Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Contributed by: Karen Mitchell

AP: This was Navajo territory; indian, hunting territory. They used to come from the other side or mountains from San Luis, Conejos, all them places. All Na- vajo places. The way I understand, I don't know what year it was. My great grandpa; there were two brothers, and they were Navajo Indians. One or them took, came over the mountains on an ox cart with a bandit. And the other one took South. From Conejos down here to...

AP: No, my great-grandpa came from Conejos, down here to the Cucharas River. He was the first settler in the Cucharas River, only I got no proofs, you see. The ones that told me are dead. This doctor, Duffy Unfug, the dentist, told me. One day I came down with a toothache in 1940; on a Sunday morning I went to see what he could do. And I was going to his house but I round him in the office and I tried the door and the door was unlocked and I walked in and sit down. When he looked out he says, "Oh, look who's here. Alfonso what are you doing here so early?" I said, "I suffered a toothache all night long. I come to see what you could do for me.” He says, "In a minute." So he came out with a fellow from Denver. He introduced him to me. He gave him my name and he gave me his. Shook hands with him and Duffy the doctor says, "You know why I'm in- troducing this man to you?" The other man I can't remember his name. "No." He says, "You know why? Cause your talking to a full blooded American. " And the man looked at me and says, I told Duffy, "Don't raise me up so high doctor, you're liable to drop me and get hurt." He says, "You got it coming." My dads last words were, when all or us brothers were circled around his bed, he opened his eyes and said, "If you ever see the family or Pinedas in distress, give them a hand." The old ta-ta Herman, he was a Navajo Indian and Juan de Dios, his son, full-blooded. He says somebody told them the rest or the Indians had us corraled up in the reservation you see. And told ta-ta Herman down here. And him and my grandpa see, his son, went up there and talked them out of it. There was Unfugs, Walsens and Agnes, then there is another one, but I can't remember their names. They had them. The Indians. My great-grandfather, el ta-ta Herman, that's why he was called ta-ta Herman, cause he was the first settler in this river. This was all wilderness. He came on through an Indian train over the mountains and he says the old man talked him out of it, and told him he'd take care of us and he brought us down here. That's why he told us "If you see the Pineda family in distress, give them a hand, be- cause they saved our scalps." That Juan that told me about it. And then, I don't think you know him though, Juan Santos Abila from Gardner...or Red- wing. One time in 1948, they gave me for total disable from the mines. And old Charlie Duran, he talked to the rest of the politicians and they gave me the Democratic headquarters to take care of it while the politics was going on. And Herrera, he was a musician too. And they asked him to go play and he went over there to the Democratic headquarters and he asked me to go second for him. So, I went up to Redwing. There was a Democratic Ralley up there at night. And two days after, this old man came down and I knew him, but he didn't know who I was. And he's coming walked by the door see, I mean coming into get in, in the Democratic headquarters to visit. I got up from the chair and I opened the door. I says, "Come in Mr. Abila." I pulled the chair and sat down. And he says, "Young man, sounds like you know me. " I says, "Right Mr. Abila, I know you. " He says, "But I didn't know who you are." I gave him my name. But when I told him, he says, "What family do you descend from?" And I says, "From the Pineda family." "Oh God," he says, "you don't mean to tell me you descend from the ta-ta Hermana's, who is"..."My great-grandpa." "Ay ay ay," he says, "you're a full-blooded American. Old ta-ta Herman was a full-blooded Indian Navajo. I knew him well.” Him came over the mountains and my uncle, which I was raised by, and he mentioned another man, but I don't recall the name. They went down through Pass Creek into Gardner to the Huerfano River. They were the first two settlers over there and my grandpa over here he told me then. Then I didn't think of anything from Danny on, cause I could have had a writtency asking for how everything happened. But I didn't think it needed. Then the old man, then one time in Cameron, there was a PTA meeting and we went over there. And Mr. Buckler, he was a store manager with the Colorado Supplies for years at the Walsen Mine. And he was there at that PTA meeting in Cameron and he was telling the story about Huerfano County and Walsenburg. And he told them, "Do you know you're going to be surprised what I'm going to tell you. You know the first settlement village up above was the Walsen Camp where the Red Camp used to be. That's named after ta-ta Herman. That's where the first schoolhouse and the first church was built; not down here where the city of Walsenburg is. " After that, he said, "There was a family or De Leones who came across the river where the bridge is and the highway goes through the river. They settled there. It was a big family." And they started building over here, then over there. It was all Spanish people and a few Italians that came in, you see. Then they built bigger over here, then over there. And then the CF&I, my dad was born in l865, I'm not sure, but I think he was. And he was 13 years old when they opened the first coal mine, that's the old Walsen. It was ACNI and not CF&I, see. And he was 13 years old. Him and Uncle Cruz the older brother, went to work in the mine. Thir- teen years old. And that's where that camp, that settlement, was built up there. Then it was an agent I don't remember the name, my dad told me the name of the fellow. You see they had their properties there, but I don't remember if they had deeds or not but this man sold everything to the company, the coal company and they told him to leave the place. They were going to build a camp. That's when they build that Red Camp above the Walsen Mine below that over pass. The road to La Veta. That's where it was built. Then when the company built that red camp, well they made all the men and guys that was working in the mine, move into the Red houses, they painted it red. That's why they called it Red Camp. And then they tore all the shanties that the Spanish people had; they cleaned them out, you see. Then my grandpa and my dad, my dad was just a boy yet, and they had a bunch of goats. They went up to Bear Creek, they settled over there. And there's where I was born. And there's where I was born. Up at Bear Creek, 8 miles above Cameron towards the Spanish Peaks. He used to work in the mines for a living and we had a little farm up there. I used to work the farm, but my dad got sick in 1907, the last part of 1907 and I was the only boy, and my older brother, he was sick too. And I went and asked for a job. I was only, in 1908, I was born in 1898, in 1908 I was 10 years old and I went and asked for a job at the mine. They hired me. Well, I worked two years before my dad could go back to work.

