Interview with Becky Brewer, Friends of Red River’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year, written by Laura Gregory, Red River Watershed Coordinator
L: How long have you been involved with Friends of Red River?
B: Since I think 2015 is when we done our first cleanup.
L: Why did you join Friends of Red River?
B: Well it actually started when just Donnie and I were just floating down the river and we thought, “This river is really nasty. It would be a lot more fun to float if it didn’t look so bad. So we thought well, we’ll try and clean it up.” So we kind of got the ball rolling thinking about how were going to clean it up and everything. And in the meantime, I don’t even know how me, Chris and Cody hooked up, but we did. They wanted to put some river accesses in. We wanted to clean the river. They were like, “Hey if you clean this area we might be able to get a river access put in if we show a little interest.” So Donnie and my plan initially was to start in the Gorge and work our way all the way to the end of the river, but we decided we’d start in Clay City so we could possibly get a river access point there. So that’s how it all started. Chris started the Facebook page then. We all just kinda joined together and we got the river clean in places and we eventually got a boat takeout too.
L: You’ve mentioned it also had to do with Russ Miller, right?
B: Yes! When Donnie and I decided we wanted to try and clean the river it was like, “How do you get this stuff out of the river? How do you get it down the river?” Cause you know you have to kayak the river. Of course I Googled it some and then people were telling me, “Yeah there’s a guy that cleans the upper Red River and his name’s Miller, Russ Miller.” So I just Googled it, found him on YouTube. So I thought, “Okay I’m going to try seeing if I can find him in the phone book.” I found him! And I called him. Of course it took me a while to get ahold of him because, you know, he doesn’t have his phone on all the time. When I did get ahold of him he was more than helpful. He said, “I have some duckies. You’re welcome to use them. Actually our very first cleanup we went and borrowed Russ’s duckies and done our clean up and took it back to him.
B: Russ was like, “How did you find me?” He did not know he was in the white pages!
L: Or on YouTube I’m sure!
B: It was actually a video of them cleaning the Upper Red. (Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m2a-2x5I_8 )
L: What is your favorite waterway?
B: Red River! Duh! … Who’s my favorite Coordinator? Laura Gregory!
L: Favorite memory?
B: I guess if I had to say… I don’t know if it would necessarily be my favorite memory… but when you see you’re work paying off it’s kinda like… we cleaned that Clay City Loop so many times and it was so bad, you know? But if you remember that list time we done it, it wasn’t as bad and it seemed like we seen more to life in the river. It was definitely better. When we saw that mussel, that great big mussel, it was like, “Hey, we didn’t see him last time because he had 20 tires on his head.” So, it’s a great feeling when you actually get to see (the river) looking good. Even if it takes two or three years… a thousand tires later, you gradually see it. But when you first picked that mussel up it was like, “You know, you don’t get to see this very often.” It was the first one we actually picked up on our clean up. We were like, “It’s not a tire!”
You know, when Donnie and I started we were just kayaking. But now I feel like I’ve made friends that have the same interests and all of us getting together is making a difference. You know, everybody does something different and it all helps out. Before we were just kayaking, picking up some trash. Now it’s like I feel like we’re moving the earth with all the people we have helping!
When you did the Wild & Scenic Red Riverfest I got to meet Josh Blaylock (NANFA). I’d never seen a Darter, I had no idea there was such beautiful fish in the Red River! There’s some pretty creepy ugly ones too but there are some really pretty fish in there. Why are we throwing tires on ‘em?! I think that the Wild & Scenic Red Riverfest, every year we have it, it’s going to get better. I kinda like having that fresh water fish tank too because it lets people see something they might have no idea is out there.
L: Favorite restaurant?
B: Sky Bridge Station
L: What other volunteering do you do? How long have you been involved in other groups?
B: Wolfe County Search & Rescue. 10 years. I guess that’s about it.
L: Well, that is extremely active group! Moreso than Friends of Red River, right? Because you’re always on call.
B: It keeps me very busy. It’s like all the time. Anytime of day or night. There’s been times when I’ve gone out on a search, get back home about 3 o’clock in the morning and I’m just like, “I might as well go ahead and get ready for work.” And just go on in to work. But I sleep really good when I get home that night.
L: What would you tell someone who wants to get more involved?
B: Just do it. There is no project too big. Just gotta take that first step.
L: How do you feel about the new Friends of Red River Volunteer of the Year award? (which Becky received at W&S RRiverfest)
B: That came out of left field. I feel like Laura Gregory should have gotten that one cause she totally kicks butt.
Becky is incredibly humble and hard working. Becky’s response to receiving the 2019 Friends of Red River Volunteer of the Year Award: “It’s not about getting an award. It’s about making a difference.”