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with comments by Charlie Duran
Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Phyllis Miranda
Date of Interview - 1979
Interviewed by Elaine Baker and Jeanette Thach
EB: Did the strike make any difference in the conditions of the mines?
SV: Oh yes, they improved; they improved a whole lot, the environment of the people, the farmers. And of course, there was a surge of people that came even from ten years before the first strike.
JT: Would you say it was 1900, or would you say it was 1890?
SV: 1900, that's when they did this work so primitive, in a very primitive, in a very primitive way. You know how these people, Mr. Dick and them, did it.
JT: Please tell me.
SV: He had a pole, maybe, about twenty or thirty feet long, and they would straddle that, like a horse back, they just moved that drill up and down, and they had to carry the water sometimes to pour in this drill hole, to get this thing going. You take the Cameron mine, that's the way these people started drilling, you know. And of course, right above town here, you can see against the bank of the hill there. Coal would be behind that roof.
JT: The coal veins?
SV: Yes, the coal veins.
JT: Do you mean the hogback? Between the present looking rocks, was that coal in there?
SV: Well, yes, course it wasn't very good quality, but they had to improve. They improved everything by selling coal even when _______ was taking this coal and would go out and sell it.
JT: Right here in town?
SV: Yes, right here in town. They'd take it to Pueblo, the steel mills, I suppose. And I don't know what else.
JT: The railroads should have been taking it then. Maybe they'd take it in the wagons and teams of horses to wherever the railroad would load it. Or wasn't that going on yet?
SV: Well, I guess not. I couldn't say.
JT: But this is what you'd call a private mine owned by local people?
SV: Well yes, the Dicks and the Turners, these people that we knew or I knew they were workers, coal miners. And Mr. Dick and one of the fellows that was running that Oakview mine, well he got shot and killed while he was carrying the payroll. You know, right there where the Marlboro Cafe, what do you call that, right where the ditch crosses the highway there.
JT: The Strawberry mine. Not the Strawberry mine?
SV: No, west, I'm thinking of west of Walsenburg.
JT: Oh, right here, yea.
SV: Yea, near a place where Joe has that restaurant.
SV: And they had to face it. It was pretty hard, to develop way up to Sunnyside, Marlboro, and Tioga, and all that you know. They had to put the railroad through there. It was very hardship. My relatives used to work there, too, and I know more or less what they went through.
JT: It was a pretty rugged time in starting all the mining that we had here and it was done by small individuals first. Then later on big companies moved in and bought it or…?
SV: Yes, the big companies, I guess they bought this coal and I guess they took it to Pueblo up to the steel mill.
JT: The Colorado Fuel and Iron then bought a lot of land and acquired it a piece at a time. So now Walsenburg is surrounded on three sides, two sides by Colorado Fuel and Iron land. That's why Loma Park and the new homes can only go about so far and they run into a fence. Then going up highway 160 to where Marlboro is, is all Colorado Fuel and Iron land and everything east of there to another highway, when you go north out of Walsenburg you're still circling Colorado Fuel and Iron land. They still own a lot.
EB: During this strike how did people survive? 1913, the big one.
SV: Well, the farms, they took quite a bit of them people because the fellows that were working over here, they were related with somebody over there. They spread out and that's about the way they could survive.
EB: When did the water rights start, the system or ditches?
SV: I don't know.
JT: Yes, I was going to tell you that the number one water right is at the foot of Huerfano River down here close to Walsenburg where the butte is. Now the reason, from studying all the water rights through our land business you finally go back to the history of the first irrigation water rights. Now the Indian people taught the Spanish people how to use the ditches out of the river along the Huerfano River. There were many little Ute settlements which were already irrigating out of the river. And I studied the Number 20 ditch and the history of Number One, because I used to ask how come the number one water right on the Huerfano is down here by the butte. That happens to be the number one water right of all the rights on the Huerfano. That was the first place that became dry where the river quit running. Those were the people that went to the state and got the water right established in their names.
EB: What year was that about?
JT: In the 1860's.
EB: We still have gun fights on the ditches on the Huerfano. Was it always like that? Did people always fight about water rights?
SV: Oh, yes, they'd always fight. Priority, you know. Of course, it's very hard to settle water. I want to say that if a river, a stream of water, runs through town, you have to give them.
JT: First, number one.
SV: Yes, and they talked about the water rights, we find that all the water belong to the state, and then there's another force and that will be national.
JT: That is why they were trying to take Colorado's water not too long ago, the federal government. And Colorado is really the owner of the water that originates and goes down through the Colorado River into Arizona and California. But that was compact made between the states to get water out of Colorado, out of the Colorado River. That's one thing that he's talking about. But we in Colorado really own, Colorado really owns the water to begin with. Isn't that right, Sam?
