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  Kent Frost
  A Campfire Tale of an Impromptu River Trip
  BQR ~ fall 1995

o he talked us into that and, uh, we’d kinda left that farming bit... I was getting tired of it after doing that all my life, and all thru that summer I’d been working on the farm. So away we went. He had us go out and start hoeing weeds in his garden, and that didn’t suit me very good. My cousin, he was raised on one of them kinda irrigated farms that grows lotsa weeds and he knew how to attack those, but I didn’t. And Chaffin, he could see that we weren’t doing very good on his weed patch. He says, “Say, I got an old Dodge car over across the river that we had over there to run a rocker system with for getting gold. But,” he says, “I’d like to bring it over here and get it cleaned up so’s I can drive it from here up to Hanksville and back to get my mail.” And I said, “Yeah. That sounds like we could do that, maybe.” Anyway, he had three rowboats there and he had the outboard motor. He took the three rowboats and two big 3 x 12 planks and put them on one of the boats and we went across there to the other side and puffed up the tires with a hand pump and pushed on the old car and finally got it over there to the edge of the river and lined up the wheels with them two planks that went across the three boats. He had the outboard motor in the center one then and we put it out in the river and it floated, allright. So he ferried it right on to the other side of the river and we got over there, why, he had a team of horses tied up to a tree and he hooked that on with a chain and pulled the old car up over the bank. And I was steering the car and he was walking along beside driving the horse. So he pulled it up by his shop. Then we took down that old Dodge car and had all the pieces laying around... he had to wash the sand out of the old wheel bearings and the engine and things like that, ‘cause the river had been up above it. And we had it all torn down and laying out there on pieces of lumber all over his yard and he was going to use a steam hose. He had a steam boiler with a little steam engine to run some of his power tools in his shop.

   But anyway our time was about up. I was getting nervous about it and I kept hounding him about making that boat for us. “Oh,” he said. “Won’t take very long to do that.” [group laughs]

   Finally in the afternoon of the last day we was supposed to work, why, he says, “Well, let’s get busy and put that boat together.” He laid these two 1 x 12 ponderosa pine boards down there along the ground and he says, “Well, we want them 2 x 4’s about this long...” So I was sawing 2 x 4s off, measuring them. He laid it all out there and started hammering nails in the 2x4s to make some ribs for the boat and then he started on one end of them 1 x 12 planks and bent them right on around it and nailed them in place and there, the sides were on it already. Then we nailed other boards across the bottom and filled the cracks with rags and along about two or three hours, why, we had the boat built. And he says “Well, I got a couple of oars here that we used to use on the river...” They were chiseled out of some big cottonwood trees and they didn’t have very wide blades, but they had quite a big handle. And that was our oars for the boat.

   Anyways, next morning we were ready to leave. And he says “Well here, take these dozen Guinea hen eggs with you and you’ll have something to eat down there.” And he says “You got plenty of supplies?” I says, “Oh we probably have enough to make it with.” But we did have... left over from hiking in... we had raided a miner’s shack across the river that had about a pound or two of cracked wheat cereal in it and half a can of that cocoa mix that didn’t have any sugar in it. So we took that along with us and the dozen Guinea hen eggs and half a dozen watermelons and away we went down the river.

   Just before we left he says, “Hey, does your folks know where you boys are at?” Well I says, “I don’t know. I doubt it.” He says, “Well you sit right here and write a postcard. I’m going to Hanksville tomorrow and I’ll mail it for you.” I says “Allright.” And so, I thought, “well at least they’ll know where we been when they get that postcard.” [group laughter]

   We started down the river and we got way down toward Red Canyon and here was a guy hiking up beside the river. So we pulled ashore and it was a character named Bud Vinegar that lived at Dove Creek, Colorado. He and his brother and another guy were placer mining gold down at Hanson Creek. He says when you get down there to Hanson Creek, why, pull in and talk to the guys. So he ate some watermelon with us and then went hiking on up to Hite. He had to go and see Chaffin about something. And so we got on just fine and got down there to Hanson Creek and pulled in in the evening and these guys were getting ready to cook dinner pretty soon and they invited us to stay. They had some dried jerky they’d gotten—they called it beef jerky we’ve got here—and I think they probably borrowed one of Ekker’s cows to make their jerky out of. Anyway it tasted real good with that jerky gravy and hot biscuits. That was a good meal for us. We liked that. And so we went on down a ways and camped.

   We went by that old famous barge that was setting out there in the Colorado River, that dredge system. And the river was extremely low so all it was was kind of a little island around that, and this big machinery and those buckets that they used to scoop up the sand with were out there on the surface... we thought that was interesting. Anyways we camped there. Then after another two or three days we were getting low on food. And in fact we didn’t have any.

   So we was floating along the river and the water was almost clear and extremely low and here was a beaver swimming along out there a little ways and I thought, “oh, I’ll get that beaver and we’ll eat that one.” And I took a shot at it with the pistol and missed it. You know, they only have the ear above the water when they’re swimming. So I thought, well, that’s our last chance. Then he come up a little ways out again. About, oh, twenty five yards away or something like that. And I shot again. And I got him right in the ear. And so I rowed over there real fast with the boat and there was a lot of blood around in the river and I jumped in. I could feel that beaver. I caught it in my feet. Then I reached down and got it. Put it in the boat. We were skinning that then as we were floating down the river. And as soon as we got it skinned, why, it was along in the afternoon, so we thought we’d pull in and have something to eat for a change.

