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Man on a Mission: Hunting with Danny Burton-Soldier, Businessman, Christian Leader, Avid Outdoorsman
Danny Burton with a Hippo taken on an African Safari.

Man on a Mission: Hunting with Danny Burton-Soldier, Businessman, Christian Leader, Avid Outdoorsman

Memorial Day weekend presented Harold with time to reflect upon his dear friend and hunting companion, the late Danny Burton, who was a veteran, a hero, a sportsman without peer and a deeply spiritual man who gave back to his community in endless ways. Harold Smith and Danny Burton’s family provided the photos for this segment and shared stories about Danny that I think you’ll enjoy.

My own limited experience with Danny provided valuable insight into him. I was then Director of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce gathering door prizes and hole sponsorships for the annual golf tournament.  I went to Burton Pools & Spas asking for a hot tub as a “Hole-in-One” prize forgetting that the City of Greenwood had imposed a moratorium on pool construction during that hot, dry 2006. Water was scarce and Greenwood said, “No more pools.” When I asked for something to benefit Greenwood from a swimming pool contractor while Greenwood had banned pool construction, Danny Burton looked at me with those cold steely eyes and said, “Ken, you’re asking a pool contactor to help a town that won’t allow pools?” I nearly choked. I grinned. He didn’t. Then he said something I’ll never forget, “All success is built on audacity.” I have found that to be true over and over. Success is audacious. He gave us the hot tub. I missed getting to know Danny better and telling him how right he was. You have to have the audacity to succeed. He certainly did.

Don’t Stop Until the Mission is Complete

Danny Burton

Veteran patriot, hunter and outdoorsman Danny Burton in the Canadian Rockies.

Harold Smith says hunting trips with Danny Burton reflected the way Danny did everything. “He was a man on a mission. Two tours of duty in Vietnam did that to him. He didn’t stop until the job was done- mission complete.” That applied to the way Danny approached combat, business, hunting, witnessing about his savior, battling cancer and raising his family.

On a 2007 Mule Deer hunt in Colorado with Danny, truck troubles resulted in a 40 mph trip. Danny loved to listen to books on tape. Harold loves to visit. Harold said, “Danny, you can listen to that book going out or coming back, but not both!” Danny chose the trip out which meant “visiting” with Harold on the way back. Danny was a man of few words and Harold chose the topic he had never heard Danny discuss-Vietnam. The trip took 25 hours as 1000 miles and two tours of Vietnam passed at 40 miles an hour.

Danny with a Bison that made the mistake of charging him.  He took the Bison with a bow and arrow.

Danny with a Bison that made the mistake of charging him. He took the Bison with a bow and arrow.

His fellow Marines referred to this daunting combat soldier as “Arkie” and he became renowned for his adherence to the rules. “We’ve been taught a way to complete missions with a minimum of casualties, though there will be some, and if we follow the rules we are more likely to survive to complete the mission we’ve been assigned..” That‘s what the United States Marine Corps taught Danny Burton and he followed it throughout his life. He was sent on patrols into camps that had been so riddled with machine gun fire that there was no foliage on the few trees still standing. He led by example into those Vietcong camps and did not emerge until the job was through-sometimes to such a ridiculous extent that he became aware that GOD had future plans for him, else he would not have survived the experiences he endured. Landmines, being blown through the air, going into tunnels with a .45 and a knife after Vietcong, walking point on patrol because he was so tired of seeing others blown to bits, attacks where his troops were outnumbered became commonplace to him.

Danny’s only escape from warfare was reading Louis L’Amour books, interestingly, about living wild. At the end of two tours of duty in Vietnam, Danny realized that war and gathering the bodies of the dead soldiers had desensitized him to the point that he realized “The United States was not fighting to win, but, was fighting not to lose.” Danny told Harold, “Just like in those Louis L’Amour books, I had turned ‘Injun’, killing and seeing people killed had hardened me to the point that I was more afraid of going home to Los Angeles than staying in the jungles.” At this point, the government of a grateful nation told Danny Burton, “It’s time for you to go back home.”  He returned with various medals including the Bronze Star with the “V” Device awarded for acts of heroism and meritorious service in a combat zone. It is the fourth highest individual military award and the ninth highest by order of precedence awarded in the United States armed forces.

Danny Burton African Safari

Danny Burton with a Hippo taken on an African Safari.

Eventually, Danny made his way to his native Fort Smith area where, along with his brother-David-they built Burton Pools and Spas into one of the largest pool contractors in the Southwest.

