I was eager to get up to Tempe. The Arizona Historical Society had invited me to give a presentation about The Horse Lover book to their donors and members at their museum in Papago Park. Various family members from Prescott, Santa Fe, and Houston had decided to come into town and attend. The museum has a number of historical items related to Sandra and her amazing career and also to the Lazy B Ranch where the two of us were raised, and I was eager for everyone to see them.
I also wanted to show the family the O’Connor House, the original home that Sandra and her husband John had built in Paradise Valley in the late 1950s. The adobe bricks were made out of mud from the Salt River and the floors were poured concrete, an uncommon material back in those days. In 2009, after much negotiating and fundraising, the home was moved brick by brick, shingle by shingle, to the Historical Society’s campus and is now used to encourage civil discourse. It’s always a delight for me to visit the house.
When I arrived at the museum, it didn’t take me long to catch site of a small glass-enclosed exhibit positioned close to the entrance. I walked over to examine the items in it and was hit by a full-blown case of nostalgia. There sat my old cowboy hat, the one I wore everyday while working the cattle horseback or doing one of a hundred other jobs demanded of a rancher. Just in front of it was the beautiful horsehair rope that Jim Brister, one of our longtime cowboys and my personal hero, had hand woven. And there were my dad’s spurs, the ones that he wore for at least 50 years. The fact that they didn’t match touched a special place in my heart. And finally, the display included a Lazy B branding iron, old, rusted and well-used. These four special items unleashed a flood of memories.
The thing that overwhelmed me most, however, was a realization of just how old I am. Museum artifacts are almost always from people who are dead; the objects memorialize the individuals. Although the ranch that these objects came from is no longer in the family, Sandra and I are still alive. It takes some thinking to accept the fact we are so old that objects, which are part of our life, are objects of historical significance. We may be part of history, but I don’t feel old enough to be memorialized in a museum.
So I made sure to give a vital talk.
It was a ton of fun and afterward, the family visited the restored O’Connor House with Sandra as docent guide.We may be in museums, but we’re still determined to make history as much as we can.