The Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum is hosting two temporary exhibits this summer, “Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy” and “Hell On Wheels: Union Pacific Railroad Towns in Wyoming”. Each exhibit will be on display until Saturday, August 2.
“Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy” features photographs that reveal the muscle, sweat and drama that went into roping calves and breaking wild horses in the saddle. In the early 1970s, noted Texas historian Joe Frantz offered Bill Wittliff a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to visit a ranch in northern Mexico where vaqueros still worked cattle in traditional ways. Wittliff photographed these vaqueros as they went about daily chores which had changed little since the first Mexican cow herders learned to work cattle from a horse’s back. Wittliff captured a way of life that now exists only in memory and in the photographs included in this exhibition. The exhibit was created by the Wittliff Collections at the Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos, and presented in partnership with Humanities Texas, the state affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities. This exhibition is made possible in part by a We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
To supplement the Vaquero exhibit, the museum produced “By Hoof and By Rail” showcasing the ways that the railroads changed the ranching industry and participated in the national market for livestock and beef. Cowboy-related artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection are also on display.
The second summer exhibit featured at the museum is “Hell on Wheels: Union Pacific Railroad Towns in Wyoming”. During the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, end-of-track towns appeared and disappeared as the tracks moved west. Surveying and grading teams, and later track laying teams, established temporary supply and construction camps along the rail route. Tent cities, consisting of canvas and wood structures sprang up around the work camps to supply services for the workers. Saloons, dance halls, brothels, stores, and gambling houses were common. End-of-track towns were known for wild behavior and crime, earning the towns the name “Hell on Wheels.” The exhibit is on loan from the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming.