Remember when you were a child and your Mom made everything go? From your toy trucks, to the oven, to the sprinkler, Mom was on the job 24/7. Today, Deb Wiik’s boys are all grown up, but she still makes a lot of things go. She has worked in the family wrecker business since it opened in 1976, run an antique shop called the Treasure Pit for 19 years, and served as mayor of Big Stone City since 2007.
She also held a position on the city council for 12 years and worked with the Roundtable Club. Her son John says she got the civic-minded gene from her father, who also served as mayor of Big Stone City, and has, in turn, passed it on to her sons.
John said, “At a young age, Mom taught us to be active and make the town go.” His brother Joe, who also helps keep The Shop running smoothly, doubles as the fire chief in Big Stone. (Their father, Bill, was also the town’s fire chief.) John completed a term in the South Dakota House of Representatives and is in his second term in the South Dakota State Senate for District 4. He’s chairman of the appropriation committee – one of the top three leadership positions – and attends weekly meetings with the governor. “Mom taught us when something needs to be done, people need to step up,” John said. “If I learned anything from Mom, it was to step up.”
Deb started her sons out by signing them up for Cub Scouts, which introduced them to things to improve their community. She also taught them the value of hard work. The brothers would head to The Shop right after school and get to work. John said, “At The Shop, I learned another important thing from my mom. She taught me to appreciate the strong presence of a woman where it normally doesn’t exist. Mom could be found rebuilding brakes, considered a man’s job 40 years ago, as well as keeping the books.”
The wrecker business, just like a mom, gets calls at all hours of the day and night. They respond to drivers with blown engines, flat tires, and those who tried to drive a 14-foot truck through a 12-foot bridge, or lost the wheels off their boat trailer. The Wiiks never know what the day will bring, because there are a lot of moms with boys out there. As the saying goes, “Being a mom to a boy is like being in a tornado. You wonder if your insurance will cover it, and half of your stuff ends up in the neighbor’s yard.”
If your car happens to end up a little farther away, The Shop will still find it and bring it home. Although their service area is from Wheaton to Milan and Morris to Benson, wherever their customers break down, they go to rescue them. “Fargo, Sioux Falls, Wyoming, Montana – any place,” John said. “We are licensed in all of the lower 48 states. So, when our customers break down, we bring ’em home.”
Deb said, “The wrecker business can be dangerous.” Although her sons were always good kids, she is still a typical mother – she worries about everyone’s safety. She said, Once, a chain broke and shot a hook right below Bill’s knee. It was amazing he didn’t lose his leg.” Joe also has had near misses, and their grandson Jacob was under a trailer by the side of the road, when a car did not move over. It hit his service truck. She says one of the biggest problems in the wrecking business is a car that doesn’t move over. The South Dakota Towing Association is crafting a Move Over law they hope to get passed soon. Bill is president of the association.
It’s another title in a family whose collection keeps growing, but Deb said, “My favorite titles are Mother and Grandma. Even with all of our crazy schedules, we always find time to get together. This Mother’s Day we have a lot going on, so it probably will be for Sunday supper.” (That is, if they don’t get a wrecker call.) Deb’s love of antiques always shines through on holidays. Guests will not arrive to a table set with paper plates. When Deb entertains, everyone uses fancy dishes. She said the grandkids love it because she has always served them sparkling grape juice in fancy wine glasses. They all remember granddaughter Justine (a senior now at MHS), when she was in kindergarten and said, “I can’t wait to get to school and tell my teacher I had seven glasses of wine at Grandma’s house.”
Deb cooks, too. John said, “She usually cooks enough to feed the Chinese Army. When I was a kid, her bbq sandwiches were my favorite and her Spanish rice.” The Spanish rice is also John’s son’s favorite. There will probably be a few Mother’s Day presents at the party, but probably none held together with doilies and glue. John said, “I remember making handmade items every year for Mom in school, but I can’t recall an actual item I made.” Of course, that just proves he’s not a mom – because Deb has kept them all!
Deb said, “I miss the cuddling and rocking part of being a mom, but we find something new and exciting at every age.” She thinks John was born a politician and always expected him to become a lawyer, because everything he read, he retained. She recalls one day when John was three, she was at her mother’s house giving her mom a perm. Her mom had the newspaper open because she had been reading it. While she was working on her mom’s hair, John climbed up to the table and sat like he was reading the paper. They laughed and said, ‘how cute is that?'” Suddenly, John spoke up and said, ‘Hey, Grandma, Lawrence Welk is going to appear in Minneapolis’ and then he gave the dates. My mom and I just about fainted!”
So, on this Mother’s Day remember: “Every child is gifted, they just unwrap their packages at different times.”