Robert Kirby had the day off. This is a reprint of an earlier column.
You couldn't pay me enough money to be a fish cop. Driving around the sticks checking on the strangest and most heavily armed people in the state is not a rational way to make a living.
Maybe that's overstating the case a bit. I'd be a game warden for $140,000 a month, with the added provision that all hunters had to be naked, painted red, and tethered to trees within 5 yards of traversable roads.
I know the public. I've been a hunter. I've also been a cop. The only thing people far from home resent more than being policed by someone else is policing themselves. That's probably why we have conservation officers in the first place.
For all this, Utah's wildlife officers say the job manages to get done safely anyway. There has never been, so they claim, a game warden murdered doing his or her job in Utah.
Not so fast.
One of my hobbies is to poke about in Utah's law enforcement history among the back issues of The Tribune. Recently, I found that the safety record of Utah's conservation officers might not be an unbroken one.
On Sept. 27, 1914, Ernest Berri left his home at 1127 W. 900 South, Salt Lake City, telling his wife he was going to work. Berri was a city dredge operator in an area known then as Williams Lake.
Berri was also a state game warden, a deputy of Utah Fish & Game Commissioner Fred W. Chambers. And his interest in protecting Utah's wildlife from poachers appears to have gotten him killed.
When Ernie didn't return home, his wife called the police department and reported him missing. On Oct. 2, searchers found Ernie in the marsh. He had been shot twice with a shotgun.
Piecing together what happened was difficult then. It's nearly impossible now. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime, the killer was never caught, and Berri's widow and four children eventually left town.
What is clear is that at some point on the evening of Sept. 27, witnesses approached Ernie and told him that someone was shooting in the marsh. Duck season was still three days away and Ernie decided he better go see what was what. He'd had trouble with poachers there before.
The unarmed game warden was last seen following a man carrying a gun who looked like he might be trying to avoid an official conversation about ducks.
Ducks are nowhere on my list of things for which I would risk my life. Ditto fish, deer, elk, magpies, gilded flickers, three-toed woodpeckers and Townsend's big-eared bat.
The fact that any of these animals remain in appreciable numbers today is because conservation officers are willing to risk it all for them. It seems a shame to forget them when they die.
Not only did Utah eventually forget its fallen game warden, it apparently never even learned out to spell his name correctly. In newspapers and official documents, Berri also is spelled Barry, Bierrie, Beire and Berry.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.