Saturday, November 11, 2023

Cowboy Festival, Empire Ranch, Brunch and a Vintage Holiday Kick-off

Corona de Tucson

November 11, 1023  

Such a beautiful drive...rolling grasslands surrounded by mountains

Empire Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for over 150 years.  Originally established in the 1860s as a homestead ranch with 160 acres, a four room adobe house and corral, it is now managed by the federal government on behalf of the general public.  In 2000, Congress officially designated 42,000 acres to be the Las Cienegas National Conservatory.  BLM managers along with the Empire Ranch Foundation have been committed to preserving the historic Empire Ranch which is still a working ranch today. 

Joe and I first visited the ranch in March of 2017 and since buying our home in Corona de Tucson, we have enjoyed the Cowboy Festival each November in 2021, '22, and again this year.  It has been held the first week-end in November since 2000.  Jamie, Andra and Ozzie spent the week-end with us and what a fun time we had. 


We arrived just in time for the National Anthem and to see the Mounted Calvary Demonstration.

The Western skills demonstrations are our favorite.  Branding, leather working, silversmithing, roping, chuckwagon and blacksmithing are represented from the Gilded Age (1800s to early 1900s).  The chuckwagon...America's first food truck... was busy stoking the fire and cooking scratch biscuits and frying bacon.  

Blacksmithing and these traveling wagons were essential back in the mid to late 1800s. Necessities from household items such as pots and pans, utensils, and sewing needles along with wagons, plows, horseshoes, tools, hinges and latches, and nails were all crafted from these types of wagons.  This blacksmith uses a bellow on a forge and coal was and still is the preferred heat source for blacksmiths thru the years.   

Every cowboy from the beginning of cowboy days needs to be able to rope a cow.  Roping has been described as akin to patting your head, rubbing your stomach and dancing a jig all at the same time.  It isn't an easy trade to learn as there are at least 30 different types of loops to throw depending on the cow's position in relation to the horse.  Ranch roping is based on skill, horsemanship, and stockmanship.  The  number one reason to rope an animal on a ranch is because it is sick and getting a cow back to the corral isn't going to happen so treatment is done on site.

Rodeo ropes are called the lasso or lariat.  We enjoyed watching this young cowboy as his loop was over his head, behind his back, on either side and yes, even under his feet.

Even if you aren't interested in cowboys, demonstrations and festivals, visiting the ranch makes for a beautiful drive to get there and a beautiful walk once there.  The ranch is open daily from sunup to sundown with no charge for entry or permit required.  There is a self-guided tour to visit the ranch home (built in 1870 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places), corral, and grounds and a nature trail.  Several television shows have had episodes filmed on location at the ranch including Bonanza and Gunsmoke.  And famous stars including Paul Newman (Hombre 1967), Clint Eastwood (The Outlaw Jose Wells 1976),  Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (A Star is Born 1976) and Lee Marvin and Jack Palance  (Monte Walsh 1970) along with many others have made movies at the ranch.  

A gasoline pump installed on the grounds in the 19950s

Huachuca House/Visitor Center/Gift Shop...a view out the window
This small stucco house was originally constructed on Fort Huachuca as officer housing.  It was moved to Empire Ranch in the 1950s as a home for the owners.

Farmall Tractor...I think late 1940s.  
The building in the background was housing for hired ranch hands.

I always love spending time with the animals...

Instead of coming straight home, we decided to take Box Canyon Road to Green Valley for lunch at Manual's.

Thursday morning, Joe and I were off to Tucson.  Having grown up in small-town Georgia, it's a real treat sometimes to be so close to a city. It's nice to have choices and it's even nicer to have fun things to do on the "spur of the moment".  Brunch at Cafe a la C'Art was at the top of the list...we haven't been since Jill and Bill were here last July.  

The weather was perfect for the patio and our timing was perfect as we had our choice of tables.  By the time we left, the patio was a bustle of laughter and conversation as others had the same idea we did.  

Every time we have brunch there, I always say on the way that I'm going to try something different and every time I always order the same thing...salmon Benedict with rosemary roasted potatoes.  The dill dijon cream on top is lip smacking good ! 

Joe did order something different...a portobello omelet with red peppers, spinach, pesto and feta served with rosemary potatoes and multigrain toast. It must have been very good as the only thing left on his plate was the pineapple skin and rind from his fruit.  

If you have visited Tucson, have you ever noticed the Broadway Tile Mural?  For more than 20 years, this "window of the past, gateway to the future" tile mural has been a landmark on Broadway Blvd.  

We have passed by this tile mural so many times...what an interesting story it has! 

Steve Farley discovered a series of photos while working on a historic preservation project.  All the photos were taken between 1937-1963 and all were taken in downtown Tucson.  The tile mural measures 18 feet tall.  There are three more tile murals Farley did with other photos of the same time frame.  It is interesting to note that Farley met many of the people in these photos and has a story about all the people depicted.  And on the day of the dedication ceremony in May 1999, many of them in the photos made speeches.  I just love these kinds of real stories and could go on and on about the artist Steve Farley, the photographer Frank Lauerman who took all these wonderful photos, the stories the people shared who were depicted in the mural and the process of actually making the murals.  I sure hope to visit the other three murals and would really like an up close look at all of them.

