Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas at the Ranch, 2016


Super J Cable Tool Spudder, c. 1930s

Every year the National Ranching Heritage Center hosts Christmas at the Ranch, a look back at how Christmas was celebrated on the Texas Plains throughout the years.  For those who are familiar with the facility, a number of structures have been moved to the grounds.  They are from different periods of the state’s history and show how life has changed from before Texas became a country to around the 1950s.  Which buildings are open varies somewhat from one year to the next, I think depending on how many people are available.

We particularly enjoyed this year’s event.  In the past you went through in a line (more or less) single file, and everyone saw the same exhibits in the same order.  This year you were free to walk around and see whatever you liked in whichever order you chose.  I liked this a lot better.  We were able to go where the lines were shortest and still see everything.  Well, almost everything.  One or two things had shut down before we got to them; my son had marched in a Christmas parade with his high school band before we went.

I’m going to include some photos I took, with a minimum of commentary.  I’ve not included some of the better pictures because they contain images of children.  I don’t put pictures of my son on the internet, and I’m not going to put pictures of other people’s children up without permission.  And since I have no idea how to get it, I’ve made the choice not to include those shots.  20161210_201445Any photos containing children will only show them from the back.

The photo on the right shows a group of cowboys in the Matador Half-Dugout (1888).  They were singing Christmas carols when we looked in the door.  The dugout was built into the side of a hill, with most of the walls and ceiling covered by dirt.

20161210_203431Here’s a shot of a Christmas dance at a structure called Las Escarbadas (1886).  There were signs describing each structure, where it was originally built, and the time period when it was used.  I tried taking a few photos, but they didn’t turn out very clear.  I know better than to rely on my memory at this date, and I don’t have the handout that names each structure.  Fortunately, the Center has an online map that gives the names and dates of the exhibits.

This next set of photos were taken at the Harrell House (1887, 1900, 1917).  To minimize white space, I’ve posted this set as thumbnails.  Click on the images to see the full photo.

20161210_20321320161210_20312520161210_203008The cowboy in these two shots is hand carving Christmas presents in the Masterson JY Bunkhouse (1879).  While wood was scarce on the Caprock (where the NRHC is located), it was available in most parts of the state.  Because early settles often had little or no money, they either had to barter or make much of what they needed.  Toys were no exception.  Many men were skilled at carving.







The centerpiece of the National Ranching Heritage Center’s Foy Proctor Park, which is where the buildings and other outdoor exhibits are, is the Barton House (1909).  It was the only exhibit that had a substantial line while we were there.  I’ve only included a few shots because most of the scenes contained children, including the Christmas tree and the ladies quilting.  Candlelight at the Ranch is very much a family oriented event, and many of the scenes portrayed family groups.  Again, except the shot of the house, the images below are thumbnails.  Click to see the full photo.20161210_204208






The only other structure with electricity was the 6666 Barn (1908).  This is where you can buy hot chocolate or cider, the kids can write a letter to Santa, and there was live music.


All and all, the exhibit this year was quite enjoyable.  I hope the NHRC keeps the format they adopted this year of allowing the visitors to walk about freely rather than going through single file.

For anyone interested in learning more about the national Ranching Heritage Center, there’s an app that lets you see the exhibits.  The link is at the bottom of their homepage.


Baldwin Locomotive, 1923

Merry Christmas

Collin Street Bakery fruitcakeMerry Christmas!

A familiar sight growing up in Texas was the tin you see on the left.  It’s a fruitcake tin from the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana.  That’s south of Dallas, in case you didn’t know.  The bakery famous for their fruitcakes, among other things.    Much of their business is through mail order.

I remember seeing these tins when I was a kid.  While time has corroded my memory (and some would say my mind), I think we would take one to my grandparents in Mississippi when we would visit for the holidays.  I have a vague recollection of seeing one one the table and being struck that it was there since the Alamo is prominently displayed at the top of the picture.


Image from Collin Street Bakery website

The Collin Street Bakery was founded in 1896 by Gus Weidmann and Tom McElwee.  It didn’t take long for their products to gain recognition.  Early customers included Will Rogers, “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, and John Ringling, the circus owner.  On one occasion, so the story goes, the entire circus ordered fruitcakes to send to friends around the globe.  The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus still gets its fruitcakes from the Collin Street Bakery.

Different Christmas posts are up at Adventures Fantastic, Futures Past and Present, and Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams.

Candlelight at the Ranch

For one weekend each December, the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock hosts a Christmas event, Candlelight at the Ranch. The Center is a museum and historical park affiliated with Texas Tech University.  Sitting on 27.5 acres, the facility contains 48 structures that have been relocated from across the state. Candlelight at the Ranch is a walking tour through some of the buildings where reenactors show what Christmas was like on the plains throughout the years.  What follows below are some of the photos I took at this year’s event.  The camera on my phone didn’t always pick up things well, so for some I’ve got with and without flash versions.  I don’t know the names of the people in the photos, but I would like to thank them for doing this and for putting up with the flash on my camera.  Continue reading