Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Clovis Salazar



Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Sherry Cook
Date of Interview - 6/13/80 Gardner, Colorado
Interviewed by Gloria Campbell
Translated by Thomas Apodaca

Clovis Salazar
Date of birth - 9-18-1908
Parents - Braulio Salazar and Ramonicita Archuleta
Ethnic group - Spanish American
Family origin - Father came from Cerro, New Mexico
Location of first family settlement - 80 acres in Redwing

GC: Today is the 13th of June, 1980 and I am interviewing Mr. Clovis Salazar regarding his genealogical history.

GC: Where were you born?

CS: I was born at the Sergio Abila place here at Redwing, Colorado.

GC: What is your date of birth?

CS: I was born on the 18th of September, 1908.

GC: Who were your parents?

CS: Braulio Salazar and Ramoncita Salazar.

GC: Do you know their birthplace?

CS: I believe my father came from El Cerro, close to Costilla, New Mexico. My mother was born somewhere here. (Redwing)

GC: Do you know the date of his arrival here at Redwing?

CS: No, I do not know when he came here.

GC: What is your mother's name?

CS: Her name? Ramoncita Archuleta.

GC: Was she related to the local Archuletas?

CS: No, she was not related to them. I do not know of brothers or sisters.

GC: Did her father own a farm here?

CS: Yes, he owned 80 acres here at Redwing.

GC: Did he come alone or do you know?

CS: I don't know if he came alone, but he had a bother here, Rafael Salazar.

GC: Was he a farmer or rancher?

CS: Yes, he was a farmer and he had a sister in Alamosa. Her name was Donicita Cortez. (Donaciana)

GC: Did you attend school here in Redwing?

CS: Yes, here at Redwing and also in Chama.

GC: Who were your teachers? Did you have one or more teachers?

CS: I had more than one teacher but it was mostly Evita Springer that I remember. I don't remember the other teacher's names. I left school after the 3rd grade.

GC: Why did you quit school?

CS: Well, mainly because I was herding sheep most of the time. Also, my father died when I was only 4 years old. I also herded goats. I don't remember too much about that period.

GC: Did you work alone?

CS: No, my brother, Librado, and I worked together for some time, until we got a little older, then we went higher up into the mountains with our animals, even though we were still very young.

GC: How did your father acquire his sheep and goats?

CS: I believe he raised them himself.

GC: Did he own many sheep?

CS: No, I don't know how many head of sheep he owned when he died; but really very few sheep and a few goats. After he died mother helped us raise more and eventually owned them, we just herded them.

GC: Where did you graze them?

CS: Mostly around Mosca. Mother had 80 acres at Mosca and another 80 acres here at Redwing. There was a lot of open country then, state and federal because of land management. So we grazed wherever we could, here and there.

GC: Where abouts did you have the ranch?

CS: Right close to Sergio's house.

GC: What else do you remember? Who else lived in the neighborhood?

CS: Juan Santos Abila, Don Rodriguez, Juan Cardenas were among others that lived in the area. Grandpa also used to live there close by.

GC: You told me that you attended school until the 3rd grade?

CS: Yes, that's as far as I got in school.

GC: What did you do after you left school?

CS: When I was twelve or thirteen years old, I used to work at odd jobs on the ranch. When I was herding sheep, I worked for Ed Wilson herding cattle too. He had a ranch close to where McAlpine had his place in Redwing. As I said, I was about thirteen then, herding cattle and breaking horses.

GC: Did you ever go to Wyoming to shear sheep?

CS: Yes, I was already an adult when I went to shear sheep in Wyoming; two or three years consecutively.

GC: Tell me, how did you make out during that time? Did you ever have a rough time making a living?

CS: Well, we never suffered hunger. We always had mutton. We also raised beans and potatoes. Then we'd make a little money when we sold the sheep. So we made out.

GC: Did you buy more land?

CS: No. I didn't buy any land until after I got married. I was on the railroad then, also in the coal mines. I finally came back up here, where I belong. At that time, I started buying land little by little until I established myself here.

