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Typed by Phyllis Miranda
Interviewed by Rosalyn McCain
August: I went down there and there was some big Mexicans in my grade, you know. Big ones! I went home and I told my dad. I said, “Hey dad, pop, that's no school for me!” He says, “Why?” I says, “There's men going to school down there.” I says, “I can't go to school to down there, there's big men in my class.” My dad said, “Naw,” he said, “Them are just Mexicans that herd sheep all their life. They go to school two days or three days a week or a month.” Yah, but I laughed. Yah, we played with the Lessars. They went there one year when I went. Then they changed, they split the district up and they went up to Silver Mountain. They had their own school over there, see. But after that, it was just us and the Mexicans. And that's where I learned to speak Mexican.
Kathy: Did you know Italian?
August: Oh, yah. Oh, yah, I can read and write Italian, and also speak Spanish here, they don't speak it correct.
August: No, I can go to Old Mexico and knowing Italian, it's pretty much real close. Then French is close. But French is not as close as Italian and Mexican. I mean Spanish, the real Spanish language.
Kathy: Did your parents come over here?
August: Oh, yah!
Kathy: Were they born in Italy?
August: No, no, they were born in Austria. You see, they call us Italians, Kathy, and they're wrong. My mom and dad were both Austrians.
Kathy: Were they married over there?
August: No, they were married here in Walsenburg. My dad came over here in 1905 and mother in 1906. See then my dad worked up at Silverton, till he broke his ribs. Then he worked, he came down while his ribs were mending, and got a job at Rouse. He worked Rouse, Lester, Pryor. Then from there, then he worked back at Big Four, Alamo, Butte Valley, Sunnyside, Turner, and all them mines. Now what else do you want to know?
Kathy: Did you work in the mines at all?
August: You bet!
Kathy: When did you start?
August: I started in 1934.
Kathy: How old were you?
August: Fifteen. Not quite fifteen, just about fifteen. I worked with my dad at Rouse. See and you always thought that I was just a solid farmer. Yah, I worked with my dad from 1934 to 1939. And then I quit there in 1939, and I worked for Ugolini down here on the Dairy for five months. Then I worked at Studebaker garage for another four or five months. Then from there back into the mountains. I went to Canada. I worked there a year and a half. Then I went to Butte Valley, and I worked for six years. And then Whitney Valley.
Kathy: Where's that Butte Valley at?
August: It's up by Alamo. At one time it was called Barber, then Vic took over and he called it Butte Valley. So, then from there I quit and I came to Morning Glory. I worked two and a half years at Morning Glory and then from there I went to California machine shop. And I ranched all my life, besides that, Of course, Kathy knows that I ranch.
Kathy: How many brothers and sisters?
August: Well there was three brothers, counting me, and three sisters. My older sister Sarah, she passed away here a year and a half ago. Then Sylvia Pffaffenhauser, Linda Zacanelli, and then Ermer and Emmenio. A lot of nieces and nephews. A lot of cousins.
Kathy: Did your parents tell you any stories say, about the Indians or anything?
August: No, see this was back. There was an old Mexican man that used to tell us stories that lived on that property where the school was, see. He was just a small kid, there was still Indians here. Of course, he was part Indian, see. That was the Apaches, they were here at the time. Then of course, my school teacher's husband, Charlie Lewis, we found the pouch, the bow and arrow and all, hanging on a tree, and a lot of arrow heads, that's about all.
Kathy: Did they tell you lots of stories.
August: Oh, yah, they told me a lot of stories but that don't have to do with this part of the country, see in Europe. If you want to know the story of my dad. My dad, of course, he went to high school over there. 0f course, it's not like here, like you got many years. When you're in the 4th grade over there, it's equivalent to an 8th grader here. All right, he went to high school and then from there he went into being a priest, into the seminary. Well, he served three masses, when he was called into the Army. Then after that his dad didn't want him to go to the Army. He says, “You're a priest. You can get deferred and just go ahead and get through.” And so my dad, since my granddad used to come back and forth to the United States, four different times. He used to brag to my dad, which he was just a young fellow, at the time, he used to say, “Boy, the United Sates is a beautiful Country.” So my dad figured in his mind, he says, “I'm going to go ahead and serve the Army.” He served under Kaiser, at the time, and at that time the Germans and Austria had the joint armed forces. It was all one group. And my dad, they called him Kaiser Yeager. Which is, in this country where you would say body guard. But that's what he did in the Cavalry. He served three years in the Armed forces over there. He saved as much money as he could. Then he had a friend that went in the Army with him, from the same country, from Austria. He borrowed the rest of the money and then came to the United States, in a French liner. In the coal mines, my dad was a priest and a lot of guys didn't know it.
