Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Canyon Chronicles" Book Review

The Canyon Chronicles

read by Margaret Tearman

Soaring red cliffs. Boiling whitewater. Secret slot canyons. Poisonous snakes. Native American rituals. Killer heat. Raging blizzards … writes Bay Weekly contributing editor Margaret Tearman, herself a frequenter of such places.

This is the setting for The Canyon Chronicles (2011), Bay Weekly columnist Steve Carr’s memoir of living on the edge in some of America’s wildest acres during the era when Ronald Reagan’s administration was commercializing our national parks.

The edge comes from copious amounts of hallucinogenic drugs, unabashed amorous couplings and a devil-may-care, shrug-of-the shoulders attitude.

Reading Carr’s book is akin to eavesdropping on men reliving their glory days. On occasion, the tales got tall enough that I was tempted to say enough. But instead I leaned in even closer, not wanting to miss any colorful detail of Carr’s testosterone-fueled remember when’s.

Like the afternoon he and his hiking companions found themselves clawing their way up a cliff of a Colorado River side canyon, desperately trying to escape a deadly flash flood raging just inches below them. Or a dream date gone bad when Carr carelessly underestimated the frigid air and water temperatures deep in a slot canyon, and he and his trusting date were lucky to avoid death by hypothermia. Or the solitary hike in the desert backcountry when Carr was bitten by a rattlesnake — yet managed to trot 13 miles back to his pickup truck, where he quenched his thirst with a few cold beers, then drove through the night to the Buckskin Bar … instead of visiting the local ER.

The book is not all Indiana Jones swagger. It is also the story of irresponsible federal forestry management and corporate greed run amok.

While working as a timber surveyor in the Kaibab National Forest from 1983 to ’86, Carr stumbled upon illegal timber harvesting on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He handed over evidence of Kaibab Industry’s illegal cutting to a sympathetic game and fish warden, hoping heads would roll when the news got out. His actions helped fuel a lawsuit that eventually shut down illegal logging in the Kaibab.

A regular columnist for the Bay Weekly, Carr is a rollicking storyteller who takes the armchair adventurer along for his crazy ride against a backdrop of the stunningly beautiful American Southwest. He entertains with his misadventures and makes no apologies for his recklessness, writing with his characteristic what the hell, I did it attitude. Carr is no naturalist and doesn’t make that promise. This is a book about human foibles against the backdrop of a harsh and often unforgiving environment. But you will pick up some geography, history and geology.
The Canyon Chronicles is an off-the-wall trip of a book, a ticket to a land — and state of mind — far, far away from Bay Country.

You can pick up a copy of “The Canyon Chronicles” at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 32 - Part 1

     B.T. heard the chopper approach long before he could see it. He didn't need to look at his watch to know that it was ten o'clock; the Judge was always on time. When the chopper became visible, B.T. signaled to his men to clear the area. 

     "Have a seat, Red." B.T. pointed to a lawn chair situated well away from the landing area; Jenny obediently followed his instruction. "The rest of you get back inside the pueblo and start policing the area. We don't want to leave anything behind. Otis, you make sure the kiva is all cleaned up. You hear? Nothing gets left behind. I mean, not a goddamn thing, comprende?"

      Otis glanced out of the corner of his right eye at Jenny before replying. "Do you want us to fill in the burial?"

      B.T. immediately caught the drift: that was where Jenny would be buried. "No. Leave it for now. My main concern is that we don’t leave anything the pigs could trace."

      Otis tipped his ratty-looking baseball cap in salute and headed for the entrance to the pueblo with the other two men.

      B.T. was startled by Jenny's ragged appearance. Three days of digging the Magician's Burial had turned her old and somehow smaller. She looked like one of those crazy bag women who pushed shopping carts around the streets of Phoenix. Her hair was matted with red dirt and her eyes had lost all their fire. She slouched in the aluminum chair and stared indifferently at the ground.

      "You look tired, Red. The coke is wearing off, huh?"

      Jenny slowly raised her head as if she was lifting a great weight. "I feel like – " She closed her eyes and swallowed with apparent difficulty. "I just want to go to sleep."

      B.T. rarely felt pity for another human being, but there was something about Jenny Hatch that demanded sympathy. "Look, we'll shoot up some coke in a little bit. That'll get you back on your feet again. But right now I have to deal with the Judge. He'll be here any minute now. I'll try to convince the ornery sonofabitch that we should keep you, Red. I know you could teach us a lot – hell, you made us an easy couple of million on this one dig alone – so that should be worth something. But I'm not promising you anything; he can be pretty damn hard-headed at times."

