DT: Let's start with some of the early players and reasons for you being interested in conservation and any friends, family, etc. who might have gotten you encouraged about conservation.
BB: Okay. I guess, I guess at the outset, let me say just one thing and that is that, throughout the history of our state, there have been always been people interested in conserving the, you know, the natural wonders of the state.
And there's always been some people that were aware of what was going on. So, I'm operating from memory and I would always want you to keep in mind that that I may leave somebody out unintentionally that was active at a time when I should have remembered them and certainly that's that would be, you know, the vagaries of human memory allow for that.
Also, no one group and certainly no one person can take credit for for anything. It's all been sort of a a communal and joint effort down through the years and and I hope that I'll remember most of the major players. But if I don't, it sure isn't cause I've intentionally left anybody out.
I was I was born and raised in on a ranch so I I have grown up with the natural world and frankly, I've been a hunter since childhood. And but I always had a had an intense curiosity about the natural world. That was fostered partly by my mother who was an educated lady, Ruth Bohmer Burleson, and she got me she taught me to read long before I I could was old enough to go to school to the little country schools.
And, she bought me, as a very young child, a a Britannica Junior, a small encyclopedia and I had read that thing every single volume in it, from cover-to-cover before I went to the first grade. So, I learned a whole lot about the natural world just from reading that. She was just a she was a very encouraging person.
And, then my grandfather on my father's side, R.C. Burleson, was a farmer who lived very close to the land and was very observant about the land and and just trotting around behind him and working with him as a child also gave me appreciation for life, basically.
DT: What would he show you?
BB: Everything from the tracks made by insect or the or the eggs they lay. That was before the days of of really widespread pesticides so you had to deal with, in your crops, you know, whatever it went from the boll weevil to the bud worm, whatever else, you know.
And, with and just sort of the the way mice lived, the way the cotton rats lived, the the plain old Norway rats in the barn, everything. It was interesting to him and so he would we we hunted squirrels on the creeks and fished in the ponds and the little creeks near near his place and
DT: Where was that?
BB: Near Mark, Texas on the Blackland Prairie, north of here, probably 45 miles. And, he was a cotton farmer all his life and and worked basically till he died. And but he gave me a real reverence for life, so to speak, along with with my mother. And that that's something that has stayed with me and I've been I'm glad I was raised by them.
Far as conservation itself, I have to trace my real interest in it to the publication of Rachel Carson's, "Silent Spring". That was the first as far as I'm concerned, that was the first really awareness or awakening element in my life, in terms of really getting me and my wife, Micky, interested in in being active in the conservation movement.
That was a I read every book she wrote, you know, all of her books about the "The Edge of the Sea" and "Under the Sea-Wind", and things of that nature. And they just sort of awakened in in us a an awareness that that there was globally things going on we needed to be concerned about. That's basically kind of the start of it. In fact, I think nearly all the conservation movement in Texas probably ultimately traces its roots to Rachel Carson's book.
DT: What sort of things that she wrote resonated with you?
BB: Well, sort of of you had to pick out just one thing from her book, you would pick out the what I call the unintended consequences of human activity. That I mean, that's basically the root of it as far as I'm concerned and it's the root of most conservation activities because it's the things that we don't foresee about our human activities that ultimately end up causing most of the damage.
And, the the widespread at that time, basically starting at the end of World War II, if you think back, you're not old enough, but I can remember the news reels during World War II when, as we would capture towns in Italy, for example, every citizen of the the town would be passed through a delousing station, a big tent set up and white DDT dust was poured over every man, woman and child in those Italian towns.
And it was that DDT was looked on as really a tremendous advance in civilization at that time. And and it did do some things very well. I mean, it I can remember the first bomb I ever saw the first DDT bomb I ever saw. It was weird looking thing. It looked like a small small oxygen bottle and you you would buy these things and you could spray DDT all over your house and youd have no more flies around your barn, no more mosquitoes.
And so but it unknown to all of us, and really I think unknown to the manufacturers probably, it was a persistent deleterious, you know, agent introduced into the environment. And even today it's detectable after all these years and many years after its general usage has ceased, it's detectable chemically in our water, in our soil, in the ice at the at the every ends of the earth. You know, its everywhere.
