243 Mile Hike to Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch
Nine Sea Scouts and three skippers of Big Spring's Sea Scout Ship 111, sponsored by the Big Spring Optimist Club, did a 243 mile hike from Big Spring, TX to the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch in the Davis Mountains. The Sea Scouts on the trip ranged in age from 14 years and upward. This was the first time any outfit has tried such a hike. Each Sea Scout traveled light, carrying only canteens and other personal gear. They left Big Spring at 7:22 a.m. on Sunday, June 2, 1963 with plans to arrive at the scout ranch in ten days. The first day they hiked about 21 miles to Garden City and made camp about two miles north of town. They were up each day at 5:00 a.m. each day for breakfast and hike until mid-morning. They would rest until mid afternoon and then hike until dark. And then sleep. A tarpaulin was among the equipment they took with them for shade. Each boy paid $12 for his food.
L to R: Bob Compton, Bob Husson and Jerry Lewis
Leading the group were Don Snyder, Andy Anderson and Mike Gilbert. The Sea Scouts taking the hike were Bob Compton, Dub Clinton, Jerry Cryer, Jerry Henry, Bob Husson, Jerry Lewis, Burr Settles, Chuck Smith, and Fred Watts.
Two cooks, Bob "Wishbone Compton and Bob "Bushy" Husson, were in charge of a big 14-foot-trailer hauling clothing, the kitchen and canned goods and pulled by Compton's 1949 Plymouth. A Volkswagen van, loaded with their camp equipment, food and first aid kit, traveled with them. Jerry Anderson and Mike Gilbert were their assistants. This crew of four were responsible for seeing to it that camp was set up at the end of each day.
Monday, June 3
By Monday night, they had covered another 21 miles, camping beside the road 20 miles south of Garden City. Eight youth were still on their feet by that night. One had to drop out because of blisters but stayed on as an assistant cook. Lunch on Monday comprised thick slabs of canned meat between two slices of bread along with drinks and dessert. One of the mothers, Mrs. Charles Smith, brought out some beans and cornbread, arriving just at meal time. Joe Clark flew his airplane over them every day just to let them know that he was keeping up with them.
Tuesday, June 4
They camped out Tuesday night at 7-mile windmill, seven miles out of Big Lake.
Wednesday, June 5
"Of all things," Robert Husson said Wednesday morning, "one of the boys was skipping rope wen we got there. He was topping off a walk a mile back up the road, to where some snakes had been seen, and a run back to cap.
" I guess their feet are getting toughened up to the hike by now for they were in fine spirits. One boy dropped out and we brought him back to Big Spring." That made two Sea Scouts who had to drop out of the hike. Fred Watt had to return to town to seek medical attention for his feet.
They arrived in Big Lake at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The city officials were there to greet them. They rode into the city on fire trucks with a sheriff's department car leading the motorcade They had a big meal at a Highway 67 Steak House including four eggs each.. The Scouts had covered between 90 and 100 miles by Wednesday night. They camped at the edge of Texon that night. It was to be the last good campsite before striking out Thursday for Rankin and McCamey.
Thursday, June 6
They walked through Rankin about 4:00 p.m..and took a rest stop at Rankin's swimming pool where they all took a cool swim. Just before they reached Rankin, they had hiked 100 miles. They camped just off the highway inside a pasture near a windmill and water tank approximately seven miles west of Rankin. There they received a real treat to a free Mexican dinner. They were given a free half-case of tamales by a passing motorist. "They were really in good spirits," Highway Patrolman Sam Long said. "Six came to the fence to talk with me when I drove up to their camp. They weren't anxious to go to bed when their skipper called them to hit the sack."
Saturday, June 8
Saturday night they had made it to 22 miles west of McCamey. Three of the Sea Scouts, who had dropped out temporarily from blistered feet were back in the line of march and doing well according to a story in the paper June 9th. Dub Clinton lost weight but with some embarrassing results. He went swimming at McCamey and unfortunately his trucks didn't have a draw sting in them. Every time he went off the high board he lost them.
Sunday, June 9
They camped Sunday night some 14 miles east of Fort Stockton. Visitors from Big Spring carried special tidbits for the travels to augment the limited cooking efforts of the camp cooks. Hull and Phillips Food Stores, Newsom's, Roberts' Grocery, Furr's Super Market, Tracy's Food Market and Vaughn Sweetshop provided food gifts. Two of the boys were still suffering from blisters on their feet but doggedly continuing on the hike. The Sea Scouts cleaned up, put on their white uniforms, and attended church in Fort Stockton before resuming their hiking in the afternoon.
Monday, June 10
Tuesday, June 11
A report in the Big Spring Herald on June 11, stated that "Billy Gilbert, one of the seven who have walked 220 miles thus far, called from Balmorhea Tuesday morning to say that the hikers were within 30 miles of their destination.
"Residents of Balmorhea gave them a warm welcome as they strode into town early today, feted them to free drinks and gave them a swim at the springs.
"Members of the party were to resume their hiking this afternoon, camping overnight in the foothills of the Davis Mountains. Wednesday morning they will start up the road which winds into the canyon where the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch is located.
