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Jose Francisco Cordova
Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Dick Chenault
Date of Interview - 7-10-1979
Well, according to my history, something that was related to us by some of the elders in our own family, my grandfather Miguel, was born in Cordova, Province in Spain and in early life his father acquired some vineyards in what we call the Bascongas, which is a Pyramiel Country. Therefore, even though he lived lastly in the Bascongas or Basquel country, he was not Basgue; he was pure Spanish and the only reason why he came from the Bascongas was because they acquired the land there. He embarked in a trader ship, a freighter they call them and landed in South America at an early age and according to hear say he stayed there somewhat a year or better. From there he again embarked on a freighter and landed in Mexico. In Mexico he married a Mexican girl, and I don't know how long he was there but to have sons he must have been there a while because they claim that after she died he took his hacienda, mostly cattle and came to what they call the Estados, which was the United States with his three sons on horseback and a few Indians that helped them on the drive. They claim that the younger son was just big enough to partially fit a saddle, so he must have been pretty small.
When they got around Wagon Mound or Springer, New Mexico, the first signs of winter caught them and the cattle were pretty tired and he traded some of his cattle for sheep. One of the ranchers or stockmen that traded with him was, if I remember correctly, a farmer or rancher or stockman by the name of Wingert and I have investigated and found that there were some Wingerts around Wagon Wheel or Wagon Mound, New Mexico. Anyhow, he again started on his voyage with eleven Indians instead of just a handful, some more Indians joined him and his three sons and they came on back towards the states and they found the Purgatoire, we believe it was the Purgatoire Canyons that were awful deep and treacherous and rattle snaky. So after they cross the Purgatoire, they came in a north westerly direction and when winter really caught him, it was right down here in Cucharas, somewhere near Highway 10. The old signs of the “Sala de los Vallejos” is still there; where Grandpa Miguel built a home,and prior to then a winter really caught them here, a big snowstorm, him and the Indians worked cutting down cottonwood trees and building, “chosas”, which was three cornered shelters, and it wasn't till the following spring when he was gonna move further into the Estados, watching that beautiful gramma grass all over the country, he decided that that was the “Shangra La” that he was looking for and that's how he settled there. Some of that was in about 1833. After a few years, quite a few more settlers were coming in, and there might have been some already around, somewhere because there was no towns. At that time, some man by the name of “De Leon” came up there and they settled, just beyond the St. Mary cemetery, somewhere to the South and east over around that hill is where the De Leones settled. Quite a few more settlers settled around that Cucharas country. And sometime the railroad was coming through there. Anyhow my grandfather, was possibly around thirty years old or so, twenty-eight. He married Grandma Pablita of the Martinez family and she was only thirteen years old, and they raised sixteen children which my mother Teresita was the youngest. Going back from that to connect the family of the Cordova and the Vallejos, my grandfather, Francisco's father, they came with an expedition, it was a bunch of Spaniards that came up and settled around Rancho de Taos. We still got the Rivieras that are part of this tribe, they are first cousins of my father. Then my Grandpa moved over into that La Garita country in Colorado, which is north of Monte Vista or Del Norte, and that's where my father was born. Quite a few of the family of my grandfather was born there. Of course my grandfather Francisco was born somewhere in New Mexico, I believe what they call Pina now or Amelia, New Mexico, just a little west, I think, of Garcia and Costilla, New Mexico. Anyhow my grandfather after coming down to around Fort Garland and all that country, and farming there and sheep raising there, came to Cucharas. At that time it was a quite a little village, and Fred Walsen had already come over into this country, with Fred Roof and they, after the railroad came, opened up a trading post, a mercantile, because they were quite the traders. My father happened to be working for a rancher up around Folsom, New Mexico, and he got tired cause he had been there for five, six years, so he came home to visit the family on the train with a saddle on his back, just with a saddle and little, not a suitcase, but they used to have some kind of a carrier for their clothes, you know, and he came here because my father had moved to Cucharas. My Grandfather Francisco's folks and my Grandfather Vallejos knew each other in the old country and in them days, you had no radios, and television or newspapers or anything like that. So my grandfather Francisco and my grandfather Miguel made a commitment that my father Matteo was to marry my mother Teresita Vallejos. That's the way they done it than, not like today, you pick one out and throw her away tomorrow and go pick another one by yourself. Your parents have nothing to do with it. Anyhow they got married, Teresita Vallejos and Matteo Cordova, my father and there is the connection of the Don Miguel Vallejos and Jose Francisco Cordova, on my father's side. My grandfather Miguel and Grandma Teresita raised sixteen children. The reason then was that Grandpa Miguel was well off and in them days you didn't have to have money to be well off, all you had to have was a bunch of sheep and a bunch of cattle and so he was considered wealthy, like they were up to quite a few years ago when the almighty dollar wasn't the head of the family. So my Grandpa Miguel used to buy these Indian captives that the vaqueros and the gringos used to kidnap and they'd sell them to him and he'd turn 'em loose. There's a lot of Indians that he raised, that I'm still their cousin, there's quite a few here in Walsenburg. Tina will tell you that, because she remembers “Nan Dolora” and “Ma Gertrudes” and the indio Jose Antonio, were all Indians that he raised. One of them, Jose Antonio, took off to go back to his Utes and they beat him up, the cowboys tried to catch him, the vaqueros and everybody, and they couldn't see an Indian. They used to kill them and drop them down the cracks of the rocks there, where they found skulls and bones. They used to shoot them just to try out their rifles. That's what we done with the Indians. Anyhow, this Indian, Jose Antonio took off, and in less than a month he was back, and he never left again. He was back at Grandpas and he was lucky to get there alive. My grandmother would have a child and turn them over to the Indian maidens to raise them. Like my mother was the youngest, why this Indian girl that had grown up already, they were part of the Vallejos family, and they raised all the children. My mother was the youngest and these Indians used to teach her which “herbs” were good for, what was edible, and stuff like that and she wrote quite a bit of that down. That's where I acquired my knowledge of herbs plus a little medical learning. I have a lot of people that come down for herbs and I don't charge them anything. I give it to them because I figure that that's the way the Lord meant it. The Lord blessed me with this, acquiring this knowledge and I want to help. The first thing my mother told me when I finished high school, to get into public life, she sat me down and being the only boy in the family, since the little brother I had died, when he was only about eighteen months old. That left me as the oldest and youngest of the family, of my father's family. The oldest and youngest boy. All, the rest of them were “chickens.” Anyhow, my mother sat me down and she said, “Son”, she said, “You're going into the world after finishing your school, I want you to remember one thing, that the best to do is to help others and they'll help you. Another thing she says, “Cooperate with people” she says, “Look, son, one hand washes the other and the two of them wash your face, and you don't even think about it,” she says, “that's the cooperation that's needed to make this world safe and good “ Another thing she says, “When you get into public life, and into something, no matter what anyone tells you, if you believe that you're right and you're doing this for the best of humanity” she said, “you do it” “But,” she said “if you have a doubt, and no matter how many people tell you to do something and you don't think it's right, don't do it,” she says “and you'll find out that 90% of the time you'll be right.” Another thing that she said is that if somebody else tells us to do something and it comes out wrong, our finger goes right straight at them - - -see so it's better to do your own your, own way.”