SV: Yea, of course, those rights that were acquired in those days, why they come and go. You know they come and go, there's times when nobody cares about water. The years are so dry that nobody tries to do nothing. Now those people have to depend on the outside resources. Like Antonio Lovato, Felix Mestas' father-in-law. He told me that there was a year that was so dry they couldn't raise nothing. They had to survive on plants like woco, wild mustard.
JT: How did they utilize it, from around the roots, or what?
SV: Well, it's so dry. One of the fellows was telling of what they had to go through, and he said that for five years they couldn't raise nothing. They survived on these plants, that on the valley, you know, like Chemaha and Camote and salorius and wild stuff like that.
JT: The roots?
SV: Yes, well they don't have that no more, unfortunately, he said after five years we bought…
JT: That must have been in the early 70's-1870's?
SV: Something like that.
EB: Before they established the water rights?
SV: Yea, I got one of those spears you know that they used to have to kill buffalo. I have it up there in my house and everybody wants to see it. Felix Mestas gave me that and, the old man, he agreed to give me that spear.
EB: Do you still have it?
EB: Well before anything happens to it, we want to take a picture of it and the story that goes with it.
SV: That's what they used to kill the buffalo when they road on horseback and speared the buffalo. And they had a thing like that, where a fellow got killed. The horse stumbled and fell and somehow or other he had that thing to go through his chest.
JT: And he died?
SV: Ya, the horses had to be trained, too, so that when they do this spearing the buffalo. Well, they stumble, lots of times the horses stumble. They had to be trained so that whenever you throw your spear your horse jump back. So you train your horses like that you know.
EB: When you were growing up were there still Indians living here? Were there still Indians when you were growing up?
SV: Well, no, I, just that fellow Charlie something. He was a captive, and my mother and my grandmother; I told you that she raised a little captive Indian. He gave about three cows, the value of about three cows.
JT: For one little Indian boy.
SV: For one little Indian boy, yea.
JT: How old was he?
SV: Three years.
JT: Oh, they bought him for three cows. What tribe did he belong to?
SV: Apache, I guess. And the muscles they had. The other one, they bought two Indians, you know, and my grandmother got one by the name of Vicente. And the other, Tomasio Vigil's family got the other one. His name was Lucas. That's given names, you know.
JT: And did they call him Lucas Vigil afterwards?
SV: Yes, sure.
EB: So did they work with the families?
SV: Oh, yes.
EB: They would do the work?
SV: Oh, yes.
JT: They raised them like their own children. They took care of them as their own families. Didn't they, Sam? They took very good care of them.
SV: They were happy. Oh, yeah.
JT: They taught them, and they raised them beautifully. You'd never know the difference between the adopted child, the acquired Indian child, and their own Spanish because they really were kind.
SV: They had a Indian too, you know. I guess this son grew to manhood, but he couldn't do nothing, no education of any kind, just hard work for those two Indians. And there's quite a few here in town. You know, they had a trail made after they moved. You know that they could get home pretty good. Some of them did pretty well, some of them not so well. One of the Indians, what was his name, I see, San Juan, I forgot his name now, but he had trouble one time trying to get a woman to marry him. They had trouble, so he went and committed suicide.
JT: Oh that's sad, that was sad, wasn't it?
SV: Yes it was sad. Discrimination, find fault, you know, there was always plenty faults everywhere, just like we have now.
JT: When you speak of your mother, where was she born?
SV: In Mora, New Mexico.
JT: And your father?
SV: He was born in Conejos.
JT: And what was your mother's maiden name?
JT: Armenta, that was an old Spanish family.
SV: Yea, that's for tea. I believe that there was about ten or twenty wild plants that we could eat, you know.
JT: What's the white root, when I was a little girl we children used to go out and dig it early in the spring. It was real good. It looked like the white radish root. But I can't remember the name of it.
SV: Oh, it was Camote.
JT: Camote. I loved it. Camote.
SV: Yea, camote.
JT: Chimaya. I don't remember that.
SV: That's like celery. The roots were eatable you could eat it any time. Lechero, that's great.
JT: The milkweed? What parts good?
SV: Well, everything.
JT: No, they said it was poison.
SV: Cominos were very similar. Cominos were very similar, and those were poisonous.
JT: Did they look like the milkweed?
JT: And they called it cominos and that was poisonous?
JT: And how do you say milkweed in Spanish?
JT: Lechero the one that has milk in the stem. That was okay.
