Fact vs. fiction, how wild west really was

By Angela Peacock

Dressed in 18th century attire with a gun holster strapped to his waist Ted Pearce suddenly transformed into Tom Sears to perform a wild west skit during the 10th Annual New Mexico Archaeology Fair Friday afternoon at the Tucumcari Historical Museum.

More than 20 archaeologist and exhibits for the statewide event will be open to the public with no adminsion fee throughout the afternnon.

Sears is a member of Paso Del Norte Pistoleros, a group which travels across the southwest reenacting various historical events.

“We have more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” said Sears, whose entire family is involved in the show. “Paso Del Norte Pistoleros is a family oriented activity where people get a history lesson while learning other important lessons such as how to interact socially and how to speak in front of people.”

Randolph McDorman, of Paso Del Norte Pistoleros, said the purpose of their shows is to teach people that how Hollywood portrays the wild west isn’t always truthful. For instance, cowboys were not allowed to walk around town carrying a loaded gun around their waist because in most places it was illegal. Another distinct difference between the television version of the wild west and reality is that not all cowboys were white men. McDorman said many of the original western cowboys were Hispanic and Indians.

“People are really influenced by television so we try to straighten out the truth from all the myths,” McDorman said.

Laura Nungaray has been involved with Paso Del Norte since she was a senior in high school. She explained how if it hadn’t been for her participating in the show she may not have completed a course she need to graduate. Not only did Nungaray learn about history, she gained insight into her art, economics and public speaking courses.

House fifth and sixth grade teacher Judy Morrow just finished a history lesson about how Indians used atlatl’s as weapons to hunt their food. She said there is no better way for her students to really absorb what they’ve read about than by getting to experience it first hand, which is what the students were able to do with Chris Turnbow, assistant director of the museum of Indian Arts/Culture and anthropology in Santa Fe. Turnbow set up an atlatl booth at the fair so people could have fun learning to use an old Indian weapon, but his only purpose for attending the fair was to share with people the importance of historical preservation.

“It’s amazing how one act of vandalism can destroy our understanding of the past,” Turnbow said. “Quay County has a lot of great archeology, but being able to find out about objects over 1,000 years old won’t be possible if they’re destroyed.”

The archeology fair located at Tucumcari Historical Museum hosted Glenna Dean, New Mexico State Archaeologist, said aside from having fun she wants people to understand there is such a need to preserve the state’s history.

“We really don’t know much about eastern New Mexico,” Dean said. “Odds are there are important sites in New Mexico which haven’t yet been discovered and I would hope landowners would want to preserve those sites.”