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Sunday, June 1, 2003
Last modified at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, 2003
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photo: attractions

  One of the special attractions of the Ranching Heritage Center is the annual "Christmas at the Ranch" tradition.
A-J file photo

South Plains holds past, heritage on display


The history of this region's foundational industry -- agriculture -- is being reconstructed piece by piece at the recently instituted American Museum of Agriculture.

It is currently located at Broadway and Canyon Lake Drive in a temporary building borrowed from the American Wind Power Center until a permanent structure can be constructed.

Don Abbe, a native of the South Plains, has been named executive director.

The museum already has 26 tractors that have been restored to like-new, display quality, and its collection of tools, implements and other farmland relics number in the hundreds.

Specialty museums

American Museum of Agriculture:

Location: Broadway and Canyon Lake Drive.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Admission: No fee, $3 donation suggested by organizers.

Information: 744-3786.

American Wind Power Center:

Location: 1701 Canyon Lake Drive.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday from May through August.

Admission: No fee, $2 per person or $5 for family requested for self-guided tours; $3 per person for guided tours.

Information: 747-8734.

National Ranching Heritage Center:

Location: 3121 Fourth St.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: Free.

Information: 742-0498.

Lubbock Lake Landmark:

Location: 2401 Landmark Drive.

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: Free.

Information: 742-1116.

A 25.5-acre site to the northeast of the museum's present location has been pledged by the city of Lubbock for the museum's future home. Organizers plan to build a large orientation center there to house the tractors and special equipment, and will keep some of the cultivators and other implements outside on the grounds.

Temporary hours for the museum are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday while the institution is gathering its collections. There is no admission fee, but a $3 donation is suggested by organizers.

Eventually, the museum officials hope to raise $8 million to enable the construction of a first-class agriculture museum.

Wind power

Another museum at the East Lubbock site that focuses on this area's unique history -- the American Wind Power Center -- already has the largest collection of windmills in the world.

Coy F. Harris, executive director, said the museum now has 110 windmills on display, and expects the display to grow to 150 in the next two years.

''The museum is for the American water pumping windmill,'' he said. ''It is by far the largest collection of windmills in the whole world, and they are preserved and displayed here.''

The importance of the windmill to the South Plains cannot be overstated, according to Harris.

Referring to the early years before engine-powered irrigation, Harris said, ''You could not have stayed out here without a windmill. There is a vast quantity of water, but it is below the ground, and the only way to get it up was with a windmill.

''So, if anybody wanted to live here, they had to have a windmill.''

The wheels of the American Wind Power Center were set in motion in the mid-1960s by Billie Wolfe, a faculty member of Texas Tech who had grown up in an area dependent upon windmills.

A number of windmills from farms and ranches in this region were brought to Lubbock.

In 1993, Harris, a Lubbock native and chief executive officer of Wind Engineering Corp., joined the project and arranged to move Don Hundley's Windmill Hill Museum collection from Nebraska to Lubbock.

That boosted the Lubbock collection by 48 windmills, 171 weights, 56 pumps and a large number of photographs.

The windmills were reassembled by Harris and other windmillers, and they remained in storage until a permanent home could be built.

The windmill park now covers 28 acres between 19th Street and Broadway, and its large display building is located at 1701 Canyon Lake Drive. It is generally open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and also from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays from May through August.

This area's cattle-raising past is magnificently preserved by an outdoor museum containing 35 authentic structures and facilities at the National Ranching Heritage Center, 3121 Fourth St., on the Texas Tech campus.

The Ranching Heritage Center has become known internationally, and annually attracts visitors from Germany and a number of other countries, as well as from across the United States.

In December each year, it features a program called ''Candlelight at the Ranch,'' which recaptures Christmases past as they were celebrated in Texas. More than 100 Ranch Hosts dress in period costumes to depict ranch life as it was lived from the late 1700s to the early 1900s.

Other events include a Boss of the Plains Award Dinner in the spring; history-based youth classes in the summer; and National Golden Spur Award Dinner and Ranch Day in the Fall. It also offers musical programs and special displays throughout the year.

The National Ranching Heritage Center is open free to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Highlights of the 16-acre site include a cattle baron's mansion, ranch headquarters, windmills, half dugout, bunkhouse, one-room schoolhouse, Spanish ranch house, depot, locomotive and stock cars, blacksmith shop, dog-trot cabin and barns with a corral.

One of the buildings, called Los Corralitos, represents what may be the earliest standing ranch structure in Texas. The single-room building contains 33-inch thick walls, one door, six gun ports and an 11-foot ceiling.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Barton House, which is a two-story, Queen Anne-style house reflecting the prosperity of a Hale County rancher.

The history of this area goes significantly further back than its ranching and farming industries. Native Americans, archaeologists say, lived continuously in the Lubbock area for more than 10,000 years at a site now called Lubbock lake Landmark.

It contained a continuing supply of a necessity for life in this area -- water. The water drew both man and animals to this area, and they left an abundance of artifacts for archaeologists to ponder.

The site can be found near the northwest edge of Lubbock at 2401 Landmark Drive. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

Geographically, Lubbock Lake is located in a meander of an ancient valley called Yellowhouse Draw. Its water was fed by a spring, and became the natural resource for activities throughout thousands of years until the spring dried up in the early 1930s.

According to archaeologists, years of sediment covered all traces of human activity until 1936, when the city of Lubbock dredged the Yellowhouse Draw in an effort to revitalize the spring.

Excavations at the site, which started in 1939, are conducted on an annual basis. Archaeologists from across the nation come each summer to dig broken shards of pottery and animal bones from the site.

For visitors, one of its principal facilities is the Robert A. ''Bob'' Nash Interpretive Center, which houses exhibits and an interactive learning center.

On the grounds surrounding the learning center are bronze statues of extinct mammoths, bison, a short-faced bear and a giant armadillo.

There are both half-mile and four-mile nature trails that visitors are invited to walk along to see native plants such as wild flowers, and small wildlife.

Each year, a variety of programs are held to introduce to the public this area's ancient history.

Volunteers also are invited to assist as tour guides, education assistants and field crew members.

The landmark is considered one of the premier archaeological sites in the United States, with sedimentary deposits revealing a virtually unbroken record for 10 millenia.

Lubbock Lake Landmark is a unit of the Museum of Texas Tech.

[email protected] t 766-8711

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