Garth Marston on Willie Taylor
Garth Marston told a group of us his account of Willie Taylors
passing as we stood at the grave on September 11, 1994.
Well Garth, tell us a story.
Garth: Well, its a true story. I cant tell you
Voice: Were you on the trip?
Garth: Yeah. Yeah.
Voice: Using your boat?
Garth: Um hmm. And, uh, wed known Willie for years.
Friend of my dads. Who drank too much, smoked too much and sang tenor
enough. He was a friend of my dads from the Bohemian Club. He came down the river, I
think, two, two and a half times. And this last one being the half time. [noise from
group] Huh? Four times?
Voice: The plaque says four times.
Garth: Four times? Thats good. Cause he just loved it
and as I said he was a bachelor. Okay, so then the event takes place, and he had a heart
attack. Did he have one or two heart attacks before he had the major one that killed him?
Im not sure about that. What I do know is that he had some problems the day before.
And everybody was concerned about him.
Now one of the questions that people often ask: Why dont you just
crank up the motors and go? We were in outboardswe had twin thirties I think.
So, you know, from here on down to Phantom Ranch and a helicopter it isnt really
very far away. But the problem was that the water was coming up and this place here was
filled with debris, with sticks and logs and we kept shearing pins, you know. Try to go
someplace and all of a sudden: Prrrrrr
So we really had no way of getting him
outany way that we could think about. We probably would have used the same technique
that we used in the jet trip when Bill Austin fractured his leg, and we went down and
summoned a helicopter and the helicopter came in the next morning and flew Bill in. Could
of done the same thing for Willie if we cold have gotten someplace, to a telephone for
So then we pulled in and we worked on him the day before
) wed worked on him the day before and he was generally hurting. And
we got him in the boat the next morning and, uh, he couldnt take it after just a
minute or two and he said
cant tell you
[pause to pull
it together] uh
[long pause] Im gonna die.
So we took him over to the shore. [group becomes audibly emotional as well]
Voice: You have us going too.
Garth: Anyway, we brought him over to the side and put him
up. It was about ten oclock, you know, right about now. And I went down to do
something with the
with the boat.
And the guys came around the corner and one said, Well, were
looking for something to bury Willie in.
And then the other decision was, what do you do with him? Do you leave him
here? Or do you take him back out to, um, Berkeley or wherever? And the decision was made,
I think, without dissent, Ive never heard that there was any dissent. The decision
was made to bury him here. He loved the Canyon, more than anything hes ever done
outside. And he was a bachelor, and he owned Taylors Leather Goods on the east side
of Shattuck Avenue. And so there was really no reason to haul him out.
And heres a sort of macabre aspect of this thing. They wrapped him in a
tarp, like the kind we all use every night, wrapped him in a tarp. And we buried him right
here, just the, you know, whoever remained, seven or eight or nine. And we got down to
Phantom Ranch. And the guy, the ranger came out, you know, and he didnt say
Hello, its a nice day, how was your trip? To hell with you guys,
youre illegal, et cetera. He didnt say that. The first thing he said,
before even saying hello is By the way, you guys, Im here to tell you that if
you ever lose anybody on the river, dont pack him in a tarp, just dig him in and let
the bugs start working on him right away.
And I just
Ive thought about that, you know, since then
say Heres a guy with tender feelings. But no, he didnt know that
Willie was dead. He had no idea. [laughter]
So there was no, there were no repercussions about, that I was ever aware of,
that Willie, that we buried him here. I guess we had to get, what do you have to get, a
birth certificate? Or a death certificate? [mumbled concurrence] Birth, death, yeah,
right, you have to get a certificate. And I dont think there was any problem with
So, that, in general, is the story which I think is, well relatively, close
enough. We keep building the story up and it makes a good one.