I recall attending only one encampment as a tenderfoot scout. No recollections of fellow Scouters and I don't remember the river near which the camp was located, but I have a vivid recollection of wading it. It must have been a real hot July day and we spent the entire day exploring it. I'm sure we all looked like boiled lobsters when we got back to camp that afternoon, but I remember one scout who was really hurting. Both his thighs were covered in big, clear blisters---looked like white balloons sitting on top of his legs. The scoutmaster had to take him back to town.
Memories of Old Camp Billy Gibbons by John Chaney
I have sometimes thought of Camp Billy Gibbons, wondering what it would be like to go back. I could hardly wait to be 12, the magic date to be eligible for scouts. Friends older than me had been going to camp for years and I was excited about that. Can't remember now if I got homesick that first time. Many are the fond memories of the meals at the mess hall. Singing songs, table competition, waiting for the winning campsite of the day to be designated. I also recall 'Pig Table,' an award that was made as the meal ended and your troop or table was observed as you ate.
Remember how you had to have your area ready for inspection and then leave until the inspectors were finished? Beds made to perfection, no litter, and modest decorations with rocks that were sometimes painted with whitewash.
For several years the mess hall had a gravel floor. This brings me to the 'Bull Gang' on which probably one of the highest honors was to be selected. The Bull Gang went early to get things in shape for arriving troops. We worked on the water system, cleared brush, repaired the low water crossing, and in the summer of 1945 poured a concrete floor in the mess hall. We made numerous trips to Brady Creek hauling sand and gravel. Since we had to prime David Camp's truck to start it, it isn't surprising that once we started a grass fire in the broom weeds.
Once the various troops started arriving, activities went on schedule. Advisors were available for different merit badge work. Leathercraft was a big activity with kits for billfolds, belts and many Indian lore items. I have a great photo of Gaither Browning. If you recall, John Wood (Ed. note: Game Warden and very prominent in Scout activities) was very active.
For those trying to complete the requirements of Eagle, lifesaving was a terror. How scared I was on the day that I took the lifesaving merit badge test. I had heard stories of how Toots Gilliam came close to drowning you. How proud I was when I got back to shore dragging a struggling Toots. He did all he could to pull you under and get you upset.
Can't recall the date for sure, but we were in Brady Creek when the cry came out that a flash flood was approaching. I remember running from the creek to higher ground and watching the water roll in.
In the early years it seems every troop had to have its own latrine (no porta-potties back then). For a while we didn't even have out houses. The quality of the engineering on the troop latrine was part of the competition.
One of the very toughest of merit badges was 'Bird Study.' Dr. O. E. Winebrinner of Howard Payne was one of the few qualified persons to grant a Bird Study merit badge. Seems like that was the last one I had to have for Eagle. Wonder if it still takes 21 badges for Eagle.
Can you remember how winding and rough the road was going through the ranch to get to the site? Hiking was a big deal, going to the mouth of the Brady Creek where it joined the San Saba. Hiking to Cold Springs, not too far from the ranch house, and jumping into icy water on a 100 degree day was great. I recall shooting the rapids. On one particular day we found a much pregnant snake, cut it open and found hundreds of babies, worm size.
Seems like we always had one or two scouts that would get snake bit. Remember the snake bite kit that came in a rubber container that held a little razor blade, a tourniquet, and the container itself served as a suction cup?
I am also reminded of the campfires at night, study of Indian lore and the Indian dances. Going to and from the campfire was an adventure. Eventually they came up with the Order of the Arrow. Another proud moment was getting into the OA. We had another honor society for older scouts that came before the OA I can't remember the name; want to say something like' Cooney A' (Editor's note: Phonetically correct, John - spelled 'Kunieh') Still remember how tough the initiation was though.
This was camping before the days of sleeping bags. The bedroll was a carefully planned masterpiece, some large, some small; but you had to be able to make it look good for inspection. Can you remember how hard it was to get the second end-stick on the cot? The first stick always went on easy, but the second was a challenge! Remember mosquito nets?
Getting ready to go home was always a down time. You had to figure out how to take all that stuff you had made or traded for.
This story was taken from the Brownwood High School Class of 1947 newsletter "The Roar of '47", newsletter #8, Fall, 1999
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