The Way Sam Remembers It - May 12, 2004
by Sam Taylor
May 17, 2004 | 315 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We're only a few weeks from the traditional peak flow in the Colorado River. Even the peak flow probably won't amount to much in this fifth year of drought in the west, it is still exciting to see the river change colors and creep up its banks.

I suspect I grew up during a rather normal weather pattern, because I remember a lot of Junes when the height of the river was almost frightening. Crews annually had to keep watch over the river bridge to make sure driftwood didn't pile up around bridge piers, threatening its very existence. The water always backed up in the sloughs, changing the environment there for short periods of time (longer periods if the drain ditch was clogged by beaver dams).

The sloughs (plural, we called it s"sluz") were always fascinating to me. I always visited there in the winter for ice skating, and in the fall and winter for duck hunting. The spring was also an exciting time. We didn't go there to explore much in the summer---too many mosquitoes. But in the spring, most of our old trails were under water, and one should be wearing waders to get around. Poling a flat-bottomed boat around through the cattails and bulrushes was like boating in a different world---far removed from the arid desert land around Moab.

I'll always remember one spring when we waded out into the sloughs (big and little versions), to watch for and catch giant carp, which swam around close to the surface of the water with one fin exposed, giving away their locations. We gave up on bows and arrows. It seems we lost all our ammunition about as fast as we could draw back the string and fire. We resorted to .22 rifles, firing "shorts," which were much cheaper than long rifle. That worked better. My remembering might include some memory exaggeration, but some of those fish were monsters---as long as your leg. I remember proudly bringing home a gunnysack full of the monster fish. I was disappointed when my mother was less than enthusiastic. "You can't eat those darned things," she said. She made me cut them up in little chunks and spade them in around her roses. It smelled pretty terrible in the rose garden for a spell, but the roses sure thrived.

I was told later that the only way to cook a carp to make it taste good was to bake it on a one by twelve pine board. When it was done, I learned, you threw away the fish and ate the board. I never tried it, but I didn't bring home any more carp.

The trail network allowing sloughs exploration was great. You could go almost anywhere down there without getting your feet very wet. We tramped them all. I remember visiting the sloughs when I returned home following military service. The trails were gone, overgrown with a mix of vegetation. Moab kids in modern days must not have been sloughs rats like we were, allowing the trails to vanish. In my day there was always something for kids to do in Moab, and we did them all. A day in the sloughs was magical. I am sure the experience is still great for a lot of folks, now that it is an official wetlands preserve with some trails elevated above the water to keep the shoes dry. I still love going to the Matheson Wetlands Preserve, although I don't do it as much as I should. Put that down on the list of things to do more often.

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