Fran Russell cuts the ribbon to open the Proctor Collection exhibit at Canoa Ranch. (From left) Enrique( Kiki) Bustamante, K.K. Proctor, Robert Proctor, Paul Ronstadt. Bob Ronstadt, Fran Russell, Mike Proctor, Frank (Poncho) Redondo and Robert Vaughn. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

More than 100 people gathered at the Canoa Ranch in Green Valley, on March 3, for the dedication of the George Redondo Proctor Collection of western memorabilia. Proctor had maintained his private museum in Patagonia until the time of his death in 2015 at the age of 97.

Proctor’s collection represents ranching life over the past two hundred years in Santa Cruz and Pima counties. The walls and shelves of the museum that Proctor built in Patagonia held more than a thousand items, including western tack, farming and ranching implements, household items, metates, arrowheads, furniture, and old license plates, which are now on display in the tack room and foreman’s house at the Canoa Ranch Historic Site.

A still that had belonged to Proctor’s father became the first exhibit in his museum, according to his companion, Fran Russell, who helped him bring it back from the family ranch in Madeira Canyon. “We went over to his sister’s [Margarita Proctor Redondo] and found the still just sitting out in the weather,” she said. “I helped him find all the parts and put it together.” Proctor’s father made moonshine mescal to supplement their income, which George remembered delivering in saddle bags at a young age.

George Proctor led a remarkable life, growing up on a remote ranch in the Santa Ritas, serving in the Pacific in World War II and earning a Purple Heart, the Legion of Merit Citation and the Combat Infantryman Badge. After the war, he returned to the University of Arizona to earn a masters’ degree in range ecology, went to Mexico to fight hoof and mouth disease, worked for the Forest Service and as an agricultural consultant in South America before retiring to Patagonia in 1975, where he was elected to serve on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

“My dad wanted his collection to go to Canoa,” Robert Proctor said in an interview in 2016. Proctor’s mother was related to the Ortiz family, who owned the 17,000-acre Canoa Ranch land grant in the 1800’s.

Robert Vaughn, special projects manager for Pima County natural resources, parks and recreation, feels the Proctor Collection commemorates “those families and those people who settled the Santa Cruz Valley.” Vaughn estimates that more than 90% of Proctor’s collection is on display at Canoa Ranch.

During the dedication, timed to coincide with what would have been Proctor’s 100th birthday, his son Michael spoke of the rich mix of Mexican and Anglo cultures of Santa
Cruz County and the borderlands.

“For us, the border has always been a gathering place, not something that separates people,” he said. “These things are not objects. They are things that people used their hands to make.”

He said, referring to his father’s collection. “They are instruments of a place, expressions of love for a place.”