      B.T. looked over in time to see Jenny's head slump forward on to her chest. She was sound asleep and hadn't heard a word he said.

      The Bell Ranger hovered overhead like a giant cicada and B.T. pointed at the neatly stacked row of boxes to his left. Ignoring the shooting pain in his leg, he jogged over to the clearing where the chopper would put down. Dust clouds billowed around the whining aircraft as it set down with a final lurch. The engines went silent as the rotor blades continued to spin lazy circles in the air.

      The Judge climbed out, beaming widely as he walked up to B.T. and vigorously shook his hand. "Everything certainly looks in order here, Mr. Saunders. Congratulations on a job well done."

      B.T. met the gaze of his partner and smiled proudly. "It went pretty smoothly, Judge. We had a few glitches, but I think you're going to be real impressed with this shipment. It's the best one we ever put together, by far." 

      B.T. pulled the three smallest sword-swallowing wands from the inside pocket of his jacket. "Take a look at these babies and tell me what you think."

      The Judge's eyebrows raised in interest as he inspected the strange prehistoric treasures. "What are they?"

      "Red says they were used by the tribal magician during some sort of sword-swallowing ceremony."

      The Judge looked curiously at B.T. "Who?"

      "The Magician. See – "

      The Judge cut him short. "No. Who is Red?"

      B.T. felt his stomach flutter as he pointed over at the sleeping woman. "Her name is Jenny Hatch. She's the Forest Service archaeologist from Fredonia."

      The Judge shook his head as if he couldn't believe his ears. "I beg your pardon. Did you say Forest Service archaeologist?"

      "It's a long story, Judge. See, she was doing some sort of project out here and stumbled on to us by accident. We were going to kill her straight off, but then she told us she was an archaeologist."

      The Judge was not at all happy with what he was hearing. "And what does that have to do with anything?"

      "That's what I thought at first, too, Judge. But we were digging this burial, see, and we were breaking a lot of stuff in the process ‘cause we didn’t have a clue how to do it right. Anyway, she showed us that we had uncovered a burial of real big importance. Jenny's an expert on Indian burials, and she claims this is the best one she's ever seen in the whole goddamn Southwest."

      "And you believed her?" said the Judge condescendingly.

      "You bet your ass I believed her," countered B.T., his voice rising in anger. "This whole fucking shipment came out of one, single grave; and I'll tell you something else, if we hadn't had the help of Red here, we would have busted up half the shit without even knowing what we were doing. That lady is worth her weight in gold, Judge."

      The Judge turned the wands over in his hands. "Sword-swallowing wands, you say?"

      "That's what she says."

      "Very interesting, Mr. Saunders. I am, indeed, impressed. And what do you intend to do with this rare find of yours?"

      "You mean Jenny?"

      "Precisely," said the Judge as he pocketed the wands.

      "That's up to you, Judge. Personally, I think Jenny could easily double our profits. She knows this Indian stuff inside and out."

      The Judge cast an appraising glance in Jenny's direction. "You'll pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical, Mr. Saunders. What have you done to her?"

      "She hasn't slept since Tuesday. I've been filling her full of coke so she could keep up the digging, but she hasn't had any yet this morning because I wasn't sure what we were going to do with her. I figured I'd just let her sleep while we worked that out. She's earned a break, that's for sure."

      "What makes you think this woman would continue to help us?"

      "Drugs," replied B.T.

      "Say again?"

      "If we get her hooked on drugs, then we won't have to worry about her running away.  And if she turns out to be more trouble than she's worth, then we can always dump her."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 31

      Dwayne and Linda were exhausted by the time they reached the top of the Paria Plateau.  The 2,000-foot climb had turned their legs and lungs to jelly.

      Dwayne doubled-over. "I need a break, Linda. My feet are killing me."

      Linda brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and exhaled with relief.  Boy, am I glad to hear you say that. I've been ready to stop for a while now, but I didn't want to slow you down."

      Dwayne laughed as he mopped his brown with a bandanna. "I was thinking the very same thing."  Dwayne took off his cowboy hat and wiped his brow with a blue bandana. "Let's sit a spell and get our bearings."

      They sat on a smooth ledge of sandstone looking over House Rock Valley. The view was breathtaking. To the east, they could see the twin towers of the Navajo power plant in the town of Page; behind the generating station rose the looming dome of Navajo Mountain. The world below was an endless expanse of weirdly-shaped, burnt-brown slickrock. The morning air was so clear, it seemed almost polished. Visibility was somewhere in the 150-mile range.

