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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Buckaroos in Paradise
Dan Martinez and Bob Humphrey rope calves, Nevada, 1978.

[Detail] Dan Martinez and Bob Humphrey rope calves, Nevada, 1978.

The combination of primary and secondary sources available in this collection contribute to a teacher's ability to use Buckaroos in Paradise for classroom exercises in historical thinking. Like most "Folk life" collections, Buckaroos in Paradise offers a rich first-person perspective on daily life, which can complement textbook instruction.

1) Chronological Thinking

Storage Building with Cellar

Storage Building with Cellar, 1981, by Carl Fleischhauer

The in-depth research on one family and community in this collection make it a good resource for constructing narratives that establish temporal order, or how things change over time. The history of ranching culture in this part of the West can be traced, for instance, through this community's architecture. The adobe homesteads of the early immigrants, the elaborate bunkhouses constructed by Italian-American stonemasons, and the mobile homes and prefabricated houses built for workers and their families in more recent years all are examples of dwellings common to the region over the years.

The Bunk Houses and Line Cabins section of the Views of a Western Way of Life Special Presentation outlines the history of ranchers's dwellings in northern Nevada. Students can read this article and pull out specific words for more in-depth searching in the collection: for instance, adobe, granite, and mobile home. (Many, though not most, of the pictures that students will find will include some information about the construction date of the buildings.)

Using the information from the article and the pictures they find, students can present a chronology of homes and bunkhouses in northern Nevada. This can be an online presentation or, by printing out the pictures, a paper or display presentation. Examine the influences – environment, social factors, economy, technology – that contribute to the differences in house types.

2) Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Two audios, Losing Jobs to Mechanization and Reducing the Need for Labor on the 96 Ranch discuss the changes brought by mechanization from the perspective of a laborer and a ranch owner and demonstrate how decisions are made, as well as the repercussions of those decisions. Les Stewart, owner of the ranch, discusses his own reaction to changes in ranch life in the audio The Ninety-Six Ranch, Diversification, and the Future.

Use these materials to complement a U.S. History study of the post-World-War-II era. Students can hold a debate on the pros and cons of federal land management. Or, they can research the current life in Nevada and other farming and ranching communities. What have technological and policy changes meant for people living in northern Nevada? How is one individual, like Les Stewart, affected by the important changes around him?

3) Historical Research Capabilities

Exhibit Detail

Exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution (detail), 1980, by Carl Fleischhauer

Folklife field research is a unique type of historical research and one that often appeals to young people because of its immediacy. It is an inquiry into the traditional cultural expressions of a group sharing a common heritage, body of knowledge, and experience. Buckaroos in Paradise, focused on a very specific time and place, can serve as a launching point into a folklife project in your own community, or even in your own classroom.

Background information about the Paradise Valley Folklife Project provides an introduction to specific methods of historical research used in this project. Older students can use the guidelines in the Library of Congress publication Folklife and Fieldwork: A Layman's Introduction to Field Techniques, to begin their project. Students of all ages can photograph, interview and videotape their fellow students, and gather data about the classroom and school. The goal will be a "snapshot" of your school or community at this time.

Students can answer such questions as:

  • What happens in a typical day at your school?
  • What do students like most about their school? What do they like least?
  • What different ethnic groups are represented in your classroom?
  • What do students eat and wear in your school?

Students can describe the physical environment through photographs, drawings and floor plans, using the example of "Coyote" John Schneider's bunk house, which was included in a museum show about the Buckaroos in Paradise collection. Search on Schneider and Smithsonian for pictures of the bunk house and other related artifacts, and read the last six paragraphs of the Bunk Houses and Line Cabins section of the Views of a Western Way of Life Special Presentation for further background on Schneider's bunk house.

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