Q: What were you doing? What kind of work were you doing?

AP: I was working as greasing cars, feed cars, first. Then I went in the mine trapping open doors to handle the air in the mine. You shut them doors and the air circles the other way. That was in 1908. I was 10 years old. I was just in the second grade. Went two years, I lost from school and my dad could go back to work, and he says, "Sonny, I want you to go back to school now. I says, "Daddy, I'm too far back from my class, they're way ahead of me. No, I'm going to keep on working." So I worked in the coal mines all the time we lived up at the farm. And then let's see, we were up there at the farm, then, in 1909, that was old Round Dock, that's where I was working with my dad, and my brother and my grandpa Salazar, my mother's dad, and my uncles. Then it shut down, in 1909 then McDowell used to own it. The old man and two brothers owned that mine. They shut it down and they went up to Ojo up you know in a that, up by the Baldy mountain. That's where that mine, they opened that mine up there and named it Ojo. And we worked around here you know, in these other mines; McNalley; my dad worked at the Walsen; we worked at Raven- wood, then in 1911 we moved. They went and asked for jobs up there you see, and McDowell, we knew him well. He hired them all. And we moved up there in 1911. I was 13 years old. Then my dad and my brothers, my brother Pat and my uncles went to work in the mines. And I asked for a job, you know, and Old Jim McDowell, he was the superintendent over here and he says, "Kid, you think you could fire that boil er up on the hill?" That' was the second family. See there used to get the coal in the mine and run it down where they used to haul the trip outside. I said, "Jim, I don't know, I never fired a boiler, but I '11 try it." I was 13 years old. He says, "Tomorrow morning you come out kid." "Ok." I learned how to fire the boiler. Then in 1913 strike, the McDowell's signed a contract with the United Mine Workers, and we kept working. Then in February, that's when the contract used to run out. Used to sign the contract in the first part of August and the contract used to run out the first part to the last of February in the coal mines. And they shut down the mines and we moved down here; we were on strike. And when that battle was with the United Mine Workers, they started at Ludlow, that's where that big monu- ment is, that's where the United Mine Workers lived in tents. Well, we were at the farm. And the United Mine Workers had camp tents up at La Veta that was from Oakview, cause down here when we were...all had little farms and that's where we were. Then they hired the Militia. They brought the Militia, the CF&I. Well, then there was nothin but hobos. They used to go up there at the farms and rob the Spanish people out of everything. Well, then this battle started up there and started over here with the guards, with the company of the United Mine workers. Well, they burned up the guards and the Militia came at two o ' clock in the morning and started fire in that camp where the United Mine Workers were camped at Ludlow. And we started back there, let's see from Big Four in Tioga, down this way. And we drove the scabs all this way .I was 15 years old. And there was, we were sitting behind that hogback, then when the battles got over there, them fellows when they drove us, all the guards and everything you know down to Rouse and over here, we weren't behind that hogback and they had a spotlight up right on that little hill that used to be the Walsen Camp, the tank for the water and there was a fellow named...I knew his name well, but I don't remember anymore. He used to handle the spotlight. And they were shooting the scabs and the guards and the Militia were shooting from that little hill you know, from this hill from here, up above, you know. Up above the tracks. They were shooting towards Hogback. And the United Mine Workers were shooting from over there and one night a man went up see, he used to climb up on the tree and get up there with that spotlight. He used to turn that spotlight to- wards the Hogback and the guy up there; he was a sharp shooter, and he'd shoot that light out. He set it up twice. And when he shot the second time, he piled off of there. He got off from there and when he started down from that pinon tree, the bullet hit one of the limbs; it was the one he was standing on see. It broke and down they went. Well then, we were over there, and the guards and the Militia they had a trench where the Colorado Supply used to be right there where that filling station is. The big filling station on W. 7th. That's where the Colorado Supply Company store was and they built a trench of sacks of sand and instead of firing up that way with machine guns, they shot them down 7th Street and 6th. They killed a man laying on his cot and the rest of the people started running. Well, then when it got so bad from up there, the United Mine Workers, there was a couple of Greeks Ithink they were, that built a cannon. And first to try it out, they tied it with a chain to a tree and they put a little too much powder in it and it killed one of the men. The United Mine Workers men. They had old man Blas; I think Blas was his name, hauling bolts from that burro mine over there. And they filled that up with bolts and everything with a six inch pipe but I don't remember how long it was. And with that powder they blasted it and it flew over this hill where the guards and the Militia men all was there. And it popped just like those firecrackers. Everything flew all over. All them guards were up there at that ranch dragging the 30-30 rifles. They took off. And then when that happened, they called for the Federals and then the Federals came in. They had cannons, on the cars, on railroad cars. They were going to shoot that Hogback on top of us. But they were on the loud speaker. I think it was Gen- eral Pershins. I don't remember his name that came and on the loudspeaker he spoke and he told them to quit firing. They says, "We quit firing. Did you fellows come to make peace or fight?" He says, "We came to make peace." Ok. But before that when they started, I forgot that part, old Doc Lester was the captain or the Militia. They went up this hill over here, what they call it, where that tank is?

