O Palouse!, a DVD about the area, obviously started as one of those absolutely great ideas. Take an area that’s extraordinarily photogenic. Good geologic bones, good seasonal color. Unique personality. Add a rich history of relatively recent European settlement and a fairly well documented Native history. Throw in a few major conflicts between settlers and natives for drama. Then there’s the two-universities-in-the-middle-of-nowhere angle. Then we’ll get a lot of sponsors and work them into the story just a little, and bingo! O Palouse! Oh! Oh! Oh!
And for the most part, it works. O Palouse! is a fine general introduction, a perfect stocking stuffer, a great addition to the old recruitment package.
In fact, it starts out as a strong documentary. Regional historian Richard Scheuerman ’73 is a fine storyteller and engaging talking head. Both he and the almost-as-engaging Alex McGregor come from pioneer stock and rich family histories.
It’s good to get another perspective from Scheuerman on the near-massacre of Colonel Steptoe’s troops by a confederation of exasperated natives. It’s good to know the rich (albeit European) diversity of the area’s newest residents and the communities they settled. And it’s good to hear how Orville Vogel, Harley Jacob, and others joined to boost wheat production from 40 bushels to the acre to over 100.
Unfortunately, by the time you get to the part about the universities and other obligatory recruitment pitches, what originally seemed like great ideas start to drag the whole thing down. The DVD suffers from an identity problem, trying to please all its sponsors and cover all the bases. This is a big playing field we’re talking about.
Still, there’s plenty to this comprehensive, if sketchy, picture of the Palouse to make it work watching and sharing. Photographer John Clement talking about light and the landscape, for example, is a nice touch. And Kelly Quinnett (UI) and Reuben Mayes (WSU) give noble performances, as they try to lend some drama to the reeling off of facts and figures about their respective universities.
If you’ve lived in the Palouse for a long time and are reasonably informed about the area, you’re not going to learn much from this telling. Still, it’s pretty, and it does provide a good refresher. Newcomers will get a good overview of their new home, and non- or prospective residents will enjoy an attractive picture of what really is an exotic and enticing place.