If you're interested in the people that I can remember beside Fred Roof and Fred Walsen and the De Leones, quite a few of the Trujillos, the Espinozas, that are your mother's people. See, there's a big, it's a big family, a tremendous family, and that's - - it's not only in Huerfano County. Las Animas County, Conejos County, Costilla County, Rio Grande County, New Mexico County is full of our kind of people. At one time Pete Atencio, “God rest his soul” used to run the “Clarin”, here and I was running for public office. He took a survey of the relatives between just Huerfano and Las Animas County, because him and his people came from Las Animas Couny. The Atencios, who were well old known pioneers in this country here, and he determined that there was nineteen hundred direct descendants in the two counties, and that's an awful lots of people. Like your people on the side of your mothers, the Espinozas, Primo Andres and Tina, Teodoro, Primo Jacobo, all of
them were people that were here that I can remember when I was a little boy. Now, I'm pretty near up to my seventies. I have a little over a year to go on that. The Vallejos side, the “Dons” are all gone. On the Cordovas, side I have one uncle that's about ninety—five years old. That is direct descendants, my father died almost at ninety-six years old. He had an Uncle Juan that lived to be a hundred and four years old, and he had an aunt that lived to a hundred and seven years old. We don't have the birth certificate, but that's the way it was related to us and of course we have to believe the things that we can't prove, we have to believe that the elders knew better and of course being raised the old way with respect, we don't doubt any of these things. But the way we were raised, we were raised as a family, all together, cooperating. Everybody had things to do back at the ranch. Why, I was born in Maitland. My father was working in the mine there; and from there we moved to the Huerfano River, right about a half mile west of the butte there. Uncle Juan Vallejos had a ranch there and we lived right below there. We had our own little house there and in them days, when winter came, we knew there would be a lot of snow and when summer came we got ready with the ditches and cleaning out the ditches and stuff like that, and we prepared for these things. Nowadays you just don't know what's gonna come beside grasshoppers and something to mess you up. I was a little fella and I being the only boy in the family, my father brought me to town, there were no automobiles, there were wagons and buggies and horseback and he brought me to town there, and the first thing we done we went up there on Seventh Street. They used to be a livery stable on Sixth Street where we left the wagons and horses, and on Seventh Street close by was a saloon. I remember going in there and they had some great big bottles of what we call pop now and they called it salsa... salsaparilla or something like that. It was just sweet water with colors, is all it was. Then my father took me down the street to the old O'Byrne Hardware Store, I think they used to call it Baxter at that time, right on the corner where Amoco is now, that Standard Station there on Seventh and Main and them streets were deep and God, they were dusty. Dogs running over each other and everything. Them sidewalks were board, most of them were just plain board, and we went in that hardware store and my father looked around and he bought me a little shovel, a nice little shovel, boy, I figured, my daddy sure likes me. But, you know, when I got home I found out what that shovel was for. When the snow came around, why the first place that they'd get me up to make a path, was to the “john”, and then to the wood pile, and then to the chicken coop, and then to the barn. So in them days, it's no doubt part of it because I was little, that I thought them snows were so terrific.
I went to school at the Huerfano School below the Butte over there. We used to walk better than a mile winter and summer, thought nothing of it. Nowadays you, we get in a car to go half a block just to get a piece of onion or something. You won't walk anymore and that's what's the matter with the American public. Between these doggone credit cards and the Public Defenders, why, that's ruined the whole darn country. We want to earn much for nothing without having to work for it. Dad, had his land was over here now, where the airport is, and that lake through there clear up there to the west side of Interstate 25, he had little, well quite a bit of acreage in there, and he used to farm that because in them days people weren't hoggish for water, they'd let the neighbors have some. Later people came to kill each other for water rights and stuff like that. It wasn't that way before. One neighbor would help the other and everybody lived peaceful. Sundays was for holiday, was to go to church and to pray. I remember at home, we used to have a little pillow to kneel on that adobe floors, the floors were not wood, it was just dirt floors that they used to smooth just like cement. I had a little pillow that I used to kneel on, when we prayed. Once in a while I'd pull one of my sisters hair that was in front of me or the other one, they'd wait till after it was over and I found out that I shouldn't do that. But we learned a lot of things. Sundays was to worship, elders were to respect. One time a lady, by the name of Cardenas used to live just down a block from me over here and she used to visit my mother, she was an elderly lady. My mother sent me over to the store to get some bread; there was a bakery down on Seventh Street and when I was going by there this lady called me and she says “here”, she says, go get me some milk. I said, “I've got something to do for my mother” and I took off and went and got the bread, brought it to my mother and that lady was there. Boy, I'll tell you, I had a few welts left. My mother told me whenever I send you to do something and another elderly person tells you to do something for them, you do theirs first and then do mine and that was it.
