Residents Share Stories at Lochiel School

FLASHBACK: Courtesy of the Patagonia Regional Times – Written by Bob Brandt – August 2, 2019

During two days in mid-June, the past met the future in the tiny border settlement of Lochiel in the San Rafael Valley south of Patagonia.

In cooperation with the Patagonia Museum, about a dozen participants in the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Program spent two days and one night at the Lochiel School planting trees, installing rock structures to control erosion and sharing an evening meal and conversation with present and past Lochiel residents who described life in this remote little settlement that once was a thriving border town.

Current Lochiel area residents Maureen de la Ossa, Frank (Pancho) de la Ossa, Ramon de la Ossa and Bud Bercich were joined by former Lochiel resident Glen (Gooch) Goodwin, the BECY youth and several volunteers for an evening meal of Sonoran dogs, beans and fixings enjoyed outdoors in the shadow of the stately old cottonwood and mesquite trees that grace this restored one-room schoolhouse that, back in the day, served as the hub of community life.

With fondness and nostalgia, the Lochiel elders each told of their life as children and adults as they watched members of their closeknit community move away, leaving the few who remain because they prefer their lifestyle of stark beauty and solitude.

As for the youth who toiled there on that hot June 17-18, they listened intently and seemed to grasp that they were contributing to the preservation not only of the physical landscape and the schoolhouse itself, but to the precious memories that they perhaps will one day pass on to those coming along behind them.

Under an agreement with the Patagonia Union School District, since 2010 the museum has been restoring and repairing the Lochiel School as part of its mission to preserve local history. After cleaning up the long-neglected structure and grounds, museum volunteers patched the exterior stucco, installed exterior doors, rain gutters and a cistern, patched the roof and installed 96 windowpanes.

Additional improvements include interior and exterior painting, patching interior walls, installing toilets and lavatories in the restrooms and installing vertical grain Douglas fir flooring. Old bullet-riddled chalk boards were replaced by undamaged slate chalkboards. The wooden teacherage has largely been demolished and is slated to be converted to a visitor center. Although the building is closed except by appointment or for special occasions, visitors to the site are now greeted by a new sign decorated with hand-made tiles created by youth from the Patagonia Creative Arts Center.