Monday, June 29, 2015
Desert Riverman... Book Review
Many of you who know me have heard my stories of my dads strange friends, at least as a kid I thought they were strange and different from most.
They were loners ,bordering on hermits, or very rugged individualists to use an old term, the kind of men that are far and few between anymore.
He knew folks like this all over the country, How he met them over the years I’m not sure, but they were always glad to see him. Many of them were not rich by today’s standards, but were rich in lifestyle and knowledge of the outdoors life. A lot of these men were well into old age, when I met some of them as a teenager, some were only in their fifties. My dad would drag me in to meet these men and they would talk for hours. It was always fascinating to me, the way they lived, the stories, the laughter and the joy they had about living as they pleased.
To my surprise, a few weeks ago, I was in a little out of the way book store and as I was looking over the stock, a book cover jumped out at me. It was a man in repose with his eyes shut and holding a corncob pipe, My reaction was I know that man. The title of the book is ” Desert Riverman , the free-spirited adventures of Murl Emery”. He was one of the men my dad knew. I met him when I was 13 years old, some where out of Bullhead City, Arizona .off of route 66. My dad and him sat and drank beer and smoked cigars and laughed their butts off. Murl was amazing to listen to full of fun and adventure telling stories and recounting some of the things my dad and himself had done. At one point, Murl was telling a story about something he and my dad had done. I recall my dad saying , “oh for gods sake don’t tell the kid that”
I think this is the kind of book many of you will truly enjoy, a true story of adventures and failures, gold mines and looking for ways to make money. Murl worked as a beaver trapper, cattle rustler, bootlegger, house mover, store keeper, ferry man, prospector, cowboy, truck driver, inventor, miner, river freighter, aviator, astute mechanic, fishing fleet operator and became the lead boatman during the construction of Hoover dam. And that is just a little bit of his life. Murl claimed he never went beyond the 5th grade but was wise way beyond most men. He was a beachcomber, a desert philosopher, story teller, adviser to scientists, congressmen, desert detective, dude wrangler, devilish trouble maker, showman, powder monkey, consummate kidder, defeated politician, museum curator , joker, incorrigible vagabond, and a self -styled old goat.
Murl went on many trips with Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of the Perry Mason books and stories. They had adventures in Baja that looking for lost Indian cave paintings and so on.
Here are a few quotes from Murl..
“Up up up up, breakfast is getting cold , only a whore can make a living in bed”
“If you don’t spit in the tigers eye once in a while you miss a lot of experience and a hell of a lot of good times and a few black eyes:”
“Endless years of wasted effort have made me the failure I am today. And thank god from what I’ve seen of so called success, I want no part of it”
“If you are really a pure prospector you hope to god you never find anything. The looking is a lot of fun but the finding stinks”
“I m just a crude ignorant old man, but I enjoy every minute of it”
Murl died in 1981.. the world is a sadder place.
The book is by Robert S. Wood, a friend of Murls.
Publisher is Fret Water press.
A great read about a one of a kind man.
My Father told me this guy is the happiest SOB you will ever meet
By Dude McLean
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