Oral Histories

Dennis E. “Pete” Byrd, Sr.


Pete Byrd

Q: So Charlie hired you as a pilot of his plane?

Pete: Yeah. Not only was it a pilot job, it entailed being a traveling companion or, I wouldn’t say a bodyguard, but it was a 24-hour “gofer job,” too. Whenever that plane left Moab, it had four seats that could be used and invariably they’d all be filled up with some of the hanging on people that showed up, the relatives and stuff like that, especially his mother. She was a real problem. When I flew out the third day, I flew that airplane up to Casper, Wyoming, and the wind was blowing too hard, so I wouldn’t take off up there. I went to a show. It was the world premiere of the movie Shane. Somehow the banner across the street was just blown to ribbons. I flew all over the western part of the United States. I would sometimes make three trips to Grand Junction a day, a couple trips to Salt Lake in a day.

Q: Would you have to do the mechanical work?

Pete: What was done here, I had to do. I wasn’t a mechanic but I did some and we’d get a little bit done in Grand Junction. The major work we’d get done. Some we had done in Phoenix, and we had an engine change at Midland, Texas, because that was the only place we could get an engine like the one that had been cleaned and modified with this big engine put in which made it very unstable. About one of those first trips I made was to take Bill (?) and Albert (?) and Helen Pulliam and one of the, I can’t think of his brother’s name, anyway, to Tulsa or (Florachule?) and I’d never flown across the mountains. I didn’t know the country. I wasn’t really familiar with the airplane. I’d never flown it. Most of my flying had been as a junior officer in a formation (when I was a lieutenant) in the middle of it. All I had to do to get someplace was to stay with the rest of them. So, before I took off for Tulsa I plotted my course and everything and this Joe Pullian says “I’ve hunted all over western Colorado. I know that country like the back of my hand. You don’t have to worry, we won’t get lost.” So we got over Delta, Colorado and I said “Is that Delta or Montrose?” He says “Pete, I don’t see anything I recognize.” I figured out where we were and I plotted my course across Longmont Pass and we started climbing up the mountain there and we were just as high as the airplane would go. It was just very unstable at that altitude with that load. I got between two rocks and two layers of clouds, trying to climb across that mountain. I wasn’t sure where I was. I finally picked up a homer beacon and, of course, couldn’t look at the map hardly because I was too busy keeping the airplane going. About that time, Helen Pulliam was sitting in the back seat and she reached over and she whispered to me “Pete, I just got to pee.” We had some quart ice cream tins back there. I don’t know how she managed, but I stared the other side and I was going to go up and across that mountain. I was going to go where that homer beacon was. I knew where I could find it so I went and landed. When I landed, I knew where I was because out on the front of the hanger it said Monte Vista. We took off from Monte Vista and we went to La Hoya and from La Hoya to Tulsa. I dropped him off at Tulsa and I went back to La Hoya and spent the night and slept in the airplane. I was too tired to even go to town. The next day I was back here and that was the way it went. I don’t remember the exact dates of things. It wasn’t long after this, well, I’d never flown to Salt Lake. The first trip I went to through there I took the plane to Salt Lake. Charlie sent me up to get part of a band that was going to play for the first Moab Uranium Discovery party. Bob Barrett had by that time bought a yellow Bonanza and Ralph Goodrich was flying Bob’s plane. Ralph was from Richfield so he knew the country real well. So all I had to do was follow Ralph and we went down over the Needles and over Richfield and all over the world to get to Salt Lake. We picked these guys up and their instruments. Then we brought them in here and they had this party at the old Arches Ballroom which was between the Nifty Fashion Store, that big (?) It was just a big open barn at that time. There wasn’t any second floor. It was just a big open hall.

Q: And that was the Arches Ballroom?

Pete: Yeah. They had a stage in the front of it. They had this dance that lasted all night. Across the street where that little (?) burnt into the wall, that was the Wagon wheel Bar run by Keith Barker and……. it wasn’t Dixie, it must have been his brother. Anyway, I was told that they gave away a truckload of beer over there that night. The next morning I was told that they had to take the main (? ) and (get?) the beer bottles out of the street. This party lasted all night and that was the first Uranium Discovery Party. The next morning, of course I didn’t get much sleep that night…..

Q: You went to the party?

Pete: Oh, yeah, I went to the party and I was a participant in the party. Well, the next morning I

got up and I had to take these guys back to Salt Lake. That was my second trip to Salt Lake. When I got back to Moab, Charlie and his mother and the (Blackman ?) brothers, I think they were, were at the airport with their bags. Momma Rose’s husband, Mr. Shumaker, had died in Houston and she had to go to take care of Mr. Shumaker. We took off and got to Roswell, New Mexico, that night. The only place we could get to stay was in (?) where two highways came together and all these trucks were parked around there with their motors running all night. About 2 o’clock, Charlie said “I’m ready to go. Let’s go.” We got up, went out to the airport and I took off and it was as black as the inside of a cow. The only way we knew which way was up or down was we could see the oil wells burning in different directions. We went to Houston. I got to Houston, we landed and I was sick. Of course, the house was hot as could be and all these people were there and they were all drinking. The whole year was kept hauling a bunch of drunks from one place to another.

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