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Montanan joins tow ring

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Pat Gilboy remembers towing daredevil Evel Knievel once or twice back in the day. And, in a memory he says is common among older Butte tow truck operators, Gilboy remembers having to chase Knievel later for payment.

"When you're in this business and you've been in it such a long time, I've always said I should have taken notes," says Gilboy, 71. "I could write a best seller."

Gilboy, founder of Gilboy's Towing Inc., started towing wrecks in Butte with a 1953 Chevrolet folding-boom wrecker 43 years ago. As he puts it, the business grew from "$500 and a lot of guts." He's since been named to the Montana Tow Truck Association's Hall of Fame, but a letter from Chattanooga, Tenn., this spring delivered even bigger news: Gilboy's the first Montana inductee to the International Towing Hall of Fame.

"It's the highest honor a tower can ever earn as far as I'm concerned," Gilboy says, "being recognized by his peers for doing a good job."

According to Frank Thomas, curator at Chattanooga's International Towing and Recovery Museum, the hall of fame started up in 1986 and currently includes 250 towers from across the globe. Gilboy is one of nine to be recognized at an official ceremony this September.

Gilboy earned the honor, in part, for services that go well beyond towing stranded motorists. Over the years he's supported policies aimed at cleaning up the industry, namely the Abandoned Vehicles law that outlines disposal practices for junk cars. Rust-buckets used to pile up in tow yards and gave the industry an unwarranted hayseed reputation.

"There's a lot more to towing and the industry than buying a tow truck and a pair of coveralls and going to work," Gilboy says.

Gilboy plans to attend the induction ceremony in Chattanooga, but he won't be long away from the job. Gilboy Towing Inc. averages six jobs a day and, though he's handed the business down to his stepson, Gilboy just can't stay away.

"Let me put it this way," he says, "there's never a dull day around here."

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