Kathy: I can't believe it. In what religion?
August: Catholic. Oh, yah, we got eight in my, on my dad's side that are related to my dad that are priests. In fact I had one…another one that died in China.
Kathy: A priest?
August: You better believe it, and quite a few in Italy, of course, now the part that was Austria, where my dad was born, after World War I they gave that piece of the Alps to Italy. So if my dad was born there, after 1918, we would have been Italian. But see he came in 1905. See the story, a lot of guys call me Italian. Oh, it doesn't bother me one bit. We're really Austrians but we speak the Italian language. In fact we used to talk. My dad spoke German real well. That's our family.
Kathy: And you lived up at that ranch?
August: I was born on that ranch in Yellowstone, in 1918.
Kathy: Did you have a doctor? Or was it just like a midwife?
August: My dad delivered all us kids-every one of us. My mother did not have a doctor. Everyone was delivered by my daddy. Then of course, my mother was a midwife. She worked here and there. Do you know the Friels? My mother delivered all those kids except Irene Friel. Because she came from Ireland. She delivered everyone of them. The Batuellos down there, she delivered those kids. Aldo Berte and his sister, my mother delivered. And a lot of Spanish kids that I can't remember. And then my nephews and nieces, mother delivered. And she did a lot of work with Dr. Chapman, see in a lot of cases they'd call the doctor in and she'd take over for the nurse. So there's a big history, really if you start from Europe and go back this way.
Kathy: Did you get into town much?
August: Who us? Yah, in a horse and buggy. In fact, my dad one time bought an Oldsmobile, but we had a friend that used to drive the car 'cause my dad didn't know how to drive, but the car belonged to my dad. So one day this guy said, I'm going to have to teach you how to drive because if something happens to me or if I go out and work somewhere else, I won't be around to drive you around. So we had a well out there in the middle of the field there, where we got our drinking water, see, so this guy said, “I'll start it and I'll jump off to the side and I'll show you how to drive it.” So my dad gets in there and away he goes. This guy's name was Ernest. My dad goes around and around, that's all he was doing. Going in a circle and hollering, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” and around and around, he was going, finally this guy got tired. We were just kids, I remember it real well. He finally waited the chance and he jumped in and says, “This is not horses, you don't say whoa to this thing, you put on the brakes.” Then another time we was in Big Four, you know, and my dad didn't have very good brakes on this car. So right there at Tioga, it was at that time the old Tioga Camp, because my mother ran the boarding house for years. My dad says, “OK, I'll go real slow”, he told my mother, “'cause I got no brakes. You open the door,” he says, “And I'll go in real slow.” See, my mother went and she opened the door and here comes my dad. He wasn't coming slow enough. So, my mother got to the side and it was a touring car you know, one of them old-time Oldsmobiles. 240 Oldsmobile. So we ducked down. My dad went right through the doors, went right through the other side of the wall. No kidding. My dad he had to build that garage for the CF&I. He went right on through. My mother says, “It's a wonder you didn't cut them kids head off.” But we seen him going, so we all ducked down behind the seat. My dad went through the doors and then went through the other wall. And you know it was just tin and two by fours. Bump, bump, bump, bump, like that we had a lot. There's big stories, I'll te1l you man.
Kathy: What was the town like, then? Did it have a lot of stores?
August: Oh, yah, at that time, when I can remember anyway. There was a lot of stores, a lot of horse posts, hitching posts, whatever they call them, to tie their horse down. I remember the horse and buggy taxi, because the guy who ran the taxi here in Walsenburg, was related to my daddy.
Kathy: What was his name?
August: We always called him John Taxi, because of his taxi. I forget his last name. It wasn't Andreatta, Patrissi or something like that. Step real high for a couple of passengers. The town was really nicer then, because you take a lot of your commercial properties today are boarded up. They could make big money. And then from there, I worked at Westcliffe for three years during the depression, in the summer when the miners didn't work. When the miners did work, we used to work 2, 3 days, sometimes a week or maybe sometimes we'd work 3 days a whole month. I remember we worked for Sam Taylor in Rouse, and we used to strike for our money. But the poor bugger didn't get any money, we didn't get it, see. Of course, Sam did a lot of gambling that's what we figured. And we didn't get the money for us working guys.
