There are two things she figures you don't need to know:
One is how many cattle she has and the other is her age.
Eulalia "Sister" Bourne got her first school teaching in
job in Arizona before the war. No, not the Vietnam War. Not Korea.
Not even World War II. She started teaching in 1914 on the eve of
World War I.
Sister (that's not a religious title, she picked up the nickname from
a younger sister who couldn't pronounce Eulalia) still lives in her
ranch on the slopes of the Galiuro Mountains, 60 miles or so northeast
of Tucson. And the last handful of miles in to her place as are bouncy
and tough as the old lady herself.
Sister Bourne has carved out a permanent niche for herself in Arizona
education. Back in the 1930s and '40s, she bounced around to virtually
ever back-country school in Pima County.
The love and respect that flowed between her and the students is reflected
in the three books she eventually wrote for University of Arizona
Press. "Woman in Levi's," "Nine Months is a Year at
Baboquivari School" and "Ranch Schoolteacher" all proved
popular reading for adults and school kids alike.
She hasn't lost any of the spirit that got her fired from her first
teaching job for dancing the one-step, or that could have gotten her
fired for letting her class full of Mexican-American kids in Helvetia
speak Spanish on school property.
She has sold off most of the cattle she once owned, but still shares
her ranch home with some dogs and a horse named Grandpa. The property,
too, has been sold, but she gets to live on it until she dies - and
with all the spunk that's still in her, that may not be for quite
Until just a few years ago, she still rode, roped and did her own
branding. She fell a year or so ago and broke several ribs, but wouldn't
even think of going to a doctor.
"There's not a hoot that a doctor can do about broken ribs anyway,"
She still feeds her animals and shoos an occasional rattler away from
the house. She has no children, but she's been adopted as mother-aunt-friend
by dozens of people, and they see that she has food to eat, wood to
burn, and feed for the animals.
Cecilia and Lonnie Pettit of Mammoth and Edna and Harry Hendrickson
of Oracle are among Sister's closest "family."
Cecilia hauled yours truly and Bob Dalton of the San Manuel Miner
in to visit Sister a few days back.
An afternoon listening to Sister tell of her teaching days is a memorable
She talked ot her prize sixth-grade student at Baboquivari School,
who went up against eight-graders from throughout the country in a
spelling bee and lost out because the judges erred.
"After he lost, he stood there straight and tall," she said,
"but big ol' tears were rolling down his cheeks, because he thought
he had disappointed me."
Tears formed in her own eyes as she told the story.
"Years later, he joined the paratroops and he wrote me a letter
the day before his first big jump," she continued. "He said
he would be jumping with a hundred pounds of explosives on him, but
that he wasn't scared. He said the only fear he ever had was that
someday he might do something that would make me not be proud of him."
When I first tried to talk her into letting me take her picture, she
turned me down flat, and added, "Sonny, you're just 30 years
Finally, by cajoling, teasing and fibbing a little, I managed to snap
the photo you see here. I hope she'll forgive me for sharing it with
you. She thinks she's beginning to look old.
I think she's a beaut.
(On Friday, I'll tell you about Sister's high-flying friend.)