Twin Falls social worker and former youth minister is giving proceeds from sales of book to Sacred Heart Ranch
The following story appeared in the May 13 Idaho Catholic Register.
Pete Espil's great-grandfather, pictured in the center of the above photo, is one of the father figures who are the inspiration behind his book, "Basco: The Adventures of Jesse Echeverry." All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to benefit Sacred Heart Ranch. To order the book, go to jpespil.com (Courtesy photo/Pete Espil)
By Gene Fadness
TWIN FALLS – The ranch that Pete Espil writes about in his book, Sacred Heart Ranch, is fictional, but he and his wife, Jaime Thietten, are hoping the ranch will one day be a real place: a home for young women who might not have had a home to come back to.
The characters in Espil’s book, “Basco: The Adventures of Jesse Echeverry,” are also fictional, but based on the lives of the Basque people, including Espil’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who settled parts of southern Idaho and northern Nevada with the “typical Basque spirit,” Espil writes in his forward. “God, family, friends and their livelihood is what is most important to us Basques. We will do whatever is necessary to protect all of the above.”
Espil, a former youth minister for the Diocese of Boise and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Twin Falls, says all the proceeds for the book will go toward the establishment of Sacred Heart Ranch for females transitioning out of experiences such as foster care, military service, juvenile corrections, or from dysfunctional families.
“These young females are a largely underserved population and especially susceptible to becoming victims of sex trafficking,” said Espil in an earlier story in the Idaho Catholic Register.
By the end of last year Espil and his wife, Jaime Thietten, a Catholic recording artist, had raised slightly more than $300,000 from more than 100 donors. They estimate they will need about $2.3 million to open the ranch and keep it sustainable for its first two years.
They emphasize that the ranch is not a residential treatment center, an outpatient clinic, a halfway house or a rehab center. It is, instead, a home where young women can get emotional support and learn life skills. Programs to help men are numerous, but not so for young women.
Housing and food will be free. The Espils, who love the outdoors and horseback riding, want to provide a 10- acre ranch setting that they believe will become a therapeutic
outlet for work, play and general confidence-building. For many young Idahoans, returning home means returning to a farm or a ranch.
That ranch life, and particularly the lives of the Basque sheepherders who roamed the hills of southern Idaho and Nevada for decades, are depicted in Espil’s book, which tells the story of Jesse Echeverry whom Espil describes as an “unforgettable character born at the wrong time.” A modern-day veteran who served as a Marine in Afghanistan, Echeverry returns to Idaho to work at Sacred Heart Ranch to trap predators.
While the characters are fictional, one is led to wonder how much of the book draws on true-to-life experiences from Espil’s own military career as a Marine and the lives of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The book is dedicated to his great-grandfather, Martin Espil, who passed away in 1955; his grandfather, Pete, who died in 2005; and his father, Barry, who died in 2013.
“The book is a modern-day Western,” Espil said. “I tried to capture the Basque spirit in a modern-day setting with themes common to the classic Western writers like Louis L ’Amour and Larry McMurtry,” he said. “It isn’t a novel or a collection of stand-alone stories, but more like a collection of vignettes with overlapping themes and characters.”
Espil received a BA in linguistics from Boise State and a Masters in Social Work from Utah State University. A lay oblate with the Benedictines, he has dedicated the last 26 years of his life working with youths, including 13 years in full-time ministry for the Catholic Church. He’s written three books on recovery and Catholic spirituality. He currently works as a clinician at a local agency in southern Idaho where he specializes in trauma counseling. He and Jaime have been married for 24 years.
The book is available for purchase at jpespil.com. For more information about Sacred Heart Ranch, go to: sacredheartranch.org.
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