My Life in a Nutshell
Born on a mountain top in Tennessee……No that was Davy Crockett; it was a dark and stormy night……I couldn’t tell you cause I was just a baby. See writing my life story has always been a challenge, I get through the first sentence or make it through the first paragraph and it all falls apart, but let me try again.
I wasn’t born in a spud field in Idaho although I spent quite a bit of time there as a kid. I was born in Mercy Hospital in Nampa, Idaho back in ’49, almost before it was a hospital. Doctor Kellogg delivered all four of us Wilson boys.
Mom, Janet, was so young that when we went to town everyone thought she was the babysitter (she was that too). She married dad, Joe Sr., at 14 (he wasn’t dad yet). When I (Joe Jr.) came along she was 15 and now a dad, he was 21. He was dad 3 more times for brothers Jesse, Johnnie and Jerry.
We lived on Grandpa David & Grandma Agnes Wilson’s farm when I was born, but moved into the “Hilton” in Homedale. In fact it was a converted chicken coop, on the ditch bank. It had a bedroom for us, a living area with kitchen and I believe it had an outhouse none of it is there anymore (the “Hilton”), but the ditch bank isn’t quite as deep as I remembered. I use to ride a 2 wheel bike to first grade. I must have been a little tyke to fit on that little bike. Everyone use to watch me ride by (so they told me). I remember spending a Christmas there and something about a little electric train with a circle track. I don’t want to talk about the colt we all decided to ride literally to death, so sad.
We moved around some and at one point lived on a farm outside of Wilder. The farm is still there just around the corner is Aunt LuAnn and Uncle Kenny Burton’s place now. Kenny went with me one time to drive by the farm. The house is still there, but most everything else has changed. Gone is the corral where dad and Slim use to break horses. No they didn’t put them over their knee and break them, but tamed them for riding.
I remember getting bit on the shoulder by one horse and it didn’t feel very good. Another time all four of us were on “my” horse. We were galloping down the road when all of a sudden he horse stopped, but we didn’t. I landed on my chin on the ground in front of the horse but I don’t remember whether the others stayed on or not. I remember walking to the apple orchards and spending hours there, eating apples and messing around. During season we’d sneak a watermelon from the farmer up the road. We’d swim in the ditch and watch Disney programs on TV (the old black and white).
As kids we worked alongside the folks in the spud fields. Dad was crew boss for migrant workers who’d come to the area for the harvest. Sometimes we’d all move around Southwestern Idaho and Oregon picking crops. I remember shaking vines (knocking dirt and spuds off). I got my first taste of driving when dad put me in the old spud truck. He’d help me get it started, have me in granny gear, steering in a straight line and when he’s yell stop I’d turn off the engine. It stopped alright. Then we’d keep doing it until the truck was full. Dad used to grab a 100 pound spud sack in each hand and hoist them both up over his shoulders placing them perfectly on the bed of the truck. Don’t remember who was on the truck stacking the spuds, but it was hard work. Later as we got bigger we’d don a spud belt, put empty sacks on the hooks in back and one in the front and begin filling up the sacks. Ours wasn’t nearly as full, but until we couldn’t pull them anymore. We got paid by the sack, same as everyone else (probably not as much). At the end of the week we’d go into town for a burger, fries and a coke.
Homedale put in a new ice cream joint and the neighbor girl, Karen, named it “The Frosty Palace”. We’d go there sometimes for a HUGE chocolate covered cone for 25 cents. Always loved that place, until a few years ago I took mom and dad back there and we pulled in to the drive thru and ordered ice cream cones, and found out they don’t serve ice cream there anymore.
I remember the old WWII Sherman tank at the city park we used to climb on. Over the years I’d take the kids, and grandkids there when we’d come to Idaho to visit the folks. Glad the tank’s still there. Good memories.
We moved to another farm near Nyssa, Oregon. That place brought more memories too. I remember walking with dad in town one time, just don’t remember why? Us boys would take the 4/10 shotgun and walk way down to the bridge and shoot pigeons. It was a long walk back then. I got to drive over and find the old farm on one trip home. I turned on the road, crossed the bridge and went maybe 25 feet to the house. Not quite as far as I remembered. I do remember dad bought an old WWII surplus ¾ ton pickup and we’d learn to drive it, if we could get it started. It had one of those floor starter buttons, and the gas pedal was missing, so there was this knob we had to press (or maybe it was the starter?), but for barefoot boys it could be a challenge. We also drove the farm tractor.
When dad stepped in a posthole he had to be taken to the VA hospital in Boise and was there for quite a while. Mom traded the farm for a house in Boise and we moved there around ’60 or ’61. We lived on Lindsay Lane off Victory Rd, over by the railroad tracks. We used to watch the trains go by. At times we’d watch the movie playing at the drive in theatre on the other side of the tracks. I remember Christmas when we got our bikes. We rode them all over Boise and all the way to Meridian collecting pop bottles and selling them for a nickel each. At times the folks would have us peddle garden stuff, tomatoes, carrots or whatever. I used to hate that because I was not the consummate salesman. Still don’t like to sell stuff.
Grandma Edna Laub (Grandpa Minor Lamond Laub died in ‘53) moved to Nampa and we’d go spend summers with her and the girls (Marilyn, Carol and Colleen). We never called her Colleen, but usually she answered to “Coke”, but I don’t know why? I remember sneaking into the Snake River Stampede Rodeo one summer when “The Cisco Kid and Pancho” were the guests of honor. (I used to have an autographed picture.)
Grandpa David Wilson moved to a farm in Kuna and I remember spending summers working with Uncle Gary setting pipe, driving the grain truck and messing around grandpa’s blacksmith shop. Good memories.
I went to Hawthorne Elementary School, later to South Junior High and then to Borah High School where I joined the Civil Air Patrol. Did a lot of events, ball games parking cars, the Little Theatre down by the VA where we directed traffic. We even went out to Mountain Home Air Force Base to an air show. We had our exhibition drill team perform and then we walked around the flight line. Went to an air show at the Boise airport and dropped my name in for a drawing for free ground school. I won and all I needed was $50 for the textbook, which I didn’t have so I gave it to another kid. I remember getting the moped and Chuck writing a song about my ’64 Moped to the tune of a Beach Boys song.
We moved from Boise to Kuna the summer before my senior year. At first I decided to quit school because I wanted to graduate from Borah. Spending the summer riding a dozer pulling a rake got me to thinking of going in the army and driving tanks. Then that passed and I decided to go finish my senior year at Kuna High School. I got my letter as towel guy of the basketball team (I couldn’t dribble or shoot hoops).
After graduating with my Uncle Gary and the class of ’67 I moved to Boise and started working for an auto parts store as the delivery driver. I did that until I got talked into joining the army on the buddy system with an acquaintance Steve Jones, we were going to be helicopter pilots. Remember this was during the Vietnam War and I didn’t score high enough for pilot school.
I enlisted for transportation school, becoming a truck driver in Southeast Asia, in Thailand, hauling bombs to toilet paper to Air Force and Army units while Steve went on to become a door-gunner/crew chief on helicopters in Vietnam. I ran into Steve only once after we both came back from Southeast Asia.
There’s more to my story, the condensed version of my childhood in a nutshell. – I am the Real Truckmaster!