GC: Did you work for any one else besides Mr. Wilson?

CS: Hardly ever did I work for anybody else, mostly for Mr. Wilson, summer and winter feeding cattle, grazing them in summer.

GC: Were there many land owners with large acreage there?

CS: No, most of them had small amounts of land. Anyone with enough land to graze 100 head of cattle was pretty well fixed but most of them used the open range to graze their cattle and sheep. Later on when people started coming in to homestead, then grazing shrunk somewhat but there was still a lot of open range to graze in.

GC: Were there others, single ranchers with large ranches such as Wilson?

CS: Besides Wilson there was the Dietz family in Redwing. They had a lot of cattle. They used to hire 4 or 5 men all through the winter. Then during the summer they hired as many as 20 men to cut and stack hay. The summer jobs came in handy for people that were unemployed.

GC: Were there many Mexican people at that time that owned large tracts of land there?

CS: Not to my knowledge, at least I don't remember any others than Lupe Archuleta, he had many animals.

GC: How come that the Spanish people, since they arrived there first, little by little lost or sold their property?

CS: Well, you know our people were foolish, I know of one family, Marquez, that traded their place for a pair of mules. The McAlpine formerly owned by the Wilson's, also, the Morgan place.

GC: Why do you think this happened?

CS: I don't know, after going through the homesteading process, you would think they would develop a love for their land but instead of holding on to their property, they would sell and move to the hills and live like prairie dogs.

GC: What else did you do for a living besides farm work?

CS: Well, after I got married I went to work in the coal mines or the section gang on the railroad.

GC: At what date did you start working in the mines?

CS: It was in 1926 when I first started at the Barber Mine, when it first opened up. I also worked in other mines in the area.

GC: What type of work did you do in the mine?

CS: Mostly loading coal on the coal cars, also (corner cabresto).

GC: How long did you work in the mines?

CS: About five years more or less. I also worked at Turner about two years until I couldn't get enough work to make a living at it any more.

GC: What did you do after you quit the mines?

CS: Well, then I went to work on the railroad for about 2 years. But work was very scarce then, so I did odd jobs on the farms here and there, whenever I could find employment. I really couldn't find steady employment at that time.

GC: Who else worked in the mine that you knew then? Did Raselo Martinez work there?

CS: Yes, Raselo Martinez, also Nemesio Archuleta and Tobias and Eloy Espinoza; also Librado Sanchez. There were several others but I don't remember their names.

GC: When did you start working on the railroad?

CS: Conrado Martinez and I worked on the section gang for about six years. Frank Vigil was the foreman. His route was from Gordon to Alamo or from Walsenburg to Alamo.

GC: What did you do afterwards?

CS: Well, I worked in the mines again until 1929. At that time Conrado Martinez and I formed a partnership that lasted for 42 years. We bought a place up above where Porfirio Aguirre lives. Later we bought more acreage from the Naranjo family. Then when the 2nd World War started, the people started selling their property and moving to the cities, where they were hiring people for defense work. People were eager to sell. So we bought fairly cheap. The place where Conrado lives, we bought 107 acres for $4,200. We also bought 80 acres from Conrado's father for $1,200. At Pass Creek we bought another 80 acres form Librado for $3,000. From Esequial Martinez we bought 40 acres for $1,500.

GC: How did it happen that you and Martinez formed a partnership?

CS: Well, we had known each other while we were single, then we married. Our wives were sisters. So that's how it came about. We were not related at all.

GC: Did both of you get married at the same time?

CS: No, I got married about 3 year before he married.

GC: Did you two get together after you quit working on the section gang?

CS: No, actually he was still working on the railroad steady. I worked occasionally or part time. At that time we bought a few head of sheep and I used to herd the sheep. After I moved up here, I never went back to the mines. That's when we bought our first piece of land.

GC: So, thereafter any time you bought, it was always on an equal share basis?

CS: Yes, we recorded the property in both our names, all of it.