SV: The blossom, you can eat the blossoms, and you can eat the bud, a little harder part. Then there was a large pod in the shape of a banana. That thing was very, very useful too, you know, 'cause you could eat all the different kinds.
JT: You could eat the blossom and the stem and leaves too?
SV: And the root.
JT: And the poisonous one looked like the milk weed?
SV: Oh, yea, you have to keep away from it anyways. That one plant had three seasons. You could eat in the beginning and you could eat after ____________. I can think of about three of four ways to make that plant useful. And then there's embodayana. That's a gummy thing. It makes chewing gum. Oh, there's so many plants.
JT: Will you show me some plants some day if I take you in the hills?
SV: They're not there no more. Cota. Cota, we use that for tea. Yea, going to La Veta, well, I couldn't find it. I went up there about a year ago. It's two kinds. And then I don't know what made me put this estafate?
JT: Do you make tea out of that?
SV: Yea, but I'll tell you later. It's bitter. When we used to eat too much candy, or too much sugar or syrup, you know your teeth set on edge, so it is very useful, those plants.
JT: Oh, how cute this is. I've been dying to know what these weeds and brush and things are for. Manuelita Martinez used to go with me to the mountains and she'd always say, “Stop at the gate. I see something growing there and I want that.” And I'd say, “Manuelita, what are you going to use that for.” “Oh” she'd say, “I'm going to make some tea, it's for this or for that.” And I'd say, “Show me how you use it” Oh, she says, “You'll never learn. You're too dumb.” Chamiso, that's the tea. They use it for everything. It's so bitter. Yea, that's what they gave my brother, one day Paul did. That's good for high blood pressure. I should go get some.
EB: What part, the root?
JT: No, it's the blossom. The green part. You dry it and hang it in a bag and when you want to make tea you go and get some of the leaves. Very bitter. Sam has things that he saw his mother use in the early days, before there was any other medicine or any other doctors.
EB: I wanted to ask you about outlaws.
SV: Outlaws. I didn't see any. I didn't see nothing of that sort. But I hear a lot because the Espinozas were related to our people. So they used to keep each other that story about the Espinozas, you know, it's very interesting, you know. In years to come, in years past, they still have Indians here, you know. They were rebellious, and the English had a little trouble with the Indians, the soldiers, you know. So they stationed a company of soldiers in Fort Garland about 1888 or something like. These were still a little trouble. So they had soldiers in Fort Garland. And they had a little trouble. One soldier was missing one morning and he didn't respond to call. They had a Gallo Day and the part that lost paid for that dance. Alright, this soldier didn't appear and he didn't show up in the morning. Nothing was said for quite awhile but then one night when they were having a dance, why one of the Espinozas was using the government saddle and nobody know how they obtained the saddle but the soldier that was missing got a lawyer and he came back or not but the Spanish and the English had a little trouble, always had a little bit of trouble. Jealous, you know. That's when they started some of this outlaws. And there were, what do they call themselves hiding behind for travelers, pirates.
JT: They ambushed people.
SV: The young people used to go out north and work and bring a little money home. And these rascals would be up there in the middle of the mountain you know, and kill these fellows and take their money. And we had a lot of that all the time. Even in the present time things like that happen.
JT: They'd hold them up?
SV: Yea, they'd hold them up. Oh that Espinozas, they were terrible. And my dad told me that he was in Denver one time out on the lawn, you know, and he hadn't talked to English fellows and he says, “Do you live up there by Fort Garland” and my dad says, “Yes, I was born up there.” Well, you know, the Espinozas that's what brought this trouble. But that was a mystery that no one could ever find out, what became of that soldier and the Espinozas finally had to be murdered and killed after, well, you probably know something about it.
JT: Yes, I do know something about it.
SV: But the relation of them Espinozas was, well, just one little boy that had been here a couple of days. Espinoza boy you know, the rest you know, you never could tell what became of them. Then we can go and start with the coal mining.
JT: Yes, again.
SV: That was a terrible thing.
JT: The first coal mining that you saw was where? Where was the first coal mine you saw around here that was really working, where was that?
SV: Well, I did hear that when the coal mines started working there came a time when people wouldn't work more. They'd been working to get a little money so they blow the whistle and the miners would come up. They want more money, I suppose, and better conditions that they finally got. But they had trouble settling a matter of wages and the detective went out there outside the mine, watching the people do the work. I came morning to go to work and they blew the whistle and they never go to work again. So they had detectives go looking around looking around, to see what they could do, but no people were out there laying down you know. They wanted this and they wanted that, and they got part of it, of course. And In 1913 that coal strike, that battle of Hasting took place. Then they sent the soldiers to the state militia. They gave them a little more money and they promised this and they promised the other and the other side would do the same thing, so they sent the soldiers back. Then they organized a kind of militia you know, and I went and joined.