Kathy: So it was hard in the depression?
August: Oh, you better believe it. I made it through one, and I'd hate to go through another one. This one would be worse. This would really be bad to see. We're heading for it, if they don't hurry up and do something. That's the thing, the big guys are just getting too strong and the poor getting poorer. If I could get poor enough, I could get help. But see I'm caught in the middle. Like the majority. I mean if I was to come down here, I got a cousin that works and she graduated from High School and she's working down here at the Welfare Office. If I was to stick my head in for help, she'd kill me right there. I know that! Just because I worked hard all my life, they think I can continue working hard.
Kathy: What about the strike? Do you remember the Big Strike?
August: Well, this I remember the 1927 Strike, which was the Wobbly Strike that I remember. And in fact, I remember being in town that day. We were over at the Andreatta building on 7th Street. A kid by the name of Cecil Martinez, a kid that went to school with me at Sunnyside. Lee Lopez, they shot him right in the back. He was loading groceries, this poor little kid. he was only 12 years old. I remember that. I remember going to Union Hall, because I remember, I went with my dad one time. My dad had a big Airedale. Black sort of Airedale, and that dog would follow me. So when I went with my dad, we'd try to chase the dog back, but he wouldn't go back. He'd go back a little ways, then he'd see me. He was raised with me, then he'd come in. There was another guy, he had a Bulldog, a big Boston Bull, like that. Then he told my dad, you'd better keep that dog away, because this dog is going to eat that Airedale. My dad says, let him eat him. Then maybe he'll learn to stay home. You know my dad was a rough, tough man. He said if your dog will eat him, let him eat him! Man, and then these two dogs got in a fight in the Union Hall. It was down on 10th Street, there or Ninth Street. These dogs got together. That Airedale killed that Bulldog almost, just tore his whole ear off, and part of his cheek off. My dad says, what did you tell me? That Bulldog was going to eat that Airedale? No way, everybody was jumpin' on top of the chairs and on top of the benches. These dogs, my dad tried to grab the dog, no way, man, no way. And then finally when that Bulldog couldn't move no more, we called the dog Jack. Come here Jack! I was just a little kid, I was on top of an old table. Come here Jack, get back here. I yelled out and he started back. While they were fighting mad, you couldn't break them up. That old dog, I remember them guys, there was no more meeting, the dogs had them all going on top of the chairs, and all over the place. Nobody could, my dad tried to grab the dogs and the dog just wouldn't listen, he wasn't about to let that dog eat him. My dad ended up shooting him. He was out hunting, and he didn't know that the dog had followed him. He looked like a bear, because he was black and he was big. The dog came around like that and my dad was out there. Sure enough, he hauled off thinking he was a bear. When we got to him, my dad almost cried, 'cause that dog, the kids, nobody could touch us, nobody. I mean somebody would try to come down and hurt us, that dog would eat them, he was tough. He was a big dog. And then of course, I went to school in Turner, Sunnyside, Big Four, and Larsen.
Kathy: Did you graduate from eighth grade?
August: Yah, I did.
Kathy: Did you graduate from High School?
August: No, I took the eighth and ninth for one reason. 'Cause I figured I'd shorten my high school to three years. I wanted to go to college, to be a lawyer. And my teacher Helen Lewis, you don't remember her, but your mother does. She said, August, it won't cost you a penny. I live right here next to the high school, and that's all you have to do is run my errands, and bring me in coal and wood. She'd give me free board, and school. And I argued with my dad for two and a half months, to go to school and finally I had to give up. My teacher said, “No you can make it, August.” I argued with the old man, finally I gave up. “If that's the case”, he said, “You got to help me raise the rest of the kids.” I ended up being a nobody. Nobody.
Kathy: What crops did you have? Did you raise Alfalfa?
August: Oh, yah, we raised alfalfa and hay. In those years we used to plant a lot of corn. We raised a lot of corn. We had to cultivate it, you know. Horse cultivator and hoe it. We used to get up early in the morning, before sun, real early. Go out before breakfast, when it was still cool and then about 10:30, we'd come in and eat our breakfast. There was me, my sisters, and brothers, all of us. Some would cultivate, the other ones would follow up and pull the weeds around the plants. Then we raised cattle and sheep.
