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NMJC's Museum is Site of Retiring National Exhibit

NMJC's Museum is Site of Retiring National Exhibit photo 7/25/2007 8:45:57 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. The nationally traveled photographic exhibition Making a Hand: Ranch Children of New Mexico is coming home to Lea County to be retired. The traveling exhibit, featuring work by renowned Santa Fe photographer Gene Peach, will make its last exhibit appearance at New Mexico Junior College's Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The exhibit, which highlights two Lea County ranching families, was originated and mounted at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, New Mexico, five years ago. In January 2003, the intact and original exhibition first began its travel to the Lea County Museum in Lovington, New Mexico. Since then, the exhibit has seen 11 other museums including the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

What originally began as a photographic exhibit soon became inspiration for the book Making a Hand: Growing up Cowboy in New Mexico, featuring photographs from Gene Peach and text from nationally acclaimed authors Max Evans and Elmer Kelton. These gentlemen set out on a mission to create a human face for the ranching community and defy the popular Hollywood impression of cowboys and ranching.

"When the project first began, I'd asked a rancher 'What defines a cowboy?' The response was, 'Making a hand.' So in 1997, I started meeting ranching kids in New Mexico by going to county rodeos. I was so extremely impressed and inspired by the courage and dignity of these young children that I became obsessed with meeting them, their families, and telling their stories," explained Peach about the motivation behind the exhibit and book.

"Ranching children are modern kids connected to the real world. At around age eight, these children are contributing members of their family's workforce. These kids represent a continuance of the cowboy way of life and are a foundation of national role models," stated Peach about his impression of ranching children during his five-year project.

"It makes me very happy to see this exhibition ending in Lea County, since that is where the tour began," expressed Peach. "Lea County is a special place for ranching and the cowboy way of life. The show is coming home." The book and exhibit feature the Lea County families of Tuffy and Collin Cooper and Travis, Hadley, and Bryce Howe.

The book Making a Hand: Growing up Cowboy in New Mexico was the recipient of The Ralph Emerson Twitchell Award in 2006 for historic preservation in the field of New Mexico history. In 2006, the Border Regional Library Association named the book as recipient of the Southwest Book Award.

The Making a Hand: Ranch Children of New Mexico Traveling Exhibit will be on display in Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame from July 27 through August 31, 2007.

For more information about the exhibit or the Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, please call 575.392.6730.

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