Last week I spent lunch with my family at the Cattleman’s Café. It is in a working cattle auction house located in north Marana. I have been there a few times before to eat, but I have never been there on an auction day. It turned out to be far better than a lunch with my family; it was an experience and my kids are already asking when we can go back.
Usually when you pull up, there are a few trucks and cars outside, and the café is full of locals, but the rest of the converted barn is quiet. The historic photos that are all over the place are a good reminder of where the Town came from and contribute to the feel of the Old West.
On auction days, the lot is full of trucks with large trailers and the barn side is a flurry of activity. Livestock is moving in and out while an auctioneer is lively and getting the best dollar he can out of the crowd. Today, the crowd consisted of hard working cattleman, ranchers, and their families. They are legitimate cowboys: all wearing jeans, boots, and Stetsons, trying to make their hard work pay off. Their kids were up in the loft practicing their roping skills and just having a good time.
Those photos that adorn the walls really come to life when you see everyone there. The nostalgia you feel on any other day is replaced with history come to life and a feeling that the Old West is alive and well. It is a good reminder of the value in preserving the heritage of the town and the importance of incorporating local community values and traditions that create a sense of place in everything we do.
I have been a practicing landscape designer in the Tucson region for about five years and am nearly done with my master’s degree in planning. In both professions we are always looking into how to create a sense of place, how to make a park or subdivision come to life. In Marana I don’t think we need to look into creating a new one, but rather need to continue embracing the one that already exists.
I would encourage everyone to enjoy lunch with your family and friends on an auction day at the café (Wednesdays from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm). Go to the Heritage River Park for the Cotton Festival and show up for the Founders’ Day Parade. Embrace the ranching and farming community that exists and have a great time learning about our past and carrying it into the future.