The Arkansas River, heart and soul of Salida, Colorado, fuels the small town’s economy and thrums in the blood of river ranger Mandy Tanner. When a whitewater rafting accident occurs, she deftly executes a rescue, but a man dies anyway. Turns out, it wasn’t the rapids that killed him—it was murder. Tom King was a rich land developer with bitter business rivals, who cheated on his wife, refused to support his kayak-obsessed son, and infuriated environmentalists. Mandy’s world is upended again when tragedy strikes closer to home. Suspicious that the most recent death is connected to Tom King’s murder, she goes on an emotionally turbulent quest for the truth—and ends up in dangerous waters.
An Interview with Mandy Tanner
Mandy Tanner is the 27-year-old whitewater river ranger protagonist of Deadly Currents, the first book in Beth Groundwater’s RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series. She’s agreed to be interviewed today, and to answer questions from Meanderings and Musings readers, but she’s a little nervous because she doesn’t have much media experience. Let’s make her feel welcome!
1. Hello, Mandy. Please tell us how you ended up becoming a whitewater river ranger.
Well, first, I fell in love with whitewater rafting. When I lived with my parents in Colorado Springs, they used to drive my brother, David, and me to Salida on summer weekends. We’d sack out at my Uncle Bill’s house and take rafting trips down the Arkansas River from his outfitter company. Riding the waves was such a blast that I couldn’t wait to start working as a rafting guide myself. After I started high school, I spent the summers with Uncle Bill and worked for him, doing odd jobs and soaking up as much knowledge as I could from the guides. I thought they were the coolest dudes around, and I wanted to be one of them!
Then my parents died in a car crash two months before I started my senior year in high school, when I was still 17. David was going into his junior year of college and couldn’t really be my guardian. Since I was already living with Uncle Bill that summer, I just stayed and finished high school in Salida. And he helped me get through the grieving. Then I started guiding for Uncle Bill’s company and taking classes for my associate's degree in Outdoor Education at Colorado Mountain College in Buena Vista. During the winters, I’m a ski patroller at Monarch Mountain.
I loved being a rafting guide, working outside every day and getting uptight city tourists to whoop it up by taking them for roller coaster rides on roaring rapids (like the one in the photo below). And doing goofball things to make them laugh, like starting water fights with the other rafts or having a dumbest joke competition on the slow sections. I needed to get out on my own, though. A few years ago, I moved into a cute little rental house, but the money I made guiding in the summer and patrolling in the winter wasn’t enough to pay the bills. And, I was itching to prove myself, to tackle some challenge that Uncle Bill didn’t already know everything about. So, I applied to be a seasonal river ranger.
2. This is your first season working as a whitewater river ranger. What do you think of it so far?
All the training was pretty easy for me, since I already knew a lot of that stuff from being a river guide. And I know every section of the river like the back of my hand, from running them so many times at different water levels. The rest of the rangers are a cool bunch, and my boss, Steve Hadley, is great to work for and really supportive. I think he’s a lot like Stew Pappenfort, the Senior Ranger of the AHRA (Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area), who Beth Groundwater used as an expert when she wrote my story. A picture of Stew giving some training is below.
The only thing I don’t like is the paperwork, but none of the rangers like that! Even though I enjoy the work and the people, I’m still nervous about taking on all that new responsibility. I’d only been a ranger for a couple of weeks when I had to rescue Hannah Fowler and Tom King. My heart was like, doing a drum solo in my chest.
Then Mister King died on me.
3. How do you feel about that?
Majorly bummed. Even though people keep telling me his death wasn’t my fault, I still keep thinking that if I’d done something different, he might still be alive. And I feel guilty about the effect on Uncle Bill’s business. See, Hannah and Mister King were riding in one of Uncle Bill’s rafts when it flipped in the Numbers Four rapid. I still don’t understand how Gonzo let that happen. He’s one of Uncle Bill’s best guides, and he knows the Numbers like an old milk cow knows the path to the barn. But anyway, word got out, and customers are canceling their trips with Uncle Bill, thinking Tom King’s death is his fault. But it’s not.
If anything, it’s mine.
4. You mentioned your parents are no longer living. Who are the important people in your life now?
Of course there’s Uncle Bill, and my brother, David. He works as an accountant in Colorado Springs, but we still try to see each other fairly often. Then there’s my boyfriend Rob Juarez. He’s got his own outfitting company, and he’s a real hunk. Man, does he fill out a pair of jeans, and I love it when he makes the standing waves tattooed on his biceps dance. The only problem is that we’ve only been dating for three months, and he already wants to take care of me. But I don’t want that, I like taking care of myself.
I’ve got a lot of friends here, too, “river rats” like myself, who are guides or rangers. And my best friend, Cynthia Abbott, is a bartender at the Victoria Tavern, where we all like to hang out, drink a few beers, dance to rock and country bands, and play pool.
5. When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
I already told you about hanging out at the Vic. I like to go for runs or walks with my golden retriever, Lucky. Sometimes I’ll take my mountain bike out for a ride, and sometimes I’ll help Uncle Bill if he’s in a pinch. And, there’re always the chores you have to do when you have your own place. Things seem to have a way of breaking in my house, and the landlord’s no help. And I never miss FIBArk, the First in Boating on the Arkansas whitewater festival. It’s coming up soon, and along with doing my regular river ranger thing, I’m volunteering on my days off.
Thanks, Mandy! Okay, Meanderings and Musings readers, do you have a question for Mandy Tanner? What would you like to know about her? And feel free to ask a question of author Beth Groundwater, too. She’ll be monitoring the comments along with Mandy. Remember, everyone who comments will be entered into a contest for a free copy of Deadly Currents.
If you’d like to see what the other stops are on Beth Groundwater’s virtual book tour and what other characters in the book will be interviewed, go to: http://bethgroundwater.com/2011_Virtual_Book_Tour.html , and if you’d like to order an autographed copy of Deadly Currents, go to the website for Black Cat Books (http://manitoubooks.com/) and click on "Contact Us”. Either call the phone number or fill out the form with your contact information.