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Indiana Couple Keep Up 70 Year Buckhorn Tradition

Pete and Mary Ruthenberg

Mary Ruthenberg’s mother and father, Maynard and Martha Rogers, began visiting Buckhorn in the 1940’s. Maynard, who was a petroleum geologist who graduated from OSU in 1937, first visited the Smokies as a college student even before Buckhorn was established. Through a cousin of Doug Bebb (the Inn’s Founder) he discovered Buckhorn in the 1940’s and began yearly visits to the Inn, introducing his children to the pleasures of being outdoors and hiking the mountains. Annual seven-day visits to Buckhorn Inn were a staple of Mary’s family life. She remembers games of skittles by the fire and long, lazy days when she could read all afternoon. Sometimes she hopped on Doug’s Jalopy when he gave rides to her and her brother and sister. Hiking the mountains on these visits was a family affair, taking along hearty lunches packed by Doug himself. Doug would also help out the family by spotting a car at the end of one way hikes. Mary also remembers the company of Doug’s children, especially John, who could race up to the top of Mt. Le Conte and back in record time.

“My parents became good friends with Doug over the years. They were among those special few who were invited to Doug and June’s home for the famous cocktail hours,” Mary remembers. “My parents and my siblings really thought that Buckhorn was ours,” she said, “ours and Doug’s.”

When Mary and her future husband Pete were conducting their six year courtship in the 1960’s, Pete was included in the family trips to Buckhorn, although he ruefully points out that he and Mary were not allowed to be in a car by themselves. He remembers Doug as “a complex person, a big strong man who was light on his feet. He wasn’t a back-slapper but when he warmed-up to people, his good-nature was apparent.” When Mary and Pete married and settled in Indiana, they continued the tradition of annual visits to Buckhorn, bringing their three children, Meg, Matt and Peter, and continuing to enjoy the family tradition of hiking the mountains, including trips up Le Conte. “Matt was the first person to catch a fish in Buckhorn Pond after Doug dammed it up,” Mary recounted proudly.

Mary and Pete still visit Buckhorn Inn, a 70-year family custom. They say that the changes to the Inn over the years which have brought it in line with the requirements of today’s travelers haven’t spoiled it for them. However, they still prefer to stay in “Doug’s rooms,” the traditional rooms on the second floor.