And so, that Rachel Carson raised that awareness in me and millions of others. And it was her last living act really. I mean, she died near the time that book was published. But it was it was it was a tremendous impact on a lot of people. Had a had a tremendous impact.
DT: Can you tell us about some of your published books?
BB: Well, I have as an author, I'm pretty limited. I have written one book called, "Backcountry Mexico", and David Riskind and I put that together out of the years we spent in northern Mexico collecting plants, basically as a part of volunteer work to to preserve knowledge of what what there is in these island mountain masses in northern Mexico, where you have mountain islands separated by miles of desert.
And there are lots of endemic species inside those mountains that are that are found nowhere else. And so David and I, and many other people that had a scientific bent and had botanical knowledge, volunteered for years to work with the Mexican government and the University of Texas Botany Department at Austin, Marshall Johnston, Dr. Johnston. Then the University of California, I think it I can't remember if it was at Berkeley or Davis, but they had a they had an active role to play in that as well. Jim Himerickson (?) there, who's now, I believe in Austin again.
But those people were going back into the very rural areas and looking to see what was there. And David and I spent about eight years as volunteers traveling in northern Mexico collecting plants and and animals and insects and mollusca and we got flowers and and snails and things like that named after us because we were the first ones to report them, you know.
Anyway out of that, because of the knowledge of the Mexican culture that we developed at that time, he and I wrote the book and it was published in 1986.
The only other thing I've ever published of any real consequence was the I did write the first guidebook to the Rio Grande River that helped people understand and get into and safely, you know, travel the wild river or what ultimately became the wild river. But that was at a time long before the wild river was even thought of.
And, I think that the first publication of it was in about 1964 and in 1965, it was published in "American Whitewater" serially and then shortly thereafter the National Park Service started publishing it through the Big Bend Natural History Association. And it's been updated and revised. A geologist, Dwight Deal, worked with me on that (phone ringing). A geologist, Dwight Deal, worked with me on that and the two of us put together a mile-by-mile guide of the Rio Grande River. The the what is now the wild and scenic river sections of it. And
DT: Is it a description of mostly the hazards of the river or is it also a description of what you might see?
BB: Really, it's more than that. It involves the history of the area, the the zoology and botany of the area, the geography and geology of the area, and it lets people see, you know, become relate to the environment that they're traveling through.
I mean, if you just get in a river and just go from point A to point B as fast as you can, you really miss the the true experience of river running, the true enjoyment of river running is to take your time, enjoy the rapids and have a good time, you know, sporting but learn to get outside your boat. Get on the banks, go up the canyons, find the springs, find the caves, climb the bluffs and really get a feel for the country that you're going through.
So that's what we did that for. And we want to we wanted it to be safe as well and then we wanted to basically preach stewardship. You know, low impact. Don't take anything away. Don't destroy anything. You know, get permission if there's anybody to get permission from and if you run into anybody, remember you're on their in their country, on the Mexican side and and you're on their ranch on the Texas side. And and even in Mexico, people can be jealous of their property rights.
So we tried to help people use the rivers and also keep down the level of conflict with with the owners on both sides of the river. And that's that's been a pretty successful little publication. Again, that's it's not copyrighted or anything like that and I made no I've never copyrighted any of the guidebooks that I wrote. I wanted them to be used and reproduced freely.
DT: Can you tell about your help with Justice Douglas and the history and
BB: Justice William O. Douglas ultimately, I believe, was the longest the longest tenured and (noise) Justice William O. Douglas was ultimately, I believe, the the the Supreme Court Justice who served the longest. He was appointed during the New Deal days to the United States Supreme Court by Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States, and he served until he died.
And he was a very active advocate of conservation efforts. He started writing a series of books, a wilderness series for a major publisher. And I apologize for not knowing the name of that publisher or not remembering it. But he started writing a series of wilderness books for a major publisher that that and he had written about four books. They involved, I believe, the Pacific Northwest, the Maine and Vermont area, like the Appalachian area and some of those.
