Dodson Auto & Repair, LLC, as it looks today. Photo by Jason Selby
Jared Dodson was around six years old when he asked his grandfather, Bob Dodson, to show him how to weld.
“Grandpa went over and turned the welder on and laid two pieces of metal down,” Jared says. “He stuck a helmet on me and said, ‘If you want to learn, that’s the way to do it. I can’t tell you how to do it.’”
It’s a lesson that Dodson carries with him to this day, as the 25-year-old owner of Larry Jackson’s old shop in Clio. After over 50 years working under the hood, Jackson is hanging up his wrench. Dodson plans to stay for a while, with the help of longtime mechanical assistant and tireless worker Clarence Petty.
“I’ve known Larry for a while,” Dodson says. “I got to know him really well after I moved down here six years ago. I just hope we can keep the customer base that Larry had, and gain some more.
“Clarence is going to stay, and he’s going to help work on vehicles and tractors. There’s not another man like Clarence. For working, I would put Clarence up against anybody around here. He knows what he’s doing. I’m trying to learn from Clarence, too, because he knows so much stuff. It’s like Clarence said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you to do it, but if you can learn by watching me, you can pick it up.’
“I’m glad he decided to stay, because there’s a lot of people that trust Clarence. If I learned it from Clarence, then I hope [people] will have that trust in me.
“I told Clarence, ‘I’m not you’re boss—I’m your coworker.’ We’re working side-by-side. I don’t want him to feel like I’m his boss.”
Before purchasing Jackson Mobil, Dodson farmed for Randy Rouse. Prior to the transaction, Dodson had just bought Roger Ruble’s old house with 80 acres of land just north of Clio, where he raises around 25 head of cattle with his wife, Kari, and their two sons, Bentley and Blaize.
“I walked in the station, and Larry said he had someone interested [in buying] it,” Dodson says. “I thought about it for a couple of days, and I went home and talked to Kari, and it was just one of those spur of the moment deals. I took it as an opportunity to do my own thing. I always wanted to start my own shop. I’ve always been mechanical.
“I’ve been redoing the house, and buying this, so I’ve had a big year getting everything put together.”
Dodson is a 2007 graduate of Wayne Community High School. His father, Kent, farmed north of Corydon before moving to a farm near Clio. Grandfather Bob Dodson has run a welding shop in Corydon for decades.
“That’s what started me thinking about it, since Grandpa has had his business forever. In my opinion, there are getting less and less people wanting to weld. It’s nice to keep a business in a small community.
“I learned from my grandpa and my dad, working on machinery. They more or less taught me everything.”
When Dodson was around 12 years old, his dad bought him a ’92 Chevrolet pickup, with only the frame and the cab. Dodson overhauled it, and he finished when he was 16 years old and had his driver’s license. That was Jared’s start working with vehicles.
“I always worked on my own stuff. I never took it anywhere. When I went to school, I was kind of the leader of the welding class. I traveled for a year and worked for a few companies. I’ve learned how to work with older guys. They’ve got their own way of thinking. I can talk to anyone about anything.
“When I was younger, Dad would wake me up for chores, and you’d go do it whether it was snowing or raining. When I got home from school, we’d do chores. My dad always taught me to not be lazy. Being lazy doesn’t accomplish anything. I’ve always been that way—when it was time to work, it was time to work.”
Dodson has also received support and advice from friends and teachers at Wayne.
“Matt Bennett was like a brother. If you needed anything, he’d be there to help you. Another friend was Chaz Salsberry. We’d go out and tear up our pickups on the weekend, and then we’d spend the next weekend putting them back together. It didn’t cost much back then. Now, you can’t afford to tear them up and fix them.
“Fred Wilker was my welding instructor in FFA. He helped me by letting me do what I wanted. He taught some stuff on the welding part of it, too.”
This summer, the shop will get a facelift and a new paint job. Though Dodson wants to keep Jackson’s customer base, he also wants to adjust to the changes that have come to the automotive industry. And he will do it honestly, at a decent price.
“If someone takes their tractor to John Deere, it’s going to cost them $100 an hour to work on. If someone takes their vehicle to Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, it’s going to cost them $100 an hour. We’re half that. I’m not saying we can do everything they do, but we can do a big majority of it. It’s not rocket science—it takes common sense.
“I’m going to bring in the computer to do diagnostics on vehicles. We’ve already used it two or three times, and it’s helped us out. If we bring a pickup in, and the coil pack’s out, you don’t know what cylinder is out until you hook it up [to the computer].
“I use my cell phone all the time here at the shop. We just worked on a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Clarence said, ‘Would you look this up on your phone and see how to take this radiator out?’ And I got on there, flipped it up, and it walked us through how to take it out. There are things that come in that we don’t know how to do, so we’ll Google it. Some of the bigger companies have a technical support—I don’t have the money to pay $800 to $1,000 a month for that tech support—but we can look it up on the internet just as easy.
“I’ll work on pickups, tractors, cars or anything I can work on. It’s a farming community—if someone wants it worked on, we’ll work on it.
“Working on vehicles is like putting a puzzle together—there’s something different to do every day.
“What I’m into is change. It’s not the same, repetitive job you’d do every day. You’re a master of minds—if you put your mind to it, you can work on it. You don’t know if you can do it until you try. You’ve got to try.
“I like this small town. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, you don’t have to worry about too much. We’re trying to grow our community. And we’ve got a lot of young kids and couples returning.
“This is where I want to be. The way I feel, it’s almost taken a weight off my shoulders. I don’t have to wake up in the morning and worry about someone else saying, ‘Now you’re going to do this, or you’re going to do that.’ I work for the community now.”