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Thu, April 25

<i>The way they were:</i> Del Rio classes explore pioneer life with hand's on experiences<BR>

Fourth graders at Del Rio Elementary School in Chino Valley last week had the chance to experience firsthand the lifestyles of the pioneers who first settled in Arizona.

Review/Laura Flood

Joel Richards, a local farrier, captivates a group as he heats up tools and bangs them out on his anvil.

Two classes spent Monday wearing pioneer clothing, eating pioneer food, listening to pioneer music and participating in pioneer activities– with one difference: at the end of the day, they could go home and watch TV.

Brenda Hubbard a fourth-grade Del Rio teacher explained why she puts Pioneer Day together for her classes every year.

"Arizona, especially northern Arizona, has so much history.

They should know about their heritage and relatives," she said, "and about how we got here. We forget, even living in Chino Valley, where steak and hamburgers come from and how hard it was back then."

"It was harder back then," student Melissa Martin said. "They had to do all these chores and they didn't have the kinds of medicines we have today."

Some aspects of pioneer days are fun, though. Martin said, she felt pretty wearing the pioneer period dress and bonnet she spent the day in.

During Pioneer Day, volunteers from around the community visited Del Rio to demonstrate activities, jobs and duties from the past (and some that still exist today.)

Students learned about branding cattle, making toys (dolls and whistles), black-smithing, roping and cowboy tools (tack and riding gear.) They heard cowboy poetry and music and had "old West fun."

Although student Tyler Cole said he was having fun, he admitted that, "I don't really like to dress up."

Many of the students said they enjoyed learning about branding. Brett Barner, who runs a horse operation in Chino Valley, demonstrated branding using hot branding irons that had been resting in a fire pit.

Each student got the chance to use one of the irons and burn the symbol onto a block of wood. Then Barner branded a piece of cowhide, and the kids howled at the stink that rose up because of the burned hair and skin.

Student Brenda Sanchez said, she enjoyed the branding exercise.

"Branding is so cool. They put it in the fire and just make stuff out of it," she said.

She also liked looking at the cowboy tools, including chaps, saddles and spurs.

Sanchez described the spurs and added, "they were really old, like about 50 years old."

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