      Dwayne pulled off his cowboy boots and groaned with relief. "I'd give anything for a horse. These poor dogs of mine are blistering something bad."

      Linda chuckled as she twisted the cap off her canteen. "That's what you get for wearing those silly cowboy boots. Anyone could tell you they weren't made for walking."

      "Yeah, that's true enough, but they surely do impress the girls, and they're great for kicking hippies' asses."

      "Oh hush. You'd never kick a hippie, and it's not much of a woman that would like a man for his shoes."

      Dwayne looked skyward as if he were asking for some help. "If I had known you were going to lead me on a forced march, I'd have worn my sneakers."

      "You're the one who is leading this expedition, Bub. And you wouldn't be such a damn tenderfoot if you walked more often. You Forest Service people are all alike; you spend most of your time driving around in trucks." 

      Linda took a long swig of water from her canteen and passed it over to Dwayne. "How many miles do you figure we hiked so far?"

      Dwayne rubbed his feet as he stared down into the valley they had spent the night traversing. "Ohhh, I'd say we've gone about nine or ten miles; a lot longer than I thought it would be."

      "That last mile felt like it was straight up."

      "Well, at least the climbing part is over."

      "How much further until we find Jenny?"

      Dwayne leaned back and closed his eyes. "It's hard to say. Hell, we don't even know where she is, and Pinnacle Ridge is about twenty square miles."

      "We know they had to have driven into the pueblo where they're digging, so that's got to narrow it down a lot. I've seen a topo map of this area and there are, like, five roads on the whole plateau. Isn't there a small road that goes part of the way across Pinnacle Ridge?"

      "Yep. the trail we've been following connects with it right past that big rock formation over there – the one that looks like a big ol’ nipple. The locals call it Emma's Nipple, in honor of one of John D. Lee's many wives."

      "How romantic. It looks more like the Capital Dome to me," said Linda as she combed her hair with her fingers.

      Dwayne chuckled. "A tit by any other name is still a tit."

      Linda gave him an exasperated push. "So once we get on that road, we'll run into Saunders and his men, right?"

      "That's a pretty safe guess. They're pueblos all over the area, Linda. You probably didn't notice it, but we're sitting on the edge of some pithouses right now. The cattle have trashed these structures so bad, you can hardly see 'em anymore; and what the cows didn't trample, the cowboys stole, or just smashed for the hell of it. The Anasazi were pretty much all over this plateau." Dwayne leaned forward and picked up a piece of rough, gray pottery that was lying in a wide depression on the ledge. "They caught the rain in these natural depressions and then stored the water in big jars – big gray ones, as a matter of fact." He threw the piece of pottery over the cliff and they both watched it fall into the canyon below.

      "I'd say we've got about two miles to go until we get to the place where they're probably digging." Dwayne looked at his watch. "It's nine o'clock now. It's pretty flat from here on out. We should be there in another hour."

      "That's great!" exclaimed Linda.

      "Well, I don't know about that. There's no way they'll be looking for us to come in from this direction, but that's about the only advantage we have. And surprise will only take us so far. After that, it's a shotgun and pistol against automatic weapon fire. And this time, there'll be more than one person to deal with, there'll be no cover of darkness, and they'll have Jenny as a hostage. Do you know what that means?"

      "We're screwed," said Linda as she looked down at the ground and frowned.

      "Yeah, probably. But it also means that we'll have to get right on top of these guys before we start shooting." Dwayne looked Linda squarely in the eyes. "We don't have to do this, Linda. Jason will find our rigs at Bighorn Buttes sometime this morning, and when he does, he'll call out the troops. We could just sit right here for the rest of the day and wait for a chopper to come and find us."

      "But, what happens to Jenny then?"

      Dwayne sighed with weary dismay. "For all we know, Jenny is already dead."

      "No!" replied Linda adamantly. "Saunders made it sound like Jenny was running the show."

      Dwayne slapped his thigh in frustration. "What the hell kind of sense does that make?"

      "I don't know, Dwayne. But the point is, she's a major part of their operation, so they'll keep her alive as long as they're digging."

      "You can bet your ass that our little shootout last night has brought a halt to the digging, Linda. Right now, those boys are loading up their loot and making fast tracks for home. And when they leave, they're gonna kill Jenny. Guaranteed."

      "Which means you better put your boots back on and get it in gear, Cowboy. We've got to save Jenny."

      "Just so long as you realize what we're up against," said Dwayne as reached for his weathered boots.

      Linda poked herself in the chest with her thumb. "Hey, I'm the one who saw Saunders blow an Indian's head off, remember? I know what we're up against. We can't run from something like that. We can't hide out and wait for help to come. We have to hunt it down and kill it – before it does the same to us."

