CCHS Tours Fis­cher Ranch and Veteado Peak Ranch

Catron Courier - - News - By Lisa Bless­ing

On May 31, the Ca­tron County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety toured the Veteado Peak Ranch and Fis­cher Ranch. Gary Blum, Ken Fis­cher and Jim Brat­ten showed up early at the meet­ing place on High­way 36 and found mem­bers al­ready wait­ing to view the Whit­ley Cabin, a kiva site, a lava wall, and the re­mains of Sunny Slope School. Af­ter pass­ing the ru­ins of the 616 arche­ol­ogy site, the car­a­van en­tered Fis­cher Ranch and then ar­rived at the Whit­ley Cabin.

Fred Black, mi­grated from De­catur City, Iowa, to north of Que­mado, met and mar­ried Bil­lie Whit­ley, whose fam­ily home­steaded here in the early 1920s. The Blacks moved into the Bob Sage homestead lo­cated ap­prox­i­mately one mile north of the en­trance to the Fis­cher Ranch. Bil­lie passed at age 53 and Fred at age 99. Both are in­terned in the Que­mado Cemetery.

Bil­lie’s par­ents, Charles and Anna Sarah “Ma” Whit­ley, orig­i­nally came from El Paso, Texas. The Whit­leys built an elab­o­rate cabin by the stan­dards of the day with a large stone fire­place, pic­ture win­dows, cis­tern, and root cel­lar. Charles Whit­ley was born in 1871 and died in 1932. Ma Whit­ley was born in 1871 and died in 1965. They both now rest in Sunny Slope Cemetery on the south side of the Fis­cher Ranch.

Billy Green, who helped Fred gather his cows, stated he did not re­mem­ber Fred Black rid­ing horses, but herded his cat­tle by pickup. Bon­nie Arm­strong of­fered more de­tails about the Whit­leys and re­mem­bered the nearby Bob Sage Saw Mill.

The tour pro­ceeded to the kiva site where Doug Fis­cher gave a talk on his work.

The kiva he is ex­ca­vat­ing is sit­u­ated in a late P-III or early P-IV (AD 1200-1300) an­ces­tral Pue­blo ruin. The walls are made of sand­stone with around 500 rooms. Ki­vas were usu­ally built below the sur­face of the ground and had cer­e­mo­nial sig­nif­i­cance. They can be lo­cated by look­ing at de­pres­sions on the sur­face of the ground. Ki­vas gen­er­ally fall into three types: key hole, square or dshaped.

Doug’s ex­ca­va­tion work started in May, 2013 and was sub­stan­tially fin­ished in 2014. The ex­ca­va­tion was done by hand trowel, rock pick, and shovel. Benches along the kiva walls ac­com­mo­dated par­tic­i­pants dur­ing cer­e­monies. In each of the two cor­ners, Doug found two small ol­las or ce­ramic pots in­tended for car­ry­ing wa­ter built in the wall as of­fer­ings.

Among the mys­ter­ies still to be un­rav­eled is the pres­ence of a large tun­nel or ven­ti­la­tor shaft that could lead to a room next door where the medicine man would en­ter and leave dur­ing cer­e­monies.

At the next stop mem­bers viewed the lava wall. Ten to twelve feet high in places, the wall winds along the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide for a con­sid­er­able dis­tance on the east side of the Fis­cher Ranch. The wall ap­pears man-made but is a nat­u­ral fea­ture cre­ated by magma. The wall is likely 100,000 years old or older.

The last stop be­fore the BBQ at the Veteado Peak Ranch was a view­ing of the site of Sunny Slope School. The site was do­nated by Bill Hunter whose cabin was sit­u­ated about a half mile to the south of the school. Sunny Slope School was erected in 1934 at a cost of $20 and with plenty of vol­un­teer la­bor from Lon Hay­herst, Bob Sage, Cliff Brown, and Mr. Koger. The lum­ber for the school came from the Sage Saw Mill. They stu­dents did not have desks but sat on logs, and Jim Hogg was the teacher. Rem­nants of the foun­da­tion, picket fenc­ing, and other de­bris can be seen.

The tour pro­ceeded to a BBQ at Veteado Peak Ranch. Thanks to Sally and Gary Blum, mem­bers en­joyed another yearly event at their home.

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