I am having a hard time reading this notebook because it got very wet, but I can remember that it was about a year ago when Don Kennard asked if I would like to paddle a canoe 90-odd miles down the Rio Grande through what he promised would be spectacular canyons. He asked it one sultry midnight at a party in Austin, Texas. At that hour almost anything sounds like a wonderful idea, and I have promised to do a lot of things then that I never got around to. A little twang inside my head told me Kennard wouldn't forget about this in the morning, but I kept listening anyhow.
"We're going to see, feel, taste and record that section of the river," he said, flushed with what I assume was enthusiasm. "We'll be the first working scientific expedition to go through there since the Hill Expedition in 1899. There are thousands of prehistoric Indian sites no scientist has ever looked at, and Lord knows how many rare plants to be found, and the geology is fantastic. Besides that, there are some pretty good rapids to run, and some good old boys to sit around the fire with, and at night the stars are right in your face."
Kennard is a robust, speckle-bearded fellow in his early 40s who played football at North Texas State University and was for 20 years a member of the Texas legislature, where he set a senate filibuster record of 29 hours, 22 minutes. To use up the time, he proposed a Texas Hall of Heroes and discussed 460 candidates for membership before two senators finally surrendered the votes he wanted. Now Kennard was with the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, working on a wilderness preservation project.
"We're going to explore the area in more than a cursory way," Kennard said. "It'll be a trip you'll never forget, you can count on that. How much do you know about canoeing?"
"You paddle on one side and then the other."
"Sure. It's easy. You'll catch on. When you turn over, what the hell, everybody does."
"Everybody turns over?"
"Sooner or later everybody tumps over. Nothing to worry about if you don't get caught under the canoe against a rock, or hurt yourself too bad. What do you say? Got the sporting blood?"
"Sounds like a wonderful idea to me."
Kennard didn't forget. He phoned and brought over a couple of U.S. Marine surplus waterproof packs. "Here's how this thing started," he said, while I was wondering what to put into the packs besides my knife and sleeping bag. "The Parks and Wildlife Commission, the General Land Office and the Texas Historical Survey Commission asked the LBJ to conduct a survey of areas of Texas that should be preserved. So we're beginning to look at 14 natural and rare sites and write them up from the standpoints of botany, archaeology, zoology and geology. Graduate students from all over the state will follow up and do a more thorough job on what we begin.