My wife and I were attending grandparents’ day at an elementary school when I got the call. Our friend Karen Green had died from cancer at her home in Price.
I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of reading a book to a grandson whose life was just starting out while at the same time an old friend’s life had come to an end.
Karen was undergoing a second round of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she died. Her condition had declined so much in the past year that she refused visits from friends.
In the hours following the news of her death, I reflected on how much our friendship had colored my life. It’s something you never really understand about someone until they’re gone.
The last time I really saw Karen was four years ago, bashing down Sheep Canyon in a pickup with our spouses. I thought we were going to die then. It wasn’t the first time I felt like that around her.
We became friends 20 years before, when Karen was a conservation officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. I sometimes tagged along with her on patrol, particularly during the anti-poaching decoy operations the division ran in Spanish Fork Canyon.
Karen and I spent long middle-of-the-night hours hiding in the brush together while waiting for hunters to spotlight and shoot a decoy deer, after which she arrested them.
It was my friendship with Karen that indirectly connected me with other people, including fellow wildlife officer Mark Connolly, who first took me down into Range Creek and 1,500 years back in time.
It was in Range Creek where I got to know Karen’s husband, Alan, who showed me where he found a Native American flute that was already old when Columbus discovered the New World.
Alan in turn helped introduce me to Butch and Jeanie Jensen, owners of Tavaputs Ranch. Their son Tate talked me into riding a horse in a bowling ball hailstorm.
Today, Jeanie feeds Sonny and me whenever we show up. Then she puts us to work in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’d rather repair an outhouse on the Tavaputs than be president of the United States.
Through Butch and Jeanie I met Richard Quist of Moki Mac, a Green River rafting company. Sonny and I floated Desolation Canyon with him in the summer of 2011 — five days drifting through the silent geology of God’s library.
Richard in turn introduced us to Larry Newby, the pilot of one of the airplanes that flew us to the launch site in Desolation Canyon.
Larry, a "perpetual prankster," buzzed the ranch 10 months later when Butch and Jeanie’s daughter Jennie got married under a sky that went forever.
But life is a tapestry of love and sorrow. A week after her wedding, Jennie’s brother Tate was senselessly murdered. Larry died in a San Juan County plane crash eight months later.
The individual strands of everyone we meet make up the fabric of our lives. My own wouldn’t be as colorful today without Karen woven into it. I’ll see her thread until the day when my own runs out.
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