My ‘Hometown’ Apache Oklahoma

Apache was my ‘hometown’ for a year in 1973 as a Rotary exchange student.

My 1973 Apache memories are recorded here.

Former Apache resident Rebekah Cooksey lived there for twelve years or more about ten to twenty years after me. She wrote “Top Ten Things Heard This Weekend in Apache, Oklahoma” after a return visit to her hometown. Her blog now seems to have disappeared, but I got these extracts from it.

Here’s Rebekah:

Small town Oklahoma defined my early life. My hometown was Apache. Population: 1500. Our school was so small we had no class electives; My class pictures between kindergarten and 12th grade included all the same people, generally in the same position.

I am the youngest of seven kids; Dad was a minister, Mom was a nurse. I think at one point we were actually below the poverty level but I have such great selective memory that period is all kind of blurry. I do remember being laughed at because of my clothes and wishing that we could live in a mobile home because some of my friends lived in them, and their homes were nicer than ours. While I had good friends (whom I still keep in touch with), I always knew I would move away because there really wasn’t anything there for me.

Those of you who actually read my blog (thanks, Mom!) know that my family and I went to Apache Oklahoma this past weekend to attend the annual Apache Fair. Going to Apache is always a bittersweet event for me. Growing up in this small town of 1500 people was mostly a frustrating experience, and I spent my junior high and high school years plotting my escape. But even after almost twenty years of being away, I am tied to this place by my memories, my values, and my dreams for my own children — because the kind of town I ran from is exactly the kind of town I’d like to raise them in, but hopefully with a larger population by a factor of ten!

Why bittersweet? Going back reminds me of the many wonderful things about being raised in a town where everyone knows everyone, where the same families have farmed the same land for generation after generation, where the values are so traditional that Home Economics is a required course for girls and Ag Shop (agricultural workshop – welding, woodworking, leather tooling) is a required course for boys. But, it also makes me sad, because many of the store fronts are boarded up, the family-owned businesses have been replaced by Sonic and Dollar General, and the landscape is dotted with barns falling into themselves, rusted cars and vans, and, in general, signs of the struggle of the lower-middle class.

The best way to describe it, I’ve decided, is Mayberry meets Sanford & Son, with a Native American twist.

So, in a lighthearted way, I’m going to attempt to share with you some of the highlights of the weekend. Again, while this may appear like I’m poking fun – well OK, it will be poking fun but remember, I grew up here, so I’m allowed to. I’m laughing with my fellow Apacheans, not at them.

# Do you feel that breeze?

apache-wind-farm

There was a lot of controversy over the installation of 150 wind turbines southwest of Apache because of the blight on the landscape. Not surprising: when you have been living with an unobstructed view of the Wichita Mountains for years, and suddenly someone proposes to build wind turbines across the horizon, that’s bound to put a bee in your bonnet. But the Slick Hills (as the foothills of the Wichitas are known) supposedly have some of the best wind in the USA. The Blue Canyon Wind Farm now produces the energy equivalent of powering 60,000 cars on the road, so with the gas price hovering just under $4 a gallon, I don’t think the residents mind so much anymore.

# We’ll have to wait our turn to get on the bridge.

apache-bridge

We actually didn’t stay in Apache for the weekend; instead, we rented a cabin in Medicine Park, a tiny tourist village about half an hour away just outside the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. If you can desensitize yourself to an over-abundance of junked out cars, scrap heaps, and crumbling mobile homes, Medicine Park is quite a cute destination and the natural beauty is astounding. Definitely worth a weekend trip from Dallas-Fort Worth. But my mention here is just about the one-lane bridge that goes across the river in Medicine Park and joins East Lake Drive with West Lake Drive. You don’t see many of these anymore.

# Look, it’s Tow-mater!

In Medicine Park we found what must be the actual model for Tow-Mater from the animated movie Cars.

# Wow! Look at the view from the wastewater treatment plant!

Apache Medicine bluff

The fact that the most beautiful real estate in the area is used by a waste water treatment plant is astounding to me. With a view of the Wichita Mountains, Lake Lawtonka and the surrounding hills, this plot would be turned into million dollar homes (or, adjusted for Oklahoman prices, maybe $250K homes). Seriously, it made my heart sad to see the $32.5m sewage facility sitting smack dab on top of the best view.