Q: W hill ?

AP: Yeah, they was going to drive the United Mine Workers because they said that old Jeff Farr told them that they had only shot guns up there and they tried to go down that way, and they just fired at them, and they started running down, just this side of the Hogback, about where that new school house is built now. High school. And some sharp shooter with a 30-30 over there, he ran ahead of the rest of them. Bingo! It killed him. Then they started running. The rest of the Militia came down the court house. They had ole Jeff Farr, the sheriff, by the collar. They said, "You said they had shot guns up there. They got 30-30's." Well then, General Pershin, I believe it was him, he came with the Federals and he said, "We came to make peace." Ok. Render your arms. Then the company, they lost some men. They wanted to put a case against the United Mine Workers you see. General Pershin says, "No. An eye for an eye and that's that. So there was nothing else. Then we had to strike one then. But then the president of the company, I believe his name was Wilson, of District 15, he sold us out. And the first part, the last part of April, they told us the strike is lost and he took off. The company gave him so much money and he took off, down way back east or I don't know where, and he bought him a big property, and he just pulled the rug out from under us. We used to go to ask for work at the coal mines and they'd say, "Get out of here." And they used to cuss us out, "You dirty red necks," cause we used to carry a red handkerchief to identify ourselves see. So we know we wouldn't shoot our men. That's where they got the red necks. And the scabs was the men that worked with the company. Well, the strike was settled but we had an awful time to get a job. But they had so many men from old Mexico working in the mines and they didn't know how to work it. So, they started hiring the old miners back again. And they had production. Then after that, we worked for the company in the coal mines the rest of our lives. I left in 1948; I got sick and became totally disabled. Then is when Mr. Bob Gardner throwed me out of the union. He didn't want to take my dues anymore so I don't get no United Mine Workers pension on account of that. So, I'm out. When I was the one, we were the ones who built the fire and the ones that carried guns for Mr. CF&I, they got the jobs and when it came to pension or anything else, they got everything. We built that fire and we're out in the cold freezing ourselves. That's just the way United Mine Workers operates. I know they're dead already, some fellows you know, that were behind that Hogback. They were older than I; they didn't get no pension. they didn't get anything out of it. And neither did I. So, that's that. That was in '51. I worked in the bank till 1971. I was the custodian, then they wanted to lower my salary, cut down my salary, because they put in a gas furnace and they didn't. I had to go clean the new bank, the drive-in, that is when they put it in. And they didn't figure that. So I didn't agree and then they put it out on bids. I used to get $277.50 a month, and old Joe Bocim...John Bocim; he bidded for $150 and he got it. He poked his eye. He thought I was taking it easy. Then you see, just before that. Social Security got after me. I was 68 already and I didn't ask for my Social Security. They dropped a card to me and wanted to see me and I went down there. And I dropped the card to the man on the desk, he looked at me and said, "What have you been doing man?" I said, "Why, nothing wrong that I know of!" And he says, "Well no, I believe you but you got Uncle Sam in debt with you already. Why haven't you quit?" "Well, I'm working; I'm able to work," I said. Then he insisted that I take my social security. Then they cut me down on the bank, so I quit al- together. But I put in twenty years. After that, well, I'm retired. I've been taking it easy. But my great-grandpa, and my grandpa came from Conejos River. You see, those brothers, they didn't know of each other anymore. One brother took South and the other one came down here to the Cucharas River. One fellow told me once from old Mexico, there were Pinedas in old Mexico, but they didn't belong there. I told him, "You're right, they don't belong there, they're Americans." That brother of my great-grandpa, that's where the Pinedas family comes from, over in old Mexico. When I was, in 1948, in Fitzsimmons, they had a boy there that was in the service. And he got sick and had trouble and they had him in the hospital. They had us on x-rays and that major, the doctor, he says, "They finally got the two Pinedas together. I told him, "You do?" He said, "Yes." "Not from here," I told him.! He says, "No, don't you know you got relatives in the coast?" I said, "I understand we have some, but we don't know them." He says, "We got one here and then he came around right in between, you know. He says, "Are you a Pineda?" I says, "Right." And he asked me where I was from and I told him from Huerfano County, born and raised there. He says, "Can you tell me where we belong'?" I says, "Yes, I can tell you." And I told him about that brother, my great-grandpa that took on South, and that's where he went, to old Mexico. The Pinedas that are over there, they don't belong there. They're Americans.

