Library events celebrate Portales’ history

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Hot branding irons and Buffalo Soldiers are making history come alive at Portales Public Library this week.

In honor of the Portales Centennial and Heritage Days, the library has scheduled several events.

Among other things, Assistant Librarian Danielle Swopes said people are encouraged to bring their family branding irons to the “branding iron party” to mark a piece of wood for display.

In addition, Buffalo Soldier history scholar Oscar Robinson is giving a presentation about the black calvary soldiers in the 1800s.

Wednesday, the regularly scheduled Preschool Storytime will have a Hispanic theme for its stories and craft.

Robinson expects to wear a Buffalo Soldier uniform during his presentation Thursday.

“I’ll be on display myself,” he said.

Buffalo soldiers protected settlers, built roads and installed telephone lines in Roosevelt County, he said. Without their visibility in the area, Robinson said, pioneers wouldn’t have survived as well.

During the evening, Robinson plans to discuss the origin of the soldiers, their part in the U.S. westward expansion and their ordeals on the Llano Estacado. He hopes to provide hand outs and pose for photos if people want to take them.

Robinson may also display weapons the soldiers used.

“A lot of people are unaware of that part of our county’s history,” Swopes said.

Swopes said Friday’s branding iron party in front of the library would include propane torches so people could heat up their branding irons and brand a piece of wood for permanent display in the library.

So much of Portales history centers around farming and ranching, and anyone with livestock needed to identify the animals as theirs, Swopes said.

“It’s a recognizable part of our local history and, I think, a recognizable part of our local families,” she said of the brands.

The party is also set to feature free beans and cornbread, as well as bluegrass music by the Miller family.

“They’re excellent bluegrass musicians, so that will be lots of fun,” she said.

The Starlight Swingers square dance group is scheduled to close the evening.

For the Heritage Days Parade on Saturday, the library is set to contribute a float for the first time in years, Swopes said. She said the library would be closed during the parade.

Finally, the library has several history displays.

The ends of shelves in the adult section feature historical information and photos from the Eastern New Mexico University Special Collections. Also, a Cannon Air Force Base exhibit includes the flight suit used by the pilot who flew the jet on display on U.S. 70 near ENMU.

In other displays, library patrons can see old dolls, antique dairy tools and photos of the first irrigation wells.