Colorado River tete-a-tete

Bill Burkett
3 min readOct 2, 2023
Wikimedia commons image

We were running downriver in a large glorified jonboat with a stand-up console amidships and a shapely blonde girl deftly handling the controls.

There are not many women who look beautiful in a khaki uniform shirt and big chest waders. She did, waders engulfing her curves to just below her remarkable breasts and her blonde hair whipping in the wind. A radiant smile finished the look when fast-moving riffles over shallows muscled the boat around, requiring precise handling to shoot the fast water. Two of us and the dog relaxed in the roomy aft space after a working day on the Colorado River. The westering sun painted steep cliffs above us with vivid impressionist splashes of color.

Wham! Just as we hit deeper water a lurking bolder reached up to smack hell out of the outboard shaft. The department was too cheap to buy outboard jets like Northwest steelheaders use. Two of us tumbled into the bilges. The blonde shut it down in case of breakage.

We immediately felt the might of the Colorado, because the boat didn’t slow by much. We weren’t that far upstream from Grand Canyon rapids, but we had a more immediate concern: Blue was missing.

The part-dingo, part-coyote, part-whatever, had gone overboard on impact. Before we could panic, a soaked bedraggled head surfaced upstream in the mill-racing current. He was swimming strongly to catch up and he did, helped aboard by his boss wagging like crazy. He sprayed us all shaking out his fur. His eyes, one blue, one brown, pleaded Let’s do it again.

The motor miraculously was fine. We were up and running again. The male fisheries specialist stood beside the blonde wildlife assistant to help watch the river. A lovely woman and a fit, lean man shoulder to shoulder at the console in slanting sunlight: I’m not that great a photographer but I recognize good composition when I see it. My self-assigned mission was snapping photos of a fisheries research project and of successful anglers, some of whom hoisted rainbow trout as long as their arms. My department camera was right there.

I aimed, focused, and said “Hey, guys?”

Two heads turned. She was on the left looking over her right shoulder; he was to the right looking over his left shoulder. A glory of blonde hair flirted with the side of his grizzled face. Click-click-click. Bracketing the exposure to be sure; they were perfect together. Poster kids for equal opportunity in a wildlife agency.

The photo came out perfectly. I had to admit the lens captured an appearance of intimacy in the two faces so close together. My cranky boss said photos never lie; they’ve got a thing going on. You want the poor guy to get divorced?

I hated for my boss to be right so I invited the fisheries guy to my office in Phoenix. He stared at the photo long and hard: “Can I have copies?”

Sure I said, but what about publishing it? “Wish you wouldn’t,” he said. “Show you some great trout holes if you don’t.” Damn I hated for my boss to be right.

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Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.