GC: You stated that during the war; many people sold their land, why did they sell?

CS: Because they wanted to go to where they were paying high wages in the defense plants and factories. During the depression the wage scale here was very minimal. People would pay 75 cents for a 10 hour shift. Of course the cost of living was much cheaper then. Now that they pay more, everything is much higher in the market place.

GC: So, the people that left for the cities sold their land, right?

CS: Yes, and we bought every thing we could manage to get hold of. We also bought a place from my brother-in-law, Refino Lovato. We were in debt for many years but we finally paid for all of it.

GC: When you formed your partnership, did you plan to acquire a lot of land?

CS: No, not really. But we didn't really plan very wisely. We should have acquired more grazing land rather then irrigated land. It takes too much time to tend and harvest a crop. We did buy some pasture but not enough. Farming is very had work, one must be in good health in order to do such hard work. Then when one gets old, it's too bad.

GC: How did people get along with one another, during and after the depression?

CS: They used to get along real well, neighbors used to get together to harvest their crops. They helped each other very much but now it's a different story. Each one goes his own way.

GC: Why do you think it changed? I mean neighbor helping neighbor?

CS: Well to my way of thinking, I believe that the main reason for the change was that as time went on, some became for prosperous than the others. So I think that created some friction, consequently people started to drift from each other. Before the people had cars, they used to visit the neighbors quite often, either by horse drawn wagons or buggies. After they bought cars, they seemed to loose interest in the neighbors and more of less kept to themselves.

GC: How did the people, here locally, react to the depression?

CS: Well, life was rough during the depression. Nobody had any money, so they couldn't buy anything. Nobody had a job then. Lambs were selling for 4 cents a pound then.

GC: Where did you sell the lambs?

CS: They buyers would come from the stockyards in La Junta, also from Fowler and Rocky Ford, Colorado. They would buy any kind of stock.

GC: Did they, the buyers, keep them a while and fatten them before they sold them? So they saved you a trip by coming up and hauling the animals themselves?

CS: Yes, we would weigh them at Gardner and then drive them to Tioga, where we loaded them on the train. There weren't any trucks hauling animals then around here. Now days it's just the opposite, no trains, but plenty of trucks.

GC: How long did it take you to get the animals to Tioga?

CS: It took about 2 or 3 days to get there after we weighed them.

GC: Whereabouts was the scale located?

CS: The scale was located at the Bonham place. People weighed their animals there for many years, ever since I was very young. Nowadays, everybody has a truck or pickup, so they haul their animals to the stockyards and save freight charges.

GC: Speaking of animals, did you buy sheep right after you bought the land?

CS: Yes, we bought 300 sheep then but then Conrado went to California and stayed there two years working in the ship yard. So I had to take care of them all by myself. There weren't any available people around that one could hire. Everybody was involved in the war effort.

GC: Were you the herder?

CS: Well, we did have a hired man but sometimes he wouldn't show up and I would have to do it.

GC: Somewhat a bothersome chore, huh?

CS: Yes, especially during the lambing season, also feeding them. It kept me pretty busy most of the time.

GC: Were you drafted into the army?

CS: No, I got a deferment due to the fact that we had the sheep and the ranch.

GC: Were you or your father or uncles ever members of the Penitante brotherhood?

CS: No, not to my knowledge. I went to their chapel one time during lent, when they put out the lights and started making a loud noise with wooden rattles and chains I became so frightened that I never went back.

GC: Which Morada was it?

CS: The one at Rincon.

Senora S: Have you ever been to a morada?

GC: Yes, I went to the one at Turkey Creek.

CS: I don't think there are any more Moradas.

GC: Oh, yes. They still have one or more here.

GC: Did you family belong to the Catholic Church?

CS: Ours was the only family that didn't belong to the Catholic religion.

GC: So, the majority or most of the people went to the Catholic Church.

CS: Yes. Actually, at that time, the local people hadn't yet had contact with any other denomination.

GC: Where did the local people attend church services?

