WHO WHALE WAS
By Brad Dimock
Curtis Hansen came to Hatch River Expeditions in the late ’60s and became both a boatman and an institution. During one wild run of Upset Rapid, portly Curt—who had hiked in to join the trip at Deer Creek on a hot summer day and quenched his thirst with whiskey—tumbled overboard and washed ashore comatose. And someone said “Look—a beached whale.” From that time on, few ever heard the name Curt Hansen again—he was Whale. Of course some say it happened in Deubendorf. He was wearing, as the story goes, a poncho. No life jacket. Some say he was naked…
Yes, he had vices—he smoked, he drank, his weight fluctuated from the trim Killer Whale to the giant Sperm Whale. From a boyhood in southern Idaho potato country, Whale had gone to Vietnam and served as a door-gunner on a helicopter. Demons that climbed on his back over there would resurface throughout his life. He had ulcers and his health was sometimes a concern to his friends. And there were many, many friends. No matter how much he might irritate you at times, you could not help but love the man.
Because he had so much love in him. He loved his garden, his goldfish, his friends, and, most especially, the ladies. His big heart had a big lap and a big shoulder nearby. Few ever heard him say a bad word about anyone.
You didn’t have to know him too long, though, before you realized he was a heavy hitter. He was capable of anything. And one thing was certain—Whale didn’t do anything he didn’t want to do. He was his own man and no one—no one—made his decisions for him.
Late in the summer of 1995, Whale decided to clean up his act, take care of his health, get a real job, and become a 90s kind of guy. But a rock none of his friends ever saw got in the way of his run. As August was ending, Whale went to the woods and laid himself to rest. He left without a goodbye and left more shocked and saddened friends than can be counted. Although we will all miss his physical presence dearly for a long time, his spirit and soul live on, permeating the Canyon, the Mountain, and his friends.
Whale, thanks for your time with us, your love, and the sparkle in your eye.
Rest now, Whaler. Rest in peace.