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Buckaroos, saddles featured at Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center

by Joyce Hollister

“The Buckaroo, Cowboys in Nevada” is the title of a new exhibit coming to the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center’s changing gallery later this month.

However, a portion of the exhibit is already in place.

Eight saddles owned by Don and Marlena Hellwinkel are on display in the main gallery of the museum.

Among the saddles are two made by the famous saddlemaker Garcia of Elko, who made his own leather, says curator Cecile Brown.

Most are working saddles and one dates to the late 1890s. One is tiny, the saddle used by a child.

The youth saddle ridden by the late Fred Dressler when he was a boy will be featured in the changing gallery where the main portion of “The Buckaroo, Cowboys in Nevada” will be housed. This saddle was made by Visalia Saddle Co. of California, another well-known and well-respected saddlery, according to Brown.

Brown is designing and hanging the exhibit, using artifacts, photos and items that come from a number of sources.

Artifacts and photos in a traveling exhibit about cowboys and cowboy life are lent by the Nevada State Museum.

From the Special Collections Department at the University of Nevada, Reno come portraits, drawings, letters and photos of and about the work of Will James – the beloved Western author who learned to draw and write while in prison for cattle rustling.

James lived in Washoe Valley for a time and much of his work is in the Special Collections at UNR. One wall is dedicated to the James’ work.

Hanging on another wall of the room is a buffalo hide from James Canyon Ranch (now Little Mondeaux and Sierra Nevada Golf Course) north of Genoa. When it was Harvey Gross’ ranch, a herd of buffalo browsed in a pasture by the road.

The hide provides a backdrop for portrait photos of longtime cowboys of Carson Valley.

For people interested in brands, another wall will display information regarding brands and their uses and history. In a locked cabinet will be displayed brand registrations of Carson Valley dating back to the first part of this century.

According to Brown, until 1923 brands were registered in each county – now they registered by a state agency. Samples of each brand were burned onto squares of leather.

The box containing Valley brands had been stored in the basement of the courthouse in Minden, and during one of the building’s renovations, the box was given to Frederick Dressler. President of the historical society, Dressler transferred them to the society’s collections.

Several other items lent or donated by Valley ranchers and their families will round out the exhibit, Brown said.

The Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

The center is located at 1477 Highway 395 in Gardnerville and occupies the former Douglas County High School, restored over a period of years by the Carson Valley Historical Society and opened in August of 1995.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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