Van Horn, Texas
March 20th and 21st, 2009
As always the background work for the annual TBS Work Project began long before all the volunteers converged on the Lado Ranch in Van Horn. Guinn and Betsy Crousen purchased a sponsorship of the 2009 Work Project at our 2008 Roundup, expressing their belief in our ability to put another one together. Our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife started scoping out guzzler sites during the 2008 survey, and the project bosses, Lynton Holloway and Dan Boone were gathering supplies and making arrangements with the landowner and helicopter service well in advance of Van Horn being invaded by bighorn enthusiasts from around the state and points far and wide. The Holloway company prefabricated sections of the guzzler aprons and loaded all the materials on trailers for the trip west, and the water storage tanks were purchased and hauled down from Lubbock. Pam and Jerrell Coburn compiled a list of volunteers and built lunches for everyone so no one went hungry on the mountain. And finally, just to ensure that everything went smoothly, a few key folks showed up the day before work was to begin and dropped off most of the supplies at the two sites so that when it came time to officially start building guzzlers, we could get people on site and working early in the day.
With the preliminaries out of the way it was time for the hard working volunteers to show up, and they showed up in force! Almost ninety people choose to spend their weekend with TBS doing conservation work just for the gratification of being a part of this important task. Our host hotel, the Ramada Inn, started filling up while the TBS Board of Directors met in the nearby convention center. Most folks made plans to meet up at a local eatery for dinner, and then tried and get a good night’s rest before everyone gathered at first light to caravan out to the ranch.
As the sun rose over the rugged Chihuahuan desert landscape TBS President Robert Joseph welcomed everyone and conducted a safety briefing. Lunches were distributed and teams assigned to the two sites, and in short order the helicopter from AeroWest was transporting loads of volunteers to the mountain for a hard day’s work.
Many of the workers were familiar with the routine, and by the time the last workers were dropped off at each site the guzzler aprons were already starting to take shape. The sites had been chosen well and in no time the pads for the water storage tanks were flattened, and sites picked out for placing the drinkers. Almost as fast as the last of the tools and supplies arrived they were incorporated into the grand plan, and by early afternoon, under the watchful eyes of some bighorns that were cruising the valley between the two sites trying to determine what all the commotion was about in their normally quiet neighborhood, two new guzzlers took shape.
By the end of the work day it was all over but the shouting. In record time two water sources had been added to the range of a bighorn herd that had its roots in one of the first transplants in the Texas bighorn restoration program. Over dinner at a local eatery that night plans were made to tie up a few loose ends in the morning, and since there was opportunity, a decision was made to send a crew to the old High Lonesome guzzler that was built sometwo decades earlier during the first TBS work project and to try and get it back into good working order. Since only a few hands were needed for this task, Kai Buckert of the Lado Ranch arranged an outing for the rest of the crew to see some of the historic petroglyphs in the area.
Saturday was uncharacteristically laid back for a TBS work project. A few folks even got in a short nap before gathering at the Van Horn Convention Center for dinner and a brief membership meeting. Speaking for the O’Connor family, owners of the Lado Ranch, Mr. Kai Buckert, Ranch foreman expressed his gratitude to TBS and its hard working volunteers. More importantly we made new friends and important allies in our efforts to restore bighorn sheep to this part of its former range. In an extremely thoughtful gesture they renamed the High Lonesome guzzler the Ray Whatley guzzler in recognition of the retired TPWD biologist’s years of commitment to the bighorn program (Ray and his wife were Becky were in attendance). One of the new guzzlers was named the Pittman guzzler in recognition of Mr. Mike Pittman, TPWD Trans Pecos WMAs Project Leader, and the other new guzzler was permanently enshrined as the Crousen guzzler in honor of Guinn and Betsy Crousen’s tremendous contribution to TBS and bighorn restoration. (You can read more about the O’Connor family and their commitment to conservation in the accompanying sidebar article)
TBS would especially like to thank Jim Bartos of Aluminum Metal Products and Becknell Wholesale for their contributions to this year’s work project. We would also like to thank Dirk Parks for supplying all the photographs for this article! It is always gratifying to see how many people are willing to contribute to this worthy cause, and truth be told we just couldn’t do what we do without the help of all our friends!
Things wound down at the Convention center about 9:00 p.m., but that TBS spirit had one act left. Everyone gravitated to the hotel parking lot for what had to be the biggest tailgate party Van Horn has ever seen! We celebrated well into the night, and welcomed our two newest life members Dale and Robbie Burns in true TBS style! We’ll see you again next year!