When I was in high school, at noon I came up and I was standing in old Manuel Garcia's Recreation Pool Hall there, watching them play pool when something lifted me just about a foot and a half off the floor with a kick on the “whatchamacallit.” I looked back and it was my uncle and he said, “Brigon, you don't have any business in here” and we didn't. They wouldn't let us go into them places and when I came home and told my father I got another lickin. So, I just learned to take it and that was it. Now liquor, we couldn't buy liquor. Once in a while we'd swipe a little of Duke Mixture and Bull Durham and make our own cigarettes which weren't much, just for kicks to see how and why the other ones like it. Going to school, I went to school down at the ranch by the Huerfano for about three years, because there was no age limit then. In fact you was almost grown up when you learned to walk over there because you had something to do all the time. When we moved to Walsenburg, my mother sent me to St. Mary's School, the Parochial school. We were Catholics and they wanted us to get that early teaching of religion. They had time to teach us a lot of things. So that's where I went to school. I got to serve mass, a server, you know, and God I was even taller than the priest when I got out of there, and I think the reason he let me out, I used to drink his wine once in a while. Anyhow they taught us that religion. I sent my kids to St. Mary's School. All of 'em in fact, little Francisca will be going to St. Mary School for the first few years in order to learn her religion and respect and obedience, all these things I believe in. I don't say that public schools are not better than a parochial school. Well, I was graduated and went to medical school for a while, till my mother got sick and I came back and never followed it anymore. As things would have it, I got into public life. I went to work with Damacio Vigil as a clerk in the County Clerk's office. Later on I ran for County Assessor, because just for spite usually, I didn't want an office, but the reason was because they were trying to run Damacio the big shots here. At that time you had more or less bosses, political bosses, and I don't believe in that. I believe that the public is the deciding factor and they're the ones, the majority, that's the way our constitution is written and I believe in it and I should think that the people should know who they want in there and who they don't want in there. So I jumped to run for County Assessor and I won. I won by a pretty good size vote. I was there for three years and then the war came along and I enlisted in the Marine Corps and served over seas for '43, '44 and '45. I joined the Marine Corps because they told me how tough the Marine Corp was and believe you me, the reason I didn't run out of it was because I was afraid to, but they were a tough outfit, that's not what they are anymore. That was real then and you had to be tough, you had to survive and I learned a lot of things of survival, to eat and drink when I was in the service and of course I had learned so many things from my mother. That's where I learned herbs, edible things, and like the Indians taught her that “comotes” and “Chimaha”, I don't know if you've ever seen them things, but your mother has. They're a little plant that grows even on the driest prairies there, that's the first thing that comes out on the spring and it lasts up to about July 1st. If you get lost in any of that time, you'd dig out a “Chimaha” or a “Camote” and you'd peel it off and eat it, it just got lots of vitamins and the “Camotes” is kinda dry but the “Chimahas” got a little moisture in it. The way they got their water mostly was with noaples, they'd take the little noaplito, the flat ones, which is a cactus, and they'd burn out the stickers out of it and peel them off, take it and chew it, swallow the moisture, spit out the pulp. You know I learned from the Mexican that that is good and I've tasted it. I've taken some of that stuff and I've done the same thing, peeled it off and cut it up in little squares and scrambled it with egg, and it's the most delicious breakfast you've ever had. There's so many wild onions that you can use, but you've got to be careful if there's anything wrong with your stomach or your pancreas. Well you've got to be careful of these wild onions. Now as far as for other infirmities if you get gases or what we call “torsones”, which is a bellyache, more or less indigestion, they used to pick “Chamiso” and they didn't have time to boil the darn thing they just put it in the mouth and chew it and swallow the juice. Lo and behold that's one of the best things to get rid of the gases and acids and diarrhea too. There's so many things if you get struck by a rattler, the thing to do is to cut it and press out as much of that, poison and blood that you can. The Indians used to use mud, put it on there as a polluce to drain that out, or you can take that little cactus that I told you about, Noaplito and singe it on both sides just burn it, get it hot, get it peeled up, open, 'wrap it on the wound and wrap it up and that really pulls that stuff out of there. But when I was grown, my mother used to keep a bunch of “trementina” that's pinon pitch, and that's one of the best things in the world for drawing things. As far as edible things are concerned there's so many edible things including “hongos” which is mushrooms that I pick quite a few of in the season and have throughout the winter. “Quelites” which they call lambs quarters and then there is wild spinach which grows out close to the river and shady areas. I pick about 10 gallons or better a year and we freeze them for winter uses. Another thing I pick is ten or more gallons of wild asparagus “Esparago” we call it, that is very beneficial to your health and I use a lot of that. “Arta Misa” that's the genus of all the “Chamisos” that the old timers used to use for cancers that you could touch and you know for any infirmities like ulcers and stuff like that. There are so many of these remedies. Another thing that is good is mints. When your pancreas starts acting up because your pancreas is the distribution center for your body and you feel it up here right in the, middle of your chest, over there right in the middle, you feel like a ball there you're nervous, you don't know what to do with yourself, well the best thing is make a tea out of “yerba buena”, which is garden mint and sweeten it up with honey. I don't use any sugar, the only place my wife uses sugars is to bake cakes and cookies, other than that I don't, I use honey. You know that honey is also good for sores and cuts and stuff like that. It's a cure. Just put pure honey on there, and then a little honey every day give your hormones a chance to boost the production of what you need in your system. One of the best things for arthritis and almost everybody has got arthritis, is about three teaspoonfuls of celery juice and if you haven't got a juicer all you gotta do is chew it and swallow the juice and spit out the pulp, I swallow it. I eat it all, that's one of the best things there is. Now grapes is one of the greatest rejuvenators for the human body, just fresh grapes or grape juice, cherry juice is another good thing that people should have, carrots for your eyes and iodine, see, for your body all them things are grand. I learned all those things mostly from the old timers and through my books. I've got a stack of books about three feet high with all these things. Exercise is the best thing in the world for people and watching their diet. If something hurts your system somewhere, just start eliminating little by little till you find out for yourself what's actually wrong with you. The only thing with people is that somebody's either paying a bill or we just go ahead and charge it. We go see the doctor for the least little ailment when we could take care of it ourselves. The doctors come in their office and their office is just full of people. I saw one particular lady, especially that was just a chronic, she likes to go out there and have the doctor hold her hand. I guess--because he gave her some sugar pills and I know they were sugar pills, with my knowledge of medications. A week later I met her over here in the street and I asked her how she was, she said, “You know you saw me at the doctor's office, God, that pill he gave me, look at me”, she says, “I'm fine.” All up here (pointing to the head). It's just the trust that you have, it's just that you need somebody to tell you you're fine.
