On to Abilene, prettiest town we’ve ever seen (not really, it’s part of a song!)

We arrived in Abilene in the afternoon on Thursday, July 18. Thank goodness we got the A/C (vehicle, not motorhome) recharged in Tulsa, it was 101 on our way down! We drove to the other side of Abilene, and out of town to Abilene State Park. Pretty park, in a Texas kind of way, lots of prickly pear cactus and trees that I can’t identify. Not the dense underbrush of Eastern Oklahoma. Joanette’s Cousin Bryan Wells from Emigrant Montana was already here waiting for us. Yes there’s a reason why we are here at the same time! Here is that part of the story. Tomorrow’s blog with tell you why we are here!

On July 23, 1962 there was an US Air Force B-47E and a crew of four from Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas, that crashed in Montana, into Emigrant Peak, south of Livingston. Bryan’s future wife, Sally lived at the base of Emigrant Peak near where they live now. Sally remembers hearing the crash, seeing the fire ball, the ensuing forest fire and the search for the crash. Over the years Bryan had hiked to the crash site several times. It is about a four hour hike up to the 8,500 foot level of Emigrant Peak to the debris field that can still be seen today, even from Google Earth. The event was never memorialized and Bryan wanted to change that. Bryan called Keith in the fall of 2015 and said “I want to establish a memorial for these men and there families over here in Emigrant, Montana. Could you find the families?”

Keith went to work finding the families. He found brothers, sisters, widows, children and grandchildren, all over the United States. He blindly called and spoke with them all. He explained who he was and why he was calling. Bryan went to work building a beautiful memorial, a gazebo, with a beautiful plaque, facing Emigrant Peak, all situated in Old Chico Cemetary, near Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, Montana. The families were all invited to Emigrant, Montana for a ceremony to be held on July 23, 2016, the 54th anniversary of the crash. Housing was furnished for all the families that attended by Bryan and Sally’s Emigrant Creek Cabins (check that out online). People were picked up at the Bozeman airport, families rented cars, dignitaries from the State of Montana, Governor Bullock’s office, Senator Steve Daines, Air Force Officers from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene Texas were in attendance. It was an amazing day.

Tomorrow’s blog — What we are doing in Abilene………..

Join the Conversation


  1. that’s a beautiful story. it always makes me tear up to think of the men lost, their families, and all that you guys did to commemorate the crash.


  2. This made me cry reading it! I was such a wonderful thing that you and Brian did for the families.


      1. Keith and Bryan were happy to do it! Definitely a labor of love! We were looking forward to seeing them all again in Montana, and although we didn’t get to see everyone, going to Abilene was a special treat for us all! And we got to meet Colonel Don Vandenbussche, Mike and Trudy’s son-in-law! It was a great time! And now we are headed back to Bryan and Sally’s place at Old Chico where we are going to meet Jim and Paula for a few days!!!


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