Empire Living Then

On approach

On approach to the Empire Ranch BLM land

We were looking for our campsite so we would  be in the area for a Round-Up on Saturday.  We could already picture the cowboys herding the cattle over the hills, whips cracking the air.

We circled by the Ranch to just see what was up and other than a dozen port-a-potty’s it didn’t look like anything was soon to happen.

Dogs started to bark and soon Monica came around the corner while a few of us piled out to use ‘the facilities’.  Monica has recently arrived to caretake the ranch, herself curious how the ranch will transform over the next couple of days to facilitate the cowboys & girls, the dancing horses, the speculated 2,000+ people.

Monica gives us a quick rundown of the BLM land and invites us to view the Empire Ranch House before Saturday’s crowd.  We take her up on the offer.

Walter Vail and Herbert Hislop first established this ranch in 1876.  It was later acquisitioned in the late 1920’s by the Chiricahua Cattle Co, and run by the Boice family.  Now it is BLM.DSCN6655

Over time the ranch eventually grew to cover nearly one million acres of land and supported some 40,000 head of cattle.

Not much to look at.  But this sprawling ranch was probably beautiful in its days, well functioning, eventually 29 rooms but with a mere 2-room beginning.

Not much to look at. But this sprawling ranch was probably beautiful in its days, well functioning, eventually 29 rooms but with a mere 2-room beginning.

Kids in the meat cooler.  I'd have hung them up but couldn't find any hooks.

Kids in the meat cooler. I’d have hung them up but couldn’t find any hooks.

The screened wooden structure was located in the coolest area of the ranch, the breezeway.  This is where they kept freshly butchered meets, except in summer.  Quarters of beef were first wrapped in blankets, then tarps, then laid on the floor of the cooler.  On cold nights the meat was unwrapped and hung up on hooks to further chill or freeze it.

Electric power arrived at the Empire Ranch in 1957 and a large refrigeration unit was installed in the Cowboy Dining Room.  Then this wooden structure the boys are in was used for other purposes.DSCN6633

The Vail family’s meals were prepared in this kitchen.  They would have had a bigger variety of foods than the work hands, and oyster shells have been discovered in trash piles near the house, indicating that the Vails were among many frontier Arizonans who enjoyed shellfish packed in barrels of brine on the California coast and shipped inland by rail.

Other delicacies such as wine were consumed for special occasions.  A gas range and breakfast nook were added by the Boice family in the 1950’s.utensils

A cook prepared meals for the cowboys and staff in this kitchen.  Cooking was done on a wood-burning stove.  Steer were butchered regularly for meat.  To prevent spoilage much of the meat was dried into jerky during the summer.  More fresh meat was enjoyed in the winter when it was easier to keep the meat longer.DSCN6617

Much of the workers fare centred around beef and beans and biscuits, a typical cowboy meal.  Possibly once a week they were treated to canned tomatoes and dried fruit (usually apples and prunes).  When things were well, like during the Boice period, there was also potatoes and baked desserts, including dried apricots & peaches made into cobbler or pies about every day!!  During the summer months chicken fryers were also used along with canned cow meat.DSCN6644

The Boice & Vail families took their meals in this room.  Likely it had been originally a porch that was enclosed during the Vail era.  Carpeting, wood paneling and the large glass windows and door were added by the Boice family in the 1950’s.  The ceiling was lowered at that time, also.  The ceiling and the south wall were constructed of “railroad car”- type siding, a Victorian detail.

The area that Everette is standing in was originally open, a wooden framed porch, but then the floor was cemented and the screening put up in the ’20s to create an “Arizona Room” that could be enjoyed during the summer heat and provided extra sleeping area particularly when stifling hot.

 

Display of timeline of the Empire Ranch

Display of timeline of the Empire Ranch

 

I'm opinionated, friendly & chatty... I hope you are, too

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s