If you’ve ever driven to the College of Idaho, chances are you were on the Boulevard at one point or another. The Boulevard, officially named Caldwell Boulevard, borders the College on its northern side, and serves as the main artery that flows between Caldwell and Nampa.
The Boulevard is the type of road that’s edged with Wal-Marts and used car lots, drive-ups and thrift shops. It is big, and it is ugly. But the big and ugly Boulevard is a feature that becomes inseparable from the College of Idaho experience. Not only for those students whose dorm room windows face out over it, as mine have. And not only because students consider the Boulevard to be the most efficient route to Dutch Bros. Instead, the Boulevard is an omnipresent part of life at the College of Idaho because of the sounds that it brings. Sirens are the most common contribution from the Boulevard. Police, fire truck, ambulance—we get them all. Then there are the trucks—not semi-trucks, but hefty Dodges and Chevys that bring a particular low-voiced diesel rumble. There are also assorted cars and SUVs and Cadillacs that go by with their music loud enough to contribute an undistinguishable bass tone to the background noises of campus.
Running next to cars on the Boulevard is a set of train tracks. Freight trains roll by on these, at all hours of the day and night. Even more intertwined with my conception of the College of Idaho than sirens or diesel engines are the train whistles. A friend and I once tried to keep track of the times the train whistles went off, but there was never any schedule to them. What’s astounding about the trains is how loud their whistles are. I thought that living on the side of campus farthest from the tracks might make them harder to hear, but some of them ring out as if the train were next door. The train tracks cut across more than a few streets in Caldwell, so their conductors start sounding them a long ways off, or a long time after the train has gone by the College, depending on whether it's running west to east, or east to west. And not all train whistles are the same. Some are shrill, and some are more even toned. Sometimes they give out long steady blasts of sound, and sometimes they’re short and rapid honks. Long or short, the train whistles reach every crack and crevice at the College.
Short of thinking of the sirens and train whistles as noise pollution from an ugly Boulevard and an outdated freight system, I think of these sounds as essential to the character of the College. They’ll probably never make the front page of the C of I website, or find their way into any recruitment brochure, but I can’t imagine the College of Idaho without them.
Megan is a junior Literature in English major from Boise, Idaho.