Docent Alison Bunting gives 4-H History Project members a tour of the ranch headquarters.

The Mustang 4-H Local History Project has members learning about historical events, important places, and colorful characters from the past. Leaders Cami Schlappy and Jennifer Keith want to have members gain a better understanding of our shared western heritage, get glimpses into our past by visiting historic sites, and gain an understanding of the importance of preservation and conservation. The local history project consists of approximately 20 4-Hers ranging from 8 to 16 years old and their accompanying parents/grandparents.

The club began the season with a tour of the Sonoita Fairgrounds’ Local History Center. The members were shown various articles of equipment stored at the center, including buffalo hair chaps, a mysterious item that ended up being a green bean shucker, metal oxen shoes, and a 1905 Sears catalog. The catalog was a hit when the kids compared prices and items available for purchase. Beauty products containing arsenic for freckle removal and medicines designed to cure worms for the whole family were fan favorites.

Members also looked at the various movie set memorabilia and photos of movies filmed in the area. Members decided to watch certain films to see landmarks in the movie. 

The 1993 Kurt Russell film, “Tombstone,” was selected for viewing. After watching the film, members will not only see where the movie scenes were filmed, but will visit the locations of certain scenes. One such example is the location where Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill have a shoot-out and Curly Bill is killed. The actual location of this encounter is located on private rangeland near Rain Valley.

On March 12, the group attended their first onsite historical location learning by having a private behind-the-scenes tour of the Empire Ranch Headquarters, led by volunteer docent Alison Bunting. Approximately 30 people went on a two-hour tour learning about those who used to call the Empire Ranch home.

The concept of chamber pots for nighttime bathroom use brought gasps of “eww” with a mix of giggles from the crowd. The gramophone and quill pens were also foreign ideas for those used to music playlists and emails. The lack of refrigeration for food and the use of dry goods, canned foods, and jerky for cooking raised some small eyebrows. The idea of a sleeping porch during the hot summer months was another concept that attracted comments. 

The next set of adventures for the club includes the Appleton Research Range in Elgin, the Camp Naco military outpost, a walking tour of Patagonia, and the Benson trio of the history museum, historic jail, and pioneer cemetery. 

Further outings will center on areas closer to home, including ghost towns, fossil sites, and history changing events. According to one parent, they are ready to hit the road!