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The Saunders Memorial Lecture Series kicks off at Bowman Museum next Thursday

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM - The opening lecture this October will focus on the Prineville Railway, launched in 1918.

A century-old railway, mammoths, high desert geology and horrible cures for ailments administered by certifiable quacks — these topics, believe it or not, all have a common thread.

The Saunders Memorial Lecture Series will once again kick off in October with free presentations planned for every Thursday evening of the month at Bowman Museum.

"They are all going to be interesting," said Museum Director Gordon Gillespie.

The series originated when Curt and Martha Saunders, long-time local residents and members of the Crook County Historical Society, bequeathed money to both the museum and Friends of Crook County Library.

"They were from a long-time ranching family," Gillespie said. "He grew up here, worked here and did several different things here."

One day, after the both Curt and Martha had passed, Gillespie remembers taking a phone call from an attorney who informed him that the Saunders had left money to the museum as part of their will.

"We were pleasantly surprised," he recalls, noting that the Friends of the Library were left a similar amount by the Saunders.

"When we were discussing the lecture series, we thought that was a good way of honoring them and also putting the idea in people's heads that that is the kind of thing they can do. They can bequeath to organizations that they like to support."

The 2017 series begins Oct. 5 with Museum Historian Steve Lent recounting the history of the City of Prineville Railway, which celebrates its centennial next year. Gillespie explained that an effort to move a railway caboose to the museum property is now under way and should be completed in the next few weeks.

"So we thought the best thing to kick off the series with was a good history of the City of Prineville Railway," Gillespie said, adding that Lent "has a really nice program."

The second lecture, on Oct. 12, will focus on the recent discovery of ancient mammoth rubs in Oregon's high desert. Mammoth rubs — rock areas where mammoths would "rub" on after coating themselves in mud as something of a grooming ritual — are a unique and seemingly rare feature of Pleistocene animal behavior, and to date, only a handful of these features have been recognized and reported on in the western United States.

The lecture will be presented by John K. Zancanella, a retired archaeologist living in Bend with more than 40 years of experience in California, Nevada and Oregon.

"I'm looking forward to hearing about that," Gillespie said.

The next Thursday lecture, Oct. 19, will be presented by Carrie Gordon, a retired Ochoco National Forest geologist. She will focus on physiographic provinces and the volcanic past of Oregon east of the Cascades.

"Carrie is an excellent geologist," Gillespie said. He points out that a past lecture series featured another geologist, but the presentation focused the entire state of Oregon, whereas this one will have a specific emphasis on the east side of the state.

"We thought it would be nice to just focus on Eastern Oregon," he remarked.

Closing out the series, on Oct. 26, is Nate Petersen, a Deschutes County Librarian who is no stranger to speaking at the Bowman Museum.

"He has done two or three other programs for us," Gillespie said, adding "this fellow is a very good speaker."

Titled "Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything," Petersen's lecture is not specific to any particular geographic region, but Gillespie expects the audience to enjoy it.

"He should be fun," he said. "That will be a nice way to end it."

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