Don Duff's big discoveries — Cuban missiles and extinct cutthroat trout populations
Published: October 29, 2012 08:52AM
Updated: October 15, 2012 05:00PM
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Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune Don Duff, then a 24-year-old airman, was the person scanning photos snapped from U-2 planes of Cuba and spotted a Russian missile heightening the Cuban Missile Crisis, is photographed outside of his home in Callao, Utah on October 12, 2012. It was about 2 a.m. in the morning of Oct. 15 when he was looking over the shoulder of another airman and asked him to zoom him because he noticed something "suspicious" on a site already identified as a probable missile launch site. This is the 50th anniversary of Cuban Missile and we are revisiting his experiences.
The first time I met Don Duff he handed me a poster for a native cutthroat trout species in Utah. It was the early 1990s and he had come to visit the Salt Lake Tribune offices and share the poster.
I was impressed with the biologists and quickly put him on my list of key contacts for covering all things fishing in Utah. Don and I ended up chatting numerous times throughout the years on a variety of topics and each time I developed more respect for the quiet, but well-spoken, man.
And somewhere in the middle of it all Don became one of my heros.
Don exhibited superhero qualities by discovering two previously thought extinct species of cutthroat trout (Bonneville and Lahontan) in Utah — and another one during his time working in New Mexico (Rio Grande).
I had no doubts that Don, then working with Trout Unlimited, would respond when I reached out to let him know about some elementary school kids working hard on a cool project that was getting no love from the Utah fishing community. In typical Don fashion he swept in and became a vital part of the "Big Bonnie" art project highlighting the state fish and made them all feel like winners.
Through the years I learned more about Don and we talked about doing a story on an amazing, but equally terrifying different kind of discovery he made before his time as a fisheries biologists.
Today is the 50th anniversary of that discovery and here's a story about Don's intimate involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't wish Don a Happy Birthday one day late while thanking him for everything he has done for anglers.