Over 75 people traveled back in time this Saturday at the Longstreet Boardwalk – the site of Jack Longstreet’s restored cabin – to experience life at Ash Meadows in the early 1900s.
The event demonstrated various ways that the Ash Meadows environment directly sustained people throughout history by providing food, medicine, material for shelters and tools, fire, water – all the necessities of life. The goal was for visitors to come away with a deeper appreciation for these natural resources today, by remembering the critical role they played in human lives historically.
Volunteer Frank King, a member of the Shadow Mountain Community Players, portrayed Jack Longstreet in living flesh, comfortably seated in an old rocking chair. From within his cabin, Frank entertained visitors with colorful stories of the old days – being careful never to reveal how he lost his ear!
Four volunteers, Judy Palmer, Susan Sorrells, Mary Burke King, and Sue Palmer, from the Amargosa Conservancy portrayed friends of Kitty Tubb – a resident of Ash Meadows beginning in 1907. The women displayed historic domestic items borrowed from the Shoshone Museum, including a burlap cooler, iron, and a coffee grinder that actually belonged to Kitty Tubb. The women cut old shirts and dresses into cloth squares, which Sue then sewed into potholders on an old treadle sewing machine. Sue operated the machine all day long – with her bare feet! For the final touches, Mary taught children the skill of hand-stitching their own designs and patterns onto the potholders. Children of all ages enjoyed this craft time and many were planning to give their hand-made creations to grandma and grandpa for Christmas.
Ida Castillo of Desert NWR, along with her two children, taught visitors about the wild, desert foods that have sustained people for thousands of years. One staple food for the Southern Paiute and Timbisha Shoshone was the nutritious seed pods of the honey mesquite tree. Ida and her kids taught visitors about the process of creating mesquite flour, and visitors were invited to try grinding some of the seeds on a stone metate (borrowed from the China Ranch Date Farm) for themselves. It was hard work! For their labors, Ida had some pre-ground mesquite flour on hand – made from the trees at Ash Meadows – and fried up some mesquite pancakes for them to taste. The cakes were very sweet, from natural sucrose, and had a grainy texture. The general consensus: delicious!
Virginia Ramos-Barajas, a SNAP environmental educator, led visitors in a traditional Paiute game called “Too’dookweep”, played with small sticks and stones. Children and adults enjoyed playing this game of chance while listening to traditional Paiute stick game songs.
Ashley Dunbar, intern at Desert NWR, led a game about the medicinal plants at Ash Meadows. Each participant was given an “ailment” that they had to relieve by searching for natural cures in the plants. Visitors discovered that yerba mansa roots can be boiled into a tea to relieve colds and coughing, while plants like the desert mistletoe have poisonous berries and should be avoided. In order to survive, native peoples around the world have possessed a deep-rooted knowledge of the plants in their lives, both the useful and the dangerous.
The event lasted from 10am to 3pm and visitors came from all over: Amargosa Valley, Pahrump, Shoshone, Tecopa, China Ranch, Las Vegas, and even faraway places like Alaska, Washington, and Holland! We also had some non-human visitors stop by, including several dogs and a goat. Time Travelers was a fun and energy-filled day for all involved, and in the end everybody made it back to the year 2010 with smiles on their faces.
Thanks to all the volunteers who have helped make this season a success! John Marsh and Kelly Curtis of Liberty Films donated their time and talent to photograph and film the event. To see a demo of the event footage, go online to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5ynwfKhBOA. This was the last Let’s Explore event of 2010, but there are more events being planned for next year – stay tuned!
By: Alyson Mack, Great Basin Institute Environmental Education & Outreach Specialist