Motorcoach driver ‘Cowboy’ Sims makes rescues after Hurricane Harvey
By George Spencer
Motorcoach driver Kenneth “Cowboy” Sims is “old school,” said Cary Martin, president of ABA member Little Rock Tours Inc. in Little Rock, Ark. “He has a million cowboy hats. He’s one of those longtime guys on the range—a hay baler, tree cutter, a ‘feed the mules, walk the horses’ kind of guy.”
At 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds, Sims stands out in a crowd. For some people, he reminds them of the late actor Dan Blocker, who played the heart-of-gold rancher on the TV series Bonanza.
Sims has a big heart, too. When Little Rock Tours got the call to send buses to help in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Sims, 71, was there front and center. Here is his account of what happened on his trip to Texas:
Hurricane Harvey came in on Friday, Aug. 25, and we were down there in Rockport, Texas, on Sunday. We were the first ones. It was still raining when we got there.
They staged us in San Antonio. When [the people in charge] walked around, they saw me awake and sitting in my driver’s seat. You see, I get up at 3 a.m., I was raised on dairy. So, I was in the first bus in line to go to Rockport.
The first person I got a chance to help was an older guy who had diabetes. His home had “blowed” away. [To take shelter], he went to a grocery store loading dock where trucks back in to unload. He got down in that concrete [to protect himself from the wind] and made himself a shelter. That’s where he sat out the storm for three days.
When I got in there, he hadn’t had a drop of water or a crumb to eat for two to three days. I gave him rip-top cans of peaches, Spam, and a blanket. He had gotten wet and cold. He only had on shorts and flip-flops. He was as proud of that blanket as anything. He did have his diabetes medicine. We gathered him (and others) up and put them on church-type buses to Austin, where he had grandkids.
Shortly after midnight on Monday, Aug. 28—my daughter’s birthday—I tripped on a downed wire in some grass. All the power lines were down, it was dark, and I caught my feet and did a sort of flip in the air. I caught myself with my right arm, but I pulled a muscle at my shoulder, and soon my ankles swelled up.
I used to train racehorses, so I got some ice and iced my ankles just like I was working on a racehorse. I just kept soaking my ankles in Epsom salts water, and eventually some drivers relieved us.
I went to the emergency room. They X-rayed my ankles and knees and told me, “You haven’t got anything broken, just stretched and pulled.” They told me to exercise and gave me crutches.
There ain’t no stopping me!
Years ago, I played high school football against [future Dallas Cowboys star] Walt Garrison and [Cowboys coach] Gene Stallings. They taught me how to get run over! Years later, Gene told me, “I wish I could have coached you.”
I returned home while my wife was having back surgery, then went back down to Beaumont, Texas, for a week before being sent to Florida. It was probably three weeks all in all.
Sims plans to go strong for years to come. His father died last year at age 97. He was laying tile until he was 90, and he roofed his house when he was 93, according to Sims. “Ain’t no one can outwork me,” he said.
George Spencer is a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to ABA media.
ABA has joined with Tourism Cares in its industry-wide initiative to help our friends and colleagues who have been affected by recent hurricanes. To donate or learn more, click here.