Oral Histories

Alan D. “Tug” Wilson


Q: Yeah, he’s got a good (?)

AW: He’s working with her. But anyway, that trip got my father much more interested and the whole reason he got interested in Canyonlands really was because it was the land between Arches and Natural Bridges were about 120 miles apart. He just couldn’t bear having 120 miles of beautiful land in between and not going into it.

Q: Was he aware at that time of that Escalante National Monument proposal?

AW: I don’t know. I kind of doubt it.

Q: That’s the gut feeling I got because (?) I didn’t know about it at the time. I don’t think we even had (?)

AW: That was by Fredrick Olmsted who made that proposal. Olmsted, the great Park designer/landscape architect. He designed Central Park and many other city parks all over the country.

Q: Yeah, but it was one of our Park Service people in the regional office that had been involved in that.

AW: But I think Olmsted proposed it as a grand plan of parks. .

Q: Could be.

AW: But anyway, what happened then in March of 1950, father’s cousin named Robert Deckert, who was a world-traveled famous lawyer in maritime law, he wrote the law for the maritime industry, ship industry. He has a very large firm in Philadelphia. It still exists, Deckert, Rhoads and something else. He always liked to go to new places. By the time he came to someplace new, he knew more about it than anyone who lived there. I’ll give you a short excerpt of how knowledgeable he was. When we were at El Morro, he was very fascinated by the Spanish inscriptions. He came very frequently (once a year) to El Morro but we were only there 3 years, 3 ½ years. One of his trips he brought a book by Simpson and Kern who were two explorers of the Louis and Clark General Expedition series. This was a book which was done in 1849 or thereabouts in which there was no photography. They didn’t use photos, they made sketches of the inscriptions at El Morro, so you saw them before graffiti and before most other people. There was one inscription which is kind of interesting. This inscription had lines drawn through it. It’s on the north face and it had a number of lines drawn through at certain passages in the Spanish inscription. My father was given this book by Robert Deckert, who had found it in a used book shop because he knew of the western explorations done under the name of Lewis and Clark and he also knew each trip was written up. . We didn’t, the Park Service, as far as I know, didn’t know anything about it. Deckert found it in some rare bookstore and knew it was unique and here was this inscription with lines drawn through it in 1849. That’s before the main graffiti started with the gold rush. So, a Spanish professor from Spain came sometime after that and my father always guided everybody around El Morro and they got to this one inscription. My father asked him something about “Well someone has defaced this”. He said “Oh no. You see this inscription over here. This guy was a contemporary of this one and they had a feud. So this man is editing, he did not do what he said he did.” That was recorded in the Simpson and Kern book. So Deckert was a person of great depth of knowledge, not superficial. Back to the exploration of the Needles. Dad told Robert about the Needles and the trip the Garners had made. Bob, as we called him, want to go and explore the area but mostly he wanted to help Bates do that. Financial help. The Park Service was not about to fund a trip. So, he paid Ross Musselman for myself and my father and a couple of cowpunchers to go into the Needles. We went on a two week horseback trip in March and I know it was March which I’ll tell you at the end of this. Anyway, the first day we left Dugout Ranch.

Q: Where you started?

AW: We started at Dugout Ranch. At the first crossing of Indian Creek, basically the horses gave out. My father was extremely upset with Ross Musselman. He had not grained them, just brought them off the winter range. The horses were in poor shape for the long Needles trip.

Q: Oh, these were Ross’s horses?

AW: These were Ross’s horses. Ross was doing the complete outfitting. That’s the last time anyone ever did the outfitting for us. There was Deckert who loved his great big lawyer meals and this food was absolutely non-existent and atrocious. To make a long story short, we eventually got up to Squaw a day late. We had a great trip although the horses were poor, the horses broke out of their hobbles, the horse wranglers had to track them back to the drift fence near Dugout Ranch….a long walk back. . Everything got messed up, the beans got covered with sand because Musselman didn’t put the lid on the Dutch oven tight the day we rode to the Confluence. We began the ride out going up Salt Creek. What we didn’t know at the time of this trip was that the cowpuncher and Ross himself did not know where the trail led out of upper Salt. Also, I was always puzzled by the fact Ross did not show us Angel Arch. Perhaps he did not know of it. We just passed it by late one afternoon. We did not know of it either.

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