   We put some of it in a can to boil and put some more on the hot coals to roast ‘em and as soon as we thought it was done we started eating beaver, but we couldn’t eat the stuff. Something was wrong with it. You’d chew on it and chew on it and then it wouldn’t go down your throat. And it tasted awful. [laughter] Then after awhile we didn’t know what to do. So we gave up on that one.

   We got our fish hooks out and started putting beaver meat on the fish hooks. And the catfish liked the beaver meat. We weren’t able to catch any catfish before that because they didn’t like the kind of bait we were trying to use I guess. But we pulled them out one right after the other. And as soon as we’d get em, why, we’d cut em open and take the insides out and then lay em on the coals to cook. And so we spent the rest of the afternoon there eating catfish. We slept real good that night.

   We were sleeping by campfire. We didn’t have anything else to sleep by, or with. Only our clothes and the campfire. So we’d cuddle up to the fire when it started getting cold in the morning.

   We kept going on down and eating catfish. Sleeping by the fire. When we came to Navajo Canyon, there was a huge flood coming down that. Great big old flood of red water. That was unusual because the Colorado River was almost clear, it was so low. Anyway, right below that here were these big sand waves coming right along. And that was interesting. Then we were getting thirsty about that time, but we didn’t want to drink red water and here we seen a spring, with spring water pouring down over the side. So we stopped and filled up on water then. We got down to Lee’s Ferry the next day and went up to the house where the folks lived who were gauging the flow of the Colorado River. Asked them if we could have a drink of water. We had pulled our boat as far up along the shore as we could. We had got tired of that and left it there. Took this one little pack bag and my cousin carried it. Then we walked up to the Marble Canyon store and we went in that and bought a loaf of bread and a bottle of jam and set out behind the store and ate that. Still a lot of daylight left so we walked from there up to the Badger Creek Trading Post. It was after sundown when we got there and the trader came to the door and we asked if we could sleep in the hogan that the Indian slept in there and he says, “Yeah, that’s all right if you sleep there.” He says, “Here take you a couple of quilts and you can sleep in them. Help keep you warm in there.” So we thanked him for that. Had a good night’s sleep that way.

   Next day we got up to Kanab, Utah, hitch hiking along. And I had some relation there. So I went up to Aunt Annie’s door and knocked on the door and told her that we’s some of her good relations from over in San Juan County. [group laughter] She looked at us a little bit. “Well, come on in you boys.” Well we came in and we was just getting ready to set down on the chairs and she says, “You go right on in the bathroom and take a bath in the bathtub there. By the time you get through with that, why, I’ll have some dinner ready.” So we went in there and had a bath in her bathtub and wiped our skin off with a nice clean towel and everything and we come out of there looking pretty good. Except for our clothes. We had a good dinner and slept in her bed that night, with nice sheets on it.

   Then the next day we got up to Richfield. It was getting dark when we got in and raining and cold up there in that higher altitude, getting along the first of September. And so we went to the County Sheriff’s headquarters and asked him if we could sleep in the jail. And he hesitated and hesitated. He didn’t want us to go there. Then he looked at my cousin. He says, “Hey, how old is that there boy anyway?” And this kid, he spoke up real quick he says, “Oh, I’m seventeen.” Sheriff says “Oh, that’s too bad. I can’t let anybody in that jail unless they’re eighteen years old. I can’t do that. I’m sorry.” [more laughter] So we went on through town and up the highway a little ways, and there was just enough light left that I could see a straw stack out there in a field a little ways. We went over to the straw stack and it was still raining a little bit. Then we dug down under the straw real deep. It had been freshly threshed out and we burrowed down in that and slept real good in the straw stack that night.

   Then the next night we got up to Price, Utah. We’s getting closer to home then. It was dark when we got there and so I thought well, down there on the edge of town there should be the hobo jungle, down along somewhere in there. So we walked that way past the railroad tracks and I couldn’t find anything except a small motel, with houses all around in the trees out there, big cottonwood trees. And we went in the office and told the lady there that we sure needed a place to stay and we’d send her the money when we got back to Monticello. And she said, “Oh, I can’t let anybody stay there unless they have some money.” So anyway, it was raining outside. And we didn’t want to go out there in the rain. So we just kind of set down in her office. Started reading her comic books and things like that. Kept setting there. And every once in a while somebody’d come in and rent a room out there. And then somebody else come in and rent a room. So after a while, it was getting pretty late. She says, “Well, I’ll tell you... you boys got any money with you at all?” Dug down in our pockets, we come up with about a dollar’s worth, or that kind of change. She says, “Well, I got a cabin out here I didn’t get made up today. And if you wanted to give me that money, you could sleep in that cabin that I didn’t get made up. So we said we’d like to do that. We gave her all of our money and went out there, so we had a nice hot bed to sleep in. Somebody I guess had just used it. But we had a hot bed to sleep in. We slept in that and slept pretty good that night. Then the next day we were lucky, and just out of Price a ways, why we caught a ride that took us right to Monticello.

   And so anyway... that trip lasted a month on that one; and our folks were real glad to see us when we got back.

Told over the campfire on last fall’s old timer’s trip.
Transcribed by Lew Steiger

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