"They will spend the remainder of the week there, returning - via automobile, naturally - Sunday. Nor do they plan to do any hiking immediately after getting to camp."
After weathering two night rainstorms (one at Girvin which washed away their camp) and 98 -100 degree temperature, Tuesday night they camped ten miles from the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch camp entrance.
Wednesday, June 12
A very tired group of Sea Scouts entered the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch on Wednesday about 10:30 that morning. Don Snyder said "The last ten miles were the longest Those winding roads never seemed to end. Everytime we got in a curve, we thought we had made it and then we kept finding out we were wrong. We ran almost the last three miles to the gate (which is a quarter of a mile from the camp) which we reached about 10 a.m. We stayed there for almost a half hour putting on our whites and then we marched in cadence to the dining hall." The camp ranger's wife, Mrs. William Colter said "They're in fine shape. they just came marching down the highway shouting 1-2-3, 1-2-3." The other campers in the dining hall applauded the group as they walked in.
When asked why they did it Bob Husson said "Some boys think Boy Scouts are a bunch of power puffs. We waned to show them something ...... we thought it was something that was never before accomplished." "I feel like I've walked a thousand miles, " Mike Gilbert, Snyder's assistant, said three hours after they finished. Chuck Smith added, "It seems like it was longest at the last."
Dub Clinton shipped in, "Well, at first I thought I'd enjoy it then it got longer an longer. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't." Jerry Cryer, who was sitting down like everyone else, looked tired. "I had a lot of fun. I thought it would be pretty easy. It didn't turn out half as easy as I thought." Jerry Lewis, was probably the happiest it was over, "It was okay. I think I'd do it again if they'd slow up the pace."
Don Snyder, the ship skipper, added "Every night we had boys with blisters as big as half dollars. But two or three of the boys never got a blister."
The group spent the rest of the week at camp. They visited Fort Davis to see the old frontier fort and traveled by car around the scenic loop of the Davis Mountain State Park.
The Sea Scouts arrived back home for a red carpet treatment. Twenty-six cars with red paper streaming from radio aerials and big red signs on the doors reading "Welcome Home Sea Scouts" met the walkers at the Jet Drive-In and proceeded to the courthouse with horns honking. Approximately 100 residents attended a special ceremony held at the courthouse. They were given certificates making them honorary members of the Chamber of Commerce and special red and gold patch patch from the Lone Star Boy Scout District.
The certificates cited the Sea Scouts in part, "for demonstrating outstanding physical conditioning and stamina by hiking the total distance between Big Spring and the Davis Mountains Scout Camp." After the ceremonies, one of the fathers summed up the way everyone felt. "The first 2 1/2 days I didn't think they'd make it but after that, I was confident. This is one of the proudest days of my life."
They received the Amos Alanzo Staff Foundation medal for Physical fitness.
Burr Settles recalled the trip some 38 years later and gives this account of the trip. "While the hike was fun and educational the blisters on our feet were terrible. There were blisters on blisters and bleeding sores. So much os that Fred Watt and I had to discontinue the walk. Fred had to return to town to seek medical attention for his feet and I opted to remain as an assistant cook. We had walked our required 50 miles and I wanted to stay with my shipmates.
"Being the assistant cook was not a piece of cake either, as Husson (bob Compton) and Husson (Bob Husson), were older, they had me setting up the cots and tarp for cover from the harsh sun.
"We would drive ahead about ten miles or so and set up camp. We had a tarp that stretched from the oblong trailer box to provide shade and set up the cots so that when the hikers arrived they would have a place to lay down and some shade.
"Almost immediately upon their arrival they would take their boots off and bloody socks off and tend to the sores with absorbine Jr. The treatment seemed to help a lot.
"During our hike we had a lot of fun and excitement. The fun came into play when each town we came through turned out to see us and presented us with a key to the city.
"The restaurants were kind to us as they provided us with whatever we wanted to eat. IN Balmorhea, where the largest outdoor swimming pool is located, they let us go swimming free. Let me tell you that water was cold even in the middle of summer. We aslo bathed in farmers' or rancher's stock tanks. We could not use soap as it would affect the cattle, so we got in and swam around and got out to lather up and someone would rinse us off.
"Once on the trip we encountered a rattlesnake napping on the shoulder of the road. It was late in the evening and the warm asphalt must have felt good to that cold-blooded creature. Eventually we chased it down and killed it. I tell yo to hear those rattles going off sure did send a chill up our spines.
"We completed our trek and were brought home in vehicles. No one wanted to walk back. Upon our arrival we were surprised to find the town turned out for us and we were honored for our achievement.
"I write this now as it's been 38 years since the walk and we will be having our reunion. We will meet in Abilene, as that is where our Skipper lives and it is a good half-way point for travelers, on July 28 (2001).
"Tumbleweed Smith will cover us once again as he did thirty eight years ago. And no, I am not walking to Abilene!"
We want to thank Don Snyder, Skipper of Sea Scout Ship 111, for providing us with the newspaper clippings and a CD of radio broadcasts on their 1963 hike to Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch. And our thanks to David O'Neill for getting this material to us. Most of the stories were taken out of the Big Spring Daily Herald.