Beech Mountain Ranch
Van Horn, Texas
March 17th and 18th, 2010
It sometimes seems that when the hard working volunteers of TBS gather in the rugged mountains of the Texas Trans-Pecos Mother Nature likes to test our mettle just to see if we are really serious about all this. The Black Gap Wildlife Management Area has blessed our efforts with torrential rains and pounding hail storms, Sierra Diablo WMA has treated us to a pea-soup fog that reduced visibility to mere feet, and the West Texas winds are at the very least a serious concern most years. But the 2010 work project brought a new level of testing of our dedication to this task.
Project leaders Lynton Holloway and Dan Boone, and a few of the early arrivals went to work on Thursday the 16th of March putting the equipment and supplies in place for the construction of two new conventional guzzlers and maintenance on three existing slick rock guzzlers on the Beach Mountain Ranch north of Van Horn. As always work actually begins long before we get to West Texas with the Holloway Company doing the pre fab work on the guzzler aprons and gathering the tools and supplies required for this monumental task. The Boones schedule helicopter time and purchase tanks and make arrangements to get them to the site. The Coburn’s figure out who is coming and handle the all-important task of figuring out how to get everyone fed, and our illustrious leader Robert Joseph coordinates all the details of notifying membership and putting plans in place for a weekend that includes a Board meeting, membership meeting, and an operation that quite honestly is the glue that binds TBS together.
People started arriving on Thursday afternoon, and by Friday morning more than 100 bighorn enthusiasts had descended on the small town of Van Horn. Weather for the first day had been predicted to be windy and concerns were high that we would have trouble getting everyone up to the sites, and as the afternoon wore on, get them off again safely. But the gods lulled us in with mild temperatures and by West Texas standards, light winds. A brisk competition among the two new conventional guzzler site teams resulted in Ace High’s Site 2 team completing their guzzler on day one, and Lynton Holloway’s Site 1 team finishing the day with only a few details to wind up on day two. One of the maintenance teams on the three existing slick rock sites completed their work, and the other two teams were close. As it turned out Friday’s hard work was very important.
Friday night the TBS crowd descended on Poppa’s Pantry for dinner and after a good meal got a look at the skulls of three huge rams that had been taken in the area over the last few weeks. It really put an exclamation point on the quality of the bighorn population in the area, and emphasized the importance of our weekends work.
Saturday dawned early and we were expecting heavy wind, but I don’t believe anyone was expecting the reception Mother Nature greeted us with as we rousted about and gathered for breakfast. An inch or so of snow was on the ground, and near blizzard conditions were dumping more by the minute! For those who weren’t intimidated by the chilly morning, a magnificent tableau awaited us at the staging area. As the snowfall lessened and the skies cleared the mountains revealed their snowy dress, and the sun glistened off what had been a somewhat monochrome vista the day before. It was still seriously chilly, but the beautiful scenery warmed us from the inside out. A small crew that included the author worked their way overland to Site 3, where we had been watched by some of the local residents while we worked the day before. Several stops were made to take pictures of the spectacular scenery along the way, and in short order after we arrived a couple of ewes with young lambs in tow came around a bluff not 75 yards from the work site and proceeded to work their way across a nearly vertical bluff and into a protected canyon where they could observe us and make sure we were doing quality work. They stayed within 125 yards of us throughout the morning with the lambs butting heads and bouncing around in the snow while the ewes picked breakfast from the snowy bushes.
A greatly diminished workforce was nonetheless able to finish up early and return to Van Horn with time for a short nap before gathering for a catered meal and membership meeting at the Convention Center. Last year’s tailgate party had set the bar kind of high for post meeting entertainment but plans were made to see if the TBS bighorn nuts would brave the cold for the fellowship this group is famous for. Sure enough, in spite of near freezing temperatures and brisk winds, dozens showed up to knock back a few well chilled beers and share the experiences of another TBS work project in the mountains of Texas. The most dedicated of our membership adjourned to the laundry room and kept it going till the wee hours of the morning!
We would particularly like to thank Debbie Mills and Russ Young, sponsors of this year’s work project and long time backers of TBS and the Texas bighorn program. The Holloway’s, Boone’s, and Coburn’s always go far beyond expectations to make sure everything comes together on these excursions, and the hard working folks at Texas Parks and Wildlife put in many hours of extra work to make everything possible and worthwhile. And of course none of this could happen without all of those TBS volunteers that take time from their busy schedules to do the work that has made the bighorn program here so successful and a model for cooperation envied by the rest of the country. Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!