Richard Westwood is the logical person to write a book about
Georgie. Dick was raised in the hardscrabble rural life of southeastern
Utah by a family that used the Colorado River from time-to-time
to augment a living in-and-around a Great Depression and a World
War. He lived in Georgie's era and understands Georgie's
playground: the Colorado Plateau.
Westwood's best qualification is that he never spent intimate
time with Georgie. Instead he spent intimate time with the people
who knew Georgie best, and so, a balanced perspective is maintained
by Westwood throughout the book. Georgie was a chameleon and if
a friend or an enemy had written the book, we might still be distanced
from the truth about Georgie's life that is missing from the
older literature. There is a case-in-point here, about biographies
in general, worthy of a brief discussion in the example of John
If you read Robert Brewster Stanton's book Colorado River
Controversies, including the Preface and Commentaries, one would
be inclined to believe that John Wesley Powell was a creep. I am
speaking personally here, as I came to such a conclusion. I decided
that it was not fair to judge a man by the events that followed
the results of a three month long river trip, so I read Beyond the
Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of
the West by Wallace Stegner, and this book succeeded in changing
my viewpoint favorably. Later, I felt that I had become a victim
to pendulum thinking and so I decided to find out for myself.
The first thing I did was to read John Wesley Powell's professional
papers. This included Report on the Arid Region and Geology of the
Eastern Portion of the Uinta Mountains. The first thing I noticed
was that there was an obvious lack of wanderlust in Victorian adventure
travel as found in The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its
Tributaries. What I discovered in these professional papers was
a brilliant Victorian visionary.
The second thing I did was read a compilation of memoirs found in
the annual reports by the United States Geological Survey and the
Bureau of Ethnology. I also read the biographies of Grove K. Gilbert,
Clarence Dutton and Charles Walcott, thinking what better way to
know a man than through his closest associates? What I discovered
in reading these memoirs and books was a validation of Powell's
fine character, that he is worthy of mentorship, and that he was
also very human—successfully rising above his character defects.
So it is with Georgie and I thank Mr. Westwood very much for allowing
us to see Georgie the way she really was. But I also know that there
is a lot of Georgie still missing from the pages of this fine book
and that those memories went with Georgie at her death. Again, Georgie
was a chameleon—a very public person and a very private person—molding
to the person(s) and the occasion. For example, the Georgie I saw
at Lees Ferry rigging boats is not the Georgie I saw working on
boat repairs in a cold and lonely Las Vegas warehouse.
There is one particular event I recall more than any other when
reflecting upon my very brief life with Georgie. It occurred on
my first trip with her in 1985 while camping at Separation Canyon.
It was a hot afternoon and everybody had settled down quietly into
a very peaceful funk. Georgie ambled up the canyon a short ways,
put her long hands on her hips and stared up to the distant rim.
After about a minute, she threw down her hands, simultaneously shaking
her head, and walked back to the boat staring aimlessly into the
hot sand as she walked. I may be wrong, but I think she lapsed into
an unpleasant memory that was never properly settled. John Wesley
Powell would have done the same.