Well, now coming forward into after I got out of the Marine Corps. I went to work for the Pritchard Lumber Company, but prior to my entry into the service I had taken the examination or application for Game Warden here, working for the Colorado Game and Fish Department and I had forgotten plum about it. I was working with the Pritchard Lumber Company because I stayed idle for not quite a month when I got out and I could not stand doing nothing. I wanted to do something to keep my mind clear and to do something useful. So, what I done, I went to work for the Pritchard Lumber Company and I enjoyed it. I couldn't do much lifting because of this arm that was bad, I acquired in the service. But one day a big fellow came in and he asked for me. I wondered what I had done. But I came, Walter Wheelock called me and said “Somebody wants to see you.” and the fellow shook hands and asked me if I was Frank Cordova and he told me if I was still interested in being a Game Warden, that they were going to name fourteen more and of course, I said “Yes I am, Very much,” I says but I have another job offered me in Bernallilo with the forest service. He said that I had I guess two weeks to make up my mind and he gave me a card to send. I decided to go with the game and fish and I served almost thirty—three years and I enjoyed my work there with the people. I took my job seriously because I liked it. I don't believe in going to work for something that I don't 1ike because I know I'm not going to do a good job. I make it a point to like what I'm doing instead of just doing it just to get the money. I don't believe in that. I like to live and I like to live all my life as pleasantly as I can. Pleasantly, I mean doing the things I like to do without hurting anybody, and that's what I've done.
I've made a garden the last couple of years over here to feed the grasshoppers. You know I don't like that, but I figured I can't beat'em all, so I give it to 'em. Going back to my school days when I was a child, I remember going to the Huerfano Butte school, right below the Huerfano Butte, we used to walk that mile and a half. Made no difference how little you was if you wanted to go to school, you had to walk and then in the winter, why, we had snow there so darn high that my father felt sorry for us and fixed a way to go get us. They used to take gunny sacks and wrap them around our feet because we couldn't get overshoes and that's what we had to go through. My father, naturally, he had a wagon and he had the horses so he made a sleigh to pull the box of the wagon and he hooked the horses to that and he'd go down to that school and bring us all, everyone that lived in that vicinity. At that time there was people by the name of Comptons, old pioneers a little bit across the river there, just about 1/8 of a mile on this side of the school was one of the oldest pioneers that I can remember. Very colorful old man with a goatee and long hair and Beeler used to live on this side and on the other side was an old man Speed. His wife was Francisca they call her Fran Frances. Speed and she was half Spanish they say, and I can remember a lot of that family there cause I used to go to school with his grandsons, the McManors. And then there was the Klesers. There was a family of __________that lived at the old Jones place right connectedly north of the Huerfano Butte there. That big white house that is still there. We lived in that house for two or three years and the Rechers were right across the river. Jack Recher runs the old McKinley Ranch, he owns that. Then there was Truillos and Deaguerros, the Prophets, the Millers and the Comptons, all wonderful people. There was no prejudice against our people in them days, everybody was fine, everybody was good. They recognized the teachings of the Lord that all men were created equal and there was no prejudice then like there is today — quite a bit of it and of course maybe that's why all our people today want to go back to the good old days. I don't know how good they were in other ways because you had to suffer in them days to live. I used to go with my father to get oodles and oodles of loads of pinon wood about the seven miles from the ranch there, because in winter you wanted to be sure to have it before it was time to have it. We used to bring oodles and oodles of wood, Pinon wood, in them days or even burn cedar, that cedar wood is good for the simple reason you burn all of it, hardly any ashes left and it's hot. The only thing with cedar wood is that it pops and you could start a fire if you didn't know what you were doing and it's good hot wood, very good. Pinon wood, the smell of it, you know, was just beautiful. We used to sit in front of that fireplace after a year of pinon, and of course the roasting of them the smell was beautiful. We kids used to go out there and steal a handful of them while they were still cooking and boy you had to throw them back cause they were hot. At night we'd sit in front of the firep1ace eating, that was something out of this world. I mean it was just beautiful. Everybody done that, and we used to go to the old McKinnley ranch, he had about, a quarter of a mile square with apples of all denominations, Jonathans, part delicious apples there and the “manzana de roza” which is the transparent apple, it comes out in August, and be had pears and he used to get us to go up there to pick 'em and we'd take the wagon and we'd eat pinons and eat beautiful and juicy apples, and it was just one beautiful thing. Pretty soon it was that families word “Alright, no pinons,no more apples, it's time to pray the rosary.” So there we go to pray the rosary. Every night we'd pray the rosary because people were thankful to God for what we had and even for what we didn't have. We recognized the facts of why you didn't buy things just the way you do today on account of the doggone Credit card that's come out and everybody can do it now and get credit and get everything they want and if they don't pay, why the rest of us have to pay. That's why I don't have any credit cards in my house. We didn't buy anything unless we had the money to buy it's not that you didn't have any credit, but we recognized the fact that credit has to be paid. So people in them days were a lot smarter than they are today because they didn't take any chances and they knew that the merchants, the grocer had to pay his bill before he could get any more, so we made it a habit of paying him whenever we could, whenever we'd raise money. So we didn't buy anything out of the way.
