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[Detail] Dan Martinez and Bob Humphrey rope calves, Nevada, 1978.

Collection Overview

Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982 is a multi-format collection that presents documentation of a Nevada cattle-ranching community. The collection documents the work and life of the family-run Ninety-Six Ranch and its cowboys, known in the region as buckaroos. People, sites, and traditions in the larger community of Paradise Valley, home to persons of Northern Paiute Indian, Anglo-American, Italian, German, Basque, Swiss, and Chinese heritage, are represented. Most of the collection was created by the Paradise Valley Folklife Project, undertaken by the American Folklife Center from 1978 to 1982.

Special Features

There are currently no special features associated with this collection.

Historical Eras

These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection although they may not be all-encompassing.

  • Postwar United States, 1945-early 1970s
  • Contemporary United States, 1965-present

Related Collections and Exhibits

These collections and exhibits contain thematically-related primary and secondary sources. Also browse the Collection Finder for more related material on the American Memory Web site.

Other Resources

Recommended additional sources of information.

Search Tips

Specific guidance for searching this collection

For help with search words, see the Buckaroos in Paradise, 1945-1982 Subject Index. A Glossary provides explanations of terms found in the collection. For an overview of topics covered in the collection, see Topics

For help with general search strategies, go to Finding Items in American Memory.


U.S. History

Most of the multimedia material in Buckaroos in Paradise dates after World War II. The collection documents Ninety-Six Ranch, a family-run ranch in Paradise Valley, northern Nevada. Contained within the collection, however, are essays on the early history of the ranch with historic photographs and a few sound recordings recalling the early days, covering the period from 1863 through World War II.

1) Ethnic Groups and Immigration


Lunch, 1978, by Carl Fleischhauer

Harobed (detail)

Harobed (detail), 1978, by Richard E. Ahlborn

Paradise Valley has attracted immigrants from several parts of the world, who joined the Native Americans already living in the area. The collection also includes images of European (German, Italian, and Basque) and Chinese immigrants who settled Paradise Valley in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. See, for instance, photographs of Catholic religious celebrations and Meal Day, which illustrate the diversity of people who settled the West. There are also photographs of artifacts left by Chinese immigrants who came to Nevada to work on the railroad and in the mining industry.

Search on Native American, Basque, Chinese, Italian, or German to find pictures and audio recordings related to the different ethnic groups who settled Paradise Valley. How did the make-up of Paradise Valley's inhabitants change over time? How does this relate to this history of immigration in the United States in general?

2) Modern American Economy

The several videos and audios describing changes in haying technology and labor in the 1940s and 1980s tie into the subject of the modern American economy, particularly the impact of scientific and technological change on workplace and productivity and the changing composition of the American workforce. See also the essay Haying, Irrigating, and Branding: Tradition and Innovation, which describes the different ranching activities and how they have changed during the twentieth century. Many other examples of the old vs. new methods of doing things exist in the collection, and the combination of still photos and videos offer a chance to see, rather than just read about, items used by ranchers. Students can look at the technology and listen to and read the special terms used by ranchers.

Use these materials to talk about how industrialization changed peoples's lives over the course of the twentieth century. Compare the way tasks were completed in the "early days" of the ranch versus more recent times. How many people did it take to run the ranch in the early part of the century? How does that compare with the 1970s, when the interviews here were done? What has that meant for the individuals who performed the various tasks?


Critical Thinking

The combination of primary and secondary sources available in this collection contribute to a teacher's ability to use Buckaroos in Paradise for classroom exercises in historical thinking. Like most "Folk life" collections, Buckaroos in Paradise offers a rich first-person perspective on daily life, which can complement textbook instruction.

1) Chronological Thinking

Storage Building with Cellar

Storage Building with Cellar, 1981, by Carl Fleischhauer

The in-depth research on one family and community in this collection make it a good resource for constructing narratives that establish temporal order, or how things change over time. The history of ranching culture in this part of the West can be traced, for instance, through this community's architecture. The adobe homesteads of the early immigrants, the elaborate bunkhouses constructed by Italian-American stonemasons, and the mobile homes and prefabricated houses built for workers and their families in more recent years all are examples of dwellings common to the region over the years.

The Bunk Houses and Line Cabins section of the Views of a Western Way of Life Special Presentation outlines the history of ranchers's dwellings in northern Nevada. Students can read this article and pull out specific words for more in-depth searching in the collection: for instance, adobe, granite, and mobile home. (Many, though not most, of the pictures that students will find will include some information about the construction date of the buildings.)

Using the information from the article and the pictures they find, students can present a chronology of homes and bunkhouses in northern Nevada. This can be an online presentation or, by printing out the pictures, a paper or display presentation. Examine the influences – environment, social factors, economy, technology – that contribute to the differences in house types.

2) Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Two audios, Losing Jobs to Mechanization and Reducing the Need for Labor on the 96 Ranch discuss the changes brought by mechanization from the perspective of a laborer and a ranch owner and demonstrate how decisions are made, as well as the repercussions of those decisions. Les Stewart, owner of the ranch, discusses his own reaction to changes in ranch life in the audio The Ninety-Six Ranch, Diversification, and the Future.

