More on Lone Ranger

aircraft on  a routine cross-country navigation training flight made a detour to Billings Airport to collect the Lone Ranger’s horse.

There were no jet starting units at Billings so the pilot kept the engines running.  The horse dealer was right on time and loading began.  Unfortunately, the crew quickly realized that the horse would not fit in the bomb-bay.  It was too long and too wide.  Exercising the spirit of ingenuity which is a Naval Aviation trademark, the crew borrowed a saw from the dealer and went about removing the fiberglass horse’s head and
And all four legs.  All parts were bundled up and stowed in the bomb-bay.  The crew scrambled on  board and the pilot called for taxi clearance.  The request was approved and when the Navy  plane reached the duty runway, a tower operator queried.  “Was that a horse you guys were putting into that plane?”  The pilot said. “Yeah, well, it was sort of a horse.”  Cleared for takeoff the Navy crew expedited the launch sequence, cleverly avoiding further questions.

The flight to NAS Alameda was uneventful, and the disassembled horse was delivered (shrouded and in secrecy) to the Ranger.  The “Humpty-Dumpty” condition of the horse presented significant problems of time and reconstruction, but nothing Brunskill and his crew couldn’t handle.  Although none of the AIMD technicians had ever worked with fiberglass, they obtained books on the material, labored clandestinely and put Silver back together again.  Not even the seams of reconstruction showed.  And a local taxidermy shop had a set of beautiful new eyes for the white stallion.  The project was completed three days before departure.

In the meantime, in Lander, Wyoming, word of the Lone Ranger, his horse, and the USS Ranger, had spread among its 8,000 residents.  The entire city had become fanatic fans of the ship.  A Lander saddle shop forwarded an  exquisite  hand woven horse hair hackamore (very expensive).  Another air expressed a fine western saddle and bridle.

Noting the flawless reincarnation of Silver, CDR Graham summoned CDR Marshall Bittick, the Flight Deck officer, to the Jet-Shop.  Graham asked Bittick, “Can you fix up one of your “yellow gear” tractors to safely support Silver and a rider?  (Yellow gear refers to all equipment used to move, start or perform special maintenance on aircraft on the flight or hangar decks.)  It’ll need a quick disconnect so that we don’t tie up the tractor for any length of time.  Plus, it should  have lighting so that the horse and rider can be seen at night.”

Without hesitation, Bittick said, “Can do, XO.  Just give me a few days>”
“How about two days, Marsh,” said XO.  “We want the Lone Ranger riding when we depart Alameda for WESTPAC.”

Bittick hurried to the task while Graham studied an array of three-foot-high, rectangular-shaped towing vehicles.  One of them would allow the Lone Ranger to ride again!

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California that July afternoon in 1968.  At the Carrier Pier on the west side of the Air Station the mighty Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger (CV-61)  rode rock-steady on the blue-green waters of San Francisco Bay.  Near the center of the pier a fork-lift was lowering a very large wooden sided crate from a flat-bed truck.  When the crate was firmly stable on the concrete deck of the pier, a Supply Department Petty Officer checked the manifest one more time, then signed for the 7’x 10’x 4’ crate which was addressed “PERSONAL FOR: CAPT. WILLIAM H. LIVINGSTON, USN COMMANDING OFFICER, USS RANGER.”  After the crate was hoisted to the #3 elevator and moved on to the Hanger Deck, the Petty Officer contacted the Captain’s Office for instructions.  “Uncrate it and bring the paperwork to the Captain’s Office,” was the response.  Four sailors made short work of the crate, and as they did they became wide-eyed and bewildered—as a crowd began to form around the large gleaming white object emerging from the crate.  A perfectly formed, full sized statue of a white horse---complete with black leather saddle and bridle trimmed and studded with silver—stood on the Hanger Deck!

The Captain himself was quickly notified, and soon thereafter the 6’5” imposing figure of William H. “Tag” Livingston, RANGER’S Commanding Officer, was puzzling over the stately figure of a horse—and paperwork indicating the origin of the horse as a Western Outfitting firm in Wyoming.  Leaving instructions for the Supply Officer to contact both the shipping  company and the western outfitters to clear up this mistake,  Captain Livingston returned to be readied for return to combat in Tonkin Gulf, and in less than four months he had to embark Air Wing TWO and Commander Carrier Division THREE and deploy  back to the Western Pacific.

A day or so later, about mid-morning, the Duty Officer called from the Quarterdeck, and very nervously informed Commander H. Edward Graham, USN – Executive Officer of the USS Ranger – that an Alameda County Deputy Sheriff was on the Quarterdeck with a “Specific Performance or Arrest” Warrant naming Captain Livingston as being in violation of the laws of the State of Wyoming.  “Ed” Graham arrived on the Quarterdeck in less than a minute, and quickly escorted the Deputy back down to his office.  There, after carefully examining the official document, things began to make some strange sense to the Executive Officer.  He, too, had been confounded by the strange delivery of the big white horse which still drew crowds of onlookers on the Hanger Deck.. The Warrant stated that a Wyoming stallion, which was the property of one  William H. Livingston of the USS RANGER, was currently unbranded – in violation of the laws of the State of Wyoming--, and the said stallion must be properly branded with a brand registered with the State of Wyoming within 30 days.  Otherwise, the Arrest Warrant would be activated.  Commander Graham considered all the information, and began to laugh—then exploded with laughter harder and harder..”That Son-of-a-Gun Brunskill is behind this!”

“Brunskill” was Commander Robert J. Brunskill, USN, who had retired from a full and significant naval career shortly after the USS RANGER returned from the Vietnam Combat Theater less than three months earlier.  Bob Brunskill, a highly skilled aircraft maintenance specialist who had been selected to prove the concept of Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance aboard carriers, had very convincingly accomplished his............(Next Page)

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