Wichita Wildlife Refuge

Wichita Bison

# Hey, Look! The stoplight is working!

apache-stoplight

I remember when the blinking red stoplight was installed at the main intersection when I was in junior high in the early 80′s. It seemed like no time at all had passed before the light burned out. No one seemed to notice, really, and it took years before it was replaced. Clearly progress has been made because the town’s only stoplight was blinking when we drove through town.

# The Apache Rattlesnake Festival drew 60,000 people last year.

apache-rattlesnake-festival

Our little town of Apache is host to one of the largest Rattlesnake Festivals in the USA. The Apache Rattlesnake Festival was created by some local townspeople (one of whom was my high school best friend’s Dad) back in 1986, and features guided snake hunts, contests for the longest/heaviest/ugliest rattlesnake, an ever-growing flea market/craft fair, and a carnival. Last year, they had 60,000 people come through for the 3-day event, and Discovery America was there to film it. Pretty good for this small hometown.

# Mooooo!

Livestock fairs

One of the big attractions of the Fair is livestock judging. Most FFA students have animals that they show at fairs such as this for prize money and bragging rights. This night was cattle judging night, so Jack and Luke got plenty of opportunity to see cows. I think this was the first real “Moo” they had ever heard, poor things. Usually it’s me trying to sound like a cow when I sing Old MacDonald.

Thanks, Rebekah Cooksey for sharing those memories!

===========oooooooo00000ooooooooo=============

Glimpses into Me — By Rebekah Cooksey from her blog: MyKindOfMom on August 20, 2008

Apache School 2014

Apache Co-Op

Quanah Parker, Comanche Chief

Quanah Parker: Son of Cynthia Ann Parker and the Last Comanche Chief to Surrender.

I learnt a bit about him in Apache and Fort Sill, Oklahoma back in 1973. Here I learnt more, thanks to Darla Sue Dollman of wildwesthistory.blogspot.co.za (edited version).

Cynthia Ann Parker. Photo taken after she was recaptured and returned to her white family in 1881, shortly before she starved herself to death, mourning the death of her daughter. 
Quanah Parker’s story is a complicated saga that begins in May of 1836 when a nine year-old girl living in a Texas settlement with her family was abducted during a Comanche raid. Her father was killed during the raid, but her uncle, a nearby rancher, soldier, and state legislator, Isaac Parker, adored Cynthia Ann and insisted the family continue to search for the child no matter how long it took to have her returned. In fact, it took twenty five years.
Cynthia Ann Parker: Quanah Parker’s Mother
Nine years after she was captured, Cynthia Ann Parker was chosen as the bride to Comanche Chief Peta Nocona. The couple had three children together: Quanah, Pecos, and a young daughter, Topasannah, or “Prairie Flower.” Cynthia Ann Parker was by all accounts a loving wife and good mother, caring for her children at the camp while her husband and the rest of the tribesmen raided Parker County Texas, named after her uncle.
In 1860, Nocona’s tribe was camped near the Pease River. The Texas Rangers raided the camp. Peta Nocona and his two sons escaped into the nearby prairie. Cynthia Ann, who wore her hair cropped short, was also wearing robes at the time of the raid and was almost shot by soldiers, but she held up her child to show she was a mother. When the soldiers questioned her they noticed her blue eyes and began to suspect she might be the long lost niece of Isaac Parker.
Cynthia was returned to her family, but twenty five years had passed and she appeared to be unable to speak English. In a moment of frustration, one of her relatives said, “This can’t possibly be Cynthia Ann” and Cynthia replied, “Me, Cynthia.”
The family gave her a home and some acreage where she could raise her daughter and support herself, but Cynthia was desperate to return to the only family she knew – husband Peta Nocona and sons Quanah and Pecos. She even stole horses in an attempt to return to her husband, but was captured again by her white family who were now her captors. Four years later, little Topsannah died of a fever in her mother’s arms. Cynthia Ann was devastated. Topsannah was the only family she had left. She starved herself to death, mourning the loss of her beloved daughter and her family.
Quanah Parker of the Quahadi band of Comanche
 