They had these “hormos” that you called them then that it's an iron there with a shape of a shoe on top there and they used to buy chunks of leather and them shoes used to last a long time because they worked them over, they'd just sit there in the evening and work over our shoes because shoes were hard to get and even though sometimes you only paid fifty cents for shirts and a dime for gloves and five cents for handkerchiefs and stuff like that. You actually don't know what it's worth anymore. Yes it was better stuff, everything was better in them days. Well them days in the wood and pinon picking and the pleasures we had there wasn't too much for entertainment outside of making a trip to church and then visit some of the relatives around here and then going back home. They had school plays and remember that I was so nervous in my first play. I kept my finger in my mouth and I didn't know the words and they just wouldn't come out, I almost bit my finger off and that cured me from putting my finger in my mouth. Anyhow they had school plays and they had beautiful entertainment. Once in a while they'd have dances over there and they'd dance Polkas and they danced cutillios and they dance all these old time things that are entertaining. The songs were not savage and African in them days. Now you got this music that you have today and them dances, “My God Almighty”, I think the savages would laugh at us for dancing them things and the songs they just don't have any sense. On Sundays we usually had neighbors come up and we'd eat together and we talked, would play together, and then we'd go up to the neighbors. Why the first thing mama would tell me, “Now don't you go asking for any bread.” You know a funny thing that was the first thing I'd do, I just don't know why, but that was it. I knew almost everybody around there, instead of automobiles, they had to go out on horseback. Guys and girls would come over from somewhere to visit and play with us, we'd go over to the creek and some times that darn hole over there and go swimming over there and we'd just have a good clean time. As I said before, if you held a girls hand, you thought that was everything and if your parents caught you doing that, Boy! I'll tell you that was terrible, you should never do that again. But all in all the old days were beautiful. If you got in trouble, you knew what you was getting into. Now a days you're not a man or you're not a girl unless you do get in trouble, and that's the worry we have today. We used to obey our elders, now they just don't obey them anymore. It goes in one ear and out the other. That's why I say the good old days, because even if you have to suffer, if you still have the respect of the world and everybody in the church and like goodwill of your family and appreciation.
I can remember that in them days, they used to talk about the Espinozas. The Espinozas were a family whose sister got raped by three gringos, and in them days a Mexican and a nigger didn't have a chance here. They done whatever they wanted with 'em and justice was what, whatever the politicians wanted to do. So they turned the gringos lose and this Espinozas swore that they would kill every gringo from there on, they killed somewhat over 100 before they killed the last one, but the last one wasn't killed because the law was so darn great, it was because part Indian from the San Luis valley by the name of Tomas Tobin— Tom Tobin double crossed this Espinoza and a young boy that was with Espinoza, and shot 'em both, cut their heads off and took them to Fort Garland to get their reward and he didn't get a damn cent anyhow which served him good. I've got pictures of Espinoza and stories of what went on there. In fact I've got a lot of stories of a lot of things. Kit Carson married Jaramillo, what's her name — Lena Jaramillo and great people. I can remember they talked about my Uncle Jacobo, Mucio, Stanislan, all the Vallejo brothers there, there was one — Jacob which was a foot racer and was good. He's beat everybody and of course there wasn't too many people here, but they used to come in from the ranches and instead of betting money and having bookies, they'd bet so many sheep and so many cattle and a saddle and goats, chickens, whatever they had. That's the way they done it and it was a big day.
They had some odd looking suits you know that you had to take your boots off to take the pants off. They were so narrow on the bottom there. Most of them wore the boots over the pants and that's why they made them that way. I can remember that when they brought some of the gringos, well to do people, brought one of the world's greatest foot racers, but they didn't tell the people around here that he was one of the world's greatest racers. So what they done was they had a, they fixed a road with scrapers a few old logs up there by the hogback you know, there was no houses around this but there was plenty of room for people, and the race was on and they never found out that this other racer that beat my uncle just one jump, and of course my uncle was a foot racer not a professional and he didn't know anything about the last jump you know, to win the race. However, they found out after, but you couldn't do anything, you couldn't file anything because you didn't have a chance at all.
