Steve Hill

Steve Hill, Mechanic; Bristol, Tennessee:

"(My life) was a mess up to about 14 or 15 years ago, and I turned everything around and started living right. Things have picked up, they’re looking better, and can’t complain now.

Drugs were my biggest struggle. Ruined two marriages, estranged my son for a while, but we’re back together now. I’ve seen different ways, and he’s seen that I’m trying. So, we’re getting along good now.

I just got tired of it. Just plain tired. And I asked the good Lord for the help to keep me off it, and so far, so good. I’ve been trying my best to do the best that I can.

I was living on the streets of Phoenix for about three weeks before I came around and entered a treatment program. That was way long ago, but that was the worst time I’ve ever had. Actually living in a cardboard box, and I’m a disabled Vietnam-era vet, too. I didn’t hit Vietnam. I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have to go. I got in the Coast Guard. They told me when I took the test I had a two year waiting list before I could get in there. I was 17, and ten days later I got a letter saying you’re going to Cape Maine, New Jersey for boot camp. I said “Cha-ching” I’m not going to Vietnam. I tried to go to Vietnam with the Coast Guard, because we were over there, too. 

Then, I broke my leg on Veteran’s Day, 1969 in a car wreck right in front of the gates of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. I lived in McLean. Spent the next four months in Bethesda Naval Hospital, and I had just spent six months at sea. That was fun.

I loved being on the sea. It was great. We were on an icebreaker up in the Arctic. We went to Greenland, Iceland a couple of Eskimo islands, and then scoured the North Pole, itself. 

My happiest times are now, everything changed. The first seven years were rough…trying to live it down and change your ways with people who wouldn’t give you a break or nothing, saying well, you’re still the same way. That’s not true. Things have changed.

I’m fixing to retire. I’m an auto mechanic. Forty-five years I’ve done this so far. I figure I’m going to go buy a house now with a good-sized garage, and make the mortgage payment from working out of the garage. So that’s what I’m going to do. 

When I was in San Diego, I was a service manager at a car shop. A man come in there, an engineer, came in and told me what was wrong with his car, and to replace everything under the sun that he thought needed replacing because that was his problem. Well, I replaced everything, to the tune of about $600, and he came back out there and said, “It’s still doing the same thing.” I said, well you told me what to replace. All you needed was an idler arm, and they cost about sixty bucks, total. But he was a smart ass, and he had to sit there and say, this is wrong, and this is wrong and this is wrong, and I said well, let me check it out and I’ll let you know. And he said, no, that’s what’s wrong. I want all that replaced. I just sat there and laughed. He spent $600 for the wrong stuff. That’s a funny story. I mean, let the mechanic check it out instead of you diagnosing it. 

I’ve been a motorcycle guy all my life. I had a bike shop up in West Virginia back in the ‘70s. I (worked on) all kinds of motorcycles up there. It was called, Bike and Buggy Works. I did auto repair, we did auto body and we did motorcycle building and custom frames and stuff like that back then. 

I love the mountains. I love them all the way up through there. I love riding through the mountains. And the smell, especially in the spring, it’s unreal. 

My mom died when I was 15, and my dad got transferred when I was 16. He decided to transfer and move to DC. He was working with Lockheed Aircraft an he got transferred to DC and that’s how I got hooked up with the mountains. I went to McLean High School and joined the Coast Guard living up in Fairfax, and then when I got out of the service, I met my wife. She was from West Virginia and we moved to Fredericksburg. So we always loved the mountains. We were growing up in the mountains, backpacking and everything. I was having a blast back in those days. Now, the backpacking stuff is kind of out of the question, I can’t walk that far. 

I left my first wife and move down here because my best friend, HB Beverly, he’s a musician around here, and he’s my best friend. I met him in ’73 in Fredericksburg. We stayed married nine years, until ’89, and we got a divorce because I was still into the you-know-what. So I got out of that, and that’s when everything straightened out. Now, we date. I took her out last night to a Karaoke night, and took her dinner at the Mexican restaurant. We get along real good right now, even though she stills says, “I don’t like men.”

She calls me up if she needs something, and I come over and help her out. Anything I can do to help her out makes up for the bad times I gave her when we were married, and that’s the way I look at it. So, if she needs me, I’m there. Even if I didn’t owe her anything, or didn’t want to make up, I’d still be there. She’s a great person".