While researching public art in Pateros, I came across a mention of a “salmon fishing dog” perched atop a rock in the Columbia River. Curiosity piqued; I asked a friend for details. Crystal Miller happily told me where to look for the dog, and sent an image of an archived article printed May 11, 1995, by the Quad City Herald. The article was an interview with Richard Beyer, the creator of the community icon, “Joe Billy Sloan, the Salmon Fishing Dog”
According to Beyer, Joe Billy Sloan was a local fishing dog renowned for his salmon hunting abilities. “He was not a dog of refined habits and people didn’t think much of him until he showed a talent to hold the steelhead on point. He was soon famous locally and then nationally; Fishermen came from all over and we rented the dog out by the hour on their boats,” Beyer wrote to the Quad City Herald.
Rebecca Meadows recalled that the dog would stand at the front of a fisherman’s boat and point at the fish. When Beyer created the sculpture of the dog, Rebecca said it was a huge town event. People headed out in boats to place the statue upon a rock outcropping in the Columbia River. The Pateros Chamber printed postcards to memorialize Joe Billy Sloan, the salmon fishing dog.
Beyer’s creative figures are found throughout the region, each one reflecting the surrounding communities and folklore. One of his pieces sits in front of the Pateros School, showing a town under water — the story of the original townsite now below the swimming fishes of the Columbia River. On the Arts Washington website, Richard is quoted as saying, “Sculpture should be in every nook and cranny where people live, to tell them about themselves.” He came to Pateros in 1988 to open a foundry in which to cast his aluminum sculptures. He passed away in 2012. Today, the Beyer Foundry is owned and operated by artist Steve Love.
Joe Billy Sloan the Salmon Fishing Dog can be seen by boat when traveling one mile south of the Methow River confluence. Land lubbers can view the sculpture with a strong pair of binoculars. From the intersection of Starr Road and Highway 97, look towards a group of rocks in the river near a copse of deciduous and evergreens along the shore. Joe Billy Sloan stands out atop one of the larger rocks — an outstretched paw ending in a human hand pointing with a chubby index finger.