JT: Oh, you were part of the militia, how interesting. The state was hiring you wasn't that right?
SV: They were trying to organize the people, so that they could organize baseball teams or football, and get the people together~ that's when we went and joined.
JT: How old were you then? About twenty? Nineteen?
SV: About twenty.
JT: The militia had about how many in your little company, how many men were there?
SV: Oh, about eight, I think.
JT: Just eight.
SV: Just the work you know we did do nothing just to let the people know.
JT: That you were a member of the militia.
SV: Yea, there was quite a few boys that used to be here that joined that you know. But they demolish, you know, they ____________ most jobs. They keep on working, you know. I got a better job and....
JT: You were the weigh master? You were in charge of the weighing?
SV: We talked about that didn't we?
JT: Yes. First you worked as a member of the militia sort of to find out.
SV: No, no. The first job that I got was a foreman outside the mine, and there was a loading slack, you know when they couldn't sell coal they would unload the slack you maybe seen piles of slack. Then they had a bunch of them they had me working there and they got me a lot of them people from Mexico, they got them to come in. So I had to talk both languages. They were poor fellows, they were poor people. Some of them fellows they had no shirts.
JT: No shirts.
SV: They had just one shirt them fellows when they came in here course, they gave them a chance to buy clothes. But they were poor and the sad thing that hurts me is that they quit their wives and their families, you know, when they came in here.
JT: They didn't bring their wives with them?
SV: Well, very few, very few but they were_______. You take the comachos. They went to Jaramillo's church because he was a Mexican.
JT: He was kind, and he understood them.
SV: Yea, so that the way with marriage. So I had all kinds of jobs there in Cameron. I used to run the pumps and the scale and so on and so forth. They had two mines in Cameron, one was the shaft and the other one was the slope.
JT: One was Cameron number one and the other was Cameron number two or what?
SV: Yes, they called that mine solar. Gold, gold. Oscar Nujes, had a bunch of cows there. You know, selling milk, you know, he got off pretty good. But we didn't have,no, we didn't have another strike, until after the war, I guess.
SV: No, there was a strike earlier.
SV: Yea, there was after 1913 and 14, I think.
JT: What schools do you remember going to Sam?
SV: I didn't go to school. I didn't go to this school--this brick school house where I live you know. I went to that school for a while and my dad says, “We're to busy here.”
JT: How did you learn such beautiful English and grammar? How did you learn all that? Did you read all the time?
SV: Well, yea, I try to. My dad he tried to help us. He talked English all the time. A lot of these people from the south, my family and my people came from New Mexico. In New Mexico, my father lived in a place they call Rito.
JT: The Spanish in Conejos, there still very much a true Spanish, in that they speak the old Spanish. No, it's not Castilian. It's the Castilian is one kind of Spanish spoken in Spain and the kind of Spanish that we hear on the Huerfano River and the Rivers in the San Luis Valleys is a two hundred year old language that was not forgotten of not mixed up with present day slang as is used. When students at the University of Colorado want to learn how the Spanish language sounded two hundred years ago in Spain they come to parts of the San Luis Valley and up on the Huerfano River because what's spoken there is antique. I mean it's old. It's the old sound.
SV: Well, I used to believe that we shouldn't bother with the Spanish language. We ought to get down and learn the English and use the English and so on and so forth. But now I find out that we can't get real Spanish you cannot get real Spanish language.
JT: No way. It's a part of the way of life in three or four states in the West that's Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado that is all still very much Spanish, am I right?
SV: Yes. My granddad was driving team mules to the American line and that was in Pueblo that was the line you know.
JT: Arkansas River?
SV: Yea, south of that is Mexico so these people, don't know, well, I'll tell you what happened. They couldn't use the old language and they rather use the English they finally had to use the English because there was no Indian lands no more for that tribe.
JT: Oh, I didn't know that's why we don't.
SV: There's two impulses, you see. You can't get rid of the Spanish language. For one thing the Catholic Church was so strong, all through this country and California, Spanish names, Spanish names. Every where you go you find Spanish names. And of course the same thing happened of the east where the French Carlotta. Well, she married the king of Austria and they came up here to Mexico and they murdered them. Caroltta and Juarez and those things you know.
End of one side.
EB: Sam Vigil and I will continue this and we'll wait for you when you come back.
JT: O.K. Sam, I sure did like the way you were presenting this history. It's beautiful to have such an intelligent man speak such good English and also be able to understand the Spanish too. It's beautiful, too, to have someone like you. And your memory is really good. Better than mine. Now we left off where we were talking about murder of the Carlotta and her husband in Mexico, weren't we? They were from where? From which country was Carlotta from, and her husband? In Mexico, they were, when they were murdered.
