Notable People - Rangering

Ben Abruzzo was a prominent Albuquerque Real Estate developer when I lived there.  He owned Sandia Peak Ski Area which I worked at in the winter of 73-74.  I often saw him there.  He wasn’t overly-friendly with employees, but he would say hello and I did ride the chairlift with him a time or two.  I skied with his oldest son Richie a fair amount.

Another person who I met at Sandia, during the following summer, was Larry Newman.  Larry was the first person I saw fly a hang-glider.  In fact I talked to him about taking lessons but we could never get our schedules together.

Abruzzo and Newman later became famous as the pilots of the Double Eagle II, the first balloon to cross the Atlantic.


Bill Hewlett, of Hewlett-Packard fame, had a “cabin” in the Sierras near Donner Pass.  It was in an area known as “The Cedars” which is about due south of Sugar Bowl ski area.  This is a collection of very nice summer cabins (it is almost impossible to get into the place in the winter), most of which are owned by pretty well-to-do families from the Bay Area.

An example of the wealth of these families -- there is a large meadow in “The Cedars” which we were using a base to land a helicopter in to shuttle firemen into a small, inaccessible fire nearby.  There were a number of pre-teen boys watching our operations and I said to one, “Kind of exciting watching a helicopter land in your front yard, isn’t it?”

He replied, “Yeah, it’s neat.  I always like it when my Dad’s helicopter lands at our house to take him somewhere.”

Bill Hewlett
Anyhow, in 1992 they became concerned about their vulnerability to a forest fire and asked the Forest Service to help them devise a plan to minimize the potential for damage.  I worked with them to develop some plans to control the vegetation around the community, minimize the potential for fire starts and develop some sort of fire response plan.

Bill came to many of the meetings we held and was very interested and involved in the process.  I got to know him pretty well and found him very affable with a gentle sense of humor.  He did not in any way try to be the "leader," he seemed happy just to be one of the participants.


In April of 1974 I started working for the Forest Service.  I was assigned to fire prevention and visitor information services.  My duty station was at the top station of the Sandia Peak Tramway, just outside of Albuquerque.

Our job was to greet each tram as it arrived and explain to the riders the very high fire danger in the area, urge them to be fire-safe while visiting and then to answer any questions that they might have about the area.
One time when the tram arrived Lou Rawls, a well-known singer and sometime actor, was aboard.  I recognized him immediately as I prepared to give my little fire danger spiel.

Lou Rawls
After he exited the tram, it was obvious that he under the influence of something, but he asked a couple of question about what was visible from our vantage point near the top of the mountain.  I think this was more out of courtesy than curiosity. Two attractive young ladies accompanied him, but they both treated him more like they were nurses or caretakers than girlfriends.

The thing that I most remember about Rawls is that he was the actor who said the memorable line, “Ain't a horse that can't be rode; ain't a man that can't be throwed.”  This was on the TV show The Big Valley when he had a guest starring role as a hired hand.  I also remember that he was a talented singer with a very silky voice.

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