When Two Raft Guides Have A Bone To Pick With Each Other…

Posted May 31, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

We get creative, and usually try to ensure that we amuse everyone else in the process.

Don’t get me wrong… these are not angry fights, he-said, she-said rumor mills, or anything quite that serious. (We’re all pretty content with our jobs and each other’s company.) There is, however, a tendency in the guiding community towards quite a bit of heckling, jokes, nick-names, etc.. Sometimes, this will end up in an extended war of wits of sorts, 2 guides facing off against each other at random times throughout the season, usually to the benefit and amusement of everyone who happens to observe.

This last weekend on the Tuolumne saw a small battle in just such a “war,” with “Captain Tuolumne” gaining pretty significant ground against his buddy Drew.
To give you some background information: “Captain Tuolumne” came across this particular nickname a few weeks ago, when Matt was first told that he would be a crew member on the Tuolumne River this year. (With higher flows expected through June and considering the fact that the Tuolumne is one of AO’s most popular rivers, this was definitely a compliment.) A pretty humble guy and not the biggest fan of loads of attention, the rest of us took it upon ourselves to embarrass Matt about being offered such a coveted spot.

And so it happened that, as a few of us were getting ready to leave for the Kaweah that day and saw Matt gathering his gear for his first weekend working on the Tuolumne, Drew yelled out: “It’s Captain Tuolumne, preparing for his first weekend on the Mighty T!” Much to Matt’s embarrassment and distress, the name has stuck ever sense. (Drew even wrote “Captain Tuolumne” on the brim of one of Matt’s favorite visors.) Now there’s a running commentary nearly every time Matt tries to do something: “Newsflash! Captain Tuolumne to the rescue, using his superhuman strength to help his fellow guides lift that ultra heavy boat!”

Thus, the war of wits had begun. But, as was mentioned before, Matt is a humble guy, and definitely not competitive. So up until this last weekend he was pretty much just taking his licks and not fighting back very hard.

Drew, however, has a nickname too. During one of our long weekends on the Kaweah River last year, Danny had noted that Drew looked a little bit like a wizard sometimes, with longer features and a pointed beard. Then on advanced guide school this year, Drew did so well that some of the more veteran guides started calling him “The Wizard”, more for his rafting skills than any physical wizard-like qualities.

It turned out that Drew’s new nickname was exactly the ammo that Matt had needed to get back at his friend for sticking him with the title “Captain Tuolumne.”

On Saturday and Sunday, they were both working a 2-day trip on the Tuolumne. Matt started his attack subtly, asking one or two guests at lunch time whether or not Drew had shown them his “wizard face” yet.

Next he started telling guests at camp that Drew went by “The Wiz,” eventually convincing guests on the trip that they should call him that for the remaining day and a half. Then he approached guests from other boats, asking them if they had seen Drew’s “wizard face” yet.

After that, all Matt had to do was sit back and watch his genious plan unfold. By dinner time on the first day, guests were approaching Drew asking him to please show them his wizard face. Of course, Drew doesn’t have a wizard face. At least not anything different from the one all his guests had seen already. Confused, he told these guests that he would show them the face later.

But Matt had talked up Drew’s wizard face so much that by the end of the trip, all the guests were not going home without finally seeing this famed face they had heard so much about. And so they cornered poor Drew at take-out, surrounding him and demanding that “The Wiz” show them his wizard face before they went home. He was stuck.

Not knowing what else to do, Drew contorted his face into some random silly form that of course was not all that exciting. (Making faces is not, after all, one of his many natural talents.) And then there was a rather awkward silence. The guests were utterly confounded. After all this anticipation, that was all he had to show them? Someone may have even said, “That’s it?” Poor Drew had to deliver the dissappointing news that he doesn’t actually have a wizard face, then stand around and wait for the expectant crowd to dissipate and go on about their day.

The other guides on the trip, knowing the whole story, thought the moment was absolutely hilarious. Matt stood by and watched the whole scene with glee.

Another classic moment.

So to return to my main point… when two raft guides have a bone to pick with each other, it usually turns out to be a pretty darn amusing interaction to be privy to. We’ll have to wait and see what “the Wiz” comes up with in retaliation. Maybe next weekend I’ll be writing about Captain Tuolumne versus the Wizard, Part Two.


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