History Lessens

Trouble's a-brewin' at the museum north of town. Old-timers don't cotton to newcomers who want to turn the desert historical center into a Western theme park.

"I'd like to have everything period, too, but we have to concentrate on making this place viable, or there won't be any museum," he says. "We can always come back and change things later."

Besides, Loveless notes, even during its heyday, Pioneer was hardly a time capsule. He points to the drinking fountain beside the schoolhouse, one of several around the site that were installed when the museum opened.

"That's not period," Loveless says. "They didn't have water fountains in the 1800s, but no one complains about that."

Loveless makes his way across the site, passing the now-denuded piece of land where the orchard and vegetable garden used to stand. He stops at the Northern Home to pay his respects to Harold the hog--probably the only soul at Pioneer who has yet to voice an opinion one way or the other about the changes that have occurred.

Finally, Loveless comes to the nearby aviary, where Diane Helm scoops seed into a bird trough. For more than a year, she has spent hours each day working around the museum site. This morning, she wears jeans, sturdy black work boots and a red vest to ward off the chill.

With little prompting, Diane Helm recites a litany of frustrations, her voice quavering. She talks about hostile costumed volunteers who would rather see Pioneer go under than go commercial, about board members who are too busy to show up for the meetings. Board members who are all talk and no action. Board members who, she says, refuse to take the steps necessary to ensure the museum's survival into the next century.

She pauses to wipe her eyes.
"Maybe we're wrong, maybe we don't do everything exactly right, but at least we're doing something," she says. "I don't see them out here.

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