SV: Oh. They were murdered. They were executed when Juarez overcome the nations that tried to come in here. Of course, they had French, they had English, and they had, I don't know what else. They had French and English and Spanish right here.
JT: We were talking about the Arkansas River being the boundary to what was once Mexico and that's where you were talking before we turned the record over and then you were talking about the people being a mostly Spanish, is that right? Under Spanish rule here or was it Mexican Rule, Mexican rule, wasn't it?
SV: Well Spanish, I suppose. The Spaniards come in here with, I forgot his name now.
JT: Leader. I'll stop this for a minute. Now we'll go back to the Arkansas River being the boundary of Mexico, to begin with.
SV: I don't know what else I can tell you.
JT: That was in 1846, where that was changed, and the boundary became the top of the Sangre De Cristo range. It was no longer the boundary of Mexico, but we were on the land that once belonged under four flags, wasn't it? France, Spain, England and Mexico. This part of the Louisiana Purchase. So we had four main people settling in here that's why we still have a mixture of a background of French Spanish, English. It was under four flags, wasn't that right?
SV: I guess.
JT: Maybe, I have my history a little mixed up.
SV: I don't know. I don't know much about that. That was another war, you know, I tried to find out from the relatives of the Captain Deus. But these people, it was volunteer, Captain Deus that mustered up a volunteer company. They went down to New Mexico to fight. I don't know what war it was. I can't find out.
JT: The Civil War.
SV: The Civil War?
JT: He was one of the men that were discharged in the New Mexico post that was there. I can't remember where that is but I know it's pretty well established that was the last fort. Or the last place where the Civil War was fought west of the Mississippi, I believe. And he was part of the last of the soldiers discharged there, honorably discharged, after the Civil War. That's when he came to Huerfano County, and settled on the Huerfano River. Am I right?
JT: Captain Deus was at the Sharp, what we now know as the Sharps' Trading Post there at Malachite.
SV: Captain Deus must have been a kind of a stand by, because they called on him to muster up the company of volunteers to go and fight in New Mexico, I guess. A lot of the war, all the times that I went to New Mexico, my grandfather asked me, he said, “That's where the war belong, where it started,” he said, “That's where they had war, in Valverde.”
JT: What was your grandfather's name? That you're speaking of-your father's father?
SV: Yea, Jose Fransisco Vigil. He worked for the government. They had him driving mules. He went to California and back. It took him six months.
JT: What was he taking?
SV: Mules, oh, what was he taking? I don't know, one of the main things that was transported was liquor.
SV: Yea, the Indians. You know you could get anything out of the Indians by giving them a little liquor. And of course, they had hides, you know hides. And I don't know what else. They had gameso.
JT: Oh, deer skin.
SV: Yea, deer skins. And they put them on the floors, you know, like carpet. And these things were soft skins. They feel very soft. And some people, I guess, they were tailors, and they made clothing.
JT: Oh, they did.
SV: They take the goat or the deer skins and they were experts you know, on every thing. And they sell this and they get shoes and liquor.
JT: In exchange?
SV: Yea, and some of them that kill deer, you know, they kill buffaloes.
JT: The spears?
SV: Plow shoes. You know, when them people farm, they had a wooden plow shoes. When Mexico and Spain came here, they brought some of them things that kill deer, you know, like the one I have. They were used for war or for survival.
SV: Yea, they used them for a lot of things. Even fight among themselves, yes. Now the Espinozas, one thing that they had, they were sharp shooters. They take a ball of lead and put some powder there. I don't know how they got the powder there. But the Espinozas were experts in sharp shooting. Well, too bad I don't know anything about this war from here to south, from Arkansas River and most of California, I guess.
JT: You know Sam, for being a self educated man you speak almost perfect English and perfect Spanish, and I'm amazed how you learned it, it must have been your father and your mother who taught you a little at home, or you acquired a very good way of expressing yourself in two languages. I kind of wonder how you got this beautiful way of speaking.
SV: Oh, thank you. Education, I've never had it.
JT: You acquired it very nicely.
SV: Oh, thanks.
JT: You watched what was going on around, you kept your ears and your eyes opened. And that's great. That's how you became educated.
