AAR-Fort Chadbourne Living History Day

After Action Report, Fort Chadbourne Living History Day
5-4-13

Members Present

Ann Marie Detavernier and her children Jacob, William and Maggie, Josh Judy, Theresa Matuszek and her children Wayne, Wyatt, Aubrey and Cassidy, Larry Pope and his children Emily and Amanda, and Larry and Jo Pope (the Old Popes)

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Event Overview

What can I say about the wind?  It seems ever present in these days of the ‘Winter That Never Ends’.  Owing to a major Low that crashed into Central Texas, the beginning of our adventure to Fort Chadbourne was marred by a freezing East wind with which we fought the entire trip.  Not to be deterred from our goal, we ‘set sail’ and headed for Texas, picking up, along the way, bits and pieces of our group until the three cars in our caravan were awash in children.  These children felt it necessary to play a game of musical car seats at every stop, to the point of making it impossible to tell one child from another…. a brilliant plan devised to eventually dominate the world.

Our first major stop on the road was the search for a setting in which a captain in the 8th Infantry painted a scene of his company in 1856.  The backdrop for this painting was the majestic ‘El Capitan’ peak of the Guadalupe Mountains and was easily found and matched to the painting, our first victory.  The next stop was the Guadalupe Mountains National Park down the road just a way.  This site featured a nice museum containing a taxidermy collection of local wildlife.  A short distance from the museum lay the ruins of a Butterfield Stage Station, The Pinery Station, named for the stand of pine in the area.  This was a beautiful location, but our visit was tempered by the cold and wind, and we were bid to continue our journey into the wind.

The balance of our road trip went as road trips will with numerous stops for food, gas and potty.  We finally pulled into Fort Chadbourne near dark and were welcomed by the Old Popes who had been there several hours and had made a dinner for us.  We devoured our food and then occupied the barracks building with everything we had.  After some short visits, we slumped into our beds upon the ground.
Friday greeted us with a frosty kiss as we ate breakfast and prepared for the imminent flood of children.  By the time we finished our camp and displays, it was time for morning parade which was attended by volunteers in a variety of uniforms marking every year the fort was an active military post (1852-1876).  Suddenly, a horde of school children descended upon us clad in shirts of every color, each color denoting a different school.  We remained busy for the next six hours entertaining classes with our clothing, accouterments and trades, taking a short lunch break when we could.  Most were willing to listen and participate in the numerous activities we had to share.  By about 3:00, the grounds had cleared of kids and we were left with a beautiful scene of sandstone buildings, tents and historically attired volunteers.  Some of us took the opportunity to visit the new museum filled with an amazing gun collection and a variety of artifacts of antiquity, military occupation and ranch life.  We were then treated to a wonderful taco dinner by Fort Chadbourne and left the dining area quite satisfied.  We spent the rest of the evening fraternizing in the cool air.  The evening closed with a soothing, warm fire in the barracks fireplace.

Saturday dawned warmer and more relaxed, but we still saw to our usual tasks of clean up, set up, breakfast and parade.  Much of our time was spent talking with visitors about our impressions, the tools of our trades and Fort Chadbourne itself.  We took the opportunity to see each building of the fort as well as visit the museum again.  The highlight of the trip, for the children anyway, was the hay ride to the buffalo pasture.  The Fort Chadbourne Ranch (an entity that has been in the family since the purchase of Fort Chadbourne in 1876) maintains a small bison herd supplemented with long horn bovines and one donkey named Black Jack.  They supply numerous tractors towing flat bed trailers with hay bales and haul visitors and volunteers alike to see the buffalo.  It’s always a hit, especially the baby buffalo.  I know for a fact that the kids made several trips by themselves.  The day closed with most volunteers pulling up stakes and making their way home.  We were left nearly alone with the fort for the night.  As Sunday rolled around, we slowly packed up and made our own way home.

Conclusion

Our group made a round trip of over 900 miles for this event, but it was well worth it.  We were part of the education process for over 1500 school children (that is not an exaggerated number) on Friday and several hundred visitors on Saturday.  We were well cared for by Fort Chadbourne and by the numerous volunteers from Texas.  Our throng of children seemed to entertain many of them.

We represented Fort Stanton well and advertised our own ‘Live’ event for July.  Because of our support for these Texas forts, many of these same volunteers will be reciprocally visiting Fort Stanton for our event.  That networking builds valuable regional support for our own site.