Well when I first encountered those in early in the early 60s, about 1960 I'd say about 1963, my partner and uncle, Jim Bohmer who also has always been very conservation oriented and very he's a historian and so he he's very reverent about the past. We got the idea, along with my wife, Micky, that perhaps what if we just invited Douglas to come to Texas and tell him that we'll we'll pay his way, in terms of we'll provide the the we'll take him everywhere he wants to go in the state of Texas if he'll write a conservation book only about Texas. In other words, concentrate on Texas.
We wanted to use that as a vehicle to get interest stirred up in Texas about preserving the natural environment. And ultimately, he did that. We took him everywhere he went in Texas over a period of several years and we just funded it out of our pockets. And he he would provide his own plane ticket to Texas, he and his wife would come down but we'd take them from there. We'd meet them at the plane and we took them through the river canyons in the Rio Grande and in Big Bend National Park.
We took them into the Guadalupe Mountains which, at that time, were privately owned and you couldn't get in there except through permission from the owner, J. C. Hunter, Jr., and and the ranch manager, Noel Kincade. Those were two people that were very helpful in all the effort toward the Guadalupe Mountain National Park. And we would take him to Big took him to the Big Thicket. And the Big Thicket Association there would take him on trips, Lance Rosier and some of those people would take him back into the Thicket.
And the end result was he wrote, "Farewell to Texas: A Vanishing Wilderness". And it covered the Hill Country, the Trans-Pecos, all that the Big Thicket, the Guadalupe Mountains and all all the mountainous areas. And that was a big a big help. It got a good bit of publicity for conservation and turned out to be a great idea and I think the original idea came from my uncle, Jim Bohmer, who suggested it to me one day and then Mickey and I picked up on it.
And I contacted Justice Douglas and one funny thing I'll never forget: the first thing that I when I first wrote him and asked him to come to Texas, his he apparently dictated a letter and he intended to say and I'm sure said, "I have some free time in September and I'm ready to come and shoot the rapids with you all on the Rio Grande River". But his secretary must have misunderstood and the first letter I got from Douglas said, "I'm ready to come in September and shoot the rabbits with you on the Rio Grande River". So we we joked jokingly talked to him many many times about our trips of shooting the rabbits.
The reality was he was really a fine man, a very intelligent person and he was the first person that ever brought to my attention the existence of the Nature Conservancy which was, at that time, mostly active in the northeast. But he was a big supporter of the Nature Conservancy, had been to many fund raisers for them and tried to help their efforts and and he gave me the concept of, you know, of the foundation buying land and holding it efficiently for conservation purposes.
So anyway, Justice Douglas turned out to be a lifetime friend. We were friends, he and I and my uncle Jim and Micky were friends for the rest of his life. And and he we never lost contact with each other and he was always interested in Texas and and in conservation work in Texas. (unitelligible)
DT: Justice Douglas talks about the beauty of the Guadalupe Mountains. Can you tell about your efforts to protect them?
BB: William O. Douglas lived in the during the areas I mean, during the time when the court was not in session. He had a a small cabin in the Olympia Olympic Mountains, okay, in in Washington State. He loved mountains and that was where that was basically where he loved to be. He had never been to the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas. And they also go into New Mexico. But, were speaking primarily here of the the Texas Guadalupe Mountains. A part of that includes Carlsbad Caverns. Carlsbad Caverns National Park or National Monument.
But he we we we knew that the Guadalupes were a major ecological treasure and that the owner of that, J.C. Hunter, Jr., really wanted that ranch to become a National Park. He was a very fine, civic-minded person. His father had acquired the ranch. He had maintained it. He had a foreman, Noel Kincade, who had lived there in that area and had run the ranch for most of his life. And Noel Kincade was a an unusually fine person. Just a a very self-reliant but didn't have any of the of the hostility or bitterness or anger that many west Texas ranchers have toward any kind of conservation effort.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of them at that time who were very opposed to the to any constraint on killing Golden Eagles or Bald Eagles. Okay. And and, for example, because they felt like that they that they were dangerous and to the to lambs and kids. And there's there's no doubt that an eagle from time-to-time will take a a lamb or a kid. That's their their argument was founded in reality but Noel Kincade, for example, although he was a he raised goats and sheep and his son was a major wool and mohair producer.