      Dwayne rose stiffly. "Well, come on then, girl. Time's a'wastin’, and we don't want to be late for the surprise party."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 30

      Jason arrived at the Fredonia police station as the sun was starting to burn off the frost from the previous night.

      After alerting Dwayne about the possible danger to Jenny and Linda he had stayed in Hurricane, looking for clues about what Saunders was up to and what his next move might be.

      They had searched the Saunders' home until five in the morning. By the time they finished, they had filled two police vans with illegal contraband, not including the prehistoric artifacts. A professional archaeologist would have to be called in to deal with the incredible collection. They had uncovered an amazing arsenal of weapons, including automatic pistols and rifles, several rocket-powered grenade launchers and grenades, some plastique explosive, a shoulder-held missile launcher, and countless small arms. If B.T. Saunders had been home that night, he could have held off an attack of the Utah National Guard. There were also drugs scattered all over the house. In the kiva, they discovered a pound of cocaine and five ounces of heroin; in the bedroom, methamphetamine; in the living room, marijuana; and in the bathroom, barbituates, from Qualudes to Thorazine. All in all, B.T. Saunders had enough drugs to qualify as one of the largest pharmacy in southern Utah. Jason had never seen such an assortment of weapons and drugs in his entire career as a lawman. But they found nothing that might indicate where they could find B.T. Saunders, and nothing that might lead them to believe that he was hunting for Linda Joyce,

     Barry had taken all the evidence with him back to Cedar City to be analyzed and held until Saunders was brought to trial. Jason had promised to keep Barry informed as to what was happening on his end.

      Jason hadn't slept in over twenty-four hours and his head felt like it was being squeezed inside a slowly tightening vise. A devout Mormon, he could seek no temporary relief from caffeine. He grimaced with fatigue and stress. How long could he continue to run on just adrenaline?

      "Morning, Sheriff. Long night, huh?" said Deputy Tom Mutz as Jason entered the police station.

      "I don't have time to go over it with you right now, Tom. But I need you to tell me about your search of the ASN chopper."

      "The preliminary report is on your desk, Sheriff. But there's nothing real conclusive. We gathered some clothes fibers and hair samples. And there was a little dirt in the cargo bay that might match up with the dirt from the potted site in Jumpup Canyon. It's way too early to tell yet. We got a whole bunch of prints from various places inside the chopper, but it's gonna take a while to sort 'em all out. We didn't find any blood or anything like that, if that’s what you wanted to hear."

      Jason patted his deputy on the shoulder. "I'm sure you did your best, Tom. How about giving the Forest Service office a call. Talk to Ben Tissaw; find out if Dwayne and the girls have called in on the radio this morning. I need to go clean up, but I'll meet you in my office in about ten minutes."

      "I'll see what I can find out, Sheriff."

      A few minutes later, Jason looked up from the airport report and greeted a smiling Tom Mutz. "Please tell me they called in and everything's alright?"

      "Yeah, Jenny Hatch just radioed in a few minutes ago. Ben took the call himself. He said Jenny sounded tired, but she'd be coming home late this afternoon."

      "Did he talk to Dwayne?"

      "Well, I don't think so. At least, he didn't mention it."

      "How about Linda? Did he talk to her?"

      "To be honest, Sheriff, I didn't ask."

      Jason frowned. "Well, try using your brain the next time, Tom. Now, you go call Ben back.  I want all three of those people accounted for. You tell him to raise 'em on the radio and confirm that they're all safe and sound. Understood?"

      Tom felt like a fool. He left hurriedly, determined not to let his boss down again.

      Jason went back to reading the report, but his mind was elsewhere. Why would Jenny call in to the office, rather than Dwayne? It didn't make sense that Dwayne would go all the way out there in the middle of the night to check on Linda and Jenny, and then not call in himself. Something wasn't right here. He started to rise from his chair at the same moment Tom returned, slightly out of breath.

      "Okay, I just got off the phone with Ben and he can't raise anyone but Jenny. She says that Linda has already gone off to work, and that Dwayne has gone with her to provide protection. Ben tried to radio Dwayne and there was no response, so he's either away from his radio, or in an area where he can't hit a repeater to transmit his signal over the mountain."

      "Yeah, or it could all be a crock."

      Tom looked like Jason was speaking a foreign language. "Why would Jenny Hatch say that everything was going well, if it wasn't?"

      "Hard to say, but I'm going out to House Rock Valley to check things out for myself.  Want to take a ride?"

