The Pilot’s Wife

Two Youths, a Woman, and a Long Drop

By Billy Jim Wilson

For years, the Riggins airport east of town, across the main Salmon River, was accessed by a swinging bridge at the end of a short street in the middle of town that went about halfway down the riverbank.

The cables were put up by Charles Clay in 1905 and the flooring material was added in 1913. In the early- to mid-1940s, when Riggins hosted a rodeo in the airport area for two or three years, truckloads of horses used the bridge.

On May 31, 1956, an article written by my mother, Murrielle Wilson, appeared on page one of the Idaho County Free Press. “Thursday morning at 9:05, the swinging bridge across the main Salmon gave up the battle with the raging river, and fell in,” she reported. After the winter of 1955-56, the high waters of spring had finally done in the old bridge.

The Tuesday morning following the bridge loss was a mild spring day. I had been laid off from my job at the Salmon River Lumber Company, where I’d been working as a planer while waiting for the draft to take me into the U.S. Army. Having volunteered in order to speed up the process, I was expecting to be called soon. In those days, every male had to serve. I had dropped out of college, so figured I might just as well get it over with.

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Billy Jim Wilson

About Billy Jim Wilson

Billy Jim Wilson was born in Oregon in 1936, and moved with his family to Riggins in 1939. He went to high school in Riggins, attended the University of Idaho, and graduated from Idaho State University in 1969. He earned a Master of Library Science degree in 1970, and was director of the Coeur d’Alene Public Library from 1970 through 1978. He then worked at Boise Public Library as a reference librarian until retiring in 1998. His wife of more than a half-century is Mary Alice Wilson.

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