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Cool Find: There's This River: Grand Canyon Boatman Stories

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There's this river, grand canyon boatman stories

"'Fun river to run,' she said / Class five rapids is what she means"

-- David Wilcox, "Make It Look Easy"

Tim Cooper has a story in There's This River: Grand Canyon Boatman Stories that begins, "Sitting in a courtroom on a hard chair is not my idea of how to spend a pleasant day in March."

Don't you just want to plop yourself in the sand next to the campfire and hear the rest?  This is the way it is on a river, like the Colorado - you're spending a week or more on the water, in the engine room of the God-made machine that formed the world's most breathtaking canyon in a stretch of almost 300 miles and it began doing so 17 million years ago - and traded your email, voicemail, Facebook status updates, and your daily life as a cog in commerce for a seat in a rubber boat and a bed in the sand.

That . . . and you've trusted your well being to a river guide. Some 20-year-old horny and hungover thing.

People pay money to float (or purge thier guts) down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  And the guides get to do it and get paid for it.  Naturally, the job is unruly, with long wet hours, tiresome, low-wage, and still every Rocky Mountain bred 20-year-old wants it.

It's a hell of a deal. Seasonal and adventurous with a great view.  No emails or phone calls for days. And a guide thrives on her capacity for spinning a yarn. River guides, boatmen, make their mark on the world not so much with the paddles as they do the chuckles.

When I found There's This River, I knew I'd find tales of the young and foolish; the high-on-life-but-low-on-gas types.  I wanted it. A book of raw and real adventure stories from the mouths of regulars.

I have this old friend who's well over six feet tall and (I spare his name here because he'd whine to me for saying it) weighs some 230 lbs. He's the kind of guy who dominates any room with his jabbing, story telling, and merry making; notice in his hand he's taking good care of a Woodford Reserve, double.

You'll notice also that his tales get this introduction, "Okay, so this one time we were so drunk ..." He'll take us down the road of the young and foolish and inebriated and broke.  And we'll cry with laughter.

These are the fibs and rigmaroles I like; the kind composed with old friends.  That's boatman stories.  Every tale takes you to the river at the bottom of a 17-million-year-old canyon and you'll ride the rapids at Crystal, get your lunch snatched by a raven, and watch your supplies get washed away toward Lake Mead.  It'll be funny.

By far my favorite stories in this book are the final two.  Rebecca Lawton's "Faith in The Dry Season," and Vince Welch's "Dont' Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Boatmen."  Lawton's piece takes us off the river, actually, and into a friendship that came from the water. Whereas Welch just kills me.  Just kills me.  You have to read it.

Disclosure: I did not receive this book, nor payment of any kind (cash, credit, or other goods), from the publisher, editor, or an outside firm for this review.

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