He had a very good attitude toward toward the raptors and toward preserving them and he didn't himself shoot them, you know, like so many of his neighbors did. He was a so we, through our knowledge of J.C. Hunter, Jr., we had permission to go into the Guadalupe Mountains anytime we wanted to.
And we took many hiking trips into those mountains long before it was a national park. We took Justice Douglas in there and Noel Kincade and J.C. Hunter were his personal guides and friends throughout the trip. And and that really he really concentrated on the Guadalupes in his in his book, "Farewell to Texas". We then started working with Senator Ralph Yarborough and others to get the Guadalupe Mountains into the national park system and and there were several problems that were presented by that.
Number one, at that time they didn't have a whole lot of money for buying it and the land would have had to have been purchased. Mr. Hunter was able to give them a good deal and a lower rate or, you know, lower price than he would have sold it to somebody commercially but, still he had to that was what he had to leave his children and he he couldn't just give it away. So it had to be a sell.
Secondly, the Texas Company and some other oil companies had some mineral rights and some leases on parts of it and if you have a national park, you must deal with those mineral resources and get either a no-drill clause or relinquishment of the rights to drill and enter and explore. Otherwise, you you really could not have a national park. I mean, it's it's that national parks and mining and oil production and all that don't go together very well.
So we started working through contacts and friends and things like that and and politicians to get the Guadalupe Mountains made a national park. There were there were many, many groups that worked on that. But I will say that my uncle, Jim Bohmer, probably was the one person who was most successful in getting the Texas Company to relinquish its mineral rights which cleared the way for the legislation that created the national park.
Jim dealt with Texaco for over a year and with their attorneys just negotiating and trying to find a way that everybody could could feel like it was that they were not getting mistreated. You know, and obviously a corporation that large, you can't threaten them. You've got to work with them. I mean, those are it requires compromise and persuasion.
But he was able to do that. He then went to, I was not able to go, but Jim testified before Congress on the advisability and suitability of making the Guadalupes a national park. Again, other conservation groups were active in the same thing. Not--not at all saying that that that we were the only ones working because that's just not true. On the other hand, nobody else got Texaco to release their mineral except my uncle.
And so I'll give Jim Bohmer total credit for that in that we could not have had a national park without it. And also that, you know, the Senator from Texas, Ralph Yarborough was extremely helpful in in all those endeavors, along with the the wild and scenic river proposal. He was he was the one who got the first money and the first study authorized in that. So that he was a good good man to have up there.
DT: Tell us about the wild and scenic river designation for the Big Bend
BB: Once we started once we published our mile-by-mile river guide to the to the Rio Grande River, it was pretty obvious that people if people don't use a resource then there's not much of a motivation to maintain and preserve it. And, at that time, the Federal Interstate Land Sales Act had not been enacted. And all over the state of Texas, wild areas were being broken up into sort of ranchette subdivisions, even if they were miles from electricity and water. Until the Federal Interstate Land Sales Act was enacted, developers could buy large ranches, subdivide them and just don't worry about whether there was any any electricity or any potable water available to the people. Okay.
So they were chopping up areas all around the Big Bend area. One of the areas that they chopped up like that was was called the Terlangula Ranch Development which was out to the west of Big Bend Park and that was being developed in the 60's. And so our fear was that all of the Rio Grande along those canyons would be bought by developers and chopped up and we'd lose forever the wildness and the remoteness of that area.
So we started publicizing it through the help of Frank Tolbert, Frank X. Tolbert who was a widely respected and widely read columnist for the Dallas Morning News. He he wrote a column called, "Tolbert's Texas" and I can't even begin to tell you how many columns Frank wrote supportive of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and its efforts, the Big Bend, you know, the wild and scenic river designation effort and all that. He was he was really a tremendous help to getting publicity out there.
So with Ralph Yarborough, Senator Yarborough's help we got we couldn't get an actual designation of it because the politics of it. We didn't have enough strength, at that point, to do it. But we were able to get Ralph Yarborough, Senator Yarborough was able to get an allocation of funds to do a study and to and to appoint the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation as the agency to do the study. Because the in getting it into the hands of the right agency was very important because the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation was really more conservation oriented than some other government agencies.
