Bobby Joe Evans has been volunteering with HistoriCorps projects for the past five years now. He lives in Colorado and is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, but his volunteering has taken him all over the USA. His first project was on Handy Chapel in 2011 and this year, Bobby has lent a hand at Boettcher Mansion in Colorado, Wild Plum and Grouse Ridge Lookout Tower in California, and will be at Skinner Cabin in Colorado later this summer. Fellow volunteers and field and office staff alike enjoy Bobby’s sense of humor and willingness to always lend a hand. If you’re on a project with Bobby, you know you’re in for a great time! We caught up with this intrepid volunteer while he was at Grouse Ridge. Here’s a little glimpse into his life at home and in the field:

Why did Bobby sign up for his first HistoriCorps project anyway? “Despair, hopelessness: my constant companions for fifty years as a witness to the death of the west as I knew it. From the cab of a locomotive, the cab of a four wheel drive pickup, hitchhiking and afoot I have watched historic structures lost by the dozens. In some cases I photographed their death by fire, flood, abandonment, neglect, vandalism, and government policy.

An article in the local paper (2011) promised an opportunity to save at least one structure, the Handy Chapel in Grand Junction, Colorado. Built in 1893, the Chapel was a place for black Americans to stay in a town that had klansmen as elected officials yet in the 1930’s.  Of course I had to sign up and put thought into action. Although historical structures are dying by the dozen, HistoriCorps offers me the chance to help save our shared culture one structure at a time.”

 

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Bobby has been jumping from one project to the next this summer, starting with Boettcher Mansion back in April this year. So what does Bobby do in his free time when he’s not on a project?  “Sometimes on weekends I am a volunteer trail builder with Volunteers Outdoors Colorado. During HC projects salvageable wood gets hauled back to my shop and is reborn as furniture based on museum examples of Colonial Hispanic Southwest furniture from museum collections in Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque New Mexico. Wooden boats both full size and models get built and I make items of tooled leather.”  Bobby was working on some great leather pieces in his down time at Grouse Ridge recently.  He loves leather and wood crafts!

 

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Bobby has had some truly interesting and exciting experiences on projects, including his most recent one at Grouse Ridge in California. He’d been sleeping in the lookout tower that they were preserving, and enjoying the awesome views from the tower at night: “This time we worked until after 6 pm. After dinner I decided to lay down a bit at the campsite before hiking back up the mountain to spend the night again in the fire lookout aerie. Oops! I fell asleep until after 11PM. My headlamp is up at the lookout. My sleeping bag is up at the lookout. An unfriendly mountain lion roams around growling and hissing and being generally disagreeable. This pilgrim elected to roll up in a blanket down in camp with a pile of fist sized rocks to discourage the lurker rather than hike up the mountain alone in the night.”  The next morning, he found that some good samaritans had been looking for him, having found his pack on the edge of the cliff and fearing the worst!

 

 

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Bobby gets lots of attention at the campsites not only because of his ebullient personality but also because of the vehicle he drives: “Old four wheel trucks are another passion I share with my brother. I work on my fifty year old Dodge Power Wagon and spend time during the winter in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains restoring four wheel drive trucks from the 1920s and 30s from my brother’s collection.” He’s had some good times in that car – last year, he says, he drove 5400 miles around the country for HistoriCorps projects alone! If you’re on a project with him, be sure to ask Bobby about some of the adventures he’s had.

 

Learning from Bobby Joe

“Choosing a favorite project is complicated. All projects are challenging and each has its own appeal. Boettcher Mansion is one of my favorites for two reasons. First I had the opportunity to hand carve four very large corbels. Second was the joy of passing on the skills in hand carving the corbels with volunteers Susan Mickey, Sue Landreth, Chris and Historicorp’s Jennifer Eberhart, none of whom had ever worked with mallets and chisels. They did splendid work.

Lone Mesa State Park, slated to open to the Colorado public in 2020 is another favorite. Closed to the public and six miles of dirt road from a county dirt road we were in splendid, quiet, off the grid isolation. Looking across the almost waist high meadow grasses one could almost feel what it must have looked like when the Buffalo inhabited the meadows.

Grouse Ridge is great because of the challenges of trying to complete a complex series of tasks, including unobtrusively incorporating present safety standards into a lookout tower built in 1923.”

 

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HistoriCorps is known for the great people volunteers meet along the way, the friendships formed and good times had by all. Who has Bobby met through projects? “Here at Grouse Ridge makes the fourth time I have had the privilege of working with Doug Turner, a capable, hard working, kind and considerate old school gentleman.

Let me also praise

[crew leader] Alex Brunner. My life is richer for getting to know him. Never have I been exposed to one so fast at mastering hand cutting dovetails. But Alex’s people skills and knowledge of American history is encyclopedic. All [volunteers] delighted in his presence. Supervisor Steve Fowler was another exceptional individual. He trusted me enough to build doors, windows and wooden door latches without supervision.

And supervisor Dane is a hero. He is patient, precise and has become a mentor here carefully explaining and demonstrating how to incorporate subtle aesthetic details to give the project greater visual appeal. The small details that when a viewer approaches will love the visual impact but can’t really put a finger on what makes the structure feel so right in the mountain top setting.”

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Besides the people and the projects, what else keeps Bobby coming back year after year? It doesn’t matter where you go, but “the views are magnificent,” and certainly were at Grouse Ridge, as you can see from his picture at left.