Mary Harris


   Mary Harris, wife, friend and river running companion of Don Harris for nearly thirty years, passed away on October. She is sorely missed by Don and friends. Below she tells a bit about her times on the river with Don.

   For our honeymoon we went on the Grand Canyon. That was the first river trip I'd ever had. And we went in those fifteen foot motor boats.

   I stood up all the way, you know, when you went through all the rapids. I stood up, cause it was much easier to take the jar on your legs than sitting down. And so I rode it like a horse. (laughs) I stood up. And then I got into another boat. We exchanged boats, ‘cause this women wanted to, ah, change. See what our boat rode like. So, we exchanged boats to try these rapids. And when I got in his boat, he wouldn't let me stand up—he made me sit down. Well, hey, that just threw me up and hit my nose on the windshield. And I came out with two big black eyes and a bloody nose. Doctor Ross said to me “Well Mary, I didn't know that you'd go home with black eyes on your honeymoon!” And I sure did, I had two of them. So, I decided I wasn't riding anybody’s boat again. Anybody's but Don’s.

   Course I'd never been on the river. I'd never slept in a sleeping bag. I didn't know anything about this kind of a life. But I had full confidence in him. He’d been many times and that way I learned. Nothin’ to it. And we came to Lava and of course got out and scouted it.

   And then got back in the boat. You don't do like you do a pontoon, you know, just take out and go down. You went back up the river, and then make a shot at it. And I thought “What am I doing here?”

   We've had some wild rides through Lava. There’s times when there’s this much air between the boat and the [water]... come up on these waves, you know, and, chuuu!, it was like they were airborne. And then zooooom you went down like that. Crash landed. Yeah, see you go up on the crest, now drop! Sometimes I thought we had a submarine! It was really.

   And after we'd get through we'd say one more time.

   We went on a trip in Westwater. Jack [Brennan, Don’s former partner and head cook] was there and we had a group with us. And the second night out, Jack got sick, and Don came and shook me out of the sleeping bag. He said “Jacks sick. You've got to take over.” That’s what happened, from there on.

   You have to have respect for it. I—maybe it was just me—but I felt that the first time I went through. It was a big lark. I had no idea what danger you might be in. It was just a lark. ’Til I got Lava. But each trip after that I became more apprehensive about it. I mean there was always…you saw your danger, the things that could happen to you. And so, you become a little bit apprehensive about going through each one. You realize what could happen.

   Another thing I used to feel about it was if we had back to back trips. I’d think, oh, I don’t want to go on that river again. No way! And yet the minute we hit the river, this same excitement was…was born all over again. And you were excited about it, about leaving.

   But we made many trips together and I enjoyed everyone of them. In fact every sandbar began to look like home.