I woke up knowing it was a special day. First I thought winter solstice but, no, three days too early. Then I looked up at the first light on the cold mountain and remembered your birthday. I think this had something to do with memories of frigid campsites first thing in the morning. Think Beatty’s Cabin, close by the river, in days when you could still camp there.

Marine Corps boot camp prepared you for discomfort while civilian I developed a much-mocked obsession with packing extra gear. Though I note even you lived to be glad for my habit of having longjohns to spare. Remember the Glen Lake capsize and dousings on the Salmon, surprise snow on the upper Ute creeks.

You moved on 25 years ago after appearing to me with Saint Peter in a sleep-deprived vision in your mother’s house, lying in your parent’s bed. By the way, when I pried as usual the next morning on the Denison campus, our first home, walking up the bricked road from Broadway, quiet brother Pat confirmed he had the same experience. I know you would object to my allusion to organized religion but rest assured we left your ashes, with a bare minimum of ceremony, near your favorite place in the Pecos. Pat, whose instructions we followed closely, is with you.

You would be 92 today. You were born just before the Great Depression. I’m almost glad you aren’t around for the COVID misery now.

We were lucky to survive the lightning that day on Trailriders’ Wall, the ill-fated voyage of our newly acquired but decaying Star on a choppy San Francisco Bay. I’m glad we eventually were affluent enough that we no longer had to share down sleeping bags and foul weather gear, although I was always deeply proud to be part of the deal.

I will always remember the sound of your typing, the strength of your hands, from early novel writing and sheep-shearing crewcuts for three sons. I’m not sure what newsroom this photo was taken in but I think it’s the Santa Fe New Mexican or the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, around 1960. Too uncrowded for the Columbus Citizen, New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle.

When I go, I might have my ashes strewn on the other side of the Rio Grande from yours — in the Jemez instead of the Pecos — but I would always have a view of the looming, opposite range.

For now, happy birthday, dad, There with the Mora running close by. You and wife Pat, rejoined, I’m sure, by Mus. Here on the way down the Rito Valdez. Bob Robertson, 12-18-28 to 11-12-95.

Down the Rito Valdez

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