CS: Either at Chama or Gardner.

GC: Did they travel by wagon?

CS: Yes, by wagon, buggy or even by walking 2 or 3 miles. The church services were well attended by the people.

GC: What about the fiesta celebration n the feast days of Santiago and Santa Ana?

CS: Well, we used to have well attended rodeos and dances for a couple of days.

GC: Did you go to these rodeos?

CS: Oh yes! I used to ride broncos then. So I didn't miss one.

GC: When did these doings discontinue?

CS: By 1935 they started to taper off and by the early forties they stopped altogether.

GC: What about sports? What kind of games did they play then?

CS: Do you mean in school or in the community? They used to play baseball, pitch horseshoes. The small kids would play a game with a round steel rim guided by hand with a steel or wooden handle. The men also played a game they called Shinney or Chueco. This game was played on the prairie over quite a long distance. Each team had a goal. The chueco was made by heating oak wood bout one inch in diameter and about 40 inches or more in length depending on the height of the player. Anyway the wood was heated on a fire until it cooked or steamed. Then it was bent to the desired shape J and tied so it would retain the curved shape, hence the word chueco. Anyway the goal was that players would compete for possession of the ball, much the same as in ice hockey. They would hit the ball and drive it as far as possible towards the goal, just as golfers hit the ball.

GC: How often did they have these rodeos?

CS: Well, some promoters tried to have rodeos and charged admission of 50 cents or a dollar. But mostly there was no pay for riding a bucking horse. Most riders did it for amusement only.

GC: What the about the WPA? What do you remember about it?

CS: Well, the WPA was almost over when the 2nd World War started. I worked on the WPA for about 3 months. I didn't have any children, so they didn't give me but a few days work per month, so I quit and went back to farm work.

GC: What did you do and where did you work on the WPA?

CS: I worked at Turner, Big Four and Bandito. I did mostly pick and shovel, worked repairing the roads, building bridges and culverts. The started to build a road to Rye, but they didn't finish it.

GC: After WPA, did you ever work at any other job besides ranch work?

CS: No, after WPA I kept busy at the ranch and didn't have time to do anything else. We sometimes used to hire out to harvest hay after we bought baling machines but not much of that.

GC: There have been many changes in farming equipment since you first started, right?

CS: Yes, quite a difference. When I first started, we didn't have tractors or power balers. It was all horse drawn or horse power, also man power, using hand tools such as the pitch fork etc. Horse drawn hay rakes and mowing machines.

GC: Did you hire a lot of people to work on your place?

CS: No, not many. I did most of the work myself. I got extra help during the time we were mowing and baling hay, otherwise, not many. Sometimes I would mow hay until one or two in the morning. We bought our first tractor in 1944. Some times we would trade (work time) with the neighbors in the hay harvest. By helping each other, it seemed like one got through sooner.

GC: Has the climate changed much?

CS: Yes, it certainly has changed. Years ago it rained a lot in the summer and it snowed a lot in the winter. Now we don't get much moisture. Last year and the year before we had enough water to irrigate, but there's been one or two seasons when we didn't have enough water.

GC: Do you have good water rights?

CS: We had 23 water rights.

GC: Are you familiar with all the arguments people had over water rights in the years past?

CS: Well, there have always been arguments and fights over water. However, in our neighborhood, we all used our share and then sent it on down to the next water-user-owner. We are still using the same ditch that we started out with many years ago. I am not too fond of irrigating, but I do it anyway.

GC: How many users share your ditch?

CS: Only two of us. We don't have any problems.

GC: Are there other ditches, say down toward Chama?

CS: There are many people on that ditch. They use water by the hour on the Chama ditch. Its rationed 3-5 or 6 hours per week or every 10 days.

GC: How did it happen that some of the earliest settlers here seem to have the poorest share of the water?

CS: Well, to begin with, the first settlers did have the best water rights but as the population grew, more people had to share the same amount of water, so more water rights were taken and eventually nobody had enough water.