It is uncertain when or how Peta Nocona died. It is known, though, that when his oldest son Quanah was 15 he was introduced into the Destanyuka band, where Kobe (Wild Horse) raised him.
His first name, Quanah, means fragrant, and he was teased by his fellow braves when he was younger. As his mother had named him, he fiercely defended his name and his friends learned not to tease or taunt young Quanah, who grew to be a fierce warrior,
Quanah Parker, Texas State Library.
respected by his people who made him a subchief of the Quahadi (Antelope Eaters) band of Comanche. His anger over the loss of his mother never subsided and it is believed this is why he kept her surname, Parker, for the rest of his life. Prior to his life on the reservation, Quanah fiercely rejected any attempts toward peace made by white politicians.
When he reached his early 20s, Quanah started leading raiding parties on his own. When he was 26, Quanah led a daring night raid into the Cavalry encampment of Colonel Ronald Mackenzie, who was actually on a special assignment to hunt Quanah down.
Quanah and his men captured many Calvary horses and sent the rest stampeding through the camp. Quanah’s name was now well-known throughout Texas and he continued to lead raids into pioneer settlements, generally driving off the cattle and horses and taking whatever he pleased from the homes of the white settlers.
In the spring of 1874, the Southern Plains Indians (Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho) recognizing that Adobe Wells post and the buffalo hunters operating from there were the major threats to their way of life on the plains. The held a sun dance seeking guidance. According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Comanche Medicine Man Isa-tai promised victory to the warriors who agreed to fight the enemy–the hunters.
Quanah Parker
On June 27, 1874, Quanah Parker led 700 Indians from combined tribes to attack the post. At that time, there was 28 men and one woman at the post, but they somehow managed to kill 70 of the Indians, who were forced into retreat. It was considered a spiritual defeat for the Indians, and a lesson to the traders as well. In 1848, the traders destroyed the post because they realized its location made it impossible to protect. To the U.S. Army, it was the last straw, prompting actions to defeat the remaining tribes and end the ongoing Plains War.
Quanah’s anger could not be appeased. He would have continued to fight to his death, but the Comanche population was dwindling due to disease and war losses, and a low birth rate. One by one, the Comanche tribes agreed to live on reservations. However, the Kwahadi Comanche had never signed a treaty with white men. In fact, they refused to attend the Great Treaty Conference held at Medicine Lodge. They did not trust any treaties proposed by the white men, and rightly so. In the past, just about every treaty signed by the white government was broken by the white government.
Quanah refused to surrender and continued to lead his small band of warriors on periodic raids through the white settlements. The U.S. Army used a technique they often used when attempting to subdue the Native American Indian tribes during the Indian Wars–they stole or killed their horses and destroyed all food sources.
It was September, 1874. The Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne were camped in Palo Duro Canyon on the banks of the Red River. This was viewed as a refuge for local tribes. They had seen soldiers nearby and sensed something was in the works, but they were somewhat unprepared for the attack.
When Mackenzie and his men rode through the camps, the members of the three tribes chose to retreat, and Mackenzie responded as predicted–he burned their lodges and food supplies and drove off 1400 horses and mules.
Then Mackenzie reconsidered the horse situation and came up with an even more brutal solution. Knowing the loyalty between Indians and their horses–the Comanche referred to their horses as “God Dogs,”–he decided to have the horses and mules rounded up in Tule Canyon and shot. It was an act of cruelty that understandably caused the Comanche intense pain and sorrow. In 1875, Quanah and what was left of his warriors rode into a nearby reservation and surrendered.
 
