'Sister': Eulalia Bourne, still at home in the
San Pedro Valley
Bob Dalton, San Manuel Miner, April 4, 1984
[note: this typescript was created in February 2004
from a newspaper clipping contained in the Oracle
's collection of artifacts from and about
Eulalia "Sister" Bourne has been a mainstay in the San
Pedro Valley for nearly 50 years now.
In the 1930s, she traveled the 75 miles from Tucson to Redington and
began teaching school there. She continued teaching at Redington,
and later at Baboquivari, and in the meanwhile began ranching, homesteading
land in Pepper Sauce Canyon and later moved operations to Copper Creek
in the Galiuro Mountains, where she continues to live.
Her experiences as a pioneer school teacher and female rancher spawned
four novels, including the acclaimed "Woman in Levi's."
Today, sister lives alone on the Copper Creek ranch she moved into
in 1954. She is old and can't do a lot of the things she used to.
She can't rope or ride any more. Nor can she write because of the
arthritis in her hands - hands that still look hard and strong, like
all true rancher's hands.
She stays on the ranch because that's her home. Her longtime friends
- like Loney and Cecilia Pettit, Harry and Edna Hendrickson, Jeff
McCord and Dave McGee, among others - know this and do all they can
to help her with the chores.
She's been told plenty of times that life would be simpler if she'd
just move to the city, but she could never do that. As she says in
"Woman in Levi's:" living on the ranch she "can still
her a cow bawl," and to her that's more important than all the
"doctors and hospitals" in the world.
She rises early each day and gets a fire started. She wears straw
hats, bandanas and wool shirts, just like she always has. Her eyes
dance and she smiles easily.
Because she can't write, these days much of her time is spent reading.
Her ranch house is cluttered with Magazines and newspapers and the
walls are line with stuffed bookshelves. She looked forward with glee
to plunging into the morning newspaper Cecilia Pettit brought her.
But backing up a bit, Sister's life began many years ago, no one around
here really knows how many, in a dugout in West Texas, where she was
The oldest of five girls, she was dubbed "Sister" by a younger
sibling who couldn't spit out the name Eulalia.
There were no schools in that part of Texas, so she learned to read
by studying cans of coffee, baking soda and lard.
At her mother's urging, the family moved to New Mexico and she started
school there as a fourth grader, never having been in a school house
Despite the lack of prior schooling she excelled, and was asked by
the county school superintendent there if she would like to go to
college. She said yes, "but I didn't really know what college
was," she said.
But off she went anyway to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Actually, what was referred to as "college" in those days
would probably be called prepatory school today. She studied English,
history, Latin and geometry her first year there.
Her mother had given her $5 for the year to cover school expenses,
which she lost shortly after arriving. It took a year of babysitting
before she had repaid a benevolent professor who lent her the money
It was in Albuquerque that she got her first taste of civilization.
The first night in town she stayed in a hotel room and was fascinated
by the electric light, the first she'd ever seen, but she didn't know
how to turn it off.
Finally, in desperation, she stuffed the bulb, which was attached
to a long cord, into a dresser drawer and shut the drawer.
She married her first husband, William Bourne, in Albuquerque and
the couple moved to the Beaver Creek near Prescott around 1910.
It was there that she first began to teach. She was able to get a
teaching degree because she had memorized the names of all 102 bones
in the human body and was able to recall the names, in order, of all
the U.S. presidents. "Those were my credentials. That's how I
qualified to teacher," she said with a chuckle.
Her teaching career lasted some 30 years and she loved every minute
of it. "If I ever come back in a second life, I hope I'm a teacher,"
But her first stint in the Beaver Creek ended rather inauspiciously
when she was fired during her second year there for dancing to jazz
music. "Jazz was a dirty word then, but I couldn't see anything
wrong with the dance."
She eventually was hired as the teacher at a mining camp in the Santa
Rita Mountains near Tucson.
None of her students spoke English, nor did the Sister speak Spanish.
And, at that time, the state had a law forbidding the use of Spanish
in school. "It was the silliest rule I ever heard of in my life,"
Determined to speak to her pupils in their own language, Sister sent
away for Spanish grammar books. From then on, the last five minutes
of each day were set aside for the students to teach her Spanish.
From there, she spent nine years in Tucson, studying at the University
of Arizona and tutoring Spanish-speaking children.
She earned an English major and Spanish minor at the UA but then asked
to be transferred as far away from Tucson as she could get.
"I had five supervisors above me and couldn't do a thing with
my students without their permission," she said.
Her request was granted and she was sent to the most rural school
in Pima County - Redington.
While teaching in Redington, she homesteaded some landing Pepper Sauce
and began her dual existence as a teacher/rancher.
If there was any water at all in the San Pedro River, she was forced
to make the daily trip from Pepper Sauce to Redington via Tucson and
Later she began teaching at another rural school in Baboquivari, located
about 50 miles southeast of Tucson. She would generally stay at the
school during the week and return to Pepper Sauce on the weekends
to catch up on ranch chores.
Many of her former students still visit regularly, and until recently,
she kept up correspondence with nearly 50 of them every month.
A visitor reminded her of one of her students at Baboquivari, Pete
Aros, and her eyes lighted up. "Oh, Peety, how I loved him,"
she said. She entered Pete Aros in the county spelling bee and prepared
him for the event by teaching him 6,000 words in two weeks. "And
he won! The first student from a rural school ever to win!" she
said, laughing and clapping her hands together.
As a rancher, Sister learned from experience. Once established, she
began writing a monthly column for the Arizona Cattlemen's Association
newsletter and those columns were eventually the basis for "Woman
Life on the ranch was never easy. Sister endured years of drought,
hardship, and toil. In "Woman in Levi's" she recounts some
of the injuries she incurred while doing ranch work, which include
a broken hip, cracked ribs, two broken arms, a pair of broken wrists
and perhaps the worst of all, a dislodged kidney.
Those injuries have nearly crippled Sister in her later years, but
she steadfastedly remains on the ranch.
She truly is home on the range.