Fifth Year and Second SKP Co-Op: 1983
History of the Escapees Club in Prose and Pictures
RoVers Publications, Livingston, Texas
by Kay Peterson and Todd Paddock
herein with Kay Peterson's permission]
before we bade farewell to 1982, we were paving the way for
another SKP Co-Op. Land for the second SKP Co-Op had
already been purchased and the project was well into the
organizational stage. The property was located halfway
between Carlsbad and Artesia in the little town of Lakewood, New
Mexico. The circumstances of how we found it were unusual.
and I had driven many miles around new Mexico and were ready to
abandon our search there. Either the price of barren land
was too high or water rights could not be obtained. On the
way back to Arizona, we stopped to visit Joe's boyhood friend,
Wayne Gregory. When we told him of our disheartening
search for good land, Wayne asked several questions and then
offered to fly Joe over his ranch the next morning. Along
with his machine shop and steel business, Wayne had a small
cattle ranch of 6,000 acres, and he thought some of that land
might be of interest to us.
they returned from the flight, I could see Joe was
excited. We all piled into Wayne's car and drove the 20
miles to Lakewood, a town that consisted of one tiny post
office. Period. Wayne owned the property of both
sides of the small country road, Highway 381 [now Hwy 31], that
went past the post office to McMillan Lake.
seemed as if we had hiked miles before we found what we believed
would be an excellent site for a park. Wayne was even willing to cut a 15-acre plot out of the middle of it so that it
would include the only grove of trees on the entire ranch.
Joe had convinced him that we needed to trees more than his cows
gave us an exceptionally good price on the land and said we
could use caliche from a nearby hill for developing our
roads. he also helped us to obtain the necessary water
rights and loaned us a 600-gallon water tank on a trailer for
the construction crew to use until we got a well drilled and
immediately hired an attorney to get the second SKP Co-Op
incorporated in the state of New Mexico. Tom and Roni
Foster agreed to move onto the property to be our telephone
contact for coordinating the various components that go into
organizing a project of this type. Joe would continue to
work at Rover's Roost, so we would be close enough to drive back
for meetings with the environment people, attorney, engineer,
and architect. Thus the New Mexico park was already in the
organization stage while the Arizona park was still under
cost per membership at New Mexico was $1,200 as opposed to the
Arizona price of $1,450. We purchased 10 acres in Arizona
and 15 acres in New Mexico, but both had 120 sites.
However, the Arizona sites were only 35 by 45-feet while New
Mexico had 40 by 60-foot sites. New Mexico also had more
room around the clubhouse, wider streets, angled lots, and a
much larger dry-camp area. Yet there was enough money left
from the New Mexico project to build an incoming road with two
cattle guards and a single strand cattle fence (electric) to
keep out the cows. There were several reasons for this
had learned from Arizona
price per acre of land was much less.
Mexico was more lenient than Arizona in regard to zoning
regulations and obtaining permits.
friend, Wayne, was the only neighbor involved, so there was
no problem with rezoning.
purchased a used 7-yard dump truck and backhoe for a total
of $21,000 so that we could haul the material for our roads.
gave us all the caliche we needed for the roads.
Wayne and Joe, they knew where to find building supplies at
the best price.
the telephone and power companies were more reasonable to
work with than the companies in Arizona.
that free caliche gift and our own equipment to haul it, we were
able to save a lot of money on building roads. Before we
purchased the dump truck and backhoe, we checked rental prices
and found that renting the same equipment for the period it
would be needed was approximately $21,500. By purchasing,
we saved about $500 and had the benefit that we could sell it
when we were finished. As it turned out, the equipment was
sold to the Escapees Club for developing Rainbow's End.
the Second SKP Co-Op
March 1983, following our annual Escapade, Joe and I led a small
band of construction workers to The Ranch. Spring blew in
with its usual unpredictable weather and high winds. One
morning we awoke to snow - not just a fine dusting but a 12-inch
snow including drifts, something that rarely happens in that
part of New Mexico and never that late in the year.
snow didn't last long, but the winds became a never-ending
nuisance. The southwest desert areas are always windy in
the spring, but this year they seemed especially strong.
At first it was merely an irritation because the undisturbed
vegetation held the dirt in place, but after we began digging
trenches to lay the lines for hookups, the blowing dust was
sometimes impossible to work in. Many days we had to stop
until it died down.
Harris said that the New Mexico logo she created was a result of
being cooped up in her tiny trailer during those sand
storms. There was an old busted-up freight wagon near the
old homestead, and she became intrigued with the idea of putting
an SKP house in that type of wagon. She made several
versions on flimsy tissue paper and brought them to one of the
daily happy hours for everyone to vote on.
tradition of daily happy hours at the end of the work day had
been started by the Casa Grande construction crew. Here in
New Mexico, we didn't have a clubhouse or any cover, but that
didn't keep us from following the tradition to meet together to
share the accomplishments of the day and plan the work for
tomorrow. We selected the largest tree, which Anne dubbed
The Meeting Tree, for this daily activity. Some days we
bundled up in heavy jackets and some days we went in
shirt-sleeves. Rain was never a problem. In fact, we
were beginning to think that it never rained in this part of New
Mexico. We would learn differently, but during
construction Nature was kind to us.
was again the overall project supervisor, with Wayne Sharp as
the construction foreman, and Paul Ogilbie, a retired builder,
as the clubhouse building supervisor. Gerry Huslage's son,
who was an architect, drew the plans for the clubhouse, which
would henceforth be called The Ranch House. Vic Hugall, a
retired brick layer, supervised the laying of the slump-stone
men and women worked in a multitude of jobs. Most of the
women were assigned to the tedious but important job of tamping
the dirt covering the ditches. There were some kind of job
for anyone who wanted to help, including Elton Campbell who was
a double amputee and a faithful member of the construction crew.
with Arizona, the local people were amazed to learn men and
women in their 70s and 80s were working long and hard without
pay. The part that seemed most amazing to anyone who
doesn't understand the Escapees philosophy was that many of them
worked every day for months on the project, and some of them had
no intention of living there. They were just helping their
friends who wanted to home based at The Ranch.
park was five acres larger than that Arizona park, but because
of less stringent regulations, all the hookups were in before
the end of June - less than four months since construction
started. Lot selection was again by lottery drawing.
