Long Roads and Wild Rivers
Trucker Darcy Linklater grew up around big rivers. When he leaves the road “in a few years,” he and wife Verna will build a new life around their tackle shop in tiny Starbuck, Wash.
Darcy Linklater’s passion for the great rivers of the southeastern corner of Washington state and the fighting fish in them took hold of him when he was a child. And it has never let go of him.
But the fields around his tiny hometown of Dixie, Wash., needed trucks to haul produce and local canneries needed cans hauled to them, so Linklater, 54, became a trucker back in the 1960s.
Linklater drives long. He recently left his current home in tiny Starbuck, Wash., (“Population about 250 if you count people, cows and horses,” says his wife Verna Foley) just a handful of miles north of Dixie up State Highway 12, and was gone for a month and a day, rolling up 13,000 miles and averaging 500 miles a day.
When the chance arose, he’d daydream about the solitude of remote corners, backwaters and deep pools on familiar rivers like the Snake, Columbia, Walla Walla, Tucannon and Touchet. These days Linklater is using his time off the road to build a business – a store called Darver Tackle and a personal guide service for people who want to fish these majestic waterways.
“I grew up around [these rivers], fishing them with my dad. Now wherever I am in America my mind is pretty much back here on a river,” says Linklater.
“I fished with my dad in all the rivers around here from the time I was a little kid. He showed me all kinds of places on the rivers and taught me how to fish them. I started fishing in local creeks with my dad, looking for trout, in the ’50s. Then in the ’60s we started fishing steelheads in the big rivers like the Snake. We’d catch really big sturgeon in the Snake. I used to fish here when this was a natural river, before the dams came. There was even a ferry we used, and now that’s in a museum.”
Linklater grew up near fertile fields and canneries. “I started my driving career by hauling peas out of the fields,” he says. “Then I started hauling empty cans to the factory with a tractor and a flatbed. Then I hauled bulk snap beans on a flatbed with side racks.
Linklater started driving long-haul in 1965. He worked for UPS from 1972 through the mid-’80s and joined Marten four years ago, where he pulls a reefer.
Linklater hauls to all 48 mainland states, driving a 2001 Freightliner Century with a Series 60 Detroit Diesel and a 10-speed transmission.
“I call home four or five times a day, and Verna puts push pins into the map to mark where I’m calling from. It’s a very crowded map.”
Timing has been good to Linklater’s dream of retiring from the road to work on the rivers of his youth. His wife of three years also has a long history and passion for the local rivers. She was a fish counter, working at dams on local rivers checking fish populations and species to provide vital information on the health and status of both the fish and the rivers to the Washington State Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Timing also helped when the couple began thinking about a tackle shop.
“I started talking about retiring from my job,” says Verna. “At the same time he was developing lures and sinkers to fish local rivers and he’d guide his friends, and he loved doing that work. Then the place came open.”