Oral Histories

Alan D. “Tug” Wilson


Q: J. Riley?

AW: J. Wiley Redd. I recall his name as Wiley Redd.

Q: And his wife?

AW: And his wife. Fairly large wife.

Q: She was the one that kept telling your dad she’d sealed herself to him for in the hereafter.

AW: Celestial Kingdom.

Q: She was a good Mormon gal.

AW: Mormon then and in the hereafter.

Q: Your dad was worried about that, too. Nobody and everybody’s quite sure about that.

AW: Mrs. Redd was very tactical. She pointed out that at Arches there were the three permanent people, Merle, Earl, and dad and that if they took a quarter each of their salary and put it away then John Riley could have a salary during the winter months. She thought that was how it should be. Not sure the others thought that would be a good idea.

Q: He was just the local rancher, wasn’t he, local cowboy type?

AW: He had been a miner, too. A miner, jack of all, like most of them. He lived in this half wood, half tent house during the summer. The road, by the way, was really terrible coming off of the Bears Ears. I think we headed out of Monticello into the Blue Mountains where the mountain road wandered around a lot as it headed many rough canyons like Arch Canyon. If it was raining a day in the mountains we were stuck.

Q: I remember coming through there. I only took that road once and you go out west out of Blanding, almost due west and climb up on top. I know where that was just before you got to the Bears Ears and went down off into the White Canyon area. The ruts were about 2 ½ feet deep in the road. Somebody’d been through there. I was happy that we didn’t have to go that way. In the wintertime there was snow up there. Right?

AW: Oh yeah.

Q: Was Bridges open in the winter?

AW: No. Bridges was not open except a limited time in the summer. We hauled water but I don’t remember where we hauled it from. It may have come from Fry canyon, a bit more west on Highway 95.

Q: Maybe from later on we got it in Fry Canyon.

AW: I don’t remember. I remember having to slide a big 500 or so gallon tank into the back of the pickup. It was sitting on a pinyon sort of stand and juggled this thing into the back of the truck and the spigot was on the wrong end so we had to reverse the tank. When we took it out we had to rotate the tank. Not sure why but maybe the spigot went below the bed of the truck so you could not slide it in without a rotation. . This was kind of rough to do and then we’d drive someplace, I don’t know where exactly it was, we’d fill it up and Father would put clorox in it and said “Well, that’ll keep em for the summer.” We’d never come back to refill the tank…presume one 500 gallon load was sufficient for the ranger and the few visitors that happened by.

Q: With no trailer?

AW: No trailer. The ranger juggled this 500 gallon tank, loaded, out of the pickup. Remember, the park service in the days after the war in very poor shape money, equipment-wise, etc.

Q:And you had an outhouse?

AW: Sort of an outhouse but it was all rock, you know. The ranger had it built.

Q: It was down there facing Owachomo.

AW: Yeah, it had a nice view.

Q: It was also on BLM land.

AW: Yeah. It wasn’t Park Service land.

Q: You told me last night that you put up the radio. I’d forgotten that they had a radio down there.

AW: Well, I think at the end of the war they (Arches) got a lot of surplus equipment, some Koller generators and some Collins Navy radios. The radios were shiny black. They had dynamometers with them, Dyna motors to generate the high voltages and operated off 12 or 24 volt battery The radios and power supplies were beautiful units. I was sort of a ham radio operator. The Park Service guy who came to back me up had a little antenna that stood straight up. It did not work very well.

So I got my radio amateur’s handbook and designed a quarter wavelength dipole antenna and strung it on two very tall poles at Arches and at Natural Bridges. They worked fantastic. However, to make radios work well, you need a good earth ground connection. One of the key things I thought I wanted was a solid ground. You need the ground to transmit efficiently. The biggest best ground I’ve ever found was the roots of the pinyon tree right next to the ranger cabin. In the past they had not grounded the radio because the cabin sat on slick rock so it didn’t have a good earth ground . My tree ground at Bridges must have hit water via the tree roots. I drove a large spike into the tree and connected the radio ground to the spike.

Q: No moisture?

AW: No moisture. The roots of the pinyon was a good ground.

Q: I’ll be darned. That was the radio system for the intercommunication between Arches and Natural Bridges when the ranger was down there?

AW: The frequency was 5150 kilohertz if I recall correctly. It’s very hard to get out of the valley there at Arches Headquarters with a radio signal. If we could have put it (the antenna) up on the rim we could have broadcast to the whole Southwest region. Because the location of the cabin at Bridges was on a high plateau, the radio at Bridges could communicate anywhere because it was relatively high and with a good antenna and ground.

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