Danny was fond of Bear hunts in Canada including one with Greenwood’s Bob Gleason where the videographer became the bait. It is recommended viewing for anyone who might question Bob Gleason’s bravery.

Harold Smith kept trying to lure Danny to Africa for safaris. Danny referred to exotic game as “foreigners” and said he didn’t know anything about killing that stuff.  He still preferred the great American western plains and Rocky Mountains. Harold had introduced him to a tour guide/outfitter for Elk hunts in northern Arizona. During Danny’s 2005 hunt there, Harold got a phone call from the outfitter/guide declaring that Danny Burton had just made the best shot he’d ever seen taking an elk at 768 yards and asking Harold, “Just who is this guy anyway?”  Harold says, “I know of very few shots Danny ever missed. When I saw him miss two in a row, Danny spent the rest of the day properly sighting-in his rifle and did not miss again including taking a Black Buck from a prone position…it was all that Marine Corps training!”

“Just an example of his true commitment to not finishing until the job was through/mission accomplished” says Harold Smith, “Danny once rappelled down the face of a bluff to get the only clear shot at an elk on one of those hunts.  That was to be expected from a guy who took a charging 2000 pound Bisson with a bow and arrow and had to wait until the beast was broad side to get a lethal shot. The Bisson was taking in circumstances where there was no outrunning it. Danny stood his ground knowing it was kill or be killed.”

Smith recalls a Bear hunt in Canada on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border with Burton. “The guides would drop the hunters off at designated spots for the best chances of taking a bear. They would return to get us before we had to stay in the deep woods more than an hour or so after dark for safety’s sake. Danny would have nothing of that. He wanted to go deeper into the forests to take a larger bear and that would require staying in those bear filled woods alone several hours after dark before the guides could retrieve Danny. There he was with the Blonds variety of the Black Bear.” Harold adds, “I was looking up at the heavens watching the aurora borealis play out across the Canadian skies when they finally brought Danny in from the woods with his trophy Blonde Black Bear.”

Danny’s Marine Corps ambush training paid off when hunting wolves above the Arctic Circle. Wolves are a very illusive animal. To get the shot he wanted, Burton crawled across the tundra and outwaited the wolf he wanted. To get close enough, Smith says “Burton covered his clothing in twigs and brush for  camouflage to get close enough for the best shot.”

Danny finally got past the “foreigners” with regards to African game. He made two trips with Harold to Africa hunting plains game animals and dangerous game. On one such trip, Danny actually took three of the “deadly seven”, a hippo, a leopard and a Cape Buffalo. The Cape Buffalo is known to hunters as “Black Death.”

Danny Burton

he Cape Buffalo is ranked among the deadliest of wild game. Danny took three of the deadly seven on one African safari.

Danny approached witnessing for his savior with the same fervor. Smith says when he, himself would talk about Christ to someone who was wanting to hear the call, Danny would be brought in for the close. He didn’t give up until the job was done. Smith quotes Brother “Pete” James as saying, I (James) never knew any one man who brought as many people to the Lord.”

Danny eventually established a Bible study on his property that continues today. They began meeting in his home and out grew that so they began meeting in the barn. When the barn burned, destroying many of Danny’s trophy animals, Danny said, “Well, I guess GOD wants me to build a bigger church.” He did.

Feeling ill, Danny returned early from a hunting trip in Arizona, only to be diagnosed with throat and brain cancer. Three days later, Harold Smith was diagnosed with colon cancer. Smith says Burton called him upon hearing the news and said, “Harold, we’re falling apart.” Smith says he struggled for months with Danny’s March 2010 death. “Why was he taken and I was left behind. I finally realized that he had gotten his work done faster than I did” says Smith quoting Acts 13:36, “For when David had served GOD’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers.”

Danny Burton was a righteous family man who loved business, loved the outdoors, hunting and coaching children. These are just a few of the many hunting stories that we could share about this patriot and consummate outdoorsman.

His missions accomplished, Danny died March 3, 2010 and was buried near his father on his family’s property.

*Editor’s Note: I try to acknowledge in each issue the invaluable assistance of Greenwood’s Patti and Harold Smith with this outdoor segment. For most of the stories, I interview them and write about the experiences they share. Occasionally, Harold provides original material. We try to make the topics timely with hunting and fishing seasons (deer hunting, turkey hunting, crappie fishing, hunting sheds, etc.) as well as sharing with readers some of the more exotic experiences Patti and Harold have enjoyed on safaris and big game expeditions throughout the world.

 

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