Prince McKenzie explains the role different firearms played in conflicts in the United States and Mexico at the Magdalena Frontier Festival on Saturday. McKenzie answered questions from interested passersby on the guns’ histories.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain photos

The sound of a hammer pounding at the forge, a lesson on historic weapons and the smooth surface of petrified wood, all things that could be heard, seen and felt at the Magdalena Frontier Festival Saturday.

Miner and lapidary Dean Crane passed around sunstones from Catron County, a delicate gypsum crystal, clear double terminated quartz crystals and opalized petrified wood from Mogollon, while

Magdalena Mayor and blacksmith Richard Rumpf demonstrates his skills at the Frontier Festival on Saturday. He said blacksmithing can still be a viable way to make a living.

he answered visitor questions about where and how to find gemstones in New Mexico. There are plenty of places to find gemstones right in Socorro County, he said, only keep a keen eye out for rattlesnakes.

Socorro High School robotics team members handed out free ice cream in the afternoon heat. Volunteer 15-year-old Angelica Jaquez said it was her first time at the event. While she stayed in one spot giving out ice cream for much of her time there, she was intrigued by the gun display across the way.

Historian Prince McKenzie was responsible for the gun lessons. Clad in a tan military uniform from 1910, McKenzie explained the utility of different weapons and answered questions about guns and sabers.

One boy observed that a gun looked a lot like the weapon Abraham Lincoln was assassinated with.

“You are exactly right,” said McKenzie. He explained the difference was, that weapon, a Deringer pistol, was shorter with a stubby barrel and had a smaller handle.

“The handle would really only allow you to hold it with two fingers.”

McKenzie has degrees in history and works for the City of El Paso museums. He believes sharing individual stories of soldiers and railroaders makes history more relevant. He began collecting historic weapons after serving two tours in Vietnam.

Miner and Lapidary Dean Crane explains how different gemstones and minerals are formed to an attentive audience at the Magdalena Frontier Festival Saturday.

“I was an operations analyst in Vietnam, so I began to get a sense of how history was involved in determining the outcomes of military actions,” he said.

Magdalena Mayor and local blacksmith Richard Rumpf demonstrated his blacksmithing skills. Rumpf created metal hooks with twists and coated them in beeswax to prevent rust.

He shared the number one and number two rules of blacksmithing: don’t put a hot item in a customer’s hand and if you drop it, don’t pick it up. While blacksmithing may be a historic trade, according to Rumpf traditional blacksmithing remains a good way to make a living.

“Blacksmithing is a viable trade. You’ve got to put your mind to it. You need good drawing skills, you need to have a business course, basic geometry and if you work at it, you can make a lot of money,” said Rumpf.

For Rumpf, metal art is how he makes extra money. Metal flowers are a best seller. The sign business meanwhile has tapered off, although in past years he made hundreds of street signs in Ruidoso.

Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain