BTSR: THEN AND NOW
This picture is not some tropical paradise. It’s in Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch in southwest Texas!
When the topic of Texas camps comes up, Buffalo Trails gets more than it’s share of attention. It’s even advertised occasionally in Scouting magazine.
Then: I first attended this camp in 1972 as a boy. I hated most of it. The campsites had no shade, so they were uninhabitable in the 110+ degree heat. The trading post was a wooden shed. I do remember the new dining hall had the luxury of a swamp cooler, and local performers came in to entertain us during the noon meal with popular music.
Later: In 1992 we attended the camp with my current Troop 1197. The campsites had not improved, but the creek was running and you could actually go swimming right out in back of our tent. It was still hot in the daytime, but we awoke to a windstorm about 3:00 every morning. A series of horns positioned along the canyon blared out reveille (from a cassette tape) at six in the morning, but by then, one of the camp donkeys had already found our tent and licked our faces.
The staff was so over-trained that they were afraid to have any fun. This was good for merit badges, but meant that other activities suffered. There were no skits or songs at the campfires. There were no contests of any kind. I found out that the reason was the troops in Midland would carry the rivalry too far, quarreling with each other back home long after summer camp ended. (Boy, I’ll bet 1990 or 1991 must have been out of control.)
The Horsemanship program was great that year, so we came back after camp was over for a special cavalcade. We had the whole camp to ourselves. They left plenty of food ready-to-heat in the dining hall walk-in. With only 14 participants and 4 staff, the pool was never crowded!
Recently: A couple of years ago, the troop visited BTSR again. Every troop in camp that week was from Houston (not their council), so some of the “big troop” problems we have at home migrated there with us. Shelters had been added to the campsites. The MASH-style PA system was silent. The troop next to us tried to take over our campsite, the other campers were noisy until well after midnight, and some idiot (boy) kept taking pictures of other boys in the shower. None of this was BTSR’s fault. But the staff promoted drinking in their offensive campfire skits. Some of them were drunk during their “party” on Thursday night, and somebody smoked pot in the campers’ bathroom during closing campfire.
Our boys expected a great Horsemanship program, so they signed up for the merit badge. They only rode a horse for 5 minutes inside a small pen. Not so exciting. On the other hand, Climbing Merit Badge was the best I’ve yet seen, using a real cliff wall for rappelling.
What do you like or don’t like about this Davis Mountains camp?
By the way, don’t be fooled by the picture. It’s the Notch, of course, but the photo was taken in 1992. It doesn’t normally look like that!