February 9 Ė 14, 2013


ďEnd Of A Legendary Tradition"


by Redhorse


The 26th Annual Big Bend ~ Stillwell Ranch Trailride & Wagon Train was the ďEnd of the TrailĒ for yours truly as Trail Boss. Some great friends that hadnít participated in years were there; even some without animals.  Several folks that had been trying to get there for years finally made it, too. Retirement plans prevented regular Linda Deas from attending but she sent some of her great caps for prizes; as she has done for years.

My buddy Luke came up lame with a bowed tendon about a week before the ride.  Thanks to Juanita & Truman Brooks, I had a nice sorrel quarter horse, Johnny Red, to ride all week. 

Claudene Cooper, my sister and Official Photographer, was staked out along the trails getting some great pictures.  She has generously been providing free photo memories to everyone for six (6) years.  You can find her work in the Galleries below; just right click to copy any photo you want.  A special Thanks for sharing your talents with so many, Sis!

The last minute cancelation by caterer Wally Roberts actually turned into great fellowship gatherings for potluck suppers!  Anybody that says we didnít eat like royalty was on a liquid diet! With chilly winds around mealtime, we ate all but the last potluck supper in the Museum.  Following the meals, we all enjoyed DVDís from the trailride last year and years beyond, as well as musical entertainment from Ann & Eldon Whitford.

Among the participants on this last ride were three veterinarians, Dr. Leon Self & Dr. Joe Potucek, that graduated together probably in the 50's and Dr. Demetre Chaconas from Mt. Airy, Maryland. We also had a two doctors, Dr. Alice Cox & Dr. Corita Dubose and nurse, Peggy Cole (see her poem inspired by this ride below).  We felt we were well covered for any accident, and we were.  Juanita Brooks was ponying one of her horses with her wagon and he did a little acting up during the lunch break.  It resulted in Dr. Alice Cox putting a half dozen stitches in Juanita's head. Juanita later tripped over a dog lead landing on her face. By the time it was time to go home, I was afraid when Truman saw her he was going to chain her to her home.  He acted like that was routine for Juanita and let it pass.  The only other injury I was aware of was someone with a thorn. (However, I did put my left shoulder out while mounting at lunch on Saturday, and showed Roy Robb how to put it back in when we got in camp. Age sure beats your option!)

Firewood was brought by many riders making for some great campfires!  We've always had some good musical talent in camp and some of them gathered at the evening fires.  Tommy "String" Williams shared his "Teneho, Timpson, Bobo & Blair" classic with us click here to hear Tex Ritter sing it.  Gottfried Schiller and Olaf Braunel (visiting from Germany) sang some ballads from their homeland for us.

Snowbird Keith Ritter, a.k.a. Harley Cowboy & Labor Addict, put a lot of his talents to work in preparing for this yearís final ride; grading roads all over the ranch and into Maravillas Canyon; putting a new coat of paint on the CabaŮa tables and Museum benches; and even organized the Store office!! The new owner would do well to entice this one-man army to hang around!

My farewell speech at the BBQ-Pasture Prizes and Dance pretty well said it all: 

ďI want to share some of my thoughts with the participants of this, the last Big Bend-Stillwell Ranch Trailride & Wagon Train.

I figure through 26 years of being Trail Boss on this ride, Iíve dealt one-on-one with more than twenty-five hundred folks.  I havenít been shot at or swung at, but I have been back stabbed a couple of times. They didnít amount to nothiní; there wasnít even any blood! I won anyway!

I have made lasting friendships with a BIG herd of trailriders and wagoneers from across this Nation and beyond.  Iíll always value them all.

I have lost more than a few good trailriding & wagoneer friends to the Good Lord but hope to ride with them again one day.  I miss many others who have reached the time in their lives where getting to the Stillwell Ranch is just too steep a hill to climb.

From the days when Hallie Stillwell reigned over the ranch, she and her family welcomed this ride with open arms. They turned the pasture weíre camped in from brushy and thorny to good camping hookups.  They added more hookups as needed along with pens, the fire pit, the Bath House, the covered CabaŮa & cook shack, the Dance Floor and even the wonderful Museum in Hallieís honor. Participants have always showed their gratitude by respecting these facilities.

These improvements were made possible through the efforts of Hallieís family; Sons Guy & Son; Daughter Dadie & her husband W. T. Potter; Dadieís Daughters Linda, Nannette & Kay, the Stillwell Staff (Ethelene, Dede, Barbie, Ann, Johnny, John and others)  and some wonderful ďsnowbirdĒ volunteers to date; especially Keith Ritter.

Iím going to miss the excitement of seeing the rigs pull in and turning the barren camp into a small town.  It is always interesting to see what equine breeds folks bring to ride and watching the mule riders as they started outnumbering the horse riders!

Probably the thing Iím going to miss the most is introducing new folks to this Trans-Pecos Desert area of Texas.  A few thought I was deranged after they got here.  Thankfully, most could see the same rustic beauty I have known since I was born in this country.  Itís been apparent that the Good Lord is partial to the Trans-Pecos country in February. He has provided great weather for this trailride through the last quarter of a century; with just a few exceptions.

For me this is the end of a Legendary Tradition. I hope that many of you, and the other twenty-five hundred (2500) participants, will carry fond memories of the Big Bend~Stillwell Ranch Trailride & Wagon Train with you and pass them on.




Photos are provided by Official Photographer Claudene Cooper. Contributors  - Marsha Wright, Jeanne Kennon & Redhorse.


Left click on pictures to enlarge. Right click to "save as" or copy


Thursday & Friday Action


Saturday - Black Tower


Sunday - Maravillas Canyon


Monday - Touring Big Bend


Monday - BBQ, Drawing & Dance


Tuesday - Black Gap WMA, West


Wednesday - Black Gap WMA, East


Scenery & Landmarks


Learning Curve - by Peggy Cole



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