Use these materials to complement a U.S. History study of the post-World-War-II era. Students can hold a debate on the pros and cons of federal land management. Or, they can research the current life in Nevada and other farming and ranching communities. What have technological and policy changes meant for people living in northern Nevada? How is one individual, like Les Stewart, affected by the important changes around him?

3) Historical Research Capabilities

Exhibit Detail

Exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution (detail), 1980, by Carl Fleischhauer

Folklife field research is a unique type of historical research and one that often appeals to young people because of its immediacy. It is an inquiry into the traditional cultural expressions of a group sharing a common heritage, body of knowledge, and experience. Buckaroos in Paradise, focused on a very specific time and place, can serve as a launching point into a folklife project in your own community, or even in your own classroom.

Background information about the Paradise Valley Folklife Project provides an introduction to specific methods of historical research used in this project. Older students can use the guidelines in the Library of Congress publication Folklife and Fieldwork: A Layman's Introduction to Field Techniques, to begin their project. Students of all ages can photograph, interview and videotape their fellow students, and gather data about the classroom and school. The goal will be a "snapshot" of your school or community at this time.

Students can answer such questions as:

  • What happens in a typical day at your school?
  • What do students like most about their school? What do they like least?
  • What different ethnic groups are represented in your classroom?
  • What do students eat and wear in your school?

Students can describe the physical environment through photographs, drawings and floor plans, using the example of "Coyote" John Schneider's bunk house, which was included in a museum show about the Buckaroos in Paradise collection. Search on Schneider and Smithsonian for pictures of the bunk house and other related artifacts, and read the last six paragraphs of the Bunk Houses and Line Cabins section of the Views of a Western Way of Life Special Presentation for further background on Schneider's bunk house.


Arts & Humanities

Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada contains nearly 70 sound recordings and films, along with two essays that provide context for collection users. Teachers will find that this collection especially rich for teaching listening and interviewing skills to students at all grade levels. (NOTE: you may need special "viewers" on your computer to access the sound and film recordings; see Viewer Information if you run into problems.)

1) Expository Writing

Saddle Repair

Saddle Repair, 1980, by Carl Fleischhauer

The Special Presentation Buckaroos: Views of a Western Way of Life is a good example of expository writing that integrates research, evidence, and description in essay form. See, for instance, the section on Working, which draws on interviews to portray the culture of work on the ranch, or the section on Irons, which uses detailed description to depict one facet of "buckarooing."

Students can search the sound recordings on working (make sure that "Search on Audio Collections ONLY" is selected from the first pull-down menu) to find two or three recordings of people describing their own work experiences (for instance, "I just Needed a Job" and "I Was Born in Kermit, Texas," both of which are interviews with workers on the Ninety-Six Ranch). Then have them write short essays contrasting the content of the recordings and the Working section of Buckaroos: Views of a Western Way of Life.

2) Interviewing

Margie Purser Interviews Fritz Buckingham (detail)

Margie Purser Interviews Fritz Buckingham (detail), 1982, by Carl Fleischhauer

Have students read Carl Fleishauer's essay discussing the circumstances of one of the folklife research team's interviews of rancher Les Stewart, from which many selections in the collection are drawn, in "Interviewing Leslie Stewart." Then have them search on 81/05/09 Leslie Stewart for video recordings of Stewart from that interview. (May 9, 1981 is the date it took place.)

Ask students to perform half-hour tape-recorded (or video-recorded) interviews of people close to them, such as a teacher, a parent or a friend. Then have them write short essays on the circumstances of the interview, much like Fleishauer's. The essay should briefly describe the setting, including its significance to the person being interviewed and any thoughts on the interview itself. For instance:

  • Was the person at ease while being interviewed?
  • Did any interruptions come up during the interview?
  • What did the student learn from the interviewee, or from the experiencing of conducting the interview?

After the exercise, students should be able to discuss such questions as:

  • What makes a good interview?
  • What preparation on the interviewer's part was helpful to making the interview go well?
  • What are some of the problems that come up while interviewing?
  • Did you learn anything that surprised you? What?

Finally, students can use the guidelines in Folklife and Fieldwork: A Layman's Introduction to Field Techniques to create a classroom archive for their tapes, essays and any other documentation, such as photographs or hand-written notes.

3) Spoken Word and Regionalism

The interviews in this collection all took place at the Ninety-Six Ranch, and what we know about regionalism suggests that the people there would all sound similar. And yet in fact when listening to the recordings, several distinctive accents emerge: Martha Arriola, born in Germany, sounds very different from Stanley Smart, a Northern Paiute Indian. Smart in turn has a different accent than Les Stewart, a white man who was born in Nevada.

Do a search on any of the individual names above to find sound recordings and photographs. Is there anything similar in the ways these people talk? What's different? What are some of the similarities and differences in the ways people talk in your own school, town or city?

Make tape recordings (video or audio) of people speaking in your school. Analyze the differences and similarities in their accents, and in the words (or language) they use. What causes differences (for instance, age/generation, place of birth)? Have students come up with a list of words that they think of as regionalisms: things said in your part of the country that are not used commonly other places.