March 9, 2015

Serendipity at Fort Davis

Fort Davis National Historic Site was established in 1854 to protect emigrants, freighters and mail coaches on the overland route to California.  It is one of the best preserved frontier forts in the Southwest and has a wonderful collection of adobe and stone buildings.  Tim and I had been very impressed with the fort on our visit to the park three years earlier, and wanted to check out the new museum exhibit at the visitor center. 
Fort Davis National Historic Site

Several months earlier, Tim had send proposals for museum services contracting to a handful of parks on our intended route through Texas. Fort Davis was one of those parks.  Based on our earlier visit, we thought it would be a great place to work.  Although Tim had not heard back from the park, we decided to stop by for a visit while we were in town.  When we arrived at Fort Davis on Thursday, January 29, we learned that the park historian whom Tim had originally contacted was on vacation for two weeks.  Drat!  We still had a pleasant time talking with one of the park rangers and explained who we were as well as the services that Tim could provide.  A drop-in visit had been worth a shot, but it seemed there would be no work for Tim this time.

The Horse and Goats Are Best Friends and Hard-Working "Staff" Members

Although we wanted to spend time touring the new museum exhibit, we were hungry and decided that lunch was the priority.  The exhibit could wait until later in the day.  Tim left a business card and note for the historian, and we headed out to a highly-recommended Mexican restaurant in town.  As we were returning to the fort to finish our tour, Tim received a telephone call from John, the Chief of Interpretation, who wanted to meet with Tim.  The ranger we had met had spoken with John about us, and John had also seen the proposal that Tim had sent.

Within five minutes we were meeting with John, who immediately expressed an interest in contracting with Tim for a two week project. Wow!  What fortuitous timing that turned out to be!  It was so refreshing to find someone in the federal bureaucracy who would seize the opportunity of our being there, ready to work, and immediately act on it. John told us that the superintendent would be back the next day and that he would present the idea to him.  He requested that Tim call back on Friday

On Friday we stopped by the park and met with John and the superintendent, whose name is also John.  They offered Tim a contract and requested his recommendation as to which project he should undertake.  We received a tour of the collection, and Tim took paperwork home to review over the weekend.  We were so excited to be working at Fort Davis.  It is a very cool park and the staff is great.  

While Tim got paid for his work, I worked directly with him as a volunteer.  I really enjoy this rapidly evolving part of our full-time adventure.  Although I dearly love the traveling part of our lifestyle, I also enjoy undertaking projects like this and spending extended time at different parks.  It adds another dimension to our new way of life.  Yes, the money is nice, but it’s also good to keep our minds sharp and to contribute our expertise to the parks.  We don’t want to work full-time, but a two-week project every so often is perfect.  Projects like this also enable us to get to really know the staff and the park.  That’s actually one of the best parts of the job.

We were also very fortunate to be able to adjust our plans to stay at Fort Davis for the next two weeks.  Again, that’s the freedom that comes with this lifestyle.  We give ourselves a lot of flexibility and try not to make too many time commitments.

Unlike Tim’s previous contracts, we didn’t have a particular project when we started our stint at Fort Davis.  Instead, the park wanted Tim to prioritize the work that needed to be done.  Fort Davis had been without a curator for quite some time, and so many options were available.  Tim decided to wrap up the loose ends resulting from the new museum exhibit that had just been installed.  This is a great exhibit and one which the staff put so much time and effort into.

"What Did I Get Myself Into?"

We accounted for and updated the catalog records for all objects in the exhibit; re-housed objects that had been removed from storage for the exhibit; unpacked boxes and housed objects returned from conservation; and organized the curation areas.  We also spent quite a bit of time cleaning and performing generalized housekeeping duties.

It Even Snowed One Day We Were at Fort Davis

Living History Is a Major Component of Interpretation at Fort Davis -
Ranger Chelsea Is Perfect in the Role of an Elegant Officer's Wife

The staff was so appreciative of what we did, especially the organization of the curation areas.  Tim and I both felt that we had made a real, concrete contribution to the park.  It was hard, physical work at times, but it was very rewarding to see the finished product.  (Actually, the most difficult part of the project was getting up in the dark at 6:30 am and making it to the park by 8:00 am!)  We hope to return to Fort Davis at some future time to continue the work we started.

Housekeeping Is Hard Work

I Think the "After" Photos Show a Significant Improvement


  1. What a great opportunity! Truly a serendipity moment!

  2. It really is hard to believe how everything fell together. We had a great time there and would love to return at some point.


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