Memories of Old Camp Billy Gibbons by Pat Weekley

In regards to requested input re Camp Billy Gibbons, I'll do my best to remember that far back and share a few memories of those long-gone days at camp. As you are aware, our memories of happenings some 100 years ago are bound to be somewhat dim and sometimes quite erroneous. (Editor's note: Tell me about it, Pat!) But, here goes.

My family moved to Brownwood during late summer of 1944, living at first on 8th St. The first scouts I met were the Smith brothers, Roy and Thomas, and Clark Choate, all living over on 7th. St. Through them I joined Troop 16 which had its scout meetings at the Episcopal Church downtown. I had originally joined the Boy Scouts, moving up from Cubs, when we lived in Dallas. The scout camp we attended there was Camp Wisdom, then in the country south of the Oak Cliff part of Dallas. At the time we considered this 'the wilderness' although in hindsight it was more of an urban park. The only 'wild' animal I recall seeing there was an armadillo. There was a cliff along our hiking trails, which I managed to fall off of.  Fortunately, all I received was a bloody nose.

But on to dear old Brownwood. This was during the war, of course, and gasoline was in short supply. Regardless, that first winter of 1944-45, Cliff Pouncy somehow managed to take a group of us to Billy Gibbons for winter camp. This was at the old camp, on Brady Creek near its junction with the San Saba River. It was wonderful to a former city boy and made Camp Wisdom look like civilization-plus. I don't recall who all the boys were on this trip - positively Roy Smith. Roy and I decided to share a tent so we pitched our pup tent on one of the slopes above Brady Creek. Now you know in pup tents it's pretty crowded, so the two of you sleep head-to-toe. I don't recall how we decided it but it turned out Roy had his head on the uphill side, so mine was on the downhill. Lesson # 1 - don't sleep on the downhill side since you'll keep sliding out of your sleeping bag, blankets all during the night.

Anyway it was wonderfully and basically uninhabited country down there at that time. You could drink the water straight from the creek or river and never have to worry about contamination. Deer abounded everywhere as well as many other types of game. There were many springs around with the best tasting pure water I remember ever drinking. Across the creek was a draw. Just to the right were Indian paintings on some rocks hidden behind some trees.

On up the draw was a spring and then Honeycomb cave (as we called it). The cave had a rather large room you first entered. Then you would crawl through a pretty narrow space to arrive at the next room. Somewhere after this you had to descend a small cliff.  After this, as I recall, were a couple of small rooms. Which reminds me of one of those winter camps we were crawling through the cave and decided to leave by a different exit. I was leading the pack on this lark and managed to crawl through some pretty tight places and reach the outside.

Once out I waited for the other boys but no one showed up. In a little while, here they all came by the original exit. I asked them, "What happened to y'all?" They said, "you just crawled by a nest of rattlesnakes on your way out." Fortunately this was wintertime and they were hibernating, or you wouldn't be reading this now.

cave exploringThat wasn't my last close call with rattlers. I got to be quite an avid spelunker in the next few years and would crawl into every hole in the ground I could find. At a future camp when we were driving from the camp to Richland Springs, we spotted a hole off to one side of the road and decided to do a little exploring. This cave was entered from ground level by means of climbing down a rope. I was leading off being the first down the rope. A few feet from the ground level below me I heard this buzz buzz buzz   It was a rattler coiled on a ledge just below me. Now I tell you the truth, the next thing I remember I was standing on the ground on top of the cave looking down - I couldn't recall climbing back up or how I got out of that hole. For all I know, Scotty beamed me up. Anyway, looking down we finally spotted the snake and tossed a few rocks down trying to kill it, but without much success.

Enough of caves. I really enjoyed winter camp, much more than summer camp. One winter, which must have been after the war was over and the troops came home, Glenn and Lowell Pouncy (Cliffs sons, Cherita's brothers) had been discharged and they took us to winter camp. Cookie Cornelius took us another time. One winter as we were nearing the time to return home, Brady Creek flooded. Now we had to ford the creek to reach the campground and that was the only way out. We were running out of food by the time the creek dropped enough for us to cross. I believe we were down to cocoa paste for our last meal there.

This is getting lengthy so I'll wrap this up with a final tale. We were at the council ring located across a draw behind the campsites (during a summer camp). This was the time of a 'feather dance.'  A feather, probably a turkey tail feather, had been laid on the ground in the center of the circle. The drums (tom-toms) were beating and filling the air with their steady vibrations. Everyone was deathly quiet, watching that feather, and waiting for it to dance. Well sure enough, after what seemed to be quite a while, that feather hopped up onto its quill end and hopped around a few times. Now as gullible as I am, I still believe there must be some trick involved with this. But if so, it was a good one. Regardless, I do have an old Black & White photo somewhere that shows that 0' feather standing on its end. If anyone knows the truth about this, I'd really appreciate your letting me in on it.

This story was taken from the Brownwood High School Class of 1947 newsletter "The Roar of '47", newsletter #8, Fall, 1999 

Return to Camp Billy Gibbons 
Return to Home Page