In a case of history helping history, the Madera Method Wagon Train got a boost from Jay Chapel in the form of a bundle of this year’s historical calendars. As the local mortuary has done every year since the first publication in 1993, a portion of the income from their much-sought-after calendars was donated to the local volunteer wagon train group to be sold as a fund raiser.
The donation comes at a particular propitious time for the Madera Method Wagon Train crew, because they are preparing to take a contingent of students on a 23-day trek across Texas, following the gold rush diary of pioneer William P. Huff.
The trip has been set for January 2005. Plans call for the Madera contingent to escort 14 California students to the El Paso area.
There at the Socorro Mission, the Californians will meet their Texas counterparts under the guidance of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. On Jan. 4, the two parties will blend into one, and traveling in four or five covered wagons, will begin their joint trek across West Texas, carrying 16 students from Texas (two of whom will be great-great-great-granddaughters of William P. Huff), and the 14 students from California. Their task will be to travel and study William P. Huff’s route in reverse, from Socorro to Austin.
The students will consult Huff’s diary and compare it with what they see on the trail. At the end of each day, they will record their own thoughts and contrast them with Huff’s observations.
As the wagons roll east, the students will visit Hueco Tanks, where Huff lost his mules in a nighttime raid by Native Americans. They will travel to Cerro Alto and then on to Alamo Mountain where they will hike up to Cottonwood Springs for a look at the watering hole and petroglyphs visited by Huff and illustrated in his diary.
Then the young historians will head toward Thorn’s Well at Cornudas del Alamo. They will circle the wagons and squeeze through the cave to take a cup of water from the very well that provided Huff with precious water over 150 years ago.
Scores of sites detailed in Huff’s diary will spur the youngsters on as they continue to perform a time-distance relationship test on Huff’s journal. Horsehead Crossing, Castle Gap, Mustang Waterhole, San Saba Mission, House Mountain, and finally Fredericksburg will all become classrooms on the trail for the California and Texas children. By the time they set up camp at the LBJ Ranch, the hard part of their mission will be complete, and the kids will be ready to share their experiences with the world.
They will load up their animals and wagons and head for the capitol steps in Austin. There they will present copies of the Huff Diary to government officials and make a case for recognition of the Texas Argonauts in general and William P. Huff in particular.
From Austin the entourage - adults and students - will travel to Houston for a ceremony of celebration at the grave of William P. Huff. There they will be met by descendants of the Huff family and the old Texan’s diary will be turned over to its owner, David Ewing Stewart, one last time.
After the ceremony, the Californians will return home, as will the Texans, but that will not be the end of the story. Indeed, it will just be the beginning. Upon their return to their respective homes, the students will collaborate via the Internet in writing and publishing an account of their adventure.
The Madera Method’s share of the Jay Chapel historical calendars will be distributed by the wagon train crew to local businesses for sale to the public. Any one wishing to contribute to the Texas project may do so by purchasing a calendar from any member of the wagon train crew.