Kathy: And the way, you didn't make bales, you used to stack it?
August: Just stack it loose, yah, stack it loose, and stack it with the wagons, mow it with the horses, rake it. Me and my sister, Sylvia, were the ones who had it tough. 'Cause she was right next to me all the time with the mower. She'd handle a team just like I did. And my other sister Linda, she was an inside girl. She was scared of the animals, scared of the cows. Me and Sylvia ended up milking in the morning. We used to milk 12 - 18 cows, feed the cows, clean the stables, then go to school, walk three and a half miles one way. The other ones would clean up, eat breakfast and go to school. We'd come home and me and Sylvia would have to go. Maybe my mother would have cinnamon rolls or a cup of milk. We'd eat one, and then go milk and then come back and have supper. Me and my sister had it. My older sister, she didn't stay too long with us. Then she got married and left . Me and my sister, Sylvia, we ended up not getting nothing after my dad and mother passed away. I mean not the rest, my two brothers. Of course, I don't envy them one bit, it don't hurt me because I've always done good, at least it's there. Nobody can ever walk up and say, you know that guy got something! Because I can always tell my brothers. They always go around, tell everybody, well although we worked hard for what we got. They don't tell it to me, because they got something that could've belonged to me.
Kathy: Did you make all your own stuff, like your mother would churn butter? Chickens, did you sell eggs?
August: Oh yah, my mother, you better believe it. Oh, we had chickens, turkeys, ducks, and rabbits. I had a hundred does. I had a building bigger than this, of course, just made up of logs and dirt roof. But I had a hundred does. I used to sell rabbits at 20˘ each. Some of them 25˘. So, just figure what the difference is, and I thought we were making money. And then I needed a donkey, to go to school, I figured well, that was pretty fair. I had about three more years to graduate. This guy comes up and says, I'll trade you ten rabbits, and I'll trade you the donkey. So I traded him ten does, for the donkey. I got me a donkey. Sometime I couldn't catch the donkey in the morning, so I had to walk to school. My dad would let us ride the horse, maybe once or twice a month, because it gets skinny too fast. The donkey, you could turn him loose down there and put hobbles on. Let him graze around the school and he'd eat brush and anything.
Kathy: Where did you eat lunch?
August: We'd pack our lunch and me and my sister, we used to argue all the way home because, see these Mexicans would always, I'll tell you really what the story was, because the Mexican girls always used to follow me, see, and these Mexican boys used to get mad, so they call me Dago, this and that. And Dago, see this didn't go with us, because Dagos are South Italians, way down in the boot. And us guys from way up there, high. We didn't get along with the Southerners. So, boy, we'd get to fighting. And my sister would never leave me alone, 'cause she figured some day I'll need some help. She never did have to, but Sylvia used to always stay there. When the fight was over, then me and her would argue all the way, she said just on account of you fighting, we're going to have to milk in the dark again. We'd go off and argue. We never did fight ourselves, but argued all the way home. No kidding. I'll bet that I never missed very many days that I didn't have a fight. Everyday, somebody would cross me and a lot of time, some kids would pick on Ermer. Ermer, when he was a kid, he just. put his hand like that (covering his head) and let those guys hit him. Then me, it was either me or my brother Emmenio, either one of us when we felt it was.just about right then we'd jump in and clean house. No kidding, we'd tell Ermer, what are you going to do? You going to fight, keeping your hands over your head. I said, haul off. After he went to the Army, I guess he'd be different. But when he was a kid Emmenio and me fought most of his fights.
Kathy: You never did go to the Service did you?
August: No, I went to the examination three times, though. I got deferred, because I was working in the coal mines, and of course, I had Frank then in '41. In '41 I was rejected. The best part, the first two times I went, I was, let's see, A-something I forget how they figured it, 'cause I had the kid. Then I went the second time and I was still A-something. And then the third time, they found that I had a nervous stomach, and turned me down. I went to the last room, I figured I'd go, but I know I was suffering, 'cause I used to go to the mine and I was sick. I said, “I want to get into the Army this time, 'cause I want to have Uncle Sam pay for mine.” They turned me down, me and Jeff Rogers. Jeff Rogers, I don't know why he didn't pass but he didn't. Of course, he is quite a few years younger than I. Herman Toiler, went with me, Bud Myers, of course, they were inducted into the Army. Emilio, my cousin, and then Tommy Ovnich and his brother, were the ones that got killed after two weeks that they were in the Army. They shipped them over and...
