Standing ramrod straight and holding a spear, the warrior dressed in Native American garb sounded matter-of-fact, but not threatening as he addressed the Early Elementary School fourth-grade students who gathered around him.
The setting was the Brown County Museum of History.
“I am Comanche. My name is Snake Killer. I am a Comanche warrior.”
Snake Killer was actually Joe Dennis, a retired Air Force colonel who lives near May with his family. Snake Killer, Dennis explained later, was his call sign in the Air Force.
Dennis, his wife Lasha and two of their three daughters were among volunteers at the museum’s Christmas on the Frontier exhibit, which ended Wednesday with the Early Elementary School visit.
While Dennis isn’t Comanche, he does have some Cherokee blood — and he interested in history. Dennis made the spear as well as a tomahawk and stone mace which were among the tools and weapons he showed his visitors.
The volunteers wore pioneer attire that was a mixture of clothing they own and clothing owned by the museum.
“This is the first time that we’ve done anything like this,” museum director Wanda Ferguson said.
The museum presented Christmas on the Frontier specifically for schools, and in addition to Early, students from Mullin, Zephyr and Richland Springs visited the exhibit, Ferguson said.
A pioneer woman — portrayed by Lasha Dennis — showed how to make butter. Nearby, a schoolteacher, portrayed by 19-year-old Jessica Dennis, explained the life of a teacher and told how a pioneer school worked.
Emily Hopkins of Oplin portrayed a pioneer woman in the museum’s one-room cabin, and explained why she kept a pistol in the cabin: for protection from bandits and wild animals.
Hopkins said she and her family usually volunteer with the Fort Griffin Living History Association. “Usually we represent a frontier family that’s just moved into Texas,” Hopkins said. “We like to show the kids in a little more lively fashion of what that would’ve been like.”
Volunteer Carl Bodiford talked about topics including World War II hero Lt. Col. Jack Bradley of Brownwood when the students came through the Camp Bowie section.
Bodiford explained that Bradley flew a P-51 fighter and shot down 15 German planes. “Do you think he was ever in the fourth grade?” Bodiford asked. “He was in the fourth grade in Brownwood. He grew up to be a hero. What does it say about you guys?”
“We could grow up to be a hero,” a student replied.
“You sure could,” Bodiford said. “You’re from Early. You’ve got a reputation — a good one.”
Brand new museum board member Glenna Summers and another board member, Pierce Burns, who roamed about taking photos for the museum, were among the helpers at Christmas on the Frontier.
Summers said she was born in Brownwood Hospital in 1966, attended Abilene Christian University and spent 16 years in Alaska, where she worked as a tour guide.
Summers said she returned recently to Brownwood, where she lives with her husband, Clay. She wants to impart some of her knowledge to the museum.
The museum “always needs more volunteers,” Summers said. “You learn so much by volunteering.”