Famed 89-Year-Old Houston Business Leader and Philanthropist Welcome Wilson, Sr., to Ride in His 53rd Salt Grass Trail Ride

Welcome Wilson, Sr., one of Houston’s best-known business leaders and philanthropists and Chairman of Welcome Group, will participate in his 53rd annual Salt Grass Trail Ride this year. Wilson estimates that he holds the record for the most years riding in the Salt Grass Trail Ride, the oldest and most historic of the 11 trail rides that now take place every year leading up to the opening of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Wilson’s group on the ride is called The Desperados.

Although this year Welcome Wilson, Sr., who will be 90 years old next month, is riding the trail in a buggy, he has had many adventures during his years riding horseback on the Trail Ride on a dun horse named Freckles and sleeping under the stars near an open campfire.

Before one of his earliest trail rides, Wilson was testing out a new horse that his daughter Cindi might ride. The horse suddenly started to gallop and Wilson began to pull on the bridle to slow it down. The bridle came off in his hands. Either it had not been secured properly or it broke. Now Wilson was riding a completely out-of-control, runaway horse that was heading directly for an oak tree with thick, low-hanging branches.

“I thought I would try rolling over on the horse’s side like the cowboys do in the movies to duck under the branches,” says Wilson. “Instead I went sailing off the horse, hit the ground and slid into a nearby campfire.” Wilson reports that he had a bruise for five years from that adventure. The injury ultimately necessitated a hip replacement 30 years later.

Wilson was not discouraged, however, and this year once again will be enjoying the camaraderie, green countryside and open air of the trail ride and spending the nights in a sleeping bag near the fire.

The Salt Grass Trail Ride began in 1952 when four friends planned a horseback ride from Brenham to Houston to help publicize what was then called the Houston Fat Stock Show. The trail was named “Salt Grass” after the coastal prairie salt grass that provided an excellent diet for Texas cattle. The trail ride concept was based on the old cattle drives that took cattle from ranch to market. Today the Salt Grass Trail Ride begins in Cat Spring, Texas. Riders travel 103 miles from Cat Spring to downtown Houston as the official opening for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Weather for next week calls for rain, but, regardless of the weather, Welcome Wilson, Sr., will be in his sleeping bag under the stars.