A young Chris Cannon found himself camped out at the edge of a mosquito-infested lake on another of his father's now-famous excursions.
Cannon found the trek to the lake almost more than he could handle. He told his father he wasn't going to finish the trip. He was going to stay put. His father told Cannon he'd see him later then. Faced with the prospect of being alone in the wilderness, the boy moved along.These are the same Cannons who toted signs in the early 1960s reading "We hike for Ike" during a 52-mile march in honor of then recently retired President Dwight D. Eisenhower. These are the Cannons who biked from their San Fernando Valley, Calif., home to New York for the 1965 World's Fair when Cannon was a teenager.
And instead of riding or taking the bus back home, Cannon's father made him and his older brother, Joe, hitchhike across America. It went without incident until a police officer near Cedar City pulled over the car they were riding in because the three other occupants were suspected of robbery and murder in Wisconsin.
The 3rd Congressional District candidate said he learned a couple of lessons from those days on the trail: Almost anything you do that is new is difficult and always know where you are.
Cannon, a Republican seeking elected office for the first time, knows where he's been, even if he can't say for certain where he is right now. He said he's lived the past 16 years since graduating from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School in four-year increments.
He practiced law in Provo followed by four eye-opening years as an associate and deputy solicitor in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Then he spent some turbulent years reopening Geneva Steel with his older brother, leaving after a dispute over the direction of the company. Since 1989 Cannon has owned a venture capital firm in Salt Lake City.
Although Cannon is a first-time candidate, he's well-heeled in Republican politics. He has been a regular contributor to congressional and presidential campaigns, especially in 1992 when he gave money to six GOP candidates. Cannon also was former presidential candidate Lamar Alexander's leadfund-raiser in the West.
Cannon, 46, said his formative years were spent in Washington, D.C. He was somewhat disillusioned after attending his first congressional hearing.
"I came back and said to my boss, `These people are idiots,' " he said.
And now he wants to become one. Not an idiot, but a congressman.
Cannon's basically running because he wants to turn more government power over to the states, something he said he had a hand in while revamping surface coal mining issues in the Department of the Interior. He considers himself a Reagan Republican.
Cannon started to sour on law and the Beltway mode of operation near the end of his appointment until he was terminated from the department in 1986. He said he was fired for submitting a glowing evaluation on a deputy solicitor the department had no intention of promoting.
Speaking of firing, Cannon says, that wasn't the only time he was asked to leave a job. He was canned as Spanish instructor from the LDS Language Training Mission after returning from a mission in Guatemala. He was also fired from a law firm he worked for as a young man.
Cannon called his mid-1980s days in Washington a period of "deep, deep conflict" because of all the litigation the department was involved in. He said he's tried to distance himself from the courts since.
"I gave it up in 1990," he said.
That was about the same time he sued his brother, Joe, a former senatorial candidate, after disagreeing with him and others on the direction of Geneva Steel. Cannon left the company and sold all his stock. The pair settled the lawsuit, but it was only in the past year or so that they worked out their personal differences. Their relationship continues to improve.
"It's pretty good right now. Joe gave the maximum contribution to my campaign," Cannon said.
Even though Cannon tries to avoid court battles, he has a dozen or so lawsuits pending. Most have to do with his venture capital firm, Cannon Industries. Former employees are suing him for more compensation in a business venture. There's a dispute over the repossession of some equipment. There's a fight over the method of payment in another business deal.
Cannon, whose bar membership has lapsed, lets his attorneys handle it all.
Cannon Industries has made Cannon a rich man the past few years. His handsomely decorated offices occupy the top floor of a Salt Lake high-rise. His net worth is about $6 million. He plans to spend about $750,000 in the campaign, much of it his own money.
A fast talker, whether it's business or politics, Cannon can leave a listener in the dust as facts and stories tumble from his mouth. He said he's learning to speak more slowly.
One thing that he's not working on - as some detractors have suggested he do - is his temper. He scoffs when told some think he's being coached to stay under control. There's no question he becomes frustrated when people, like his GOP opponent, say things he doesn't think are correct. His animated, sometimes pulpit-pounding style could be perceived as anger.
"In my whole business life, I probably yelled at two people in my office," he said. "Getting excited is different than losing your temper."
Cannon, who lives in a million-dollar home in Mapleton, wants to dispel the notion that he was born into money. His father was never a financial success. Cannon put in long hours to get where he is, sometimes at the expense of his family. He and his wife, Claudia, are the parents of seven children.
"I would have liked to spend more time with my kids. No doubt about it," he says with a tinge of regret. Only recently has he made a concerted effort to make it to Little League games and piano recitals.
"Sometimes my kids say we should do more things like my father did," he said. But biking across the country or hiking through the back country isn't Cannon's idea of fun. He's been there, done that.
Maybe running for Congress is adventure enough.
Cannon and Tom Draschil vie in the June 25 primary, seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah. A profile of Draschil was published Saturday.