Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

Remembering Dr. Wills

An old friend of mine died a couple of months ago. He was Aubrey Daryll Wills and everyone called him Daryll, if they didn’t refer to him as Dr. Wills. Daryll practiced medicine as a radiologist here in the Big Horn Basin for a good many years.

I came to know Daryll because we both liked to hunt chukar partridges, and I remember several hunting trips south of Worland in the No Water area. One of the first was in late 1978, during a very rough winter, and I distinctly recall coming to a hill where the two-track road we were traveling (Daryll was driving his Suburban) cut through the side of a hill. A hard wind had apparently blown over the road, and snow filled it in, so that we faced a drift higher than the hood of the vehicle.

“Well,” I thought, “that’s the end of our hunting trip.” But to my surprise, Daryll did not turn around, but shifted down and charged!

At first the Suburban surged over the snow, but then just settled in. It’s a sickening sensation when you feel a vehicle snuggle down into deep snow. But out we jumped and pulled out the shovels. After strenuous efforts, pushing the shovels under the Suburban and pulling out snow, we eventually reached the point where Daryll could back out, and he did.

“Well, now we really will have to turn around and go home,” I thought. But Daryll had other thoughts. He did not turn around, but again charged into the snow. And again we had to shovel out. As I recall, we did that a couple more times and finally got through that big drift.

I set out this incident because it was when I began to realize what an exceptional character my physician friend was. He was a man who insisted that he would do what he set out to do, come hell or high water.

Another manifestation of Daryll’s independence had to do with his accent. Daryll grew up in eastern Kentucky, a place where most people spoke with what we in Wyoming would call a heavy accent, and sometimes Daryll spoke in such an accent. It wasn’t that Daryll didn’t know how to use the standard Midwestern accent.

I watched him testify once in a deposition held in the local hospital (I think he was being used as an expert witness) and he put on a clinic, demonstrating remarkable command of human anatomy and the ability to perfectly pronounce a series of challenging anatomical phrases. W

hat I came to realize was that Daryll insisted on being who he was, and while he was an exceptional physician, he was also still a kid from eastern Kentucky, and he wasn’t going to let anyone take that away from him.

I remember, too, discussing with Daryll times when he hunted pheasants in Vietnam. Every base had a perimeter patrol and the guys in that patrol frequently kicked up Asian golden pheasants. Daryll would accompany the patrol so that he could hunt those birds. Now, the reason for the perimeter patrol was to guard against sneak attacks by the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese troops. I was in the Judge Advocate General Corps and talked to some guys, fellow lawyers, who had been in Vietnam, and I recall they all seemed to dread the occasional requirement that they assist in the perimeter patrol. I’m sure none of them did as Daryll did, seeing the patrol as an opportunity to have some fun, and the heck with the Viet Cong!

Not long after that 1978 winter, three couples, including my wife and I, Daryll and his wife, Betty, and Donna and Lloyd Nielson, bought a quarter section of land in the Big Horn Mountains. And for years thereafter we hunted, fished, and camped on and around our land. I don’t have the room in this column to discuss our adventures in detail; suffice to say that Celia and I have many, many warm memories of the time we spent with our partners on land we called “Otter Creek.”

Daryll left us all too soon; he was only 80 when he died. And when he died we lost a unique character, a truly exceptional fellow who was one of the most endearing persons I’ve ever known, a man who forever remained true to himself.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is retired. He is the author of several books.

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