Surprisingly, in spite of his reluctance to surrender Quanah thrived on the reservation.
Quanah Parker
For the next 25 years, Quanah was the leader of the Comanche, and true to his reputation and life example, promoted self-sufficiency and self-reliance among his people. He encouraged the construction of schools and educating Indian children to assimilate with the white culture surrounding them. These actions were not always acceptable to his fellow Comanche, but Quanah could be very persuasive.
Quanah thrived in other ways, as well. He promoted ranching on the reservation and, as always, did so by providing an example. He became friends with wealthy cattle ranchers and spent time with his mother’s relatives, the Parker family, to learn successful ranching techniques. He encouraged the signing of agreements with white ranchers to allow their cattle to graze on Comanche land, yet another controversial move, but he pushed this through by using basic logic–the white ranchers were already using Comanche land and the written agreement showed the Comanche had power and authority.
Quanah encouraged the Comanche to build homes resembling their white neighbors, and to plant crops. Unlike the Navajo, the Comanche were traditionally a roaming tribe, following the buffalo, but the buffalo were gone and Quanah recognized the need to change in order to survive. He even approved the establishment of a Comanche police force, yet another wise move that enabled the Comanche to “manage their own affairs”.
Quanah was sometimes criticized by Comanche for dressing like the white men and assimilating into their culture, but he also surprised the white men with his success. He owned $40,000 in stock in the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway and is believed to have been the wealthiest Indian in America in his time. Quanah’s wealth made him popular in white social circles and a popular subject for magazine articles. He was also friends with Theodore Roosevelt.
Eventually, Quanah built a two-story eight bedroom house called Star House. He had separate bedrooms for each of his seven wives and his own bedroom. He had 25 children by his eight wives. One of his close friends, cattle rancher Samuel Burk Burnett, helped him pay for it. The house was moved out of the Fort Sill grounds to the nearby town of Cache in an effort to preserve it.
Quanah rejected orthodox Christianity, but adopted elements of it in founding the Native American Church movement.
Quanah Parker in ceremonial regalia. Photo taken in 1892.
Quanah practiced the “half-moon” style of peyote ceremony. He is credited with saying “The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his tipi and talks with Jesus.” Quanah and John Wilson, a Caddo-Delaware religious leader are believed to be the reason most Native American and Canadian tribes adopted the Native American Church and Christianity.
Quanah Parker was named deputy sheriff of Lawton, Oklahoma in 1902. In 1911 he became very sick at the Cheyenne Reservation from an unknown illness and died shortly after returning home on February 23, 1911. He was buried in his Comanche regalia, beside his mother Cynthia Ann Parker and his sister Topasannah, in Post Oak Mission Cemetery in Cache, Oklahoma. In 1957, the United States expanded a missile base in Oklahoma and moved the graves of Quanah, Cynthia Ann and Topsannah to Fort Sill Post Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma. On August 9, 1957, Quanah was once again re-buried in the same cemetery, in a section known as Chief’s Knoll, with full military honors.
——————————————————–

 

Hance Rapid in the Grand Canyon

Hance Rapid3

Hance Rapid at Mile 76.5 stands sentinel at the Colorado river’s entry into the Granite Gorge.  The river drops 30 feet as it passes through a natural constriction formed by the Red Canyon.  The dark dike cutting through the red Hakatai Shale is one of the most photographed features in the Canyon.

I found out more about the man the rapid was named after:

John Hance (1840 – January 8, 1919) is thought to be the first non-native resident of the Grand Canyon.

John Hance_cr

He opened the first tourist trail in the canyon before the canyon was a national park, giving tours of the canyon after his ca.1866 attempts at mining asbestos failed. “Captain” John Hance was said to be one of the Grand Canyon’s most colorful characters, and one early visitor declared that “To see the canyon only and not to see Captain John Hance, is to miss half the show.”

Hance delighted in telling canyon stories to visitors, favoring the whopper of a tale over mere facts. With a straight face, Hance told travelers how he had dug the canyon himself, piling the excavated earth down near Flagstaff (thus ‘explaining’ those mysterious then-unexplained dirt piles).

Flagstaff SanFranciscoPeaks

John Hance died in 1919, the year the Grand Canyon became a National Park, and was the first person buried in what would become the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery.

(from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and archive.org)

——————————————————————————————-

In May 1891 one Charley Greenlaw wrote this in John Hance’s guestbook:

I can cheerfully say that this, the Grand Canon of the Colorado River, is the grandest sight of my life. As I noticed in this little book of Capt. John Hance, a great many people say indescribable. I can say nothing more. It is beyond reason to think of describing it in any way. You must see it to appreciate it. A grand sight of this kind and so few people know of it. By accident I formed the acquaintance of two ladies en route to the Grand Canon. I joined them. We have enjoyed our trip; the stage ride from Flagstaff to the Grand Canon is grand. Good horses, competent and accommodating drivers. I have seen the Yosemite, have visited California several different times, in fact seen all the principal points of interest in the United States, but the most wonderful, awe-inspiring piece of Nature’s own work is this, the Grand Canon of the Colorado River.

—————————————————————————————–

Another entry by J. Curtis Wasson told of the twelve hour stage coach journey after alighting from the Santa Fe Railroad Company’s train:

From Flagstaff at 7 o’clock a.m. our stage and six goes out.

