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Westbrook: Museum tells Garza County past
- 07/10/2011

Lubbock Online

More Info on This Book: Garza County

Linda Puckett, who directs the preservation of Post’s history, has an answer for nearly every item in the Garza County Historical Museum.

She also has compiled a book with pictures and captions that recall Post as one of the earliest settlements in the Lubbock Area. It is titled “Garza County,” and is one of the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing.

On the cover is a group of six cowboys from the Old West’s OS Ranch, photographed in 1898. With one resting against a boulder, rifle in hand, and another sitting on the ground with a drawn 44-caliber pistol, they make an intimidating group portrait. One is standing without a gun, two are sitting on a couch-sized rock, and the sixth is sitting on top of the boulder for the portrait.

Only one has even a hint of a smile, and that could be interpreted more as a challenge than a welcome.

But they had to be tough — it was a tough way to make a living before the 20th century, and may still be even with 4x4 pickups.

“Post is sort of like the desert — it changes at different times of the day,” Puckett says of some of the landscapes inside the museum.

“If you’re going to Snyder, it’s one way, and if you’re going to Gail, it’s another.”

In one of the rooms are artifacts from a time long before the OS cowboys.

“We have parts of three critters,” Puckett explained.

Some teenagers half a century ago had gone to a swimming hole after a rain, and found large bones of a mammoth sticking out of the ground.

“So, they dug them up with a shovel — not with a brush. It is still the bone — not fossilized, and not a cast.”

According to Puckett, an archaeologist measured the bone sections that were recovered so that a silhouette could be drawn on the wall to show children how large an animal it would have been.

She remembers, “He measured the bones and said, ‘Your wall isn’t tall enough. This animal was 20 feet tall.’ ”

Puckett explains the find to a guest at the museum this way: “This is a vertebra, and this is a toe bone off this animal. The vertebrae, the ribs ... we had the tusks, but when they hit the air, they fell into pieces. We have them in the basement.”

She has a cast made from the skull of a giant salamander-looking animal that apparently was more than four feet long.

“It was found on the Kirkpatrick Ranch, but once roamed the Garza County area ... I wouldn’t want to meet up with the little critter.”

She said, “It’s up to the individual as to the age interpretation.”

Puckett has introduced changes inside the large building that now houses the museum’s collection.

“This was a private room,” she said of a room along the north side. “I made this into a chapel — the pews are from one of the old churches. They were dilapidated, and I had a gentleman cut them, and used just the ends — and made a chapel.

“We’ve had two small weddings here.”

The building itself was a pioneering hospital called Post Sanitarium, that opened in 1912 and continued through 1918.

“When the guys returned from the First World War, it was just too much of a financial obligation. So, they opened an office somewhere else, and this became apartments and some county offices.”

A building next door had housed a school for nurses. A group picture of the student nurses was sent in 1917 to a soldier, with this note on the back: “To Ervin: thought you might use this to scare the animals off when you go to the trenches.”

By 1970, a museum had been built in the former hospital structure.

According to Puckett, each room of the museum represents a different time period.

“We have a military room,” she says, and points to a moquette for an elaborate sculpture planned for the Capitol grounds.

“This is the Hispanic sniper, over there is the Caucasian, here is the black man, A South Vietnamese guy, and over here is the Native American. It will represent Vietnam,” she said.

“Over here is Pvt. James Walker,” she said of a photograph. “He entered World War II in Tahoka. He was found on a pile of bodies — he had been a prisoner of war in Germany. When our guys came into the camp, there was this heap of bodies that had starved to death. And there was this little person, weighing about 60 pounds, and there was life left.

“Our guys saved him and brought him back. His medals are over there.”

Much of Post’s heritage has been ranching, and Puckett has researched some of its past.

“The cowboy’s life was just their dream. Even today ... it’s just a dream they have, to work on a ranch, to be a working cowboy. They had a place to sleep, whether they were on the trail or in the bunkhouse. They had a cook who cooked them pretty good food. Many of them were as young as 13 or 14 — it was an adventurous life. They had a job to do and they did it. It was little money for seven days a week, yet they went on trail drives, and it was fascinating for a young man. They would come into town jingling their spurs ... and now they drive up to George’s for lunch.”

Puckett takes the area’s history to heart.

“It’s phenomenal that we’re so unique and rich in history. We were founded by an American icon — C.W. Post. It was his dream city,” she said.

“There’s so much — even though really this part of the country is young, just over 100 years. Many things have happened here, and I think he would be real proud of how we have carried on his legacy.”

To comment on this story:

ray.westbrook@lubbockonline.com • 766-8711

leesha.falkner@lubbockonline.com • 766-8706

Buy It Now: Garza County $21.99




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