Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rancher shooting will haunt Council community for long time

Although U.S. 95 runs right through downtown Council, it is not a familiar place to many people in the Treasure Valley. And that’s OK with many of those who live here.

Council is nestled in between arms of the Payette National Forest, which surrounds the valley on three sides. It’s a very rural area, where many folks are conservative in their politics, independent in their lifestyles and don’t mind being left alone by a fast-paced outside world.

That very setting, on a major north-south travel route through the state — and through a national forest — spawned a chain of tragic events.

Every year, as autumn leaves begin to fall, cattle come streaming “home,” down from the grazing allotments that ranchers lease on the forest. Unfortunately, one of the travel routes they use is Idaho 95. Many of the cattle coming off the forest are black, and the combination of a black cow on the blacktop of a narrow, winding highway is a recipe for disaster. Nobody likes the situation, especially the ranchers who every year lose cattle that are hit by vehicles.

Just after dark on Nov. 1, a couple in a small car hit a large, black bull on the highway about 6 miles north of Council. The car was flattened like a tin can; the occupants and the bull were badly injured.
The bull belonged to Jack and Donna Yantis, whose short ranch driveway comes down off a low foothill onto the highway near where the bull was hit.

Jack and Donna grew up near Council. Jack was born here 62 years ago and was raised on a cattle ranch at Fruitvale — a wide spot on a side road that once had a post office and store. Jack, his two older brothers and a younger sister grew up on hard work under the guidance of their father — a World War II veteran who saw combat in a tank unit. The Yantis boys developed a deep-seated work ethic and a unique toughness. Each went on to operate ranches of their own in the Council area.

The scene of the crash was soon lit by the lights of ambulances, fire trucks and Adams County law enforcement vehicles. Just as the EMTs had loaded the occupants of the car into ambulances, several gunshot blasts shattered the night air a short distance away. What happened in those few seconds has been the source of disbelief, sadness and anger in the small community ever since.

Jack Yantis was shot several times by Adams County officers and died at the scene. Donna suffered a heart attack from witnessing this horror and nearly died.

Little of the whole tragedy makes any sense to local people. It’s common knowledge that an animal injured too badly to survive needs to be put out of its misery. And yet, it seems when Jack interrupted his dinner to do just that with a rifle, something went terribly and inexplicably wrong.

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