SV: My mother had a first cousin and he was an orphan. His father died and his mother wouldn't take care of him. And he became a bandit. So him, and another fellow by the name of ______, they rented a buggy one time to out of Trinidad to start with. One horse, and so they went up _____. Well, those boys went to Trinidad or past Trinidad, and they went to Starkville, when they went to Starkville, well there was a few houses there, and there was a few hot dogs. These dogs you know, they went barking around. So these boys went and killed one of them dogs. They kept on going, but when they were coming back, a fellow went out to meet the two boys, and so they killed the old man. Nobody ever knew who did pull the trigger, nobody. So he went to the penitentiary, but they never found out which one of the boys killed the dog. So Leondro Martinez goes to the penitentiary, with the other fellow, but Juando Martinez he had a good way, a nice way, just like he told me. So Juando came in the morning, came to see if everybody's alright, and he put the key, the key ring in the little table there, as he went out there and looked and examined the thing there, and everything was alright. So he picked up the ring the keys you know was off. So one day when the guard came over to look at the soldiers, Juando took a piece of paper and put it under another piece of paper and he got a profile of the key. And he put the paper back again like it was, and he went to the blacksmith shop right on the grounds and he made a key.
JT: Same key?
SV: He made a key you know.
JT: For the jail.
SV: And nothing happened. Just the door was opened. Nothing happened, nobody was gone, but who or what did happen? So they spent several days trying to find out who made a key or opened that door, so they called Juando Martinez into the office one morning. He said, “We know that something happened, but we don't know what.” This happened. No, no, I'll tell you what. We'll let you go out. We'll let you go home to your mother, Miranda. And so he said, “If you let me go home, I'll tell you what happened.” Why sure they were anxious, they had been trying to find out what had happened. Well, they let him go, all right. He went with Juando Martinez and committed another crime and they robbed the bank by Starkville, no Grey Creek. So he committed another crime. Well, several times he went to the penitentiary and Barella got him out.
JT: Barella got him out?
JT: He was a senator wasn't he?
SV: Yea, he was a senator. So that's what happened there. Another of the escapades that he had. They killed somebody in a hotel there, and he went to the penitentiary. So Juando Martinez was in the penitentiary. Barella went to governor somebody. It was Christmas time. And he said, “Good morning Governor, good morning, how are you, Governor?” And they shook hands one thing and another. “Christmas, Merry Christmas. What are you going to give me for it, for Christmas?” “Well what do you want for Christmas?” “Get me, Leondro, out of here.” This Leondro was here in town about 1910, when they had a celebration up La Veta. Them cowboys up there, they had a lot of fun horses, racing and contests, this and that. And there was Leandro Martinez and Canuto Maldonado, but Leondro Martinez he wanted it that way. Leondro had a couple of horses in that race, and one of those horses won the race, and everybody was hollering and whistling you know and Leondro took out his gun and again he came around shooting and Miguel Antonio Vigil, who was there, of course, a very decent man, he told them, “Look at this man, look what they're doing among the children, here shooting around. Well, that's what the Fourth of July is for bang, bang!
JT: He was ornery wasn't he?
SV: Yea, so things looking pretty bad here for everybody in town, street fights and one thing another. And Shorty Martinez, you know.
JT: This must have been after 1900?
SV: Well, where was I now?
JT: About the celebration at La Veta where were they were going?
SV: Yea, well, that's what the Fourth of July's for-bang. He just kept on. So Shorty Martinez, had a talk that time he says, “You know Leondro, you better get out of here.” They got everything fixed up to hang him. That's Shorty Martinez, you know, he was pretty shrewd.
JT: And he was tall and big and…
SV: That's as far as I know.
JT: Did they ever punish Leondro Martinez?
SV: Not no more, no.
JT: But he did leave. He didn't do anymore that was wrong.
SV: When I was in New Mexico working with the Trinidad Company, I went down in there and I was talking to a farmer and he told me, he says, “You know, old Leondro, he was pretty tough but it took Shorty Martinez,” he said, “good sense to stop him, to stop him from doing that.” So he went to Trinidad and never came back again.
JT: And that was the end of him for awhile?
SV: Of course, he always made money without working. He was selling dope and bootlegging, and everything against the law. Well, I stop in El Paso a couple of days and we were talking, I was talking to a fellow there and I asked this fellow, “Do you know this fellow Martinez?” “Oh, yes, sir, he was here the other day,” he says. This was in 1912. He said that a bunch of Spaniards and Mexican bandits were there. And he said, “Leandro Martinez, yeah,” he said, “He was with Villa, with Mexican soldiers, with Pancho Villa in the Mexican army! And he was a criminal.
JT: In Pancho Villa's army?
SV: Yea, and there's a lot of that, beginning right here in Colorado, this country here. They had some pretty tough guys like those bandits in Las Vegas. What's that guy's name, Pancho Villa, I forgot his name.
JT: The bad boy, but I can't remember his name? What was the boy that killed so many people called? Can you remember, in New Mexico?
