Barker-Ewing has been around since 1967 and has a name in the hyphen. Our first hired guide was Verne Huser, who liked to say that he was the “hyphen” in the name. He and his family worked with us for a few years and then he moved on to year-round” jobs before returning for a couple of seasons after he retired. Verne is an author and wrote guidebooks describing the ever shifting Snake River and a wonderful book about the River portion of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery called On the River with Lewis and Clark. As a river man, Verne realized the importance of their river journey and points out that of the 10,000 miles the Corps traveled, 9,000 miles was by river! I never had a chance to work with Verne, as I was a child when he first arrived on the scene. He returned after I retired from floating for the first time, and was again gone when I came back for my second round. However, because he was often visiting and loomed so large in Barker-Ewing lore, I got to know him very well. Verne is 88 years old now and his daughter just had many of us put together memories of him for his birthday.
Verne is a fountain of knowledge about the natural world and the creatures who move through that world. He had much to say, and preferred not waste air projecting his voice to the wind and trees while on the river. So he would talk…but quietly, to save his throat. As a result you would have to listen very carefully to get what he was saying. And unfortunately, what he had to say wasn’t always a pearl of wisdom. Oftentimes it was a pun, which I dutifully learned and passed on. Once while lamenting the lack of summer otter sightings he opined that we were not seeing otters in this particular channel because they were swimming the “otter” way. Bam! Straight into our SOP book. “Standard Operating Puns.” He also had plenty of factual information about otters but after hearing so many facts end with tales, well you couldn’t really tell if you should listen too hard. But, no harm, the scenery along the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park is the best you can have, and Verne taught us to never take the Tetons for granite. Bam! Another one for the SOP book!
Many of us took trips down the river with Verne whenever we could because it was an opportunity to learn from a true master. There are very few professions left where you have the chance to apprentice to an expert. How lucky I am, along with many of my co-workers, to still be at the oars, slowly extending that hyphen that started with Verne.