I remember when old Jeff Farr was sheriff, a Democrat didn't have a chance in this county at all, pardon my saying but anyone that was a Democrat got beat over the head or beat up, thrown in jail a lot of things. I remember when my Uncle Epifanio Vallejos and Arturo Vallejos' father got killed out here at Cucharas, at a dance because old Juan Bustos and this Valdez old man. Valdez were jealous of him and they shot him and the first shot hit him on a big pocket watch because they carried pocket watches on their vests and it hit that and ricocheted and that gave my uncle a chance to take one shot at them and he ricocheted one but he was down already and they killed him. I had another uncle that was working at the Steven Mercantile, Mucio, he was a worker at the Mercantile there, it also was a Post Office. That's when the railroad came through Cucharas there, and two highway men came in there, of course they weren't highway men, they were Waymen, is what they call 'em and they went in there and he watched them because they were strangers. Ya gringos, and he saw that one of 'em was reaching for his pistol little by little so he reached under the counter to get his pistol and they shot him twice and killed him. All these things, and they didn't do anything about it. I mean they picked up the Furphys thinking it was them, but they wouldn't do that, they were pretty nice people, so by the time they got around to putting their blocks, because they got away on one of these section carts. By the time they organized a posse, why they were nowhere to be found. You know where the Black & White is now? That old place there was a big saloon where they used to drink, it was just a regular saloon them days, they haven't any stools or chairs or booths, you stood up there and took your drinks. Charlie Martinez was a colorful figure here. Desiderio was so big he was about seven feet tall and he wore not a ten gallon hat but it was about twenty-five gallons. Shorty Martinez had been in the sheriff's office so darn long he used to lean on one side from carrying a big forty-five and old Antonio Pacheco, he was jailer there. Old J.J. Medina that used to have a Penny Annie store right next to the church. Things were different, you could take a five dollar bill in them days and go to the store and buy five dollars worth of groceries and you'd have to hire a taxi to take you home with your groceries. Now with five dollars you can put whatever you get in that little watch pocket you got in your pants over here anymore.
I remember one time when Uncle Juan Vallejos was running a bunch of sheep possibly around a thousand head of sheep, and he had an Indian sheepherder. The Lewis', which were down in the lower Huerfano Country there, were cattlemen, and the cattlemen were fighting the sheep men. Every time they got a chance, they came up on their horses, they'd have a big lariat “quarta” they called it a whip, and they just used to whip this sheepherders till they were raw. My Uncle had to change sheepherders several times on account of they even drugged one. Uncle Juan sent him and he said, “Now you go on down there as far as far as you was when the Lewis' got you, he said and I'll be watching for you.” Uncle Juan was a little guy, but a good shot and brave. He was a brave man. So right around noon here comes the three Lewis', and boy right as soon as they got them darn lariats, whip out, and waved them around, my uncle got up from behind a bunch soapweed, you know what we call “amole” that's a soapweed, he got up from there, his 30—30 blazing and he wouldn't kill them, but he shot the horses from under 'em, then he tied them all and took their boots off, and took their whips, and started them to walk home barefooted, every now and then they'd step on a cactus and they'd have to lay down, he'd make them get up again. You know that was the last whippin' of them Lewis'. Everybody remembers them Lewis', every old time or they've heard about 'em anyhow.
Going back to this election when the Democrats won their first election after the mine strikes. There was strikes all the time you know, and I remember the Democrats won the election. Joe Sanchez I think, was the County Assessor then and they, them Republicans even would vote the mules, dogs, everything you
know and they'd steal the election and anyhow the Democrats finally won because the Supreme Court found out that there was fraud and they turned it over. The companies used to own everything, they'd even take your paycheck after they'd give it to you in “scripts” so you'd trade at the company store. When the Democrats won this election, I tell you they took all but two of the offices then. I remember Caldwell was Sheriff, and then Claude Swift was Sheriff, and (Tony) Velarde was Sheriff and then Jerry (Conder) and now Harold Martinez.
I followed all that. I followed it so well that I worked for Damacio Vigil after coming back from medical school, because there was no money. I came back and I went to work for Damacio Vigil as a Deputy. I used to get $70.00 a month, and we used to get along pretty good with $70.00 a month. We worked sometimes nights but we didn't look for extra pay, we done it because that was the thing and then old Ed Johnson came back from the Senate and he ran for Governor, and he won for Governor so he wanted me as his secretary over there, but I couldn't take Denver. But they got Rick Duran, a friend of mine that was working with Caledon Salazar, who was Assessor to run against Damacio Vigil just to get us out of that County Clerks office, so Paul Krier was the chairman of the Democratic Party. All of them were put in because of political reason and they cracked the whip and they done what they said. So, anyhow this big political boss got Rick Duran to run against Damacio Vigil. Damacio Vigil and I got together and I told him I said, “I'll tell you what we'll do. I said you run independent and I run in the Democratic party for Assessor.” “Oh, no”, he says “Well, what if we get beat”? I says, “We're not counting on getting beat, we're counting on the people, the general public of this country, of this county who will do the voting”. I say I don't worry about the people of Huerfano County, I said they're tired of this stuff he said I'll have to think this over. So him and Paul Krier talked it over and about two hours they came over and asked me to say it again and I said “Well looks Pau1. I, say if we both run in a party and one gets elected and one gets beat I said we haven't proven anything. But, if one runs outside as an independent and one runs in the party and we both get elected I said we busted the devil out of the machine. ”Ya,” He said, “I can see that but that's a big chance. I said it's worth it after what we've been going through.” I said, “You've got to take a chance. I was running for County Assessor in the Democratic Party and Damacio run independent and we both won and we busted the back of the machine. From there things went well until the last few years they're going back to hiring out of Staters, but of the County people in both the City and County and that's bad cause it took the people of Huerfano County and the voters to elect these officials and I resent their passing up especially in this day and age when we're having a hell of a time getting along with Welfare and no jobs and high prices for everything and they don't hire some local people so that they can make a living. You know every guy that they bring from the outside that comes here and opens a little business or something first thing they do is put him in as head of the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club and they put him in the City Council and do everything. Outsiders, well if they're so damn good it just like I told Joe Stimack here a few years ago, when they hired that “Childs” over at the uh, they fixed and spent 15—20 thousand dollars to fix the house for him at the Airport and when I told Joe I said, “Well, why did you have to hire this guy in when you have to haul water to him every day and you have to pay utilities beside and you have to even carry him around.” Oh, he says he knows everything about airplanes. “Well why didn't you hire somebody from here. I said a family that needs a job. “No,” he said, “this guy knows about airplanes.” Well, I said if he knew so damned much and he was so concerned about knowing why the hell would he stop here, in a one day a month airplane port. I says, “That doesn't do us any good I said, hell we don't get any airplanes to stop here. What do we want a man that knows anything about airplanes,” well anyhow it turned out to be just as I told him. The guy messed up, took whatever he could and took off and that was it. Well, anyhow, that's the same thing that's going on today. The outsider has everything in the world. I can remember when they took a certain gal, a good looking gal whose husband worked with the Highway Department making good money, and they took her and the first thing that the bank done was hire her there at the bank. When this Gebinine gal that had won the election there she was City Clerk, decided to move to Pueblo, what did they do instead of giving a local girl the job, they took this gal and put her there. Then when they decided that they could make more money in another area they quit too. So, you see these people come here with a suitcase — why hell all they gotta do is pack it up and leave again but the rest of us have roots here. We're rooted here.