Arriving at Little Springs Station, where a new relay of six horses is added, we make haste until the half-way station is reached, passing through a fine unbroken forest of Pinus ponderosa, quaking aspen, balsam fir, and spruce. The open forest, the waving grasses, the gorgeously colored mountain flowers, the occasional chirp of the forest songsters, the ice-cold springs traversing our smooth compact road, the peaks, clear-cut and massive, towering up nearly 14,000 feet into the blue above, the low rumbling of our great Concord stage, the sound of two dozen hoofs, the sharp crack of the driver’s whip, the clear, bracing atmosphere, every breath of which seems to stimulate, the indescribably beautiful Painted Desert outstretching for a hundred miles to our right.

stagecoach2

One fain would linger on scenes like these but we have arrived at Cedar Station, and after partaking of a very refreshing luncheon we are given a new relay of horses and hasten over the desert portion of our ride to Moqui Station, where another relay is provided, which takes us to the hotel at the rim of the Grand canon, where we arrive at 7 o’clock p.m.

Leaving our Concord stage, giving our grips to the porter, not even waiting for “facial ablutions”, we hasten across the yard and up to the rim of the canon, when, looking over — the Chasm of the Creator, the Gulf of God, the Erosion of the Ages, that Erosive Entity, that Awful Abyss, lies in all its awfulness before us, — awful, yet grand; appalling, yet attractive; awe inspiring, yet fascinating in its greetings.

Grand Canyon South Rim

Panoramic view of Hance Rapid:

Hance Rapid

coach pic from wildwesthistory.blogspot.com

 

Trader Horn and Me

I lapped up the famous Trader Horn books “The Ivory Coast in the Earlies” and “Harold the Webbed”. I was then even more enamoured of Tim Couzens’ book “Tramp Royal – The true story of Trader Horn”, as it validated the Trader Horn legend – Aloysius Smith was real and he HAD got around!!

Couzens died in October this year, tragically – he fell in his own home. I thought OH NO!! when I read it. He was a gem, almost a Trader Horn himself – what a waste! Too soon! He did the MOST amazing sleuth job of tracking down all Trader Horn’s jaunts n joints across the world.

One (small) reason I LOVED the trader Horn books was the number of places A. Aloysius Smith (Trader Horn or Zambesi Jack or Uncle Pat) had been to that I have also been to:

  • Joburg, his least favourite city in the world. He was in a doss house in Main Street in 1925, I was in Eloff Street in 1974. Parktown, where Ethelreda Lewis ‘discovered’ him was different – he came to love it, as did I. In Parktown he was in Loch Street, we were in Hillside Avenue;
  • Hwange in Zim, or Wankie in Rhodesia as it was then;
  • Harrismith, where he went with Kitchener’s Cattle Thieves to steal Boer cattle and horses in the scorched earth tactics of the wicked Brits. And where I was born;
  • Madagascar’s east coast where our yachting trip to the island of Nose Iranja took us quite close to his Chesterfield Islands;
  • The east coast of Africa, although he spoke about Zanzibar and we visited Mombasa- which he probably visited too, as he sailed up and down the coast;
  • Oklahoma, where like me he befriended and was befriended by, the local Native Americans (his mostly Pawnees and Osages, mine mostly Apaches, Kiowas and Cherokees);
  • Georgia, where he behaved abominably and which I used as a base to go kayaking in Tennessee. He drank in a doctor’s house and I drank in a dentist’s house;
  • The Devonshire Hotel in Braamfontein, where both of us got raucously pickled;
  • Kent, where he died in 1931; I visited Paddock Wood on honeymoon in 1988.

trader-horn_1 trader-horn_2 trader-horn_3

Old Selfies

Found some old pics from Apache Oklahoma back in 1973.

Dragging Main with my Olympus camera
Dragging Main with my Olympus camera
ApacheOK73 (8)
Self portrait at the Swandas (original “selfie”??) – my last hosts in Oklahoma – Their farm was called “The Swanderosa”(kidding!!).

Kayak the Ocoee

Atlanta Lincoln2  Atlanta Lincoln1

We hired a Lincoln Continental Town Car in Atlanta and put roofracks on. Dave the dentist and US paddler put us up for the night before we headed North. Chris Greeff, kayaking legend & trip organiser; Herve de Rauville, kayaking legend; two non-paddlers, Jurie the cameraman, (I forget the other name!) and me.

