On Dec. 15, 2016, Dave Wilson, 64, of Pollock, Idaho, was called home just the way that he would’ve wanted, out on the mountain rounding up his cows one last time. A celebration of his life will be held the second weekend in July in Riggins, Idaho, and then family and friends will honor him with one last famous ride going “over the top” and spreading his ashes at Elk Lake.
David Wilson was born on May 11, 1952, in Council, Idaho, to Dan and LaRea Wilson. From there they lived in Craigmont, Idaho, until his father died in a logging accident. LaRea later remarried to Ronald Bernard who was the man who raised Dave and his brother, and they added two more sisters together. After moving around a little bit in his early years, Dave was a member of the first graduating class from Timberline High School in Pierce, Idaho, in 1970.
Dave went on to attend college at the University of Idaho but was quickly called to go back to the canyon of Riggins to help his grandfather on the ranch. In 1973 he went to Seattle to attend veterinary school because he always had a love for helping animals.
While he was there, he was able to be one of a very select few who was able to work with world renowned thoroughbred veterinarian, Dr. Nichols.
Once again, though, Dave was asked to come back to the canyon in Riggins and help out on the ranch and he did without graduating. Although being a veterinarian may have been an easier life, it wouldn’t have been as fulfilling.
Throughout Dave’s life in Riggins, he worked alongside his brother for much of the time, literally riding thousands of miles on his horse doing everything he could to take care of his cows and his family’s ranch.
Going through some of the most rugged and beautiful country that you will ever see was just another day in this cowboy’s life. Some of his experiences were things that you would have only thought were part of a book. He was able to guide bear and moose hunts in Alaska, narrowly escaping death several times from bears and bush plane accidents. He went nose to nose with outlaws who took over his mountain cabin while running from the law. He broke more bones than most could count from being kicked, bucked off or gored and kept on cowboyin’. No matter how tough things ever were, he never complained. Anyone who knew Dave would tell you that he always had the best jokes, the most infectious smile and the most humble heart.
His accomplishments in his life are too many to list, but among them were being the proud father to Amy Wilson (Middleton, Idaho), Derek Wilson (Emmett, Idaho) and raising Randall Grizzle (Boise, Idaho) as if he were his own. Dave was also able to find his true love and tough-as-nails cowgirl later in life and had recently married Drusilla Wilson. He is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Aaron and Sherrie Wilson (Riggins); sister and brother-in-law, Chuck and Ronaine Kinard (Pierce, Idaho); and sister and brother-in-law, Dan and Terri Smith (Orofino, Idaho); his father, Ronald Bernard (Yuma, Ariz.); and step-sons, Oren and Tyrel Swopes; and 10 grandchildren.
Dave will be sorely missed every year at the Riggins Rodeo where he was president for more than 25 years. He will also be missed by all of the people up and down the Salmon River Canyon where he had built an unforgettable legacy and countless friends. His ability to tell a story was unmatched, but he had lived a life that had many to tell. For so many he was looked at as larger than life and one of a kind. He will be remembered as one of the last people who could run a ranch in such a steep and unforgiving environment.
Looking back on his life, his 3-year-old grandson, Riley, put it best: “Grandpa Dave was a real-life cowboy!”
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