David Austin Riggs


We met in February, 1994. I had been single for five years and he had never married. I was on staff as a guide for a Houston-based company that offered canoe and raft trips and he had tons of experience but here, he was a new guy, just taking his wilderness first aid exam. He was nervous and shy and I was his “victim”, his virtual reality for a medical emergency in a “wilderness” setting. I was a lightning strike victim. So, he was destined to be my hero.

With my eyes closed (I’m unconcious, you see), I slipped him and his helper little bits of paper with my vital signs either improving (YAY!) or not (oh no!) He pulled my hair, he put the cervical collar on me backward, he shoved his pudgy, gloved (Thank you, Jesus!) fingers down my throat in an effort to “clear my airway” … but all the while, he was gentle (mostly) and kind (always) and considerate (to the max). At one point he said to his friend, “Man, when this is over, I gotta buy this girl a beer!” And I said (never opening my eyes) “No. When this is over, you gotta buy this girl a PITCHER of Margaritas!”

My imaginary vitals stabilized and I was packaged for transport but not before our beloved leader decided to send a “rainstorm” (in FEBRUARY?) to wet us all down and hopefully speed up the process. It was only after the medics dropped me off in front of the boathouse where the other students/guides were gathered for a briefing that I dared to look and see who it was treating me. When he realized that I couldn’t move a muscle – seriously – he came and unwrapped me, went to find me a jacket because I was cold and wet and brought me a bottle of water. SWOON.

I’m such a sucker for kindness.

We enjoyed a couple of years as fellow guides canoeing rivers in Texas. And enjoyed countless hours laughing under the moon and stars of Big Bend.  We shared stories and Tecate beer on a weir dam on the Pecos and explored canyons and caves and rock art.  We were buddies for a couple of years before we finally gave into the fact that there was more to us.

We married in November of 2004.

He has lived with me thru teenagers: car crashes, going off to school, growing pains. Through cancer: dressing my wounds, holding me when I cried, making me laugh when I didn’t want to and supporting all my manic behavior through chemo, radiation and five surgeries. He pulled up my underwear when I couldn’t. That’s LOVE. We’ve lost our parents. We’ve been blessed with beautiful grandbabies. We’ve laughed – a lot.

And he’s still here.

I guess maybe that was a lucky lightning strike, after all.


Darlene & Dave
Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend
Rio Grande, Texas

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