by Nancy L. C. Steele
When George Crawford opened his hard-cover edition of The Emerald Mile by Keven Fedarko, I heard gasps of surprise in the room. Eleven of us had gathered for a book club-style talk about The Emerald Mile, a story of the fastest boat ride down the length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon during the flood of 1983 (fastest, that is, until 2016). George had brought his copy of the book, or what we thought was a book. In actuality, the “book” was a handmade box made to look like the book. When he opened it, we saw a scale model of the boat called The Emerald Mile. George and his wife Linda are miniaturists who live in Sedona. He was inspired to build the miniature boat by a small diagram contained in the book.
Facilitated by librarian Sophia Zarifis-Russell, our conversation covered topics ranging from the pros and cons of dams to river running at the time of the book and today. One of our number had personally known Kenton Grua, one of the instigators of the run. Several had rafted or paddled the Colorado. Everyone was tied together by their fascination of the Grand Canyon and its river. We were even joined, briefly, by a Grand Canyon river guide, Dr. Matt Pearcy, who happens to be a full-time faculty member at Yavapai College. He told stories about what it is like to pilot a small boat through the Grand Canyon.
After about 90 minutes of spirited discussion, I think it is fair to say that we all had a greater appreciation for the river and the need for continued protection of the Grand Canyon. Me, I walked out of the Yavapai College Library with a copy of The Emerald Mile and a new library card. Yes, I attended a book club discussion without having read the book!