Hughes Remembers:

Early Days of Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch - Part 2

5/12/93 Newell Hughes Remembers the Early Days of the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch. Note: This is a talk between Steve Odom, former Scout Executive of the Buffalo Trail Council and Newell Hughes, long time volunteer. 

Caretaker Sells Ranch in Juarez

We had a caretaker for the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch.  He kept the gate locked and came by periodically and checked on the place. He had quite a propensity for imbibing in strong spirits. Our friend and Council President, Emmett Beacham, called me one day.  I don't know why he called me rather than the Scout Executive, P. V. Thorson, but he did asked me to go to the Ranch and check on what was going on. When I got down there, there were some strange people who kida questioned what I was doing there.  They said they bought the Ranch. I told them that was very interesting, because I knew there hadn't been any meetings to authorize the sale of it.  They said that, yeah, they had bought it from the fellow that owned it in Juarez the week before. Our good caretaker had been in EI Paso, pretty well oiled; so he sold it.

The thing was, the people had a deed all made out and notarized and everything. That was one case where I guess I did more bluffing than anything else, but the people were apologizing when they left, and wondering how they could get their money back. I told them that there wasn't any way they could get their money back from the Council, and they were just squatters without a valid deed.  The man who gave them the deed couldn't make a true affidavit that he had any right to sell. It was quite an experience to go down and find people who resented your coming in to the place they had just bought.  I don't remember exactly how much it was, but he had "sold" the Ranch to them for something like $5,OOO.  That man didn't remain the caretaker very long.

The first trip on which I took quite a delegation to the Ranch was shortly after the Council had acquired title to it. I took a bunch of people from all over the Council, about 15 or 16 of our Board.  We rode horseback and spent a night in the area of the interior of the Ranch called the Park.  We went down by the Indian Paintings and just pretty well saw all the accessible portions. I guess the hardest thing I had to do on that trip was to help Lyle Deffebach get on a horse.  Lyle was a pretty good size man.  The horse went too close to a tree and knocked him off.  This bunged up his knee; so I had to give him first aid, wrapping his knee and then get him back on the horse.

A Few Too Many Cattle

About 19__ we had a caretaker that we gave permission to run three or four head of cattle on the Ranch just for his own beef.  Running stock was just about all he knew.  As far as fixing a screen door, he couldn't do that.  If it didn't eat hay or oats, he didn't know what to do with it.  Things seemed to go along pretty smoothly for about three or four years, I guess, and I hadn't made very many trips out over the Ranch.  So I made one and couldn't believe the condition of some of the grass. I rode over part of the Ranch and up in Hidden Valley, it looked like there had been sheep in there.  The grass was eaten down slick to the ground.  On the way in, I kept seeing cattle and began keeping tab on how many.  I got Al Leeper and A. E. Patterson to ride out and make an independent count.  We all came out with about the same number of cattle.  Rather than three or four and maybe a calf or so, we counted about 150 head of stock.  The whole Ranch was way over grazed. 

When I got back to Midland, I talked to Frank Cowden, Jr. and told him what was going on.  He went down and took a couple of his cowboys.  They looked it over and came up with the same results that we did. Immediately, they notified the caretaker to move his stock and get out of there. He finally found a place to move them to.  Frank and I went down the day he was supposed to ship them out.  There were 7 big stock trailers, each holding approximately 60 head of cattle. That was his three or four head we had given him permission to graze.  He was using every available acre of grazing land on the Ranch to raise his livestock. This practically destroyed the range on the Ranch and it hasn't recovered yet. The Ranch will support only a very limited amount of stock.  In fact, grazing the horses and burros that we now have is probably all that should ever be put on it.

