The Illusionist

By Paul Kix | Boston Magazine |

“You’ve got an accent,” Jackson said.

“Yeah,” he acknowledged. He was from New York, he said. “But I’ve been all over.”

In time, Jackson got to know her new neighbors well. His full name was Jeffrey John Shaw, but he preferred Jay. He fixed computers, set up Web pages, and did graphic design work for a living. He was 32 and Cara — Cara Lyn Pace — was indeed younger, only 22. Originally from Salt Lake City, she had a cousin in nearby Homedale, Idaho. One day they were visiting this cousin after coming down from Washington, or something like that, and they saw Marsing and its beauty — the skies cracked wide and blue, the Owyhee Mountains in the distance — and thought they’d like to live there.

There were other things that made them different in Marsing, too. They constructed their home in stages. When they had the money, Pace and Shaw put down the foundation. Then, after accumulating more cash, came the dry wall, then the plumbing, the electricity. It took time, but when it was done they’d built a split-level ranch-style home, tucked into a hill and looking out on Hogg Road and Marsing beyond. With the house and accompanying land, the property was valued at roughly $160,000.

Shaw may have worked in computers, but when he wasn’t building his house he seemed to spend an awful lot of his first months in Marsing learning how to farm. In truth, he wasn’t any good. He bought tree saplings without installing an irrigation system to nourish them. They died. In 2002 he decided to raise cattle and asked a neighbor named Bodie Clapier to teach him. Clapier was a rancher who’d lived in Marsing his whole life and looked the part: a full mustache, a weather-beaten face. Shaw, apparently dressing to impress, showed up for lessons one day in bib overalls and a straw hat. Clapier, wearing jeans, a durable button-down, and a baseball cap, just stared at him.

Shaw had said he needed to know a few things about cattle, but it turned out that he needed to know everything. So Clapier began with, This is what a bull looks like. This is what a cow looks like.

Still, Clapier took a liking to the new guy. Shaw was inquisitive. He’d pepper Clapier and Jackson with questions, everything they knew about cows — and the next day ask more, because he’d read something the night before in a livestock book or on a cattle website that contradicted what they’d told him.

Shaw soon got a heifer, and then another, and then found a neighbor who had a bull calf. Jackson showed Shaw how to bottle-feed him. And with that, Jay Shaw began raising Black Angus cows.


Listen to Paul Kix as he talks about his experiences researching Enrico Ponzo and reveals snippets of his interviews from his Idaho visit. 

  • Idella Tanna

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