And, so Ralph Yarborough got us the money for the first study of the of the qualifications and the feasibility of making the wild and scenic rivers I mean, making the Rio Grande a wild and scenic river. There had already been a few rivers like that ded-dedicated in the nation. I think some in Wisconsin, some in Maine, perhaps one in Virginia but it was sort of an idea in its infancy to to designate wild and scenic river sections. The idea being that the people on the banks could use them for their normal purposes but they couldn't develop within the line of sight from the river.
That's basically what it boiled down to. Ranchers could keep on ranching. Farmers could keep on farming but you couldn't build structures or new roads or or denude the countryside, so to speak, within the sight from the river. And that was very, very important out there on the Rio Grande because it runs through canyons for most of its journey and and to have development right up on the canyon rim, I mean, just would wipe out the the solitude and the the beauty of that particular river section.
So, what we did was, once we got the money allocated through Congress for the study, several of us, on the first trip let me think who all was involved on the on the first trip to take the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation study team down the river. We got Texas Outward Bound to furnish the rafts and some and some raftsmen to carry the government team. Then John Baker, Dr. John Baker, a dentist from Dallas, my cousin, Harry Burleson, let's see, I think Bob Sims, friend of his, Davis Bragg, number of other friends, that we boated with a lot. David Riskind, we all kind of put together a team and we took the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation study team down the river, Rowland Rower, former at that time, I think he was Chief Naturalist at Big Bend National Park. He was there and there was some other national park people.
Anyway, we took them down there and they did a study a feasibility report. In the meantime, there was a lot of political opposition to it. So Micky and I, at our financed a separate trip for the ranchers. We took all the ranchers who was who wanted to come, who were landowners along the river and we also took the head of the sheep Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, the head of the the Mohair and Counsel, Mr. Sid Harkins, I believe he was and then Bill Sims was Head of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association. Dudley Harrison, who later was a State Representative from Sanderson. We took him and and then a lot of the ranchers that owned David David Adams and and others that owned land along the river.
We took them down there on a trip, just like a tourist would would go, camping out and and looking at the river from an angle they had never seen it from. And and basically just building relationships. Just letting them get to know us and letting us get to know them. The end result was probably, in the long run, favorable. It certainly wasn't immediately favorable though because like everybody else in west Texas, they were all very suspicious of the conservation movement. They were suspicious of the idea that if you've got something that people like, they'll soon swarm you over and and we'll have long-haired hippies and marijuana parties on the river and everything like that.
It took a while to get get them to accept it but ultimately they did. But we had another problem. It was very very serious. In the treaty that created the dams like Falcon Reservoir and Amistad Reservoir, there were three dams provided for in the treaty.
And one of those dam sites was in the very middle of the wild river section. It would have been basically below Dryden, Texas in one of the in the heart of the canyon country. And that that dam could was was only you know, it was provided for by treaty between the United States and Mexico. International level treaty. And the Texas politicians couldn't abrogate the treaty. Even the United States acting alone couldn't abrogate the treaty.
So with the next step was to take the Mexican and the Texas commissioners, the International Boundary and Water Commissioners we took them down through there. Took them to the Dryden Dam site, showed them and it it is a beautiful site. It's a deep canyon, probably a thousand feet of of very sheer walls on each side and scattered up the walls are the old wooden remnants of the ladders, hundreds of old ladders that they they used when they were core drilling to test for that dam.
It was a dam site. There are remnants of the old cables, remnants of the anchors if they where they had a ferry ferry operation going across the river to carry equipment from one side to the other. All that is there if you know what you're looking for. It's very difficult to see now but it's still there.
When they got out of the river after five days with us on the river, both the Mexican Commissioner and the American Commissioner said that, as far as they were concerned, in view of the probability that there was not going to be enough extra water to fill that lake and keep it full anyway, they felt like the highest and best use of the canyon section was as a wild and scenic river and the the Mexican Commissioner withdrew any objections he had to it. Then it was a matter of going through the State Department and they ultimately got consent from the Mexican government to designate it as a wild and scenic river.
