You Fix It, You Drive It

Better Learn to Drive, Though

By Billy Jim Wilson

Early in life I began to show an aptitude for mechanics, obviously inherited from my father, who was very talented with mechanical things. My mother liked to tell the story about the summer I was two and we were at Hat Point Fire Lookout over Hells Canyon. I had a little red wagon and had learned to dismantle it with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. The ranger showed up one day, stopped at the cabin where we were living, and saw me with my wagon taken apart. So he took up the screwdriver and pliers and tightened every screw and bolt on the wagon, and then went up to the tower where Dad was. When he came back an hour or so later, there I was with the wagon dismantled again. He threw up his hands and drove off.

My family moved out of the Hells Canyon area to Riggins in the spring of 1939, a month after I turned three years old. One Sunday afternoon of the next year, after I turned four, the Kelly family came by to visit. Lucille had been a friend of my mother since they were very young, and their second child was a boy my age, named Jim after his father. Jimmy and I went north with my brother Pete to a big field with many large rocks to play on. At one end of the field was a derelict car body. I had brought along a screwdriver and pliers and a couple of wrenches. We had fun removing whatever bolts and screws we could get loose. When we went back to our house, Mr. Kelly asked what we’d been doing.

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