SV: Billy the Kid.
JT: Billy the Kid, that's who we're talking about.
SV: No, well it's usually booming you know, in 1914, '15, it was booming and everything. Do you know that Colorado had three governors in one day?
JT: Which day was that?
SV: I have that stuff.
JT: Which year?
JT: It had three governors in one day, tell me about that, tell us. This is Charlie Duran who'd like to hear, too. Three governors, how did it happen?
SV: Well, I'll get right down to it and tell you that the ballot box that Montez was supposed to take while he was clerk. Montez lost his box, you know, ballot box. He put it in one train and he took the other train, you know and made a confusion there you know. It was a terrible thing, you know, but finally they agreed and they had somebody else, Pierce, I think became governor, the other two I can't remember, I think Adams, Alva Adams, the old one.
JT: The first Alva Adams.
SV: The one that was governor three times.
CD: That was Adams from Alamosa.
JT: In another words the ballot boxes didn't all get to Denver at the same time, is that it?
SV: No, no, they couldn't find it. They had a way to upset the count, so they, the court, the Supreme Court or I don't know who, which one it is that he got nominated as governor. Pierce, I think it was. I have some old papers you know, the Denver Post.
JT: Elaine Baker, this is Charlie Duran, our former County Assessor for years.
SV: Did he tell you, my daddy married his mother. Don't say nothing now.
JT: Your father performed the ceremony?
CD: No, no, my mother married his father.
JT: Your mother, oh, your cousins.
JT: Wait just a minute.
CD: My mother, that's my mother's stepson, and I'm a stepson of his dad.
JT: Is that the way it really is? Is that the way it is?
JT: This is the way it...
SV: I can't help it.
JT: Oh, you've boys have had a few arguments?
CD: Do you remember Ricardo Vigil?
CD: That was my mother's husband.
EB: Pretty complicated.
JT: Ya, I'm getting so that you're not really stepbrothers.
CD: No, we were stepbrothers.
JT: Stepbrothers, you are?
CD: He's the son of Mr. Vigil and I'm the son of my mother, his wife.
JT: And the two married later on, huh.
CD: Oh, ya.
JT: Your mother was a widow.
CD: She is, yes.
JT: And his father was a widower.
JT: Ohhh. Gee, this gets real mixed up. Anyway, I'm glad you came in, Charlie, so you could sit here and listen to us talk about history because one of these days we're gonna bug you too. We're gonna ask you to tell about your political career that lasted so long, how many years?
CD: I was, let's see, in the courthouse, I was 18 years, 16 years with County Accessory.
JT: And what were you doing before that? You said you were in the courthouse.
CD: I was a salesman before. I was a miner.
JT: A miner, a salesman, and the County Accessor for 16 years did you say? And we sure hated for you to loose that office, but I can't remember who followed you.
CD: Pete Pineda.
JT: Oh, ya, they gave him a rough time. We always missed you after you were County Accessor.
CD: Well, they couldn't give me no rough time than others because I done what I thought what it was right.
JT: You always did.
CD: I didn't go on politics you know. I just treat everybody like Republicans and Democrats. They added so many new things.
JT: He was a good officer. He was a good official.
CD: And the Democrats were the ones who turned me out.
JT: Your own party wasn't it?
JT: Sam says that's politics, that's the way it is. It's kind of sad but that's the way it's played in Huerfano County, and now we just have one party.
CD: And that's one thing that I hate, one party.
JT: I always used to tell people and maybe you remember me saying this, I'd try to open up the headquarters for the poor little Republican Party that never had any money and I remember scrubbing the floors, down there by the theater in that building and putting up a sign that said, “The Freedom Headquarters of the Republican Party” in big red letters on a building.
CD: Well, you see the thing of this is when the Republican were ahead, you see Montez and Jeff Farr. Was the other way.
JT: Other way?
CD: The other way and then, you know, the best guy here was Clad Johnson, he was a good man.
JT: Yes, he was, he was good to everybody.
CD: To everybody.
JT: Well, you know, we have not much choice.
CD: Wel1, I tell you why, when the Democrat got a hold of Republican and these state jobs and county jobs and government jobs in the community, the Democrats give their Republicans, the ones that used to find them a job and they quit him. They fired him. Do you remember?
JT: Except they didn't give this republican 5¢.
JT: They never gave me any kind of job.
JT: Well, anyway, I won't go back over that, that was kind of a sad story. Some day I hope that it will be kind of even, that we have two parties that are fair and square. Two parties, not all one sided. I want it to be two parties so we have a choice in Huerfano County instead of being like little Russia where you only have one name on a ballot to vote for and the other ones blank, it's like being in Russia. Am I right?