But if we hadn't taken those people down there and let them see it from the perspective of the river runner and go up the canyons and and bathe in the hot springs and just sort of see what they'd be covering up with a lake, I don't think it ever would have been accomplished. It was so I I'm real proud of that and of course, Micky Micky and I footed the bill for that for those trips. We just paid for that out of our our pocket. But, I mean, it's not as though it was a big deal but it it certainly to a young couple at that time it wasn't we weren't flush. And but it was that was money well spent as far as we were concerned.
After that, there was a lot of political fighting, a lot of resistance but ultimately it was passed into the the National Wild and Scenic River System and it's had that designation ever since and it's protected by or patrolled by the National Park Service out of Big Bend. Part of the river is designated part of the river as designated goes through Big Bend National Park and that that gave the National Park Service a good argument that it ought to be the one who who supervised it and did did the patrol and all that.
And it's been an extremely, extremely well used section of river for people nationally and internationally. Again, as part of the of the effort to to publicize that area, Dr. John Baker and I ran national Sierra Club outings through the rivers, through that that canyon section every year for I guess eight or nine years.
DT: Can you talk about some of the adventures of going through the canyon?
BB: Oh yeah. Yeah, sure. Obviously the adventure is directly proportional to the water level. You know, if you being a desert stream basically and basically having its origins in the Sierra Madre in Mexico, although you think of the Rio Grande starts up really in Colorado, near northern New Mexico's boundary, all right. But so little so much of that water is used in irrigation through New Mexico that that very little of that water really annually gets to the to the Rio Grande in Texas. Nearly all the water comes down the Rio Conchos from Mexico and that and it so it strictly depends on rainfall in Mexico as to how much of a of a river running season you have.
You can always get down it. I've only seen it so low you you had to drag maybe a few times in my lifetime but for the real rapids, you know, for real whitewater, you need several feet of of good flow. You can always make it, you know, especially in a canoe, but for for the for the really adventuresome runs, you need more flow. And that's a matter of seasonality and usually the the early fall of the year is the best time for for the higher waters.
And there are several sections that are very, very remote that do have major obstacles in the forms of either outwash boulder gardens that have come from side canyons that have flooded in the past. That's the typical rapid that you're running or from the collapse of the cliff walls themselves which, in two places, have almost dammed the river and the water runs kind of through those more or less temporary dams, temporary in the sense of of geologic time. Those are tricky and on high water can be hazardous so you need to know what you're doing if you're going down there.
A few people have come to grief and lost their boats and, you know, we've had to help people out. Others have had to help people out but, in general, it's it's not nearly as hazardous as some of the very high gradient rivers of the west that have higher flow like, you know, the the Salmon River and and the Yellowstone and some of those and and the Grand Canyon, I mean, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, parts of the Green River. There's numerous higher gradient rivers that have a greater drop in feet per mile than the Rio Grande but there's hardly any of them that are any more remote from civilization than the than the Rio Grande Canyon. So it's really a neat place. It's well worth preserving.
DT: Tell about some of the higher drama times going through the canyon.
BB: Well let's see. We never we never sustained a serious injury. I cannot think of of us ever losing a boat. I did put a boat back together we had two National Park Service Rangers one time that decided they were going to run a rapid that was really above their skill level and their boat was bent in two around a rock. We got them out okay.
We always would set up a a rescue boat, usually a kayak with a with a T-handle on the back deck where they could take a swimmer in the water and with the double bladed paddle, they could stroke that swimmer to the bank. So even in high water, you can rescue someone with a kayak that you could not rescue with a canoe.
And that what you do is you place a a nylon rope through a hole in the deck of your kayak behind the seat of the paddler and put a T-handle on it so that a swimmer can grab it and then lay kind of lay on the back deck or in the water beside the back deck. And then the paddler can stroke to the shore and get them into into shallow water.
We had we had rescue boats set up below. They got the they got the two paddlers to the to the bank but the boat was out there jammed and bent around a big boulder. So John Baker and I swam out there and got the boat off the rock and it was in a big U-shape and we still had three days and about a hundred miles to go.
