By Rebecca LaFlure

Killeen Daily Herald

Early Friday morning, a cool breeze swept through Parrie Haynes Ranch, a 4,500-acre retreat near Killeen. A group of students from Morgan Mill School left their laptops and music players at home to immerse themselves in 19th century living.

They helped harness two horses onto a chuck wagon before taking an hourlong trail ride to a log cabin. There they learned how to shuck corn, churn butter and decipher which berries were safe to eat. Later, the students devoured turkey and flatbread.

"Everything kind of slows down here," eighth-grader Hunter Hightower said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association organized a series of history and nature lessons this week that taught students how American settlers lived during the Civil War era.

"We try to teach kids about life without the iPods and Gameboys, and show them that there is a life different from there's," said Debby Alley, TETRA program director.

Students from Morgan Mill traveled more than three hours to attend the daylong event. Four other schools from across Texas took part in similar activities earlier in the week.

Dressed in a floor-length dress and matching bonnet, Rita Motley, a TETRA volunteer, explained the history behind the dogtrot cabin that still stands at the ranch.

Thomas Jefferson Priddy, a former Texas Ranger, built the cabin out of logs in 1863.

Priddy lived in the cabin for 18 years with his wife, Clarissa, and their four children. The cabin still stands at Parrie Haynes Ranch, on the banks of the Lampasas River.

"We'd rather be out here learning about history than be inside learning from a textbook," said Tallen Halliday, an eighth-grader.

Alley said she hopes the activities increased the students' interest in the outdoors.

"A little boy told me yesterday, 'I'm going to buy me a ranch, and I'm going to have kids come stay,'" Alley said. "That's one of the main reasons we do this."

Contact Rebecca LaFlure at or (254) 501-7548.

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