CD: Ya, that's right.
EB: When did the turnover from the Republicans to the Democrats take place. Was it after Jeff Farr.
CD: That was before they used to have it, you know, for years and used to have two parties, you know, you have Democrats and Republicans run for the office. Well, then that's nice, let the people decide which one they want, if they wasn't the Republican, it's okay, but as long as it's right and square on a fair deal.
JT: That lasted up until 1928. And then in 1928 we had a depression and President Hoover at that time was highly regarded and respected around the World War I. He saw that people had food all through that time, so he was a popular man that ran the second term. But before he could take care of the depression and put out his plan, (he had a solution for some of the depression). The banks were gonna close, and he already had his plans organized to keep things going. But people were afraid of anybody that was a Republican and they blamed things on Hoover, which weren't quite right. So the whole country went for Roosevelt and it went Democrat and stayed Democrat in Huerfano County, and they'll never got out of that. They'll never get out of the rut because now they have just one party left. We don't have two choices anymore. When you go to the ballot it frightens you because the blank side, where you're supposed to choose somebody, is blank, and all you see are the Democrat names. So you just have no choice, you either vote for one party like you would in Russia, or you could still vote for state officials and national, and have a choice, but locally you don't.
CD: Well, I'll tell you one thing according to my knowledge.
JT: No, like this oil scare. Nobody knows whether we're really short of oil and fuel, or whether we have ships full of it waiting for it to come in, or what.
EB: In the early days the politics were more lively in Huerfano.
JT: Ya, we had a two party system, most of the time.
CD: Two party system and another thing I don't believe on is, I believe on in helping the people all right. Help them on jobs and give everybody a chance to work. Work, instead of just go. Because a lot of these things that's coming up, all the people, there's a lot of people getting rich. And the poor people, the one's that need help, don't get anything. You know that's true.
JT: I've been saying that for 30 years, 40 years.
CD: People that really needs it don't get it and people that needs it why they're just keeping alive, that's all.
JT: Well, the system is sad because it needn't be this way. It was always meant to help the people who really need it. It was meant for good but when it was used for political purchase of ballots and votes. It became a very sad, a terrible thing. It's sickening to see people told, “Now if you do this you will get some government help. Otherwise I control it and you don't get anything.” Is that right Charlie?
CD: That's true.
JT: And that's what so sad, 'cause the tax dollar share intended for everybody.
CD: There is a thing there. Well, you take Walsenburg, how much money is coming to Walsenburg for all these people, for all these things here to fix the town, to help the people, where is that money going? What do they show? Nothing. The streets right boarded up and everything. Now everybody before, people was working. Now everybody, no matter who he is, you could see nobody helping. People that haven't worked rides a better car than I do.
JT: I'm still driving.
CD: That's all right if they could afford it. But there's a lot of people right now that if they open work here, a lot of these young people don't want to go to work at all. The unions, the politics and everything is ruining this county.
JT: Union, too.
CD: Unions too, they went too far. I don't blame them it's good to a certain extent.
JT: And so did politics go too far. What we have is a very sad state. What America was supposed to be, what everybody loved about America, which were my grandparents. I don't want to say that it's not a good country, because it still is. It's still good. And we still have a right to choose if we use our rights. But if we can't use our rights, it's like the end.
CD: The only thing we have the right now is work the we want to then we have to talk. Sometimes we don't even vote. People don't even vote. And they try to raise Cain about it.
JT: They go to vote, do they, Charlie?
CD: No, but that's the truth, you know this country could be a better country, do you know there's a lot of money for everybody to live comfortable and tend their own business and work but now everybody want to be... like Mrs. Jones.
CD: He's got it, I'm gonna get it, too.
JT: Well, it's kind of sad.
JT: Have you read the Sporleder Story?
CD: I read a little bit about it.
JT: Have you?
CD: Well, Mr. Sporleder did a beautiful thing. He wrote some beautiful thing. He wrote some beautiful, some of it good memories and some of it is the imagination of the Gods, it's Folklore. It's the old Indian and Spanish tales they used to tell the children to entertain them. He put a lot of good history in, too, don't get me wrong. And he's the only one that ever wrote a little bit of history. Now we need to write history from the people who saw and lived here, like you and from our newspapers. Now tonight the Civic League Women, boy, those girls rolled up their sleeves and went down and worked in the library and sorted out those old newspapers, I'd been gathering newspapers since I don't remember, maybe 10 or 15 years, it took me to gather all the old newspapers. There's still some of them missing. So I'm going to hope that people who find old newspapers in their homes will leave them at the library.
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