Long Roads and Wild Rivers

| April 07, 2005

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.”

The building where the tackle shop is located has been in Starbuck since about 1900, says Verna, when the railroad came through. Over the years it has been everything from a butcher’s shop to a post office to a residence.

“We stock a lot of items that are designed and made just for these local rivers,” says Linklater. “We know the rivers and the fish in them. I’ve guided friends to fish around here and helped them find good places, and I know how to work the fish in these rivers. And Verna has a very wide knowledge of the local fish and their habits and characteristics.”

Linklater has designed and manufactured equipment especially for the powerful currents of the local rivers and the swirling waters near the dams. “I’d take lures and sinkers with me in the truck while I was developing them, tinkering with them, changing them and trying them out when I was overnighting and had some water to fish. I was working with special shapes, weight and colors that these rivers demand. There’s a bait-holding spinner I built into a lure, it’s mainly for steelhead or salmon. I kept testing it and developing it.”

Timing also helped a third time, says Linklater, when he signed on with Marten.

“Marten has been super to me. I looked at a lot of companies, and they were the ones that had what I needed and what I wanted. I’ve got the best dispatcher a driver could ever have – Joanne. She’s as honest as the day is long, and I tell her that if she ever retires I’ll have to think about it, too. I’m really happy with Marten.”

Linklater has driven Verna to “all but about three” of the lower 48 states. “Fish counting was only seven months of the year, so I’d ride with him the rest of the time,” Verna says. “But now with the tackle shop open six days a week, I can’t go with him much any more.”
Linklater has a backup plan to keep Verna riding with him every now and then. “We have two wonderful local ladies who help out as sort of standby, part-time helpers,” he says. “One of them, Diane Lusk, is the mayor of Starbuck.”

For more information about Darver Tackle, call (509) 399 2015 or go to www.darvertackle.com.


Dinosaur Valley State Park

At Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas, you can see and touch millions-of-years old evidence of the dinosaurs that once roamed our land. The park features some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in the world, and it’s not too far off today’s beaten path, just 65 miles south of Fort Worth.

The tracks of three dinosaur species are preserved in the hard sedimentary rock of a riverbed, including footprints of the 30-foot long Saurapod and the 12-foot long Theropod, a meat eater. There are also two life-size fiberglass models of the 70-foot long Apatosaurus and the scary 45-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Dinosaurs might be the highlight of the 1,525-acre park, but you can also see migratory and resident birds – including wild turkeys – and armadillos, fox squirrels, coyotes, bobcats and even a herd of Texas longhorn cattle. You can also fish the Paluxy River for catfish, bass and perch (try the river’s renowned Blue Hole).

It costs $5 for an adult to enter the park. Your tractor won’t be a problem, say park officials, and “there’s lots of parking.” Tractors can also hook up overnight to one of the 47 camping sites for an extra $23. But, as always, we suggest calling ahead (especially if you want to overnight) to (254) 897 4588, or log on to www.tpwd.state.tx. us/park/dinosaur/.
To get there: From Interstate

35 south of Forth Worth, take U.S. Highway 67 toward Glen Rose, then FM 205 for four miles to Park Road 59, then go one mile to the park headquarters. The park is four miles west of Glen Rose.


Owner-operator Troy Jodoin holds up his trophy pronghorn antelope.

Rods & Barrels
Pronghorn Power

Troy Jodoin, 42, is an owner-operator from Alberton, Mont., who went deep into Eastern Montana for this pronghorn antelope. Jodoin is leased to Davis Transport, of Missoula, Mont., (that company must know hunters; this is their second driver we’ve featured here). “It took us a day to drive in, and we set up camp late and planned our hunt. We were looking for a way to use the weather and terrain to help a hunter on foot. But next morning, on our way to our chosen location, we came over a ridge and there was a single pronghorn grazing at the bottom of a draw. We stopped, and the buck bolted. I was nearest so I had a chance to draw a bead on a moving target more than 200 yards away. Now my buddies will tell you I’m not the best shot in the group, but I hit him and he dropped like a rock. It was a clean kill. I never let on how surprised I was. Effectively my three-day hunt was over an hour after it started.”

To the hunters featured in Rods & Barrels, Henry Repeating Arms will donate a Henry Golden Boy .22 rifle.

Got a picture of you with your trophy game or fish? Send a copy to John Latta at Truckers News, 3200 Rice Mine Road, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406, and it might be featured in a future Great Outdoors section.

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