Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

Our company was the first on the stretch of river above Moab to provide a day tour with lunch included. We called it “The Daily”. Some companies still do this today. We made coffee over a campfire, provided sandwich fixins and laid a board covered with a tablecloth over some rocks for a table. After we went over the rapids and got to smooth water, we cranked up the motor and went to the Moab boat dock just above the bridge. Everyone does this now.

When we ran our jeep tours, we used thirteen 4-wheel drive Toyotas, one International and one 4-wheel drive Ford van. We had a total of 35 vehicles including busses trucks, etc.; sixty-five outboard motors and twenty-one flatbed trailers for rafts and a jillion other things. Many of the employees became experts in repair and maintenance. We had a repair shop and mechanic and sometimes and assistant for the mechanic. It was a good-sized operation for the “little guy in a little burg”.

We were always very fair with our clients. When a refund was due, it was made with no questions asked. If we didn’t get to our destination for some reason, we offered a refund. Many didn’t even want their money back because they still had such a good time! If a refund wasn’t due, however, I wouldn’t give them a penny (very few asked for their money back, though).

An old codger named “Buck” was working for me. Buck used to be a cowboy and was a good guy when he stayed out of the beer joints. We had a 3- seater that Buck took out to the Dinosaur Tracks. One guy had been raising hell all the way down because he didn’t like his seat and wanted to switch places. Buck told him to shut up and act like a decent human being or he was going to take him right back to town. After that, the guy shut up and acted really nice.

One time when I took a tour out, I dropped something and said, without even thinking, “Mine Got en Himmlel!” (my God in Heaven). I said it in German and the group I happened to be taking on the tour was German! They didn’t think anything of it, but it was strange that it just came out of my mouth spontaneously since I don’t speak German.

We ran a trip from Sand Wash down the Green River to the town of Green River, Utah. The rapids on the upper Green River were big, but not as big as the ones in Cataract Canyon! The Green River cut a course through the Book Mountains almost as deep as the Grand Canyon! This was a wonderful trip; one of my favorites!

I still flew my Cessna Skylane when I had people from Moab who were going up to Sand Wash. I did that myself and took my dog, Poncho Villa, with me. Poncho loved it, even the turns! He flew in the right seat. On the way back, I dropped off from the mesa to the river level. I’d skim the water and then when we came to a sharp corner, I’d bank it and pull back on the stick to make the sharp turns. I loved to fly over the country down there -it’s so beautiful!

One time we put a trip in the river at Sand Wash, and then Poncho and I flew about 30 miles down the river and caught up with another tour of mine from the day before. We had to turn a sharp corner. The tour group heard a loud roar and saw the wingtip close over their heads! They looked in the cockpit and could only see Poncho, so I told them that Poncho was flying the plane and I was just along for the ride. That story spread all over town!

On one trip, we had a lady come in a silk dress, high heels and mink coat. I told her that she was dressed beautifully, but that she might want to put on some jeans or something more appropriate for the trip. She said that she would be fine. The road was very dusty and there were lots of rocks to climb up to see Angel Arch. She made it up, high heels and all!

One night, I had taken two women out and it had rained very heavily. We headed back, but the floods had started. We couldn’t get out and didn’t have supplies to stay overnight. We didn’t have any cell phones or radios in those days. I thought the ladies would really be upset. Actually, they thought it was great for them. They said their pictures and stories would go over great back home.

Mary was fit to be tied and had called The Park Service to search for us. They found us and we were ok, but we had to wait for the water to go down before we could cross.

The business grew and grew and over 20 years, we became quite successful. We had some property on Main Street and I wanted Mary to quit the dress shop and come to work for me. Mary didn’t want to, but I finally convinced her that it was the thing to do. I made a nice office for Mary and put a deck on it with a nice western look. The office was soon bursting at the seams! We had an extra room and we were the bus station, too. The bus company brought freight and people even early in the morning. The bus company locked the freight in and we’d parcel it out.

I had to build a ramp for people who couldn’t walk up on that porch. The only thing we had in the beginning was a second driver to go with me. Mary held down the office. At first Mary made lunches for them with things like home canned peaches, home done pickles and home baked cakes. People always came in and thanked Mary for sharing the food with them.

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