By J.J. Lamb

On a Monday afternoon in February 1936 teachers Esta Trotter and Edwin Van Doran hiked with their students to “El Rancho del Lago” to see Bee Adkins’ hunting dogs. His daughters, Alpha and Gladys attended the Vail school. Their younger sister Vina was still too young, but liked to tag along to class when she could. The Vail school only had about 25 students and the teachers didn’t mind. The sisters liked their school and seeing their friends. They really looked forward to school programs on holidays and to celebrate student’s work or their 4-H accomplishments. Alpha and her friend Beatrice Ferra had learned a poem, A Happy Pair, and proudly recited it together at one of the programs.

Alpha, Gladys and Vina’s father, Bee Adkins, worked for Cleaveland Putnam and his wife Florence. Bee was the “Foreman” at “El Rancho del Lago”. His duties stretched the boundaries of what is usually expected of a Foreman. Bee was a well-known big game hunter. He had tracked and hunted from a very young age and had practiced his skills in New Mexico, Texas, California and Arizona. Alpha and Gladys heard that a large coyote had been caught in a trap and was now running loose. The entire class wanted to go to “El Rancho del Lago” to see how Alpha and Gladys’ family dogs trailed the coyote. They wondered if Mr. Adkins’ trained hunting dogs would be able to catch the coyote? The children often overheard adults say that coyotes and other predators were the scourge of ranchers herds. Bee Atkins had a fine hunting pack of “trap wise” and expertly trained dogs. The pack included a registered English Beagle, four American Beagles and three Hounds. Atkins, who was often hired by local ranchers, had a very close relationship with his dogs.

Bee Atkins with two hunting dogs. Courtesy Vail Preservation Society.

By the time the students and their teachers arrived, the coyote, who must have weighed 40 pounds, was already dead. Mr. Adkins said some of his “puppies” must have killed it. Since the students had walked so far he showed them the skins of coyotes, bobcats and badgers that he had prepared for sale. Mr. Adkins had caught about sixty coyotes, twenty bobcats, five badgers and twenty skunks over the past ten months at El Rancho del Lago and other nearby ranches. To Be Continued…

Vail Preservation Society – Community Connections
Have you been out to a First Saturdays program and Artist, Artisan & Antiques Marketplace yet? We invite you to come out to shop and explore Vail’s history. There is always a free, fun Make & Take craft for children too! Check out the calendar on the VPS website. We’re taking New Year’s day off. Be sure to join us on February 6, 2021, 9:00-1:00 Between the Tracks in Vail.

VPS is happy to share that we are a recipient of an Arizona Humanities American Rescue Plan grant. With these funds we will create another year of Vanished Vail episodes and be able to add production and educational value to the production. How does the Mexican American War history connect to Vail? Why did the area around Vail have the largest population of Chinese in the United States in the 1880 census? Why is the Leon Ranch Road important? Is there a real Mary Ann Cleveland? We’ll explore “the rest of the story” related to these topics in 2022 and support a renewed volunteer program. Our deep appreciation to Arizona Humanities for supporting the work we do. And, for this grant that was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

Gladys and Vina Atkins near their home at “El Rancho del Lago” c1936. Courtesy Atkins Collection, Vail Preservation Society

J.J. Lamb is President & CEO of Vail Preservation Society. A U of A graduate, her family has lived in Vail since 1971. She was named an Arizona Culturekeeper in 2011 and an Arizona Friend of the Humanities in 2020.

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J.J. Lamb