Once it was over and members knew which lot was theirs, many
left for summer travels. Most of them would move onto
their assigned lots in the fall and begin building storage
buildings and putting in their individual driveways and
was decided to let the building of the clubhouse wait until fall
when people returned from their summer travels. Wayne (and
Dot) Sharp stayed behind to oversee the small remaining road
crew. Road volunteers working in two-hour shifts under
road foreman Morty Risch.
with Arizona, there were many fund raisers to cover the cost of
The Ranch House. In addition to the free labor from so
many dedicated volunteers, there were donations of equipment and
other items. Ted and Kiki Lee donated to flag poles and
two special flags. The U.S. flag was the same one that was
flying from the USS Constitution on the day Ted was discharged
from military service. The flag under it, which was to be
flown only on special occasions to preserve it, was a replica of
the first American flag. A rattlesnake is superimposed on
the 13 red and white stripes, and the words under it read,
"Don't tread on me."
and Sarah Webb found the welcome bell that still announces all
new arrivals. It was originally a dinner bell used to
summon the workers on an old Tennessee plantation and bore the
date 1890. Harold and Jackie Webb (Harold is Bill's
brother) paid for half the cost of the bell.
second SKP Co-Op had been named The Ranch because of its
setting. Cows, rabbits, road runners, and birds, including
a hoot owl who nested in the trees, gave it a country flavor,
and the people who chose this park for their home base
encouraged these creatures, even designed special feed stations
for them. Everything is named appropriately such as
"The water hole" (water filling hookup for visitors),
"The corral" (dry-camp area), etc. Even the two
annual business meetings, which are designed around rallies, are
called Spring or Fall Roundups.
Fall Roundup in October 1983, the first official business
meeting was held and a board of directors elected. The
first elected officers were:
the same meeting, officers were elected for The Ranch
Hands. The Ranch Hands were the fund-raising arm.
Their functions were, first, to raise enough money to furnish
The Ranch House and, second, to plan rally activities to follow
the two business meetings each year. These rallies became
popular events that many Escapees attended together with the
members who made this their home base.
Roundups soon became famous for their fun activities, such as
Raunchy Nite that was introduced by Denny McGowan. There
were many other activities going on throughout the year.
Ranch quickly earned a reputation for being the friendliest park
in the Escapees system. Some believe this is because it is
further from the general travel route, so there are fewer
visitors. Whatever the reason, visitors to The Ranch in
Lakewood, Mexico, say they feel truly welcome. It is the
only one of the parks in the Escapees system that still rings
the welcome bell for each new arrival.
and Roni Foster agreed to remain as manager until a permanent
manager could be found. Joe and I left feeling good about
having seen the Arizona miracle repeated.
Great Flood of 1984
cannot close the chapter on The Ranch without talking about the
great flood in the summer of 1984. Everyone told us the
desert doesn't flood. The Ranch was on high ground.
Joe had been raised here. His buddy had lived here all his
life. They were sure floods would never be a problem at
The Ranch. But in August 1984, after six months of no
moisture, the rains came. The accumulation of rain in the
mountains came rushing down and flooded the entire area of
Carlsbad and Artesia. The Ranch sits between those two
towns. The dry arroyo along one boundary filled and
overflowed. There was a foot of water over the northwest
corner of The Ranch, and all the lots along the arroyo were
was summer, so there were only a few families in the park along
with the managers, Don and Nancy Monroe. Everyone was
evacuated. Before the managers left, they went into all
the sheds whose owners had left keys and put things up off the
floor to prevent mud and water damage. Each day during the
evacuation period, they returned to be sure the property was
secured. There was no structural damage to The Ranch
House, and only a little water came in the southwest corner
where the rest rooms are located.
roads had the biggest damage. On the lots and in the
Corral (dry-camp area), the water was quickly sucked up by the
thirsty desert, which gave thanks by sending up weeds that grew
and grew and grew. In some places the weeds grew as tall
as eight feet! Lots that were "improved" with
gravel suffered the most because the cover trapped the water,
providing the irrigation the weeds needed. The dry-camp
area that had been so carefully graded and graveled in the
spring was completely overrun with these weeds.
by the time Fall Roundup took place, everything had been cleaned
up except on a few lots where the leaseholders had not yet
returned. Fall Roundup was a great success, and some of
the traveling Escapees who came to enjoy the rally ended up
putting their names on the waiting list for a membership.
For More SKP Co-Ops
memberships for both of these SKP Co-Ops sold quickly, and by
the end of 1983 both had long waiting lists. Disappointed
members who were unable to get into either of those SKP Co-Ops
were begging us to do a third one. Joe and I had been
actively involved in the land search, organization, and building
of these first two SKP Co-Ops. Now we were pursuing land
for a headquarters and knew we'd soon be involved in that.
We understand the desire of members for more parks. We
wanted them too, but we did not feel comfortable turning the
land search, organization, and development over to any one
person. An answer came the following year, but for now
future SKP Co-Ops were put on hold.