DT: Aluminum boat? BB: Yeah, aluminum 18-foot Grumman canoe as I remember. So we we got it in shallow water and just jumped up and down in it, stomped it until it began to take a canoe shape again and the thwarts were all broken out of it, the ribs were broken and with three rolls of duct tape and some driftwood, we put that canoe back together. And it it wouldn't carry anything but the paddlers. We had to separate all their gear out but we paddled that boat out three days, held together by duct tape and driftwood. And
DT: Another testimonial to duct tape.
BB: Duct tape does great work. You can't go on the river without duct tape. Other occasions we've had we had one occasion where the river flooded and rose 18 feet in twenty minutes. That that's one thing you learn to do on the Rio Grande is to have a long line high up the bank where you tie your boats at night or else pick them up, lift them out of the water and take them up. You don't want to go to bed with your boats in the water, tied with a short rope because overnight, it can fluctuate several feet and you could end up with no boats. We have picked up a few boats of others.
We have found we've pulled three dead people out of that river over the years but, in each instance I'm sorry, four, but in each instance, we believed that they were not boaters. We believed that they were Mexican wetbacks who were attempting to cross the river on a flood and drowned. We as I say, we've picked up four bodies and notified the authorities of the finds. But that's a such a remote area that these fellows will sometimes make themselves a little raft out of the chorizo(?) cane that grows on the river and then they'll try to float themselves across.
And on high water, a lot of them from the interior of Mexico, from the desert area, lot of them don't swim so if they tumble off their raft and lose their raft, they just drown and usually they have their lechos(?) on their back their their little their bedroll and so we picked up several who, unfortunately, lost their lives. Other than that, we've never had a serious accident. We've had a few dunkings. We've had a few people that hadn't come out of their boat, we'd have to rescue them.
But if you set up safety at these major rapids, you that you always set up a rescue, a throw line at the bottom as well as a kayak or a or a canoe manned by two people with no gear in it, preferably a deck boat, you can always make the rescues that are necessary. And it's just fundamental safety. You know, fundamental river running safety that you engage in. So it's it's exciting but it's the hazard of it is easy to exaggerate.
DT: Treat us to some of the fun of singing and guitar playing on these trips.
BB: Sure. I can I always carried a guitar on the river with me. I've always in fact, I've carried a guitar with me everywhere I've been in my life, just about it. And we'd sit around the campfires in the evening and sing Mexican folk songs and sing early country songs and things like that. And it's that's one of the enjoyable things about river running is it brings everybody close together.
You're you're camping together, you're working together, you're portaging together, you're helping carry gear around the the bad spots so you can run an empty boat through. It's much easier to maneuver an empty boat than it is a fully loaded boat. And the music in the evenings is part of the mystique of the whole affair, I think.
DT: Share some of that mystique with us. Do you have two or three songs (unintelligible) (misc.)
BB: (playing guitar and talking about old music Riding Down the Canyon)
BB: And of course, usually somebody else knows the, you know, the words and everybody sings along if they want to. It's no it's very informal. But, in fact, I've had lots of times we'd be on the river singing at night and and out of the darkness would come some of the Mexican people who may may have a little house or a cabin not far away and they'll hear you singing and come down because it's, you know, beats whatever entertainment they've got, and we'll usually join in and sing some Mexican songs and some of them are pretty good musicians.
I've had some pretty fair guitarists just show up, traveling in Mexico, especially when we camp out, you know, in our plant collecting expeditions, things like that where were camping in private range land always. And we sit down and sing the Mexican songs and play them and usually draw a good crowd. And it's a good way of breaking the ice with people, you know.
I'll go into a little Mexican village and sit down on the square and get out my guitar and before long, people will show me where the best canyons are, where the best springs are, how to get into a place that's under lock and so we use music a lot of times as a as an icebreaker. Good it's a good deal. (misc.)
(playing a guitar and singing Ole Shep) (misc.)
DT: Is that an original composition?
BB: No, that was written by Red Foley, Red Foley.
DT: Have you got any original compositions of your own?
BB: Got one my brother and I put together. It's it's really if you're if you're if you're very much a feminist, you may get offended. But we it's really sung with it was written in a good spirit, not at all intended to insult anybody but it's called, Like My Doggie Do.