Oral Histories

Alan D. “Tug” Wilson


Q: Did you get into the Orange Cliffs?

AW: No.

Q: That area?

AW: No.

Q: But you were out into what they call Island in the Sky now.

AW: Yes, we called it Grandview point. We use to go there as Scouts and camp out and hike around the rims.

Q: I bet you took lots of trips out in there.

AW: Our scouts did that first backpacking trip at Upheaval Dome. Dad dropped us off out of the back of the pickup and he came back four days later and picked us up. Also I used to guide visitors to Grandview. The road was more or less a sand lot and you needed to know how to drive it and not get stuck. I would often drive the visitor’s car through the sand.

Q: Then you went down into it?

AW: We hiked all around it as best we could.

Q: How about the White Rim? Did you go out on the White Rim?

AW: Limited. We did go down off of Shafer Trail before you could even turn on the switchback. We had to back the Jeep down one switchback. I did take one visitor group out to the land between the rivers,down a shelf mine road and we hiked way out between the rivers.

Q: You had to back up?

AW: Yeah, we had to back up. There was not enough room to make the turn.

Q: Yeah, I understand.

AW: It was very difficult. But I only went. I was the only one who had a Jeep full time.

Q: Yeah. You were the rich kid.

AW: I was a rich kid….compared to some others. I used my savings from working to pay for college and later graduate school.

Q: In three years you had already, from ‘49 to ‘52, two vehicles…a car and a used Jeep.

AW: That was my first Jeep and then I bought my brand new one in ‘54 when I staked nine uranium claims and sold them for $200 apiece. There have been questions and or jokes about my Jeeps, the park service, etc. Fact is that my Jeeps, the used ’48 and later the new ‘54 CJ3B, were used by the Arches staff to rescue folks since Arches did not have any 4WD vehicles. I guess I “loaned them” to dad.

Q: Where’d you stake them, out in the future park?

AW: I staked them out near Klondike Bluffs, out of the Monument, and there was a very good pocket of ore. The guy did one round and that was it. He got one truckload. But you never know. The Morrison Formation is probably where a whole bunch of dinosaur tracks along with it.

Q: Yeah, he probably tore that up. God only knows what else out there.

AW: But the mining interest was always opposed. The oil, too, by then. Not only the mining but oil. The oil was probably more powerful in the very early ‘50s than mining.

There was a well drilled down in the Needles near Squaw Park when I went through there in ‘56-’58, in October or so. Yeah, they were all over the place like a wet blanket, too.

Q: Did you do much out in the Arches since you spent all your time down in the Needles?

AW: We only spent two or three weeks a year in the Needles. We spent a lot of time hiking Arches. I guided a lot of tourists.

Q: Up into the Arches?

AW: In the Arches. In fact, I found one. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, in Courthouse Wash. There’s in a fin on the southern exposure, (it’s the north side of the wash, there’s a fin that runs out and it has, about 75-100 feet up, a tunnel that runs through the fin. A cave. It runs, tunneled all the way through. It must be 150 feet through. Right on a seam line that’s about five feet high. I used to go horseback riding in Courthouse.

Q: Up the Courthouse?

AW: We had Smoky. Well, actually the name was Ruins. We called the horse “Ruins.” You know the story, McKinney’s horse.

Q: Yeah. You had him up here?

AW: Yeah. He was here. In fact, Dad gave him back to McKinney, I think. .

Q: When McKinney transferred up here he brought the damn horse?

AW: Correct.

Q: I thought the Indians ate him. That’s the story I got.

AW: You know the story of Ruins, how he got the name Ruins?

Q: Yeah. I know the story of Ruins.

AW: When McKinney finally, when the horse got a little old, and that horse was a great thing. I could ride in Courthouse and definitely that horse was raised in Chaco because anytime you came to an arroyo he would jump it. He was the most motley looking horse but he loved to jump arroyos. I remember riding him in Courthouse a lot. I explored Courthouse from one end to the other on horseback.

Q: Did you go up the side canyons?

AW: As much as we could, yes. We found a still.

Q: You did?

AW: Yeah, an old still. In one of the canyons not too far from Sleepy Hollow. We used to go swimming up there.

Q: Way up there. That’s up beyond the bridge.

AW: This cave was not very far up from the bridge. I could show you some day. It’s a tunnel, rather. We also camped. The scouts, we camped at the Windows section. We scared the holy hell out of a bunch of tourists one night. We used to camp there and we made these great big bear tracks, Bob Robertson and I. We started talking loud about it and these people packed up and left. They got so scared. We camped in Devil’s Garden, too.

Q: Did you hear there’s a story about a mummy or mummies or burials coming out of a cave high on the east wall just above the mouth of Courthouse?

AW: I don’t know anything about that, no.

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