And off we went to the Ocoee River in Tennessee. Which was completely empty. Not low. Empty.

Then they turned on the tap at 12noon and we could paddle (the full flow gets diverted to generate power! How criminal is that!!)

259

Here’s a description of the short stretch of river we paddled:

The Middle Ocoee
The Middle Ocoee is the portion of whitewater, on this stretch of water, paddlers and rafting enthusiasts, have been paddling for decades. Beginning at Rogers Branch and just over 5 miles long, this class 3-4 section of whitewater is an adrenaline junkies dream, crammed with waves and holes.

Entrance rapid gives you whitewater from the get-go. As soon as you launch onto the middle Ocoee you are in a class 4 rapid, paddling through waves and dropping ledges. It’s a fun and exciting way to begin your trip.
Broken Nose begins with a large S-shaped wave. Swirling water behind it will send you to a series of ledges. This is a great place for pictures, so smile.
Next, Slice and Dice: two widely spaced ledges, fun to drop, especially the second ledge. If done correctly, you can get a great surf here “on the fly”.
An interesting and humorous set of rock formations highlights the rapid, Moon Chute. After making your way behind the elephant shaped rock, do some 360’s in front of “sweet-cheeks,” then drop through the chute and over the ledge at the bottom.
Double Suck, an appropriately named rapid, where a good-sized ledge drops you into two hydraulics. Paddle hard or you might catch another surf here.
Double Trouble, which is more ominous in name than in structure, is a set of three large waves, which will have everybody yelling. This is another great photo spot. You won’t find an easier, more fun rapid.
Next is Flipper (No, it’s not named after the dolphin). Here, a great ledge drop puts you into a diagonal wave. Hit this wave with a right hand angle and enjoy the ride, or angle left to eddy out. Then enjoy one of the best surfs on the river.
Table saw was originally named for a giant saw-blade shaped wave in the middle of it. The rock forming the wave was moved during a flood several years ago, making this one of the most exciting rapids on the Middle Ocoee. The big waves in this one will make the boat buck like a bronco.
At Diamond Splitter, point your boat upstream and ferry it between two rocks. Once there get a couple of 360’s in before dropping through the chute and into the hydraulic.
Slingshot is where most of the water in the river is pushed through a narrow space, making a deep channel with a very swift current. To make this one a little more interesting, see how many 360’s you can complete from top to bottom.
Cat’s Pajamas start with a couple of good ledges, with nice hydraulics. After those, it will look as though you are paddling toward a big dry rock, but keep going. At the last second, there will be a big splash and you will be pushed clear.
Hell’s Hole is the biggest wave on the river. Start this one in the middle of the river, drifting right. Just above the wave, start paddling! When you crest this 7-8 ft. wave, you will drop into a large hydraulic. Stay focused because just downstream are the last two ledges known as

Powerhouse. Drop these ledges just right of center for a great ride.
Once through Powerhouse, collect yourself and take out at Caney Creek.

—————————————————-

Bumbling Down the Grand Canyon

(early draft)

1984 was one of the very few years since 1960 that Colorado river water from the Grand Canyon actually reached the sea. High snow melt had pushed it past the point where golf courses and old-age homes are draining it of all its water and it reached the beautiful estuary at Baja California into the Sea of Cortez ! Unknown to many, this also made it the first-ever time Mexico would have been able to taste Mainstay and river water. Well, recycled Mainstay and river water. Passed through the kidneys of a mad bunch of South Africans that Chris Greeff had assembled to paddle through the famous American Canyon.

That’s because we were on the river sponsored by Mainstay Cane Spirits and South African Airways. The “Mainstay” we drank was actually an SAA Boeing 747’s supply of tot bottles of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka – and Mainstay cane spirits – which we decanted into 2litre plastic bottles to help the stewardesses on board with their end-of-Atlantic-crossing stock-take. We had resolved to drink the plane dry but man, they carry a lot of hooch on those big babies (I spose in case they end up with all 350 passengers happening to be as thirsty as paddlers are?).

