For many years, my rafting company - World Wide River Expeditions (Moab, Utah) conducted tours on the Colorado River on a section upsteam from Moab, Utah known locally as the Daily.
One year, in late September, I was ferrying a large motorized rubber raft, to the take-out point adjacent to the Moab bridge. Motoring slowly downriver, keeping my eyes focused on the right river bank for signs of beaver or muskrats, I spotted a very faint trail, partially hidden by tall vegetation, snaking its way to the edge of the river. As I slowed the boat, to get a better view of the the trail, I observed a dinner fork lying in the sand where someone had come to wash dishes while kneeling at the water's edge.
I knew this area contained no camp sites where boaters might spend the night, yet the fork lyng in the sand was a sure indication that someone was camping on land beyond the river's edge.
I nudged the bow of the boat to a small beach, hopped ashore, tied my boat to a driftwood log, and proceeded to climb the bank to view the land above the river. What I encountered was a wide expanse covered in sagebrush, large Cottonwood trees and fields of hay.
The trail was now more pronounced and following it soon led to a small encampment that in former days might have been used as a sheepheader's camp. The ground was littered with rusting farm impelments, piles of discarded car and truck parts, cedar fencing posts, a watering trough and a hovel, that resembled a root cellar, with a roof of cedar logs and dirt. A blackened stove pipe, extended from the structure from which whiffs of white smoke currled lazily upwards and dissappated in the evening breeze.
A barking black Lab brought the owner from within the confines of the dug-out. His name was Henry and he was a squarter. After introductions, he said the owner of the land allowed him to live in the dugout and act as security for the property.
Months later, around Christmas, I was at the Moab warehouse repairing equipment. With only a few days until Christmas, I thought about Henry living in his dougout with his dog. I doubted that he would have any Christmas at all, so I decided to surprise him with one.
In town, I purchased Levi's, a heavy fannel shirt, several pairs of socks and appropriate underwear. For the black Lab, I purchased a large bag of dog food, and for Henry and me, a sumptuous, pre-cooked Christmas dinner.
Christmas that year was just Henry and I and the black Lab, snuggled inside the warmth of his dirt covered hovel enjoying ham, mashed patoes with gravey, corn and a bean salad. We sang christmas caroles, downed slices of Pumpkin pie and basked in the warmth of each other's new found friendship, along the banks of the Colorado River - with the wind and snow howling outside.