- Associated Press - Saturday, January 2, 2016

RATHDRUM, Idaho (AP) - The words “I’m kind of a big dill” above the pickle picture on Vic Eachon’s special pickling T-shirt are quite fitting, considering he is known in many circles as “The Pickle Man.”

“The reason I’m wearing this shirt is because my wife insisted I do,” he said with a grin, sitting in a cozy chair in his home in December. “I only wear this when I put out pickles.”

The 89-year-old Rathdrum resident certainly knows about big dill - his adventures in growing vegetables have proven that things aren’t always what they seem, even when stated so on a package of seeds.

“I wanted carrots for a garden. I got Oregon carrots, and so I planted them, and here’s what it turned out to be - all that dill. Look how high it is,” he said, holding up a 2012 photograph of himself standing among tall, green dill plants. “That was supposed to be carrots.”

Eachon has been growing and pickling cucumbers for many years. He’ll tell you he’s been at it forever, but he won’t disclose the secret ingredients.

“Oh, I can’t tell you that,” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “That’s the only way I can keep friends.”

Eachon made 265 quarts of garlic dill pickles this year, starting in about June. The shelves in his basement pantry are lined with different sizes of pickle-filled jars, and the taste-bud-teasing aroma of vinegar mixed with garlic lingers in the chilly air of the small room.

“You have to have a password to get in here,” he joked as he opened the door to the pickle paradise.

Puns aside, Eachon’s garlic dills have become quite a big deal for many people. Through the years, he has donated jars to auctions and they’ve sold for $50-$300. He said whenever he and his wife, Kathy, 87, would help people with groceries, he would throw in a jar or two for good measure.

Ask him how much they cost, though, and he’ll just chuckle.

“I wouldn’t sell them,” he said. “It’s better to just give them away.”

Maybe the people who bid so high on those jars know the money goes to good causes - the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, cancer research, church expenses - and that the maker of those pickles is a living piece of north Idaho history.

“I was born right there at Lincoln Way and (Highway) 95, that white house where the light is for the Winton School, that big white house with those big tall trees,” Vic said. “There’s two big trees out in front. It’s cattywampus from that little store right there. We planted those little trees. … That’s where I was born and raised, right there, until I went into the service.”

He and his big brother, Bob, attended the old Winton Elementary School and the old Coeur d’Alene junior and senior high schools while growing up in the small Lake City.

“I can remember when there was wooden sidewalks down Sherman,” Vic said.

Vic helped build Farragut Naval Training Station, where he went through boot camp before being shipped to the Pacific during World War II. He helped dismantle the base after the war. He was a boxing champ and still has an original “4th Regiment Review,” a historic, typed Farragut newsletter dated Nov. 4, 1944, in which it’s written that Vic earned the featherweight title “fighting Les Ellsworth, whoever he was,” Vic said. “But you know, that’s a treasure, that’s old.”

Vic met Kathy, who grew up in Post Falls, right after he was discharged from the service, on a summer day in downtown Coeur d’Alene. He was still wearing the leg cast from when he broke his hip in a car crash with his Navy buddies right before they were discharged.

“I took her away from my best friend,” he said, beginning to chuckle when he explained there were no hard feelings between the two men. “He was so dumb he didn’t know the difference.”

Vic worked as a sawyer at the old Ohio Match Co., then returned to Farragut/Bayview where he worked as a shop foreman and spent 28 years at the Naval Ship Research and Development center. Kathy also worked there for several years.

“It didn’t really ring a bell what all transpired until I went to work out there, and that’s where I retired from, was the research,” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Gee, I’ve been affiliated with this thing from the beginning.’”

Now married 69 years, Vic and Kathy have four children and several grandchildren. They attribute their good health to many years running Bloomsdays, Kathy’s homemade and home-ground bread and their compatibility with each other, among other things. They easily laugh and smile and those who meet them know that life is good.

“We’ve really been blessed to have fairly good health,” Vic said. “I had a new hip put in, I just had it done a year and a half ago.”

“We do give God the glory, that’s for sure,” Kathy said. “He’s been good to us.”

And although traffic has increased and more people are in the area than when they were younger, Vic still loves the place he has called home all these years - maybe even as much as people love his garlic dill pickles.

“We’ve been blessed to grow up and still live here in Coeur d’Alene,” Vic said. “Period.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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