of patrolling up on the lake on a boat, so that's a good job for me. It's interesting because I never thought I'd be friends with a bunch of cops, but I've met some pretty cool cops up there. At the same time, a lot of my punk friends give me crap for being on that law enforcement side. It's a fun comparison. You definitely put on a different personality. But at the risk of sounding like it's a fake thing, [law enforcement] is a definite part of my personality. I just accentuate each of the little roles that I do with the grad student, the punk stuff and the ranger stuff. So, it's the trichotomous lifestyle.