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  Nevills' Note
  BQR ~ spring 1998

Randall Henderson founded Desert Magazine in 1937. For more than twenty years he published adventures, lore, and photographs of the desert Southwest. Henderson made several river trips with Norman Nevills, often running stories about them in Desert.
On August 4, 1947 Henderson wrote to the Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, describing some of the graffiti he had seen on his recent trip with Nevills. He suggested a less tacky way for river travelers to record their passage:“Our own records of the trip were typewritten sheets which I prepared and placed in bottles and cairns which I constructed at the night camps…”
Indeed, Nevills's journal from the 1947 trip states: “July 12, Camp… Nice spot. Randall leaves note in cairn on ledge just down from little canyon. It's been a full and exciting day…”
“July 13… After dinner Majory, Pauline, Ros, Al, Kent and I go up to explore the big cave where I found the Stanton note in 1940. We have a lot of fun exploring, crawling around and poking into odd corners. I leave a note typed by Randall, pinned to the wall in the same place with the same stick as the Stanton note.”
“July 28… Left note in can under ledge.”

This story concerns the note Henderson left at Tapeats Creek. The river was running 21,000 cfs and falling. It was 111° in the shade. On the evening of July 24, 1947 he pulled out his typewriter and wrote up the past two days' events. He put the note in a small jar and stashed it beneath a cairn.
Seven years later, on July 22, 1954, Georgie White was bouncing down river on around 6,700 cfs, when she stopped at Tapeats for dinner. Just days before, at Boucher Rapid, she had tied her three 10-man rafts together, side-by-side for the first time, inventing the triple rig. Walter Blalock, a photographer on Georgie's trip, was poking around and found the Henderson note. He added one from his group.
Another twenty years passed and an arta trip of California geology students stumbled across the cairn and signed in. Few knew the location of the notes, and as recently as the late 1980s they were in very good shape.
Then things got a little weird. Someone visited the site and left a new note in the jar. A subsequent visitor, finding the new note, apparently felt that only the “historic” notes belonged there, and removed the new one. Some time later, the leaver of the recent note returned to find his (or her) note gone. Outraged, she (or he) took all the historic notes hostage, and left a ransom note. Until his (or her) party's note was returned, the three older notes would be held captive.
Mark O'Neill, who was working for the Park Service River Patrol at the time, left a plea in the empty jar for any information as to the whereabouts of the missing notes. No response came for ten years.
Then, in October of 1997, a boater found another cache, several hundred yards from the original site. Upon investigation, the crumbling fragments of paper turned out to be the original notes from '47, '54 and '74. Unfortunately, they were in such poor shape that they would not last much longer. They have been stabilized by Cline Library and are now at the Grand Canyon National Park Collection. Copies have been placed in both stash sites.
On the following pages, through the magic of computer reassembly, are replicas of the original notes. Of the three, Henderson's tells the most outrageous tale. So outrageous that we had to do a little research to find out if it was true.
Kent Frost, who was there, says yes. In fact, he rowed out and picked up Marston and Desloge Jr. (Desloge Jr. still without life jacket) at the foot of the Dubendorff. Henderson elaborated on the swim in Desert Magazine: “Joe is a giant in the water, and Otis formerly was a swimming coach. It is not a stunt for a weak swimmer. ‘It is all in the breathing,' explained Otis Marston. ‘Any strong swimmer who knows how and when to breathe will come through without trouble at this stage of the water when there is no danger of collision with rocks.' But woe to the swimmer who tries to fill his lungs at the wrong time—for in such turbulent water one cannot always be on the surface.”
Joe Desloge Jr. wrote us to add:“…we were told Dubendorff had never been successfully swum, but that a previous adventurer had drowned in the attempt.
“I had just returned from wwii and was therefore indestructible! Papa knew I was an excellent swimmer but suggested I wear a life jacket. Cocky me—I told him I didn't need one, so he asked Kent Frost to wait below Dubie to pick up the body.
“Luckily the water was high enough to allow me to avoid the rocks. On the wave crests I grabbed hunks of air. I marvel today at my total lack of sense and feel the angels were watching over me.”

Thanks to: Joe Desloge Jr., Garth Marston and Kent Frost for corroborating the tale; Roy Webb for Nevills's journal entries and Henderson's note to the nps; Dan Cassidy of Five Quail Books for the Desert Magazine article and research; Richard Quartaroli for stream flows.
Special thanks to the anonymous boatman who found the notes and took the proper course of action. Which brings up a point of ethics regarding antiquities in the Canyon:
The rule of thumb is to leave things where you found them, and take your own stuff with you. Ideally, take only memories, don't even leave footprints.
Should you come across something like these crumbling notes, that are in imminent danger of being destroyed or lost forever, notify the park. They belong to all of us.

Brad Dimock


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