This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
BONE, Idaho - It is a remote store with a storied history.
Like the makeshift urinals that graced the middle of the room. Or the ranch brands burned into the building. Or the signed dollar bills that dot the ceiling. Or the pickled eggs, oysters and potato salad.
Welcome to the Bone Store, a 95-year-old fixture in this tiny eastern Idaho community 25 miles southeast of Idaho Falls.
Once a thriving town with its own schoolhouse, Bone now boasts about two dozen residents, most of whom descended from homesteaders. Only a half-dozen or so are year-round, braving the rugged winters by riding snowmobiles to and from their homes.
The only visible sign of the community is the general store, which town founder Orin Bone established in 1910. The store displays a black-and-white photo of Bone, who - with his wife and five daughters - operated the combination grocery store/post office until he retired to California before his death in 1937.
The original Bone Store was about a half-mile from its current location. Then-owner Spence Williams died in the late 1950s and a couple of his relatives began tearing down the store board by board in search of a treasure, according to Sherry Day, who began managing the store in July.
"They tore it halfway down and left, so we think they found the treasure," Day said. "The rest of it was burned down."
Max Rockwood rebuilt the store in the 1960s, and it once again became a gathering place for farmers, ranchers and sheepherders.
By this time, of course, automobiles had replaced horses, so the store sold gasoline.
It also had another modern convenience: an indoor bathroom - of sorts. There was no plumbing, but a makeshift urinal sat in the main room.
"That was so the men didn't have to go outside," Day said. "I don't think too many women came in then."
Today, men, women and children step back in time when they visit Bone, where a 90-year-old postman delivers the mail three times a week.
Snowmobilers, campers and ranchers convene by the hundreds in the small building, which is often filled to capacity. Miles upon miles of groomed sledding trails traverse the rolling hills from Blackfoot on the west to Palisades Reservoir on the east and Soda Springs on the south.
In winter, visitors thaw out by the fireplace - still the main heating source - and warm up with a cold brew or a hot chocolate. At the first sign of snow, Idaho Falls resident Scott Schulz and his son, Skyler, head to the Bone area to check out the sledding trails.
"It's a tradition that when we come up here, we stop for a hot chocolate," Scott said.
Brent and Dana Hansen of Shelley, Idaho, have been regulars at the store's bar and grill for decades.
"You feel at home when you come in here," said Dana, whose artwork adorns the store's walls.
The Hansens rattle off the names of previous owners and the features each brought. Brent remembers when the porch was added, when an indoor bathroom replaced the outhouse and when the billiards room nearly doubled the store's size.
"It's interesting to see the different owners do different things," Brent said.
Robert and Venetta Bell found local fame for their pickled eggs.
Other owners specialized in oysters and potato salad.
"We used to have a Bone Burger that everybody just loved, but we could never figure out what the secret was," recalled barkeeper and cook Courtney Caldwell Perry.
Today's menu includes bratwurst, hot dogs, cookies, hot chocolate and pies, baked by Day in the building's renovated 6-by-19-foot kitchen.
There is a reason french fries aren't available. "If we had a fry cooker back there, we'd probably brand each other," Day said.
Ah, the branding. It's a tradition that has survived for more than 50 years. Early ranchers would sear their brands into the ceiling so they could get help identifying their missing cattle.
Visitors from around the world have added their own brands by decorating and signing dollar bills and tacking them to the ceiling.
The monogrammed money now covers much of the ceiling that isn't already covered with brands.
Although the area is remote - homes three or four miles past the store still lack electricity - Bone has attracted national attention on more than one occasion.
Phil Frank, creator of the syndicated cartoon, "Travels with Farley," drew a series about an imaginary plan to visit Bone, because the town's name appealed to the cartoon's dog hero. The strip series was launched after Frank tried to make a call to the Bone City Hall only to learn that the town had no phones.
In 1982, when a phone finally came to the town at the general store, the news went national because the community reportedly was one of the last to get phone service.
Day remembers riding her horse to the general store for a candy bar or soda pop when she was a young girl. Today, she lives on a ranch homesteaded by her grandfather.
"I grew up here, so I'll be the first to admit there are some characters," she said.
"I'm probably a character, too."
Visitors always are welcome, Day said, but don't start down the gravel road leading to the Bone Store too late.
"If I haven't had any customers for an hour, I go home," she said.
"It's a long day and I have a ranch to run, too."