Friday, July 9, 2010

In Memory

Telly Evans, July 25, 1974- June 16, 2010. Photo by Matt Yost
Last month, the world lost a dear friend. A mountain man, a river man, a great man.

I met Telly while I was stationed at Boundary Creek working for the Forest Service. When you live at your job (and your job happens to be in the Frank Church Wilderness) you make friends with people you may not have the opportunity to otherwise.

Along with a slew of private boaters, there are commercial groups that have an eight-day rotation for permits on the Middle Fork. I had the chance to meet hundreds of new people each week, but it was the commercial boaters who were a constant in the continuous influx of people coming to boat the River of No Return. Although they weren't the only people I looked forward to seeing, the night Telly's company Rocky Mountain came to Boundary was one I looked forward to most.

The bond that forms between people drinking around a campfire shootin' the shit week after week, year after year, is hard to describe if you haven't experienced it, and that goes ten-fold for the Middle Fork. Oftentimes, my good memories of Boundary Creek are synonymous with my times spent around Telly.

Telly had a presence that only someone of his nature could. He was over 6 feet tall with an unforgettable laugh that came straight from the belly and echoed for miles. He was good looking, gregarious, light-hearted, engaging, and welcoming. He gave good hugs. He mixed a mean cocktail that may have done little to his large frame, but knocked me flat on my ass. He was a storyteller, a conversationalist, a friend of many. His smile (and that laugh! You can never say enough about it) were incredibly contagious.

Telly and I weren't close friends, but I did consider him a friend.

Which was why it was like an arrow to the heart to hear of his passing last month. Especially the nature of which, (and I do not mean to exploit his death, but only say this to clarify) being that he took his own life.

I sometimes feel that because Telly and I weren't close friends, I don't have the right to feel this way. It seems that because I am not family, I have no right to cry. But it doesn't change the fact that a day hasn't gone by that I don't think about him, and that if I don't keep my mind busy, I still cry. I think about his family and his friends and the Rocky Mountain crew. I think about anyone who got the chance to sit and talk with him and discover what a great person he was. I feel awful for the loss these people have endured. They are on my mind more often than not. And yet I got a chance to spend more time with him than some, being someone who spent five summers seeing him every week, and I don't feel I deserve the same.

It has been a strange thing to work through, both mourning Telly and feeling undeserving the right to mourn. Yet I cannot deny the affect his death has had on me. I have come to the same thought over and over again during the sleepless nights when I can't chase away the confusion, disbelief, and sadness.

People don't understand the strength of their presence or the mark they leave on others. The imprints we leave on eachother's hearts and minds can be made in an instant and last longer than fingerprints, but are just as unique.

Does it matter that I wasn't as close a friend as some? Were we not two people put on this earth who met and shared time together, no matter how short? People come and they go, but it does not lessen their importance. It does not weaken the lessons we learn from them.

Telly is someone I will never forget. He never knew in those nights around the campfire he was making an everlasting impression on me, or that he was a player in an era of my life that has left me forever changed. And he probably never once thought I would be affected if he were gone. But I am, and his passing weighs heavy on my heart.

I didn't make it to Telly's memorial, and I have felt unsettled not being able to make a proper tribute. This is hardly deserving of such a great man, but it is the best I can do. I was taught to use my talents, and so writing of life and loss is what I have to offer.

Telly, you meant more to this world than you'll ever know. I hope wherever you are the rivers are as beautiful and wild as the Salmon, and you have found peace.


Josh said...

Hi Amanda,

I stumbled across your blog tonight, not unlike some of the nights you have spent thinking about Telly. Like you, I considered Telly a great friend. I've known him for over a decade. We met early in the summer of 1999, during his rookie season as a river guide for my father's company on the Main Salmon river (four or five years before he would join the Mills' crew at Rockie Mountain). My impression of him was a guy who was welcoming and open, gregarious and friendly, despite the fact that HE was the one in a new environment. It was my first year back from a two year hiatus from the river, so I was relearning the ropes along side him. My time away was due to obligations I had serving a church mission. We worked every day of every summer together for about six years. I considered him a true friend. He and I were so opposite, yet so genuinely enjoyed one another's humor and company. I often marveled at the irony of it all. He'd rib me about church and I'd rib him during hangovers. Ha! Through all of this, he was an example to me and I looked up to him and his way with people. I'll miss him. Sometimes I get angry at him for this. He truly was one of a kind and larger than life. Your tribute of him is touching. Thank you for your gift of words.

-Josh Gillett, Triangle C Ranch Whitewater River Trips

Mandy Wright said...

Thank you so much for the kind words you wrote about my cousin. I loved him with all of my heart and he left a hole in my life when he died. I have so many wonderful childhood memories with him and little inside moments that only a few would understand. He was a great spirit and it was very shocking to me as well as his family when he passed. My way of dealing with it is to realize there are many personal reasons why people end their lives and that his reasons must have been so compelling that he couldn't go on another day living. We will probably never understand the emotional pain he was going through during this time in his life. I just wished he would have shared this pain with his family and that some how we could haved saved him. We loved him so much and me not going to see him those last few years before his death will always be one of the biggest regrets of my life.

I read what you wrote and it some how made me feel like he was still around. I just miss him. Every Christmas, every family function and every year since his death has been hard, a part of my family is missing. I just want to hug him and tell him how much I love him and miss him.

Mandy Wright