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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, April 18, 2003

Skelton chronicles 80 years as cowboy, soldier

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., April 18, 2003 -- If you were born in San Saba County in 1921 and lived to see the dawn of the 21st Century, you might live through a few incidents worth writing down.

Merle "Tuffy" Skelton was and did, and now the Barstow resident has written down more than a few of his experiences in a book titled, "Cowmen, Cowboys, and Soldiers I've Known."

He came by the nickname Tuffy honestly.

When he was five a sickness took hold of most of his family. One younger sister died. At one point one of his older sisters picked him up and said, "Well, it looks like little Tuffy is going to survive."

He has answered to Tuffy ever since.

The depression hit the Panhandle and West Texas hard. Tuffy's mom died when he was nine and at the age of 13 he struck off on his own.

"I stayed with an uncle of mine for awhile and went to California in the fall of 1935 and stayed the winter," he said. "I was doing anything I could get to do - I sold newspapers, worked on a hay bailer and put up flyers for grocery stores."

He graduated into cowboying early on and that is what he was doing when he enlisted in the U. S. Army two months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Tuffy enlisted in Amarillo and went to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., where he joined a lesser-known element of the Artillery - the mule-pack artillery.

"We used 75 mm mountain howitzers that were designed to be broken down and carried by mules," he said.

The mule-pack artillery belonged to the 1st Cavalry Division, which shipped for Australia and the Pacific Theater on July 3, 1943.

Tuffy and the division were part of three major campaigns in the Pacific: the Admiralty Islands campaign, the invasion of the Philippines, and finally Luzon in 1945.

Unfortunately for Tuffy and his fellow cavalrymen the unit's animals could not be shipped to Australia.

"They used the cavalry guys as dismounted infantry and we pulled the little 75's with jeeps until the jeeps got stuck and then we broke them down and carried them by hand," he said.

According to Tuffy it took 10-12 men to carry all the pieces for one of the 75mm howitzers and that did not include ammunition for the gun.

"We put them to good use through all three campaigns," he said.

Tuffy was discharged in December of 1945.

Two years later he was working for a Wild West Show back east.

"Actually I worked for three different shows - billed as rodeos," he said. "Cowboys were pretty scarce back in the part of the world. I rode rough stock with the show and we all worked setting up and moving to different towns."

That year he met his wife Ireta in West Virginia while working for one of the wild west shows.

They were married August 8, 1947 after knowing each other for all of 30 days. It was enough. They are still married after 56 years.

After getting married Tuffy moved his new bride back to Texas and went to work as a cowboy.

He worked as a cowboy until 1976 when he leased a place west of Toyah and operated it as a ranch until 2000 when he took up book writing.

"The book is primarily about my life - friends and people I worked with and soldiered with."

Tuffy was 22 months writing the book, which has been in print since the day before Thanksgiving this past November and is in its second printing.

"I never thought I did anything worth writing about but a nephew of mine got me started. He said we ought to have it in the family so I decided to write it down."

Eighty years of living, cowboying and soldiering lends itself to more than a few tidbits of history.

It was probably worth writing down and probably worth reading as well.

Copies of the book can be found for sale here in locally in Pecos or it can be ordered directly from Tuffy at Box 125, Barstow, Texas 79719.

PECD president Ward in hospital due to blood clot

PECOS, Fri., April 18, 2003 -- The President of the Pecos Economic Development Corporation is undergoing treatment for a blood clot at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.

Gari Ward, who has served as PEDC president in the four years since the organizations was created, was hospitalized after his foot flared up according to John Grant, President of the West Texas National Bank.

Grant said that Ward had gone in for a check up after one of his foots had swollen up due to a blood clot. At which point Ward was also diagnosed with some clogging of the arteries.

Ward was then transported to Medical Center Hospital, where he is undergoing treatment for both problems.

The PEDC is funded in part by the Town of Pecos City, and is designed to attract new businesses into the Pecos area. The PEDC has helped relocate dairies to Reeves County in the past few years, and at last week's Pecos Chamber of Commerce meeting, Ward talked about his efforts to get the Sports Car Club of America to use the former Smithers Automotive Testing Center track as a race track for their club members.

Special services for Good Friday, Easter continue

PECOS, Fri., April 18, 2003 -- Catholic Churches in Reeves County and the Barstow area will be holidng special service for Good Friday and Easter tonight through Sunday.

Good Friday mass this evening will be at 6 p.m. at St. Catherine's Catholic Church and at 7 p.m. at Santa Rosa Catholic Church in Pecos.

The schedule for Easter Vigil on Saturday is 6 p.m. at Christ the King Parish in Balmorhea; 8 p.m. at Our Lady of Refuge Parish in Barstow, and 9 p.m. at both St. Catherine Parish and at Santa Rosa Parish in Pecos.

Sunrise Services in Barstow on the Hill, north on Farm Market Road 516, will be held on Easter Sunday and be conducted by Pastor Jim Daniels.

Also on Easter, Santa Rosa will hold a special service at 7:30 a.m., at 8:30 a.m. and at noon in Pecos; St. Catherine's Catholic Church in Pecos will hold a service at 10:30 a.m.; Our Lady of Refuge in Barstow will hold a service at 9 a.m. and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Saragosa will hold a service at 11:30 a.m.


PECOS, Fri., April 18, 2003 -- High Thurs. 93. Low this morning 56. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms. Lows in the lower 50s. SW winds 10 to 20 mph. Sat.: Mostly sunny and windy. Highs in the lower 80s. West winds increasing to 20 to 30 mph. Sat. night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 40s. Sun.: Mostly clear. Highs in the lower 80s. Mon.: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the lower 50s. Highs in the lower 80s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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