“Western Heritage Day
provides a physical link to a distant time,” said Dr. George Newman, professor
of biology emeritus and one of the founders of the event. Newman said
activities during the day are designed to immerse children in western culture
as it might have been in West Texas during the last half of the 19th
As Western Heritage Day
brought the sights, sounds, and flavor of the Old West alive, more than 3,500
area school children enjoyed the campus, transformed by plank-board wagons, curling
smoke from a camp fire, and buckskin-clad frontiersmen. HSU faculty, staff, and
students sported western duds to help recreate scenes from a time when buffalo
and longhorn cattle ruled the prairies of Texas.
Knowles said her grandson,
Keith, was excited about attending – especially since he remembers riding one
of HSU’s Six White Horses during the Stamford Cowboy Reunion.
Wearing a bonnet and a
pioneer dress, 7-year-old Lydia climbed aboard a preacher’s wagon providing a realistic
backdrop for the brush arbor. Students from the HSU Logsdon School of Theology
and Seminary demonstrated an old-time church service as children circled on bench
“One of Lydia’s favorite
things to do is washing clothes at the scrub boards,” said Susan Draper, who
homeschools her daughter. Susan said Lydia wanted to dress as Laura Ingalls from
the Little House on the Prairie
series they are currently reading. Draper made the pioneer dress from a pattern
she found in the costume section of a fabric store and paired it with a bonnet
picked up by Lydia’s grandmother in Iowa.
“It’s like going back in
a time machine,” said Draper. “I think this event gives Lydia appreciation for
what it was like when the frontiers were opening to settlers.”
One of the most popular
activities was tasting the Cowboy beans and biscuits. At the nearby chuck wagon
HSU dean of libraries, Alice Specht, acquainted children with the lack of
modern conveniences associated with cooking over an open fire.
Close-by, herdsmen showed
Texas longhorns from the state herd at Fort Griffin and children danced to the music
favored by early settlers.
At noon, visitors enjoyed
the antics and lively music of the HSU “World Famous” Cowboy Band.
Karen Mills, a 2007 HSU alumna, brought 25 students from Winters Elementary School.
Mills said the students prepared for the visit by reading the New True Book of Cowboys, Three Little Javelinas, and Pecos Bill.
“We also watched videos
about cowboys and talked about how things used to be done in the late 1800s,”
Holding up a horseshoe, former
HSU Six White Horses rider Katie Curtis explained to a group of visiting
students about the art of shoeing horses. Katie’s dad, John Curtis, a longtime
farrier, has been demonstrating his craft at Western Heritage Day for the last
Nearby, Kayla, a fifth-grader
from Rule, Texas, was one of a number of students adding a modern element to
the day as she videoed Curtis on her tablet. Kayla said she wants to show her
parents some of the things she learned during the event.
“Before our classes came
to Western Heritage Day, we prepared students with lessons on the first
inhabitants of this area,” said Vicki Rowen, kindergarten teacher at Merkel
elementary and a 1978 graduate of HSU.
“We learned how the
Comanche and other tribes had to get around by foot prior to the arrival of Europeans
bringing horses. We studied the impact of the Spanish, then the French
explorers, and talked extensively about how Stephen F. Austin led 300 families
to settle in Texas on a land grant,” said Rowen.
Bright green t-shirts, a
gift from the Merkel Parent Teacher Organization, made it easy for teachers to
keep an eye on students; red bandanas were supplied by Rowen and other Merkel teachers.
“It’s really great to see
the children interacting with all of the events – learning what it takes to be
a pioneer,” said Kristen Johnson, an HSU Six White Horses rider, nursing major,
and the reigning Taylor County rodeo queen.
“Some of the children
tell me this is the first time they have ever touched a horse or seen longhorn
cattle,” said Johnson. “I’m glad HSU can aid teachers as students learn about
the history of our region of Texas.”