Oral Histories

Alan D. “Tug” Wilson


This interview was made about 10 years after the death of Bates E. Wilson.The update/editing of the transcribed tape was made Spring of 2003, again about 10 years after the tape was made.

Interview with Alan D. “Tug” Wilson of Moab, Utah on 30 August 1993. Interviewer is Lloyd Pierson


Q: We’re sitting here in beautiful downtown Spanish Valley with Alan D. Wilson. This is Lloyd Pierson speaking on 30th of August 1993 at 7:45 in the evening. We’re going to talk about the good old days. Last night I was very intrigued when you told me about the Tug Wilson Escort Service.

AW (Alan Wilson): Tours. Guide service.

Q: Yeah. You got here in 1949, you said?

AW: April, 1949.

Q: With dear old dad.

AW: With dear old dad. We came here, so I understood, to mitigate some of the problems with the Westwoods that were running cattle in Salt Valley [Arches National Monument] near Delicate. One of the reasons we came was he [Bates] was very good working with people… having been on a cattle ranch, to sort of ease them off the park in time. The other concerns my mother [Edie] was fed up with living at El Morro which she went to town at best four times a year, normally on the freeze.

Q: Yeah.

AW: As you know at Chaco. With a new daughter [age1] and an older daughter [~age5] and a son [13] she thought it was a good idea if we went to school. Not all of us agreed with that, though.

Q: You said you didn’t go to school when you got here, though. You went around with your dad.

AW: Well, there was a good thing about having not had much school at El Morro… when we came here, there wasn’t much sense going into the sixth grade near the end of the year with little prior 6th grade experience. So I spent the whole summer and spring with Father learning the area, along with him doing likewise. Moab area was much different than the other places Dad had worked…much more color, exposed rocks, canyons, a river, etc. Overall, my grammar school education was very spotty to say the least.

Q: What did the explorations consist of?

AW: We went everywhere you could go. Just to see what it was. It was all new and very curious. So anytime someone said there’s something to go see, we would get in the pickup and go see it.

Q: In the pickup? You didn’t have a Jeep?

AW: No. There were no or very few Jeeps then. I guess Merle Winbourn , the Arches maintenance man, had a Jeep. A little green Jeep but that was a very private vehicle. He came to work at 7:30 A.M. and left at 4:00 P.M.. As I recall the Jeep was parked in the shed and no one goes near it during the day. As far as I recall that was the only Jeep in Moab in the summer of 1949.

Q: There was no lingering. There was no obvious maintenance man.

AW: The staff consisted of Earl Worthington, and Merle. That was the whole full time staff. There may have been one seasonal ranger the first summer but I cannot recall the name. Dad (Bates) spent the whole spring and summer learning the area and I had the good fortune of following him around. Then my mother got the bright idea why don’t we put little 5 x 7 cards (which I think probably Bish Taylor printed) which said Tug Wilson Guide Service, 50 cents an hour. We probably did this around July of 1949.

Q: 50 cents an hour?

AW: 50 cents an hour.

Q: Did you make much money then?

AW: Yeah, I made money. Sure, there were a lot of people who wanted someone to guide them to things like the Mastodon, to guide them to Park Avenue. The entrance road did not switchback up behind the rock house in those days and it was quite a hike to Park Avenue. So I was often hired to carry their water, or their cameras to Double O or to Delicate or elsewhere as well as guide the clients. In those days it was quite primitive and the Moab area was very different compared to what visitors had experienced elsewhere. Also the visitors were probably 50+ . During these outings I perfected the ability to walk backwards on the trails and talk to the visitors I was guiding.

Q: You were 13 or 14 years old, you say?

AW: 13 and maybe into 14 the next summer. Couldn’t drive. You got a special license of some sort when you were 14 if, I think, you needed to drive to do your work. But that was the beginning of my keen interest in getting to know the area.

Q: Your dad took you down to the bottom of Natural Bridges.

AW: We went to Bridges.

Q: What was the road to Bridges? When I got here in ‘56 they’d already built the dugway down off Comb Ridge.

AW: The road to Bridges, as I recall, went up over, and I think they’re called the Blue Mountains, and I remember going near the Bears Ears. We often camped at a stream or spring just off of the pass and got water there because there was no water at Bridges, so there’s a stream or spring off of that hill, someplace near the pass. It was cool and we would camp there. By the way, one thing that I need to mention to the Park Service people, was that I can recall seeing from Bears Ears on many occasions, Shiprock bright and clear. Today (at least when I have been back) you can’t even begin to see it because of the air pollution. We would go down to Bridges and I think the ranger seasonal was John Wiley Redd.

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