Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sod House Ranch

Besides preserving habitat for wildlife, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is pretty unique among our nation’s refuges in that it also preserves vast amounts of human historical artifacts.  It is one of only two refuges in the nation that has a full time archeologist on staff.  I have alluded to some of this historical diversity in several of my posts over the last few weeks.  One of the posts showed you petroglyphs, pictographs, and ancient stone tools.  Today, Emma and I made a return trip to a more recent historical location on the refuge:  Sod House Ranch.
51 Malheur NWR, Oregon5Sod House Ranch served as the Northern headquarters of the French-Glenn Livestock Company, and construction began on it around 1880.  Pete French was manager of the cattle ranch which became the nation’s largest.  Many of the original buildings are still in tact, but the first thing I noticed was the original fences.  :)  ( I’ll be using a number of collages today since there are so many photos of this interesting place.)
51 Malheur NWR, Oregon6The ice house/cooler is on the left, and as you can read was built in 1900.  As hot as it gets here in the summer, ice was kept all year in this thickly built stone building.  The headquarters’ office building is in the center under the big cottonwood tree, and the kitchen building where three meals a day were prepared for the vaqueros is on the right.  The cottonwood trees are immense, and are now almost 120 years old.  Sod House Ranch is only open to the public after August 15 of each year because the cottonwoods are home to the colonial nesting great blue herons and double-crested cormorants. 
51 Malheur NWR, Oregon7Quite a few old ranch implements are preserved on the ranch, also.  Even the wheelbarrow wheel is made out of wood.
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Aren’t you glad braking systems have improved over the years?  :)
51 Malheur NWR, Oregon8The biggest structure left on the ranch is the long barn.  This was used for housing the many horses used on the ranch.  Remember the Round Barn I posted a while back?  Well it is located about 40 miles from here and was part of the same ranch.  I told you it was big!
IMG_5856If you can get here by this weekend, you can still get an excellent guided tour of the ranch from fellow volunteer, Tom Killian.  You had better hurry, though, because he and his wife, Sue, are pulling out on Monday and there aren’t any volunteers left to take his place this year.  I suppose you could come over next year, but just remember to do it after August 15.  :)  The two folks taking the tour this morning, were none other than JoAnn and Judd Munsell, two of our newest volunteers.
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Of course, one of the most important structures on any homestead has also been preserved!  Notice it’s a two hole model, and which side you use depends on how big of an ‘asparagus’ you have.  :)  Do you think people really did this daily chore in tandem???  Karl, the amateur archeologist volunteer, really thinks this is a marvelous outhouse.  You see, apparently there was a square area on the left of the two holes were the male ranch hands could stand up and relieve themselves therefore making it more pleasant for the female users when they sat down.  (I think you can figure out my drift here.)  Anyway, while I was telling the others about Karl’s theory, Tom remarked that he would be surprised if the ranch hands rode their horses all the way over to the latrine just to relieve themselves.  Good point, Tom.  :)

And finally, JoAnn says: 
IMG_5862                                                                   “THE END!!”

Thanks for stopping by….talk to you later,  Judy


  1. I remember those outhouses from my childhood days of visiting relatives on the farm. In fact, we lived in the country for a short while and my dad built us one. I never did like them, but it was a place you could read the Sears & Roebuck catalog, lol.

  2. I had to use the worst outhouse in the whole world back in 2006 when we were in Alaska. I will NEVER forget that experience and I do not want to repeat it. :)

  3. Great pictures! I especially like the closeup of the wagon wheel.

  4. My favourite pics were the wagon wheels too!

  5. nice job on the collages today!!..love the wagon wheels too!!

  6. What interesting pictures and blog today. I agree with your assessment of the two-holer. Did they keep each other company? Some things about modern life are just SO nice!

  7. As a kid we never had indoor plumbing for quite awhile so I remember our 'outhouse' very well. I have never liked having to use those darn things ever since. Not even the modern day port-a-potties. I would sooner go cross eyed than park my assparagus in there!!!!

  8. Great post. Love the fence pictures. I haven't gotten around to using one yet, but appreciate the permission. I will have to try doing a collage.

  9. When I was growing up , our grandparents had a cabin in Wisconsin with outhouse ...That's where we went in the middle of the night...Thoughts of black bears just waiting for me still haunt my dreams..
    This kind of a historical place is right up my alley!!..so many places to visit..so little time!