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Audio: Mining the Past in Silver City. What Was (And In Many Ways, Still Is)


Silver City is about 2 hours from Boise. The pavement stops several miles short of the tiny town. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Silver City is about 2 hours from Boise. The pavement stops several miles short of the tiny town.
Because of the 400-square-mile Soda Fire burning in Owyhee and Canyon counties and along the border of Oregon, all roads to the historic mining town of Silver City are closed. On Aug. 8 and 9, however, Boise Weekly staff writer Jessica Murri (me) participated in the third annual KCRW Independent Producer Project's 24-Hour Radio Race, and the theme "Time Change" took us to the old, creepy remains of Silver City.

The race challenges anyone with a microphone and a good supply of energy drinks to create a four-minute radio story in, well, 24 hours. Almost 120 teams from all over the world partook in this year's race. Each contestant received the competition prompt on Aug. 8 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time and had 24 hours to research, produce and submit a radio piece to SoundCloud

In its heyday, Silver City was home to nearly 10,000 people—mostly men—out to strike not silver, but gold. These days, the population is closer to 12 during the summer and only one in the winter. The buildings were mostly built in the mid-1800s, but several of them—including the drug store and the old hotel—still stand today as if frozen in time. One funny quirk about the town: it's powered entirely by solar panels.

Our story introduces listeners to Roger Nelson, a 60-year-old carpenter from Boise who fell in love with the place back in 1983 and made it his life's work to preserve the town. He bought the drug store, which is still stocked with bottles of opium and bull sperm, and the hotel—which most people believe is haunted. 

"The newest medicine on my shelf is 1906," Nelson said. "This really is like being 100 years back. This is the last of the Wild West right here, it really is. You will not find anything like this in the lower 48."

KCRW, the Los Angeles-based NPR affiliate, will announce the top 10 entries and the winner during the week of Aug. 17. The first place prize is $1,000, second place is $500, and third place is $300. The winning entries will air on the UnFictional podcast. Give ours a listen and see what you think.