Bert Raynes, the prominent head of the perpetually active Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club, asked me years ago to present a Sunday evening talk to his membership. I recall that phone call as if it were yesterday.
“Your audience of studious nature followers and careful bird trackers surely would label my meager contribution as pure folly,” I argued.
Quashing my protest like a semi flattening a Dixie Cup, Bert said, “I’ve been reading those News Outdoors columns. Your stories harbor a great deal more information about birds than you realize. Be at the First Wyoming Bank meeting room at 6:30. We’ll have a good time.”
As I carefully assembled stored details of bird observations during a lifetime of fishing, hunting and wandering, I suddenly realized that Bert was correct. What I reported seeing around rivers, lakes, swamps and woods wouldn’t be common knowledge even to this group. Their interest in my snippets was pleasing. I glimpsed Bert seated to the side, a little grin of satisfaction on his face.
Our community and readership lost a true giant with Bert’s recent passing. I believe he valiantly endured a diminishing quality of life just to continue cheering his legion of friends and readers. We both share our News&Guide editorial exposure thanks to the largesse of the Rev. Dan Abrams. Dan originated the Jackson Hole News’ Outdoors column in 1974 and soon generously devoted space to local birders’ weekly sightings. He and Bert started the bird and nature group.
Abrams and Raynes committed their hand-written columns to yellow legal pads and blessed others (patient wife Claire, in Dan’s case) with the typed newspaper preparation. Bert’s words took circuitous “translation and identification” routes to typesetters.
In early 1980 Dan visited my postage stamp-size Jackson Hole Daily office to confess that the expanded workload of First Baptist Church ministering and counseling plus family parenting meant he needed to abandon his Outdoors column. My Reel Talk outdoor column ran in the Jackson Hole Guide from 1973 through 1976 before my Exit Eating bit the News in 1977. Dan asked if I would add Outdoors to my column agenda. He promised that Bert Raynes would handle all things birding in a new Far Afield weekly offering.
I easily spent more time with my fellow News columnist on the phone, asking and reporting about my newly recognized interest in birds.
Bert patiently explained that the limpkin I saw on the Salt River was more likely an American bittern. He was really intrigued with my report of encountering a wolverine near Ditch Creek in Grand Teton National Park. And he laughed uproariously at my recall of the two curlews’ ferocious and relentless attack that continued even after I crashed into and then hid in an overgrown irrigation ditch. He loved my descriptions of great blue herons floating, pelican-like, on Lake Fork and Pickwick Lakes, picking up stunned shad.
Bert Raynes was a wonderfully opinionated, wise and compassionate character who donned the curmudgeon cloak to camouflage his gentle sweetness. Despite being a Penn State alum he explained in no uncertain terms, and long before the Sandusky scandal, that he cared little for legendary coach Joe Paterno and that big-time college sports were ruinous to good education.
My favorite Raynes memory is from an ancient photo of a then-gangly kid-giant, his scarecrow-ish wrists poking awkwardly from an ill-fitting suit, wearing an endearing grin while embracing an absolutely gorgeous blonde, Meg (The Muse).
Our mutual benefactor, the Rev. Abrams, transmitted over the weekend that “Bert leaves a powerful legacy of caring for our land and wildlife. We will miss that influential voice on behalf of all creatures great and small and the places they live.”
So long, Bert. Adding to Dan’s remarks, I am forever in awe for knowing you as the ultimate and most memorable conservationist.
COVID-19 claims former park boss
It’s easy to get along with folks from western North Carolina, and Gary Everhardt was another perfect example. Everhardt assumed command of Grand Teton National Park in 1972, arriving from Yellowstone after a three-year stint as assistant superintendent for operations.
As the new Jackson Hole Guide editor, I interviewed Gary and his previous Yellowstone boss, Jack Anderson, among many others at the 1973 global national parks conference during the National Park Centennial in Teton park. I didn’t tell the Lenoir native and North Carolina State engineering graduate until after our first interview that I was a UNC guy. That was something we always enjoyed joking about.
The Everhardt regime at Grand Tetonwas a successful operation because Gary could count on a disciplined and formidable head ranger in Frank Betts and a brilliant and ebullient information chief named Tony Bevinetto, who literally knew everyone. Today a key developmental award program is named the NPS Bevinetto Congressional Fellow. It moves a worthy park employee to Washington to work with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Between his veteran Yellowstone superintendent friend Jack Anderson and powerful political conservation activists like Nathaniel P. Reed, it wasn’t a coincidence that experienced employee Gary Everhardt was appointed the ninth National Park Service director in 1975, during the President Ford administration.
Before major league Alaska environmental battles and mining-versus-national park lands skirmishes that Everhardt faced during his directorship, one Grand Teton National Park incident remains of note.
To ensure safer winter navigation for cross-country travelers the park marked some trails by fixing orange metal markers to trees. This procedure incensed Rick Horn, an avid skier and former park climbing rescue ranger.
Every time the orange markers went up, Horn soon followed and removed them. This became a game of sorts until the park had enough and ordered Horn to cease and desist.
Both weekly papers published on Thursdays. Late Tuesday an anonymous note appeared on my desk foretelling a Wednesday incident at park headquarters.
I took the bait and arrived just as Rick Horn burst in and began nailing orange trail markers into Gary Everhardt’s desk. Rangers pounced on Rick but not before he provided a story to enliven our Guide pages.
Before Gary’s Washington promotion he asked me to his office. Somehow he learned that I’d begun taking float fishing trips for Jackson Lake Lodge Company’s Moose Tackle Store. He requested I host a special guest fly-fishing anywhere I wanted to go in the park.
“This gentleman is integral to achieving major land acquisition by the Park Service,” Gary said. “We want him to have a memorable experience while he’s here with us.”
I met my guest at the tackle shop and we enjoyed a relaxing float from Deadmans Bar to Moose, had a lengthy lunch and explored side channels, viewed animals and visited about Georgia’s Golden Isles. Years later I noticed that the Cumberland Island National Seashore Park and Wilderness, administered by the National Park Service, had come into existence during that 1970s period.
Gary Everhardt was 86 when he died Dec. 27 in his home state of North Carolina, just four days after his wife, Nancy, also died from COVID-19.
So long, Gary, this UNC guy thanks you for his memorable Grand Teton National Park introduction.