GC: You said that the people didn't record their water rights early on, as they should have done.

CS: Well, however it happened, the people down stream seemed to have the best water rights and consequently got most of the water when it was scarce. Water rights here were issued, beginning at number one up to number 92. Then they start another sequence. At Pass Creek we had what were called Guillen rights.

GC: You showed me some photos taken of you and Conrado Martinez. Also the house and the family. Were they taken by a magazine photographer?

CS: Yes, it was a magazine.

GC: Was it Western Farm Life?

CS: I don't know we didn't subscribe to any farm magazines.

GC: You and Conrado Martinez were named top ranchers in 1953.

CS: Yes, I guess it was in 1953.

GC: Do you remember the fellow that came from Western Farm Life to interview you and Conrado?

CS: No, I don't remember.

Senora S: Yes, someone came and took our picture.

CS: I don't know just how it came about. Conrado probably remembers more about it than I do.

GC: You two must have had a real nice outfit going then, since you were awarded 1st place or top rancher in Colorado.

CS: Yes, I guess so.

GC: Did you both work together?

CS: Conrado went to California in 1943 and came back in 1945. After that we worked together most of the time. He (Conrado) went to work at the ordinance depot in Pueblo for two months.

Mrs. S: You also worked at loading baled hay.

CS: Yes, Teodoro Gomez and I did a lot of that kind of work.

GC: Teodoro Gomez is your brother-in-law, isn't he?

CS: Yes, Teodoro is my brother-in-law.

GC: Was he in partnership with you too?

CS: No, he was in the service and he got wounded over there. He came home and started raising cattle at Sunnyside. He had quite a struggle; the roof caved in on one of his sheds and killed 18 steers. About this time some one at Malachite had a place for sale; they came and offered to sell it to us. But we didn't want any land that far away from our place. So Mrs. Salazar suggested that we bring Teodoro over to see the property. Well, we brought him over, but he didn't even have enough money for a down payment. So we (Conrado and I) loaned him the money to buy the place. Well, he paid us and he kept on buying more land. He did very well for a while but then he sold it all before the price of land went up. So he practically gave it away.

Mrs. Salazar asks GC: Did you and your husband rent the place where you were?

GC: Yes, but later on we bought up in the mountains. I still own 317 acres up there.

CS: How many acres?

GC: Three hundred and seventeen acres.

CS: Is that right? Was that your grandfather Rodriguez place?

GC: No, it's a little further up the road, the place where the Garcia's lived.

CS: Wasn't that the property of Gaspar Montez before?

GC: Yes, the same one.

CS: that's a very good place, do you still have it? Well, good for you. Do you remember? (Not specific)

GC: Yes I remember.

Mrs. S: Did you sell the sheep quite soon?

GC: I don't remember how long it was but it was about 2 or 3 years later. That area was real steep and very poor grazing there.

CS: Yes.

GC: Well, it's getting very late for you, isn't it?

Mrs. S: Are you going over there now?

GC: No, I think I'll call them and let them know I'm not coming.

CS: [Here he said something about Italians and apparently Mexican nationals who came to work in the coal mines, (not too legible)]

GC: Most of the early settlers here came from New Mexico, didn't they?

CS: Yes, I believe most of them came from New Mexico.

GC: What do you know about the Indians that lived here, back when the first settlers came into this area?

CS: Well, I didn't know any Indians but I know that some of them were still around here mostly tending sheep for people around here. I heard that they used to peek in the windows and scare the people inside their house. I guess they used to take whatever they got their hands on; otherwise they were harmless by then. This used to be kind of a staging area for the Indians. They would cross the mountains, some going one direction, others the other opposite direction.

GC: Those Indians that stayed here, did they get married?

CS: Yes, some of them did. Others died of old age. There was one they called him Charley, he worked for the Martinez's. He used to herd sheep.

GC: Well, many thanks for the information you have given me. I really appreciate it.

CS: You are welcome. Maybe next time you come around we can have another session.

GC: Good.

End of interview.

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