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Know the West

From the journals of Buzz Holmstrom


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Camp on right at lower end Rapid - mile 247 with the last bad one above me - the Bad Rapid - Lava Cliff - that I have been looking for - nearly a thousand miles.

I had thought - once past there - my reward will begin - but now - everything ahead seems kind of empty & I find I have already had my reward - in the doing of the thing - the stars & cliffs & canyons - the roar of the rapids - the moon - the uncertainty - worry - the relief when through each one - the campfires at nite - the real respect & friendship of the river men I met & others.

This may be my last camp where the roar of a real rapid is echoed from the cliffs around & I can look at the stars & moon only through a narrow slit in the earth.

The river & Canyons have been kind to me - I think my greatest danger is ahead - that I might get swellheaded over this thing - I am going to try to keep my mouth shut about it - go back to work in the old way & have it only for a memory for myself - I have done no one any good & caused a few people great worry & suffering I know.

I think this river is not treacherous as has been said - Every rapid speaks plainly just what it is & what it will do to a person & a boat in its currents waves boils whirlpools & rocks - if only one will read & listen carefully - It demands respect - & will punish those who do not treat it properly - some places it says - go here safely if you do it just this way - & in others it says - do not go here at all with the type of boat you have - but many people will not believe what it says.

Some people have said "I conquered the Colorado River' - I don't say so - It has never been conquered - & never will I think - anyone who it allows to go through its canyons & see its wonders should feel thankful & privileged. ...

I know I have got more out of this trip by being alone than if a party was along as I have more time - especially at nite - to listen & look & think & wonder about the natural wonders rather than listen to talk of war politics & football scores.

The River probably thought - he is such a lonesome ignorant unimportant & insignificant pitiful little creature - with such a short time to live that I will let him go this time & try to teach him something - It has not been so kind to many prouder people than I. ...

I'm all in a turmoil inside - I know that if I ever expect to have anything or amount to anything I should settle down here and now. But I just naturally don't seem to be able to - my feet are itchy and I have a desire to go some place - anyplace - perhaps South America on a freighter (as an) ordinary seaman - However it seems as though any place I can think of is just a poor substitute for the River. I'm hoping before too many years I may have a good logical excuse to spend more time there - and I guess I'm not the only one who has felt that way about it.