Kenny Knifong, 48, of Enterprise likes to spend time each day in nature — and with a herd of elk if possible.
So, it’s no wonder he didn’t really like living in the big city when he tried it.
Knifong graduated from Enterprise High in 1989 and went on to Blue Mountain Community College with plans to become a fish and wildlife biologist. He put in three years before he decided he just didn’t like the policy and procedure approach to life and decided to come back to Wallowa County.
He worked as a logger and in construction before deciding to go into the family business, Ern’s Electric, as an electrician.
Union rules required him to get his journeyman in a bigger shop, so it was off to Portland with a logging job on the side in 1995. It only took him four to five months to realize he wasn’t going to like living in Portland.
Shortly after putting in his two-weeks notice at Laughlin Logging Co. in Yamhill, a 140-foot log took a wild swing in steep country and crushed his right leg.
The return to Wallowa County was put off for a year of living out of the hospital. Thirty-five operations and several infections later, he still walks with a brace, but pretty much through sheer stubbornness, he’s back in the county and in the family business, now called Knifong’s Electric, as planned.
He met his wife, Enterprise school teacher Colby, in 1998 at a football game and the two married in 1999 and have two children Kenisen, 16, and Kellan, 11.
Despite continued limitations in his leg, Knifong still manages to hike and hunt in the high country, packing in with mules and horses and participating in several hunts.
He and the rest of the family just returned from a “once in a lifetime” adventure “down under” when Colby swapped places with an Australian teacher for a year. Kenny was able to work at several jobs during the year in Australia, as well.
The family business contributes regularly to many charities and fundraisers including the Enterprise Education Foundation, 4-H and FFA, the Wallowa County Fair and many school projects.
Q. Why were you so keen to come back to Wallowa County?
A. I’m a mountain guy and you can’t buy that view there. It’s just the way of living up here — just good, honest, hardworking people. I can’t think of a better place to raise a young family.
Q. What has Wallowa County taught you?
A. The value of a hard day’s work. And, you’re only as good as your handshake. I get frustrated with writing contracts — I want to go back to shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye.
Q. Can you remember the first book you checked out of the library for yourself, and can you recommend a book you’ve read recently?
A. I can remember a favorite book: “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. A recent book I can recommend is “American Sniper” about U.S Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most decorated sniper ever. I can also recommend “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America” by Timothy Egan about the 1910 fires that burned so much of Washington, Idaho and Montana. (All titles are available at The Bookloft).