Keith Kirts, 75, has lived in Imnaha for 10 years. He says he came accidentally, but he was looking for it — he just didn’t know Imnaha was “it.”
He had been working at the University California –– Los Angeles in the geology department and he kept getting things across his desk that said water would be the next big issue in the world. So, he and some like-minded friends started looking for places that had good water. And Imnaha has good water.
He grew up in Marion, Ohio, and went to Ohio State and Columbia College of Art and Design and then approximately 50 years of various jobs unfolded. He’s done a lot of things, including carpentering in the movie business.
Since moving to Imnaha he’s turned that half decade of work life into 20 novels, (detective fiction, science fiction) eight or nine of which are published.
He likes to plant trees, a couple of fruit trees each year on his property right on the Imnaha River.
He volunteers with the new First Responder Group that was just formed in Imnaha and works four hours a week as Librarian for the Imnaha School District. He’s a great reader, according to the kids and Shari Warnock, and really makes the stories come alive.
Q. What do you think you’ve learned from Wallowa County?
A. I’ve learned how to grow grapes; how to can food; play cards with my neighbors most nights; learned how to clean out my chimney; get wood; everything here is different. You really have to take care of yourself here, much more than in the cities. And the truth is it is healthier. I just heard a program the other night that said living out in nature makes you live 10 years longer than in the city.
Q. How important is it to volunteer when you live in a small town?
A. I think it’s real important because we don’t have a fire department, it takes an hour for the ambulance to get here –– and it really does take an hour for the ambulance to get here. People down here help each other all the time. If someone moves there are always 10 or 12 people helping them, just because, just because that’s how it works down here.
Q. You’re a librarian and writer — what’s a book you’d recommend?
A. One really good book is “1491,” the story of the Americas the year before Columbus got here. It’s an awesome book. My favorite to read to the kids is usually a Sr. Seuss book. The kids, themselves, check out the Curious George books over and over again.