Fifteen paddlers from South Africa joined our guides Cully and JoJo Erdman on a trip down the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to the take-out on Lake Mead 300 or so miles downstream. We were accompanied by one other paddler, an Argentine José who was ticking off his bucket list, having climbed Everest. Five rubber inflatable rafts carried the food (and the Mainstay and a few hundred beers) and a motley assortment of rapid riders from America and SA. Talking of motley: Us paddlers ranged from capable rough water paddlers to flatwater sprinters to happy trippers to complete novices. Some had Springbok colours, others had a lot of cheek.

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (48) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (2) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (6) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (8) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (26) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (28) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (30)

Some twists in the tale: My boyhood kayaking heroes had been the van Riet brothers, Willem and Roelof, who won the Dusi three times just as I was first learning about the race ca 1970. As I started to participate in the race Graeme Pope-Ellis was winning the first of his eventual 15 Dusi wins. Both Willem and Graeme were with us on this trip. More: In the year I first saw the Colorado river (1973) by walking/running down the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim to the Colorado’s swiftly-flowing green water, Willem had launched a boat at Lee’s Ferry, done an eskimo roll and come up with ice in his hair, causing him to postpone his trip to this one, eleven years later – in the summer!

The trip was put together by yet another iconic paddler Chris Greeff, winner of more kayak races than I’d had breakfasts. One of the craziest races he won was the Arctic Canoe Race on the border between Finland and Sweden. About 500km of good pool and drop rapids in cold water. When he arrived at the start with his sleek flatwater racing kayak (the others had wider, slower, more stable canoes) the local organisers thought Ha! he intends portaging around all the rapids! (they’d heard of the Dusi and how mad South Africans run with kayaks on their heads) so they amended the rules: Every rapid avoided would incur a time penalty. Chris just smiled and agreed enthusiastically with their ruling: He had no intention of getting out of his boat!

Later:

On the trip our American kayak and raft guides kept asking us about our sponsors stickers we had attached to kayaks and rafts. SAA they understood, but what was this “Mainstay” stuff? Ooh. you’ll see! Was all we’d say.
At ___ rapid on Day __ around the camp fire we hauled out three or four 2litre bottles filled with a suspicious amber liquid. THIS we said, was that famous stuff!

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (65)

1984Grand Canyon (1)

The little Colorado was flooding and massively silt-laden. At the confluence we stopped and had mud fights and mud rolls. I fell out just downstream and got some of that ‘water’ up my snout. A month later I had to have an emergency sinus washout!

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff Confluence (1)

Lunch on a small sandbank, Colorado River, Grand Canyon - Five rafts, seventeen kayaks
Lunch on a small sandbank, Colorado River, Grand Canyon – Five rafts, seventeen kayaks

Grand Canyon Chris 2 Grand Canyon Chris Crystal-001

Jannie Claassen stands. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right. All poring over the map, plotting the next day!
Jannie Claassen stands. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right. All poring over the map, plotting the next day!
The Mainstay SAA Team from SA; At the usual take-out before Lake Mead; Paddling is over (for most of us!)
The Mainstay SAA Team from SA; At the usual take-out before Lake Mead; Paddling is almost over (for most of us!)

?Me and trip girlfriend Wendy in foreground

Bernie Garcin - great mate; - - and WHAT a campsite!!
Bernie Garcin – great mate; – – and WHAT a campsite!!

Happy daze drifting in the current, lying back gazing up at the cliffs and watching the waterline as century after millenium of geological lines rose up out of the water and each day rose higher and higher above us.

Then you’d sit up and listen intently. Then peer ahead with a stretched neck and drift in a quickening current as the roar of the next rapid grew in the canyon air. The river was running at an estimated high 50 000cfs (about 1650 cumecs). Once you could see where it was, you pulled over and got out to scout it. Plot your way through it.

Lava Falls
Lava Falls – *click on pic* spot the blue helmet

Singing:

The canyon burro is a mournful bloke
He very seldom gets a poke
But when he DOES . .
He LETS it soak
As he revels in the joys of forni- CATION!

and (to the tune of He Ain’t Heavy)

Hy’s nie Swaar nie

Hy’s my Swaer . a . a . aer

.

We went down the Canyon twice

I always say we did the Canyon twice. Once we would bomb down in our kayaks, crashing through the big water; The second time was much hairier, with bigger rapids, higher water and far more danger: That was when Willem would regale us with tales of his day on the water around the campfire at night. “Raconteur” is too mild a word! The word MOERSE featured prominently in his stories.