As he sipped from a water bottle on a hot August day, Challis author Pat Taylor said people would be hard pressed to find an Idaho outfitter who hadn’t heard of the Anderson family of the Bar X Ranch.
“Like I say in my book, they all kind of owe it to the Andersons,” Taylor said of other outfitters in the Gem State.
According to Taylor, Andy Anderson and his son, Ted, spent the years after World War II turning the Middle Fork of the Salmon River into the destination it is today, with people from across the globe coming to ride the river.
Taylor said it’s people like Andy and Ted who inspired him to get out of his office job and take a stab at the outdoors. Since he retired from working a technology executive, Taylor has spent winters in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, retraced the steps of Lewis and Clark and kept a journal detailing his adventures.
The 64-year-old author’s last three books were self-published recounts of his journeys, but “Humble Heroes: The Middle Fork’s Anderson Family,” tells the story of how an industrious trapper and his son recognized an opportunity to turn a passion for river rafting into a lucrative business.
The Andersons did it through consistent advertising and smart marketing, according to Taylor. Andy figured out that the only reason people weren’t visiting the gorgeous Middle Fork, and Idaho in general, was because they didn’t know it was an option, Taylor said.
“This was a trapper in the most remote part of the U.S.,” Taylor said, referring to 1940s Idaho. “How did he know to do it like that?” Taylor said as someone who started a small business himself, he knows how hard it is to create a business, get your name out there and stay viable.
The Andersons paid for ads and pamphlets to promote their business, and with surplus rafts from the military, they started taking people on the water.
Taylor said this proved a lasting benefit on the tourism industry not only for towns near the Middle Fork, but for all of Idaho. He said in his book that due in large part to the Anderson family, the Middle Fork is now recognized nationally as one of the best waterways for rafting, second only to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
Taylor said the most memorable part of the year it took to write the book was spending time with Ted. The 90-year-old Anderson met with Taylor once a week to discuss life as pioneer river guide. But, Taylor said, it was akin to pulling nails.
“He wasn’t very talkative,” Taylor recounted. “His daughter, Tammy, was the one who really pushed for the book.”
Because she liked how he wrote his other books, Taylor said Tammy asked him to speak with her father about life on the water. Self-publishing this book as well, Taylor said writing it was a treat because not only did he get to write about other people for a change, but about people he admired.
“There’s not a lot written about this area, its people, its history,” Taylor said. Since moving to Challis several years ago, Taylor said he’s saddened to realize people don’t get invested in local history. There are legends living among us, Taylor said, and they don’t often get the recognition they deserve.
Taylor points out in his book that Ted, over the course of his lifetime, helped create a business, spent two decades with the Forest Service, through which he met several presidents, and managed to retain his humility.
Part of the reason he wrote a book about Ted and his father was because he wanted people to be inspired by them as he was, Taylor said. The great thing about the outdoors, the author pointed out, is that it can humble the biggest of egos. The Anderson family embodies that spirit, and Taylor said that makes sharing their lives necessary.
“Part of the reason why I started writing was to get people to embrace adventure in their lives,” Taylor said. “That’s kind of what people like the Andersons do for me.”