Hughes Remembers:

Early Days of Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch - Part 3

6/30/93 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. 

Our resident caretakers in the beginning stayed in the bedroom we had at the back of the dining hall for the cook during summer camp.  The first separate quarters the caretaker stayed in was a health lodge that we built up where the Ranger's home and the main camp water tank is now. After the Wayne McBees went to work for us in 1968, we declared that health lodge as the Ranger's residence, and remodeled it for them. We sealed it, put in new sheetrock and painted, making a nice clean home, although not too large. They  were real tickled to be up there where they could look out over the camp headquarters.  They really made it pretty good until they bought a king size bed.  Then their bedroom became wall-to-wall bed. We had a lot of fun out of them when they first got that bed.  Wayne was a pretty big man, and the only way he could get in was to start crawling.

Before the McBees, we had numerous caretakers, most of whom were not too efficient.  It was a real relief to get Wayne and Roylene.  Roylene became  known as "Momma" McBee.  Wayne was hired as a full-time resident Camp Ranger, rather than as a caretaker.  One of our previous caretakers who was good was Bill Moore.  Actually, I suppose he was the first one we could call a real caretaker.  He was a young man, and had been raised in the country around Balmorhea.  He had a stretch in the army during the latter part of World War II.  He was good in public relations and getting along with our neighbors.  He could also get along with the wetbacks very well, as he could speak just like them, which was very helpful at that time.  He was an efficient bilingual caretaker who would spend quite a bit of time at the Ranch.

Rex Palmer was a District Executive, living in Pecos, and working the West End of the Council. I first got acquainted with Rex when I was working with the Scouters in Pecos, promoting their interest in the Ranch before the Council bought it.  Rex and I worked together taking Board Members and others down.  That was about the only association I had with Rex, because this was during my temporary stay in the Council working an engineering job with the City of Pecos. I don't think we had more than three Council staff members at that time.  Henry Norris worked the east end, and P. V. Thorson was the Scout Executive.  The only time Norris would be at the Ranch was during summer camp.

We had one caretaker who was more of a drop in.  He couldn't stand to stay at the Ranch all the time because he was afraid to build up too big a liquor stock there. The Scout Executive, P. V. Thorson, was a good upright Baptist and didn't believe in drinking. He and that caretaker didn't get along too well, because P. V. would come to the Ranch and find bottles stashed here and there.  He didn't like that too much.

Then we had a rancher caretaker who knew how to take good care of stock.  I have already told about his running his own cattle on the Ranch. Unfortunately, if it didn't eat oats or hay, he didn't know what to do with it.  One time for a pre-camp inspections, we needed to put new double screen doors on the dining hall. I went by Pecos on the way in and purchased two doors.  As well as I remember, they cost total about $36 or $37.  I sent them down to the Ranch for the caretaker to put up. He hired two carpenters to come out of Pecos to hang them.  It cost over $100. labor and travel to get them hung .  There were some people who were somewhat upset with him on that. His response was, "Hell,... didn't hire out to be a carpenter."

After that man left there, we had another who had been raised in that part of the country.  He had been a brand inspector for the Texas Cattlemen's Association.  Unfortunately, he was another one who was strictly a horseman, and didn't want to have anything to do with maintenance. He finally decided he wasn't fitted for our job, probably primarily because he couldn't spend as much time in the domino parlor in Pecos as he would like to.  It was after him that we hired the McBee's. 

The Council Program Director Carl Corbin, who was also serving as a District Executive for the west end of the Council, had become acquainted with Wayne and Momma McBee in Balmorhea. I think they were both working for the school there, although Wayne also had a filling station. Momma was director of the school cafeteria system and Wayne took care of the maintenance of the busses.

Wayne and Momma were probably the best public relations people we had there. The knew-everybody in that whole country and got along well with them.  The campers all just loved Momma McBee. If a kid came into the dining hall acting up, she'd talk to him like he was one of her own and straighten him out.  Even though she would chew them out they all just loved her for it. Perhaps we could learn a lesson from her, because a lot of our troubles today are because kids don't have respect for authority, and when they experience a little of it, they like it.

Steve Odom: It was Dr. 8ill Shaw, on becoming the Council President in 1970, who decided that one of the first projects we needed then at the Ranch was to build a new Ranger's home, and that it would be done with an architect and a professional building contractor, rather than the usual volunteer work weekend type of construction.

Newell continues: The architect was from Odessa, and I worked with him.  He and Dr. Shaw had a lot of good ideas and he was able to put them on paper.  That was the start of getting some good professional people to build something at the Ranch, because prior to that time, the architecture was hit or miss and much of the work was miss. We had a lot of improvements that served the purpose, but I couldn't really call them improvements either.

The old home had to be torn down to build the new home on the same location, and we moved the McBee's down into the dining hall. I think they lived there about five months while the building was going on, but they were just as happy as they could be because Momma McBee could go up and look at her new house every day.  She could count how many nails had been driven since the day before. I had taken the architect's rendering and made an exterior  elevation in color, and she loved that picture. She studied that thing, and knew exactly how everything was to be about that building.

The young man we got to do the contracting was a good home builder. He did a lot more than his contract called for.  Originally, he was hired to do the framing and not too much of the finish work. People who were working on custom homes he was building in Odessa came down and worked on the interior, which certainly improved the quality of the house.

Steve Odom: I remember one thing that didn't go well and was not professionally done, and that was the pouring of the foundation slab.  You weren't there at the time, but do you remember what happened?

Yes, the whole concrete finishing crew that you had hired out of Midland stopped by the cantina on the way, and arrived too drunk to do the work. So we had a group of workers too drunk to stand up, and a truck loaded with ready mix concrete out of Pecos. Fortunately there was a group of volunteers and some staff there, and even more fortunately, some of them knew something about pouring and finishing concrete.  I think Dr. Bill Shaw was there, and he sent the hired crew home. The volunteers and staff did a very good job, but that sure was a tired and disgusted bunch after it was over.  Later on, I think they developed a great deal of pride in their accomplishment

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