Hutton keeps busy even in retirement
RIFLE ” Bill Hutton has always had at least three jobs at a time. Now that he’s retired, he’s still working on at least three things at a time.
At 78, he’s now building a Ford engine in the shed at his old ranch house, crafting wooden picture frames out of wood flooring he found in a dumpster, listening to a tape recording of the history of the ranchland north of Rifle that used to belong to his father and fixing up the old house he’s completely renovated on his own.
“This place was sitting on the ground, in the dirt,” Hutton said.
“He started with a pick and he dug it out,” said Hutton’s son Skip. “He had extensions on the piping and extensions on the electric. He was still living here.”
Hutton sold an old truck to pay for the foundation and concrete work.
“Now he wants the truck back,” Skip joked.
Hutton has 17 vehicles on his property right now. Most of them are vintage cars and trucks with low miles and shiny exteriors.
“They’re all original,” Hutton said. “I don’t like things that have been altered.”
Hutton first came to Rifle with his family in a boxcar in 1944. His father had owned one of the largest ranches in the state in eastern Colorado. His dad bought sheep from Texas in the late 1930s, near the end of the depression.
“He was dirt poor,” Hutton said. “But the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he became a millionaire.”
Hutton said his dad bought the sheep for $1 a head and after the war started they were worth $6 a head.
Hutton spent his senior year of high school at Rifle High School, graduated and married Mary Lou Fothergill. They moved to Nevada, where Hutton worked at a sawmill until he was 18 and could get a job with the railroad.
“I only worked there a real short time before I was drafted,” Hutton said.
He went to Japan for a short time at the tail end of World War II.
“They kicked me out because of him,” Hutton said, pointing to his son. “They kicked out everyone who had dependents.”
Hutton and his wife lived in Rifle for a while. Skip went to school in town until he finished first grade. Their daughter, Renny, was the first baby born in 1948. She arrived at 8 a.m. Jan. 1.
The family moved to Rangely when Hutton became frustrated with the oil shale business. He had been a tort operator.
“I cooked the rock to get the oil out of it,” Hutton said, explaining his job in layman’s terms.
After that, they went to northern California.
“My wife said, ‘I’m moving to California. Do you want to come?’ She took the kids and I went along, too,” Hutton said. “She was a very independent woman. She did all of the communications for the California Highway Patrol and she did all of the communications for the summer Olympics when they were in L.A. Even the FBI didn’t know what sort of radios they were getting until she gave ’em to them.”
Hutton worked for the California Highway Patrol as a traffic officer for 23 years before he retired in 1981. While he was doing that he also helped on a number of construction projects, built fiberglass boats and worked as a mechanic.
“I rarely saw my dad,” Skip said. “He was either sleeping, sometimes eating and usually on his way to his next job.”
In 1989, Hutton moved back to Rifle and bought a 100-year-old ranch house at the top of Third Street.
Skip said the renovation of the house was a family effort. Skip and his cousin Jesse, Hutton and few other friends put up the main room of the house in under three days in 1993.
“I’ve been fixing it up a little at a time ever since,” Hutton said.
Contact Amanda Holt Miller:
625-3245, ext. 103
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