I have a daughter in Washington with the Department of Labor, GS14. My son is with the Amcorp Engineers, he owns the outfit and he employs about twenty people, and the reason why he employs them, he says, “Dad, because if I don't, the IRS will take the money and this other way I employ people so they can make a living”. You see he's got the same ways that I have and all in all I've enjoyed it. I enjoyed it when I was with the Division of Wildlife. I used to get some beautiful stories, I could write books on the beautiful alibis that they used to give me. I'd catch a guy one day with too many fish and the first thing you know he says well I didn't know I had one or two fishes over the limit. He says, I just didn't count right, well you know, my heart has always been, that—uh, why take anything to court that could have been a mistake. Why not give the guy one chance. If he's habitual I'll catch him again. Next time you go around maybe a month later you find the same guy with two or three fish over the limit. You know, I'd just smile and say “Remember” and I'd take him in. But, I'd give him a chance. Unless the violation was a pretty hard one, I'd take him in. I wasn't tough, my badge didn't mean anything but the fact that I had the authority to this thing, I never wore a pistol, the only time I wore a pistol was to try to kill a rattlesnake. When I'd walk in the prairies there or when I'd go out for a downed plane and a lost hunter. Otherwise that pistol just stayed right there. Oh, I had it cleaned, pretty often because of the dust that that was about it. I got some beautiful experiences.
One time poor Bill Schmitt lived there on Pass Creek in the summer and he had a bunch of cattle there which he pastured there. One day he called me and told me that a bear had killed a couple of his calves over the hill and they were after the cattle on this side of the hill. We went over on the other side of the hill. I had to carry two traps that weighed about twenty—five pounds a piece on foot over that hill, and I put up them traps and the next morning I had both bears. The reason I know they were the right ones because they had been eating on the remains of those they had killed and we brought the traps back because I didn't want to catch any bear or game that wasn't responsible for this thing. You'd have to take a chance that you had the right one because them damn bears wouldn't tell you. Well anyhow, I took the traps with the understanding that if there was anymore messing around over there for him to watch them and let me know and I would take the traps right back. I hated to because them damn things were heavy, too. Anyhow about a week later he called me. So, I went up the next morning. I took the trap but as I got to where he told me this bear was coming up at them cattle there was a great big log, it was about between 24 and 30 inches circumference and an old log and there was a little trail on the side there and I saw that bear down in the creek looking up, and a bear can't see too well. Can't see too far and they got pretty bad eye sight. So, I went up to the pickup to get my rifle that I had in the back of the seat, no rifle — I remembered then that my son had been target practicing and forgot to put the rifle back but I couldn't leave because you know, when I was with the Division of Wildlife we considered the fact that the dangers were there and that we had to do our utmost, even face death to take care of the things we had to take care of. Dangers were part of the job and if I was too much of a chicken, I' wouldn't have taken the job so I wanted to prove to myself that I could do my best but I carried a 38 pistol in the little compartment of the pickup and I strapped that on and I tell you all the time I was trying to strap that on I was shaking. I don't know why, it wasn't that cold but I was shaking anyhow. So, I went down there by that log and by that time the darned bear was coming up that trail and that log must have been around 36—40 feet long and I looked at that darn pistol and I had a hell of a time looking at it because my hand was shaking so much. With that pistol, but I saw it was full of shells, that bear came up a little closer and closer and it stood up and smelled. I don't know what he smelled because I wasn't that scared yet. But, anyhow he knew I was there so he kept on coming and I kept on trying to steady my hand till he was within about, oh, about 15 feet of me and the reason he got that close was because I had a hell of a time keeping that hand steady. I opened up when I got the pistol ready to aim that darn bear stood up and I shot and shot and shot and I usually just carried 5 shell in that cylinder of a 38. I a1ways kept one empty on the one that was on the cylinder but I couldn't remember if I'd filled it up or not. I was so darned scared that bear would fall and keep on coming up, he came closer and closer till I got close to another tree and the damn fence right there and I'd look at the fence just a little bit at a time and watching the bear too, and he kept on coming and he was bleeding at the mouth that's all I was just watching because I know that's where the teeth were so, I took another shot and he fell. My, God was just about 3 feet from me where he fell, but you should have seen how fast I crawled under that fence before I stopped to look again, but by that time I knew he was down, but I stayed back there for a little while till I was sure he was dead. It took him a good while to die and he had just fallen three feet from me. Talk about being scared after he fell there, I must have smiled big because I remember my mouth was twitching a little. By that time old Bill heard the shots and he came up and there was the bear and boy, he says you're as red as a beet and I said. I might be as red as a beet now but you should have seen me 10 minutes ago.
