Tieton Eddy Repose

Tieton Eddy Repose
"So, this is the river." said the Rat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Story of Orion - Part 11

Over the years, we have joked about other potential slogans for our sloth-like business, besides the stirring phrase, The Good Guides in the White Rafts. When Julie Ann Porter, our very own Southern Belle, with an Oklahoman twang and an angelic singing voice, commandeered the subterranean office space on Latona Avenue in Wallingford, I distinctly remember one afternoon being doubled over with laughter as we considered whether the office phone should be answered with, "Going-Out-of-Business Expeditions, can you hold please?"

No doubt I had just paid some immense, unexpected bill that occurs every season like clockwork and JA, being Orion's erstwhile, indentured office manager, had received one of those unsolicited advice sessions about the joys of being a small business owner and all of the wonders of the universe that entails. It was in an effort to lighten the mood when she coined the going-out-of-business line. Her sweet Oklahoman lilt was perfect for that kind of dark-edged humor and my stomach hurt for hours.

In the early 90's during a fit of ambition and delusional expansionist dreams, Orion became embroiled in the river politics in Idaho by agreeing to place a down payment on a ridiculously priced Middle Fork outfitter called Sawtooth River Expeditions. Sawtooth was the ugly stepchild to almost all of the other 20 some odd Middle Fork river companies. SRE, for short, had no customer base, no pre-bookings for the season in which we took it over, a small storage shed of tawdry gear, no returning guides (except for a lead guide with a drinking problem) and one hell-of-a-gutsy fifteen passenger Ford wagon that had seen better days but, like the antagonist in the Friday the 13th franchise, refused to die.

For two seasons in the early 90's, Orion was a proud member of the fraternity of Middle Fork outfitters. I'd like to think we injected a little comity into an otherwise staid and sterile environment with our all-women topless float trips, predominantly female staff and laid back approach to river running. Of course this lackadaisical attitude earned us the nickname from other guides, outfitters and Forest Service personnel as "Slow River Expeditions". (I like to think of us as "unhurried"...)

More recently, Jonathan Ehlinger, Eeyore, for short, and our resident kayaking dervish, came up with the apt slogan, "Orion...Successfully Dodging Bullets for Over 30 Years". I walked into the office one morning last season, and there it was on the white eraser board. We had been discussing T-shirt designs and the dodging bullets metaphor was thrown into the idea hopper. The picture it brings to mind makes me smile. Sports announcers talk about how a team might have "dodged a bullet" --- singular --- but the idea of dodging multiple bullets, or really dodging a bullet at all, is hysterical.

The truth of that phrase is that you have to be nimble, you have to be lucky --- though the better euphemism is 'fortunate' --- and you have to have good peripheral vision. And you need to know when to use that peripheral vision because you never know where bullets are going to come from. Some of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time, and some of it has to do with doing the right thing when you find yourself in the wrong place.

You create a good deal of your good fortune by being vigilant, working hard and paying attention to the 'Big Picture' or the slightest details. But, in the final analysis, you need to be cognizant there are times you are at the mercy of the graces of the cosmos.

Which is why we tell our new guides when it comes to flipping a raft, "There are those who have, there are those who will, and there are those who will again."