The first Camp Ranger's home was originally built for a first aid station.  Then, when we first started using it, our Ranger, Bill Moore, was a single man; so it was sufficient for his needs as a residence also.  He spent a lot of time away from the Ranch.  Then, you could lock the Ranch up and it wouldn't be bothered.  There might be some wetbacks come through, but they'd stay up at Goat Cave or under the barns. Bill Moore was a good Ranger and took care of things pretty well.  One of the things that Bill Moore is remembered for is the time he was coming in from town, and when he got up to the dining hall, the old bull buffalo that had been given to the Ranch by Paul Moss of Odessa tried to get in the pickup with him.  That led to the demise of the buffalo, which I have already told about. 

Need Help From Mexico

From the Mexicans that came through, we found some very good workmen.  That was where we found our first rock mason. The early rock work was much better than later. An old boy would come up from Mexico and stay awhile.  We actually made a trade with him, and paid him for the rock work he did for us. He was good. The better part of his work went into our council ring. There one young man who was a terrific artist. I furnished him a bunch of colored stencils and sketch pads, and he did some beautiful work.  Little Benny. He couldn't sleep inside, he slept under the hay barn.  He had his little roll of burlap with his belongings rolled inside.

The Border Patrol would let some of them stay instead of sending them back  Immediately. I used to get amused when we'd have several Mexicans at the Ranch and an airplane flew over.  All the planes sounded the same to me, and usually it didn't disturb the work, but if it was a Border Patrol plane, suddenly there wasn't a worker to be seen.  They could get to their hiding places so quick.  Some were witnesses that were being allowed to stay with us for awhile, as they were waiting to testify in some case.  I think we had a contract with them, we had to pay them a minimum of fifty cents a day and room and board.  I never did see a Mexican then that wouldn't work.  When I first saw them laying our water lines, we had completed our water tank and well, and we had about twenty workers to start laying the lines over the camp. When they started out, I thought they'd never get those lines laid, as most of the area was very rocky.  But sure enough, they kept plugging along, they didn't stop for drinks or breaks, but kept working until time for lunch and came back at one o'clock and didn't look up until quitting time at 4:30.  To my surprise, by the second day, they had laid about four times as much line as I had anticipated getting done in a week. So, getting the Mexican was really worthwhile.

Amphitheater Gets Built

I got the idea for the council ring from going to a musical at the Red Rock amphitheater out of Denver.  I stood down on the stage area and could hear someone talking from the upper row without any amplification; so I started hunting a place to build one like it at the Ranch, and found one that works petty good.  To construct the one at the Ranch, I borrowed a little bulldozer, a little old bitty bulldozer, and drove around cutting a flat ledge on the mountainside and then up and cut another ledge; so it was fairly easy construction. The wetbacks laid the stone.  First they laid the vertical risers and then used them as forms for the flat part of the seats. 

That has been one of the most successful projects at the Ranch. The first time we used the council ring, we had over 600 people from all over West Texas that were attending an Order of the Arrow area pow wow. They couldn't get over the fact that there weren't any loudspeakers.  From the stage up to the top row they could hear without any trouble at all. Since, I have been amused at the ideas that have come up about putting in an amplifier with speakers in the trees, because they are not needed and completely out of place.

Nowadays, for many reasons, Mexican labor of the type used in the early days at the Ranch is nonexistent. If Mexicans come through the Ranch now, they do so without being seen.  Probably they come easier ways on roads in vehicles and not through the Ranch at all.  In the early days when I took my Scout Troop hiking to the McDonald Observatory, we'd take trails that were beaten paths made by the Mexicans. Because of modern problems and laws, the attitude of the Border Patrol people has been forced to change also.

Mountain Lion Killed

I had some experience with mountain lions on the Ranch.  Fact is, I killed one.  But before anyone gets the idea that it was cruel to kill a mountain lion, they should know that the lion was killing our baby burros. I skinned the lion, and a caretaker from a neighboring Ranch wanted the carcass. A couple of days later when I started to leave, he presented me with a big sack of tamales.  Somehow or another, I couldn't develop much of an appetite for tamales just then.  On the way in, I stopped at a Mexican food restaurant in Pecos and gave them the tamales. I don't know what the Pecos affectionados of tamales may have eaten that night.

For more interesting stories about Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch go to:

Newell Hughes Remembers - Part 3

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