Well, going back to after the time I was elected as County Assessor — no this was still the time when I was Deputy County Clerk, by golly there was a fellow that had robbed and he was wanted by the law up in that Red Wing County, so Claude Swift asked me to go along with him. I had a special commission and I remember Tom Trujillo was Deputy Sheriff and Carl Swift —Claude's brother was the undersheriff and of course Claude Swift was Sheriff, and I think old Conrad Cordova went along with us too, course he was always volunteering for any rough work like that so we went up there and they told us that this guy had held in the old Malachite filling station up there. Mickey Wyatt ran that for years. O1d man Wyatt's father, that was representative from here many many years ago. He's dead now but he was State Representative and Mickey ran that long after his father died. This fellow had run in there and I can remember that old Tom Trujillo, there was guys guarding the other way out from there and I went around the back and I could see Tom Trujillo coming in the front door there. I looked, just peeked through the window and I saw this robber sitting the door, or standing behind the door that Tom had to come through, with a pistol in' his hand ready to shoot, I had an old 30—06 rifle and when I cocked it, it made a lot of noise and I had it pointed straight at this guy's heart, which he was only about seven feet from us when he saw that, that pistol dropped automatically and he turned all colors or Tom would have been a gonner, you know, and maybe I would've too. But them are some of the short comments of this thing you don't have that much anymore because they just don't take any chances. In them days people were smart and good law enforcement officers because of common sense. They didn't have to go to college for these things. Hell, what you learn out of a book is just guides you a little bit. The experience is what really counts and you, if you've got the guts to do anything, a man can do anything as long as he's got the guts and he can learn to do things as long as he wants to learn.
Another time we had a County Fair up at the, in Gardner, that's where they used to have the County Fairs, and they sent old Fidel Aguirre, the Lord have mercy on his soul, he went up there to watch, I think Claude Vallejos was with him, cause Claude was jailer and a fight started over there. I won't mention any first names but there was some family of Peraltas wonderful people, very nice people, until they started drinking. Just like these Aguirres that I knew, fine people until they started drinking and then everything would go bad like it still does today with a lot of these hoodlums you know, smoking pot and stuff like that. Anyhow, old Fidel Aguirre went over there to keep peace and they had the dance that night when two of these brothers accosted him outside and the first thing you know one of the boys, he's a big fella, God, he was a big fella, he hit him and then both of them just sunk his head in with a fence post, just killed him and then took off. Then it took some time for — a few days before we went after them and I can remember right there at Farisita there's a big pile of rocks there on one side, sandstone formation there, overlooking the house that was down close to the creek, that's where they lived and that's where they were holed in. I remember that Claude had about twenty guys over there with rifles and Conrad was with us too, then in fact he was always with us with them things. I asked him to let me talk to them because they were good friends of mine and I knew they were good fellows so I walked up there a ways and he said we'll keep you covered and of course they could have shot me if they wanted to cause they were inside. Don't you think for a minute I wasn't scared but I figure it's worth it, I walked a little ways and I told them, I says “You fellas come on out, the place is surrounded and you and your families are in there and your kids. Somebody's gonna get killed.” One of them, “No nos matan, they'll kill us.” I said “No, no, you come out.” I said. “I'll walk a little further there and both of you come out with your hands up,” and that's what they done, they came right out with their hands up, one of them died in the State pen and the other one, he just got out not too long ago and that's been many many years ago.
They were perfectly nice fellows but that liquor in excess isn't good for everybody. People should learn. I just don't believe in it. I believe there's a limit even to eat even though sometimes I like to eat including Panocha, I just love Panocha but I am very careful. I like chicarones, but I don't eat them often because they're bad on my stomach, they're bad on everybody's stomach because they make grease, they make the strongest explosive in the world out of grease, Nitro G1ycerine and that's some of that chicharone there.
I've got a lot of people in this town that resent me, have resented me for years, I forgive them. I just stay away from them. When I got in the Game and Fish Department there was a certain fella, he's dead now. Coal miners, there was three or four brothers and I remember going into a confectionary. Ole Pete O'Rourke was still running that thing there where Biondi's is now and God, I got in there and almost everybody in there talked to me and he didn't. He turned the other way and then one of the guys told him, he says what's the matter don't you like him. He says, “Hell no, I don't want a damn Mexican as my Game Warden and I turned around and I said, “Now look boy, I says, a Mexican is fine, but don't damn me.” I said “You be damn careful with damn because that I won't stand for.” The other, I says, “That's your business.” Well, he says “What are you gonna do about it?” “Nothing,” I said, “you know a Christian believes in God believes in the equality of all human beings, those that believe in the constitution of this Country,” I said, “all men are created equal.” I say, “You neither a Christian nor an American, if you don't believe in that.” You know three weeks later I met that guy. I was coming out of the Star Drug, I started to walk up the street when he said, “Hey, can I shake your hand”. I says “Providing you don't break it.” “ No,” he says “I just want to tell you you're a pretty good man he says.” By golly “I thought you was gonna give me a chance to give you a good beating.” he says, but later I learned that you was in the Marine, “I'm glad he says that you're the way you are,” from there on we were friends. I did learn in the Marine Corps, I learned to scout and sniping, how to break backs, how to flip people over, how to kill. Mostly because we learned to kill, but not to hurt over there and I'm very shy about using some of that stuff. Every now and then it comes to me and I just walk away from it because I think a fellas got to cool off a little bit to get away from that comfort and especially having been in the Marine Corps and taking that training. I gotta be awful, awful careful with what comes up and I believe this world would be a lot better off including every country of the world if you could settle everything by talking instead of by shooting. I think this world would be a lot better off.
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