If you don’t want to read of someone’s passing, someone most of you never came in contact with, then you don’t need to read on. I understand. On the other hand, I’ve done this before, done this too often even; a sad outcome of getting older and facing cold actuarial facts.
So it goes that another good friend and a good friend of this paper is no longer with us. Just as I was in awe of Craig Crowther, I was equally shocked to see his wild smile one last time as pictured in a Salt Lake Tribune obituary. You’ve had that experience yourself, certainly. Coffee in one hand, maybe a smoke or a donut in the other, casually turning the pages, then wham! And you read on knowing it can’t be true but it is. And it was. Craig Crowther, of all people, dead and gone.
I met Craig over 20 years ago when I was tending bar at Club 90. Craig owned Wasatch Printing in Sandy at the time and had one hell of an account balance at the club since he often did work for it. He would come in with Brian, Kevin and the rest of his merry prankster staff to cajole and laugh the night away. He was an easy guy to take a liking to and was clearly the team leader.
At first, I knew him as just a regular guy. Gradually I got to know him as a poet, a musician, an entrepreneur, a Vietnam veteran, a husband, a father, an adventurer, a river runner, a prankster and a lover of all things environmental. Before this paper became a newspaper, Craig the entrepreneur taught me about typesetting and graphic layout. Craig the poet taught me to put down on paper just exactly what I felt. Craig the adventurer taught me not to be afraid if someone doesn’t like it, but to do it again and again and again. Craig the musician taught me to play guitar.
I was watching on TV the last time I saw him play during a rally opposing the war in Iraq. Not bad for a guy who spent a year in the Iron Triangle of Vietnam, in Ben Cat, where he could see firsthand the world’s most prolific display of disregard for people and vegetation—the Iron Triangle had more bombs and more Agent Orange dropped on it than anywhere else in Vietnam. My own belief is that being such a witness helped shape Craig’s activism and environmental concern.
As a member of the Smith Brothers Dirt Band, the Craig Crowther Band and, most recently, the Cowdaddies, Craig was instrumental in making sure the art of storytelling, song and Western lore lives on. His son Josh formed his own band, Elbo Finn, and now plies his trade in Portland. Craig was also one of Utah’s finest poets, an associate of Bukowski, a teller of tales like no other. He put me in one of the poems in his book, Desperate Men, Desperate Times. I’m the bartender.
I saw Craig a few months ago at Lumpy’s. We talked and laughed, and he said he had damn near quit smoking. He wanted to write travelogues for us, but he died first, his hum finally silenced.