      Tom smiled. He wanted very much to get out of the office and get some fresh air. "You bet, Sheriff. You mean right this minute?"

      Jason drummed his fingers on the top of his desk as he tried to organize his thoughts. "I'd like to get on the road by nine o'clock at the latest. I need to phone home and let my wife know what's been going on. I was gone all last night and she'll be worried sick. I also want to call the D.P.S. office in Flag, and see if we can get their chopper up here for the day. House Rock Valley is a big place, and it would help to have a chopper."

      "I'll order us some sandwiches from Nedra's."

      " Good idea. I haven't eaten since dinner last night. Get me two of everything. I'm starved. And I’m sorry I yelled at you Tom. The pressure and no sleep are driving me nuts."

      "Don’t think nothing of it, Sheriff,” said Tom with a wave of his hand. "We’re all on pins and needles. That’s for sure. And you being in charge and all, it’s a wonder you haven’t blown a gasket yet."

"Thanks, Tom. I appreciate everything you and the boys are doing. Please let them know that."

      Jason picked up the telephone. His first call was to his wife June. She told him she and the children were worried about him and that he better be careful. If he got hurt, she was going to paddle his big behind. That made Jason smile. His family had always been his rock.

      The request for helicopter assistance was turned down by the Police commander in Flag. There had just been a multi-car collision on Interstate 40 and the police chopper was being used to ferry the seriously injured to hospitals in Phoenix. When it finished, it was scheduled to help search for some backpacker missing after an overnight hike on the San Francisco Peaks.

      Jason put on his windbreaker and left his office. Tom was standing in front of a cluttered desk, having a heated telephone conversation. Jason checked the duty roster to see who was working the day shift today. Deputies Pratt and Lamb were presently out on patrol, but they could be called if needed. Velma Jensen, the office secretary and dispatcher, was handling the switchboard. She looked as harried and over-worked as Jason felt.

      "How's it going, Velma?"

      "It's going nuts, Sheriff. That's how it's going."

      "Well, hopefully this will all be over soon. Now listen closely, Velma. Tom and I are going to take a drive out to House Rock Valley. We'll probably be gone most of the day. I'll call in every hour on the hou with our locationr. If I don't, here's what I want you to do. First, you alert the main office in Flag and tell them to send help up to Bighorn Buttes just as fast as they can. You hear? Then you send both our deputies to seal off both ends of House Rock Valley Road. Tell them not to let anybody in or out. Tell them to treat every car as armed and dangerous until proven otherwise. Search everyone and everything. I mean everybody! Then call Ben Tissaw over at the Forest Service Office, and let him know what's happening. But under no circumstances, do I want anymore of his people to go into that area." 

Jason pointed a warning finger at Velma. "You follow those instructions to the letter, Velma. And if you don't hear from me on the hour, then you call out the cavalry. If there's a change in plans, I'll give you the details over the radio. Understood?"

      Velma Jensen was a very nosey person by nature, and it was clear that she wanted to ask a million questions; but she held her tongue and kept it simple.

      "Did you call your wife, Sheriff? You know how she worries about you."

      Jason laughed as he gave the heavy-set Mormon woman a wink. "I just checked in with June a few minutes ago. She told me I better not miss dinner again like I did last night."

      Velma nodded solemnly. "She's a fine lady, your wife. And you'd better do as you're told, Sheriff, if you know what's good for you."

      Jason smiled and shook his head. "I'll try my best to get home by seven, okay?"

      "Don't you be late when you call in on the radio, either, Sheriff.  I’d look pretty darn silly if I got everybody in a snit, and then found out that you just forgot to call in."

      Jason rolled his eyes. "You have my word, Velma. Every hour on the hour, just like the news on the radio."

      Jason walked over to Tom, waiting by the bulletin board. Tom looked agitated.

      "I just got off the phone with Art Shaw, from up at the Kanab Airport. He called to say that the ASN chopper was just picked up by some fancy-pants retired judge. The guy's name is Keating. He had an Arizona driver's license and lives down in Scottsdale. I wrote the number and the address down."

      "I forgot all about the chopper, but a judge isn't going to have anything to do with pothunting and murder," said Jason as he headed for the front door.

      Tom followed his boss. "Yeah, well, maybe. But Art told me to tell you that they tracked the chopper for the first few miles, like you asked ‘em to do, until they lost it on radar. And it wasn't heading southwest toward the ASN mine."

      Jason stopped and spun around to face his deputy. "It wasn't? Which way was it going?"

      "Southeast, Sheriff. Straight for House Rock Valley."