Kathy: When you were younger did your mother have remedies?
August: Oh, yah, you bet.
Kathy: That she brought over from the Old Country?
August: Yah, some of them, I mean, there was some herbs, you know, that come from the Old Country, teas and stuff like that. But when she came here, there was an old lady, I guess she was part Indian, and she showed my mother a lot of these herbs that were out in the Prairie, that she used to get. I remember she used to pick a weed that was called, La Aranja De San Jose in Spanish. The branch of St. Joseph and you boil a couple of little branches in water, and drink the water and it physics you like that. If you needed a physic, see, everything would come out. Oh no, they had that Chamomile, she used to raise it. My mother Amalva, oh yah, osha is that root.
Kathy: What does it do?
August: I don't know what they give it for any more.
Kathy: People drink it, and Indians used to wash it and wash their hair with it?
August: Oh, my sisters always used to pick this Yucca Plant, the roots, and then they used to get me out there, and we had a, I remember, a big stone in front of the thing. We'd cut these roots in pieces about like that and smash them with a hammer, see, and then stick them in the water. Of course, they stayed in water. Boy, that water would suds up and they would wash their hair.
Kathy: It's a cactus, eh?
August: Well, it's in the family of, I would call it cactus. Yah, its got those points a lot like palms. And then of course, around that time the farmers used to, they're not like today. We used to start down at the bottom of the Valley, because this was at lower elevation and would ripen sooner and quicker to cut. We'd cut this first and we'd help each other. We were the last ones to put up our hay.
Kathy: Who were your closest neighbors?
August: Well, right next to us, well, I was born where Ermer lives now. The next one was an old Portugese, Torino was his name. Then down below there, when I was a small kid, was John Allum. And then there was Ben Martinez, down below them was Secal Martinez, then Joe Giordano, then Sanchez, then Castro and of course, farther down there was Padia, and Sanisteven came in there later. Oh, yah, I was already married when Sanisteven came up there. They were down there on the flats, way down by Alamo. No, when I first went to school there, I'm telling you, on the first day I looked around at these big fellows, man I didn't think I belonged there. And we only had one time when my dad moved out there they were only teaching five months out of the year. So my dad came down and at that time Mrs. Thorne was the School Superintendent. He says, there is no way that we are gonna have five months of school, up here on the ranch. They have nine months in camp. I don't want my kid to be a burro. So then from there on, we had nine months of school.
Kathy: Was she the superintendent?
August: Yah, she was for 31 or 32 years. When I graduated, it was Mrs. Simpson, which beat Mrs. Thorne out. But all my sisters graduated under Mrs. Thorne.
Kathy: Did you have to carry your own water for the house?
August: Oh, yah, you better believe we used to carry it. My mother is going to wash clothes like tomorrow, right? We'd go over to the well and fill these three tubs full of water. See early in the morning she used to get us up. My mother was just a small lady. My dad was big, but my mother, I could put her in my pocket. She used to make us haul our own wood and chop it. Granddad pulled a joke. I ordered a quart of whiskey from Emminio, and he was down putting up the hay with Johnny Kimbrel and George liked to drink. So, Emminio had the quart of whiskey in the back of the car, see. So old George, he drank about half of the whiskey, and then he put some chokecherry wine in it, and closed it. Emminio comes home, and comes in without thinking nothing of it. He gives me the thing. I said, “This thing has been opened.” He says, “I never opened it.” So I pulled it out to drink some. I said, “Hey, there is wine in here, this is not whiskey. Wait a while.” So I took it down the next day, where he was working to the Kimbrel ranch. I helped Johnny down there some, too. So Emminio went and he told Johnny, “I think your dad pulled me a good one.” “What happened?” Johnny said. Because Johnny liked to drink too, don't ever kid yourself. So Johnny went and asked the old man, “Hey” he said, “Did you take a drink out of it?” “Yah,” he said, “I took a drink out of it.” “Yah,” he said, “Why did you put the wine to spoil the thing?” So he bought me a quart of whiskey and kept the other one. He drank it. He drank that other spoiled stuff.
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