It isn’t often — and maybe never — that one finds a Smurf in the forest.
These diminutive make-believe characters, blue from head to toe, make their appearance between the pages of comic books or in animated film.
But in the hills above Wallace, Idaho, my husband and I were in for a shock. There we came face-to-face with a lively “Smurf,” taller than three apples, but short enough to earn the nickname. And like the Smurfs in the 80s TV cartoon series, he has spent many of his days hidden out of sight.
This all-in-blue fellow, who sports a blue hardhat, blue shirt and blue jeans, hasn’t been tucked away in a magical village of mushroom-like houses deep within the woods.
Nevertheless, Lenny, the “Smurf,” has spent the better part of a lifetime in the black depths of Idaho’s silver mines. When the mines closed, “Miner Smurf” became a tour guide, taking countless tourists into his former world, often with much delight.
From the moment our trolley-ride dropped us at The Sierra Silver Mine, this “Smurf” spotted me in my pink baseball cap, the word “victim” invisibly written across its brim.
Into the mine I stepped, following closely on his heels as he skipped ahead, a trait common to Smurfs. The rest of the group followed, ducking their heads as the carved out rock overhead reached for unsuspecting foreheads.
As our “Miner Smurf” explained the mining process, he pointed toward the hewn wall. “Feel this,” he said with a grin as I reached for the granite surface smoothed by wear.
His sledge hammer hit the wall behind me and I jumped at the sound. The crowd erupted in laughter. I’d just been “smurfed”!From one joke to another, “Miner Smurf” played me in comedic style.
Finally, I saw light at the end of the tunnel; my time of being “smurfed” was about to end. Then, without warning, “Miner Smurf” pulled a “mouse” from behind a wooden ladder, and I squeaked and squealed accordingly.
Maybe “Miner Smurf” should adopt a new name.
I think of him warmly as “Mischievous Smurf.”