At age 15, Bud Wilson went to work on a farm in Kansas for the Summer. He milked the cows, hitched the horse team, and pitched the hay. When the old farmer left for a family crisis, young Bud, from suburban Chicago, had to run the whole operation on his own. His love of the land and unflagging work ethic where born.
After serving as a Navy pilot, Bud went to college. Prestigious fraternities invited him to pledge. He declined, because they excluded minority students. Bud was subsequently elected class president.
In June 1947 Bud began to buy a ranch in Lama NM. On break from school, he loaded up an old army truck with teenagers from Chicago and headed out West to work and camp for the summer on the land. Bud and the dudes raced across the mesas riding bareback, dug 80 ft-deep wells by hand, and got lost in the mountains.
Dr. Wilson practiced open heart and general surgery for 50 years and developed a reputation for indefatigable devotion to his patients. In one pioneering procedure, Bud spent 26 hours holding a woman’s heart together. Defying statistical probability, she survived. He established surgical programs in New Mexico, Colorado, and India.
Digging ditches in the Land Enchantment to pay for med school, Bud was smitten with his beloved Barb when he saw her removing a banana cream pie from Jennie Vincent’s oven. In 1985 Bud and Barb founded the Sangre de Cristo Youth Ranch Summer Camp. They wanted to give the single mom nurses at the hospital a break during the summer.
Bud often didn’t charge people for surgeries, but what money he did earn was poured into the camp. The month-long experience has been provided free of charge for over a quarter century. When he wasn’t keeping vigil at a bedside in recovery, Dr. Wilson was driving up to Lama in the middle of the night, eager to dig some postholes with the kids first thing in the morning. In his 80s, Bud still hikes up to catch the campers at the top of 12,000 ft. Lobo Peak.
At the Sangre de Cristo Youth Ranch, every youth can know the same satisfaction and self-esteem earned through doing an honest days work in real service that Bud found on the farm in Kansas. Campers share the freedom, camaraderie, and connection to nature that ranch life provides. Camp gives kids an appreciation for the strength of diversity in community, and all the tools to become fulfilled human beings. Bud wants everyone to have a chance to lead a life as blessed as his. He tells every camper that they are forever welcome on his ranch.