Oral Histories

Alan D. “Tug” Wilson


Q: There’s a lot of archaeology. Old Ray Anderson and I worked, we guided up Courthouse and as far up the side canyons as we could. There was stuff in every one of them but not much. I remember the one thing we found was an arrow shaft in the wall of the canyons. Just there.

AW: Shot into the wall.

Q: Yeah, for some strange reason. The roads, of course, into Arches in the ‘50s were terrible.

AW: Right. Merle would load a dump truck by hand and on the clay he would put a load of gravel or sand, and on the sand he would put a load of clay! It was all done by #2 shovel. It was hard work.

Q: Yeah.

AW: It was really criminal.

Q: It was. I helped him load until we got that front end loader. It was, I don’t remember, it was a tractor with a front end loader on it.

AW: Like a Ford tractor.

Q: Yeah. When it came, this started about 1958 or 9. When he came in and said we had to get some extra tires to make it wider because it would tip over. I didn’t believe him. I went out and I was helping. I was loading. I ran over a rock about the size of a fist and Jesus, I had to bail out. I thought the thing was going to dump over on me. We got him the extra tires. He filled them up with water and antifreeze. That old guy, he was something else.

AW: Courthouse Wash used to flood a lot and every year in September there would be cars ruined by quicksand. I remember one time two things happened. One was we’d take my Jeep after a rainstorm like occurred in the LaSals today and we knew there would be a tourist in it. So, we drove out. I don’t know if you were with us or not this one time. We were coming down near Courthouse and here’s a cowboy walking up the road in his boots. My father, who sometimes said the wrong things, said “ What’d you do, shoot your horse?” I think he was a Westwood. He said “Yeah” and just kept walking. What had happened was he had gotten his new pickup which was a flatbed with a, I guess you call it a rail fence around it, and the truck went in and got on maybe a 30 or 45 degree angle and the horse drowned in his own fluids. He couldn’t stand up because the bed was on the downside.

Q: He shot the horse in the pickup?

AW: He shot him. The guy didn’t care about the truck, but he’d shot his horse. I have a picture of Merle with the grader. The grader’s blade, this is a couple days later, when we got it out, the blade of the grader was buried in two and a half feet of sand. There was a great big wrecker of Moab Transportation. This was a piece of iron and they must have had a cable ¾ inch in diameter. The wrecker is tied between the grader and this truck. After the water went out, that truck was held by a vacuum. The whole thing just got bent out of shape playing around with it. Another time there was a guy from New Jersey who had a four wheel drive Studebaker pickup. Studebaker made a four wheel drive and my father asked him “Why in the hell did you drive that truck into this when it’s in flood?” He looked at my father and he said “Superintendent, I did not know it was in flood.” A guy from New Jersey. For a guy living in the east streams always have water in them! So Dad changed the sign. The sign said “Do not cross when in a flood”. He changed the sign “Do not cross when any water is running” and not another car went in after that. The roads were terrible and they were rough and steep to get to the Windows or Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch was a good long drive.

Q: Yeah, it’s come a long way, baby, as they say. There’s a little station out at Willow Spring. I’ve been asked about a shack out by Willow Spring. Somewhere I got the impression that Hank Schmidt put it out there as a contact station. Do you know anything about it?

AW: I remember Willow Spring but I don’t remember a shack.

Q: You don’t remember a shack?

AW: There could have been.

Q: Another place they asked me about was where Ed Abbey’s trailer was.

AW: I know exactly where his trailer was.

Q: Yeah, I do too. Within 25 feet I’d tell them. The kids come in, believe it or not, the kids come into the park want to know where Ed Abbey’s trailer was. Where he dreamed up Desert Solitaire. I believe that in the last edition, the 25th edition…..

AW: He put the real names in.

Q: Yeah. I thought maybe your dad would sue him. Maybe your dad had passed away by then.

AW: Could have.

Q: I should have sued him. Naw, that was fantastic. Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground, a lot of years. It’s amazing.

AW: I wonder if it’d been better if it wasn’t made a park.

Q: Well, give or take, there are still places both with Canyonlands and Arches, but I have my favorite places I go to that I can enjoy just almost as much as going through the Needles or up on the Island in the Sky. You know, you don’t have to be awful hard hearted not to (?). Besides, if it hadn’t been your dad it’d had been somebody else. God only knows, it might have been somebody more mercenary and wanted to have fancy…

AW: Hyatt Park

Q: What?

AW: Hyatt Park

Q: Yeah and wanted to have a chalet on the edge of …

AW: The Confluence.

Q: The Confluence, yeah. We talked about stuff like that. But your dad was very practical. He didn’t want to have anything to do with concessions. I don’t know whether he’d had concessions any place he’d worked previous.

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