Our lighthearted escapade to the city had a dual purpose.  Everyone knows by now that we (mostly me) enjoy perusing the Lost Barrio Neighborhood when Gather: A Vintage Market has their monthly showing.  

The collection of antiques and vintage finds change with monthly themes at Gather.  Not only does the collection change, but the entire floorspace is redesigned and restyled around the theme to create a curated collection in styled vignettes. It's quite an undertaking and what makes it even more fun is the warehouse itself with it's creaky wooden floor,  rusty galvanized tin walls, the high ceiling with exposed rafters and the gorgeous old bricks. This week was the annual Holiday Kick-off event...and my favorite month to go.   

Back at the oasis it is official...the fall/winter corn hole toss tournament has begun.  
It's the girls against the boys...the best two out of three games counts as 1 win...and so far, so good...we are tied one win each.  

It's is cool enough to enjoy the fire.

And it's official...Ozzie is still so stinking cute !

A few bird photos taken from my rocking chair...

The weather was wonderful for morning walks. 

A shout out to Jill...our very talented and creative daughter has published a book.

I received my copy yesterday and am so proud of Jill. Back in August she started a blog, bluebirdfit! .   Jill shares a positive, motivational, and inspirational story of her own fitness journey...not just her physical fitness, but her mind and spiritual fitness as well.  Keeping a journal/daily planner was an important part of her daily routine to becoming a healthier self.  As a result, she has written and self-published a journal for others which can be purchased thru Amazon.  

     Since I was told in March 2019 that I needed to make some significant life changes because I was diagnosed pre-diabetic and my blood pressure was off the chart, Joe and I have made a conscious effort to eat healthier and exercise.  I love my new journal...filling in the box for Moments of Gratitude will be easy for me as there are many things I am grateful for, but I rarely ever give much thought about Acts of Service or Knowledge Gained for the day...what a fun challenge it will be!  

It's been a really nice week here, hoping you can all say the same.  Before I close I would like to say thank you to all veterans and family of veterans...words I'm sure veterans don't hear nearly enough.  "Thank you for your service."  And an extra big hug to my two Navy guys today...Joe and Jamie.

I love you both! 

 Sally says we should all enjoy the warm sunshine...

and sweet dreams to all.

Until next time,



  1. Your second photo of that feed trough really tells a story. Decades of wear on that wood. How long has it been there? How many animals have fed from it? What are the changes it has seen through the years?

    1. Good morning Jim…I love just about anything old that’s made from wood, bricks, tin etc…lots of character. The ranch sure makes for a historical fun few hours of perusing.

  2. I always get excited when I see you have a new post!! And this one was so full of fun and exciting things! We need to get out more! Love your animal photos at the Empire Ranch. And, we need to get together with you guys!

    1. Good morning Janna…and thank you! I feel the same way about your posts as well! Life these days might not be full of faraway adventures, but we sure do enjoy it. I was having eyelash envy when I saw the photo of the bull and I love how expressive animal eyes are…the donkeys grab my heart! They are all rescues…

      And YES, we do need to get together…SOON!

  3. Oh, I forgot--congratulations to Jill--publishing a book is a feather in her cap!! And sweet Sally--naps in the sun are the best!

  4. You certainly had a nice variety of adventures and the salmon Benedict does look like it needs to be ordered again.
    Does the Ranch raise any animals or are they all rescues?
    Congrats Jill !, good to hear you are published and help keep us geezers healthy.

    1. Hi Jeff…I do love eggs and poached eggs are a favorite that we never make at home so between the eggs and the dill dijon cream I don’t figure I will be trying anything else if we go for brunch. The ranch has cows and horses and is still a working ranch. The other animals are rescues and visit on festival day.

  5. You all live in such a wonderful place, full of adventure and beauty! You're a terrific photographer, and I just love your photos. Some of my favorites from this week's post: Jamie and Andra walking through the field, the sweet eyelashes on that cow, the wall of pink flowers next to the blue stairs, and ALL of your bird pictures! I wish so much that we were closer because we'd love to compete in that corn hole tournament and hang out by the fire with y'all. :) Thanks for mentioning my book, and I'm so glad that you like it! I love you all!

    1. Good morning Jill…thank you so much and you are very welcome! Phones sure make it easier to take photos when one is out & about don't they? I think the only photos I take with a real camera anymore are the birds. Everyday I wish we were closer and everyday I look forward to our next visit. In the meantime…I love seeing those mountain vistas when you hike. We love you three too!

  6. Where did you learn about the Native American Parade in Tombstone and this Cowboy Festival at Empire Ranch ? I live in Green Valley but didn't know anything about these activities. They both look wonderful and will be on my calendar for next Fall. Thx !

    1. Good morning…if you Google Tombstone and/or Empire Ranch both of these places have a calendar and a list of upcoming events.

  7. I loved our exploration of Empire Ranch's land, the bird walk along the water beneath the huge trees, seeing small herds of pronghorn in the blond grasses....but never stopped at the ranch! Next time. I, too, was jealous of those luxurious eye lashes!

    1. Good morning Sue…it is so beautiful there. We haven’t taken any off road or hiking trails there, but I hope to one day. We saw a huge heard of pronghorns when we were driving out, but they were to far for a phone photo and I didn’t take my camera to zoom in. I’m pretty sure those are the prettiest eyelashes I have ever photographed!