Q: Well, Mexico was part of the United States at one time you know.

Q: What kind of transportation did you have when you were growing up over here, was it horse and buggy?

AP: Oh yeah. When we used to work in Ideal. We walked the biggest part of the time, in summertime, to work and in the winter time we used to ride the spring wagon. We used to take feed for the horses. We used to move down to the camp in winter time. We lived at the camp. And then in summertime, the spring, we used to move up to the ranch to plant and have a crop.

Q: What crops did you grow?

AP: Corn, beans, peas, horse beans, lentils, everything. We had plenty. Because if it hadn't been for that little farm we had, those poor coal miners would have starved, and their families because we used to work them first days you know, 12 and 14 hours a day for $1. And you see the companies used to have a, they got used to that 90 percent profit. With 10’ they used to pay the worker and make the expenses and save 90 percent from a dollar. Ninety cents off of a dollar. That's why I say, if it hadn't been that mother provided so well, I guess the biggest part of the people, because people that lived down here in town, they used to go and work during the crop season, for beans, for something to eat down here. The people that lived here in Walsenburg, the biggest part of them were coal miners too, but they didn't have nothing doing because the mines only worked four months out of the year. The rest of the time we worked one day a month or two days in a month. Them were hard days. I'm not going to mention that I told you about the republican party how poor it was.

Q: What was it like during the depression?

AP: During the depression? Well, the coal miners, the people that wasn't working, they had to beg for something to eat. That was when Hoover got elected. Everything went down. From one day to another, the shoes was $14 and some cents, a pair of shoes, dress shoes. They dropped down to $3 and a half dollars a pair. The flour was $8, $7 and $8 a hundred; it dropped down to where it used to be. $2 a hundred. But we didn't have no work, what to buy it with. Good thing the good Lord, the little farms used to provide and that's where we made our living out of. That's where your dad and your grandpa made a living with that little farm there. And it was rough. Of course, I was already married during the depression and I was a Democrat all my life, but I guess I was like a mule to work, and I had that advantage. The president of the company, Mr. Lexy, got to like me because I was a good worker. During the depression, first we were pretty hard up you know, but I had credit with the Colorado Supply. I didn't come down here for anything that they used to give. The rest of them used to tell me, "Alfonso, why don't you go down there after some bacon and butter and things that they used to give the poor people.” I says, "No, I don't need it yet. Let somebody else that really needs it, have it." I was in debt when the mine started working again in August. But I managed to pay that bill again. And my credit was always good at the Colorado Supply. I didn't get anything from what they used to give the poor people. That's one thing I thank the Lord. And then in 1932, that's when Hoover got in on 1928, everything went out. Work, the living went down, everything. We didn't have nothing to buy it with. Now we got, might as well say, a depression. But we got what to buy it with even if it's high. The living is so high, but we got money to buy it with, just getting by but it's alright. You people are al- right. And, you know, if you don't save now, watch it, you're going to get hit again. That's what it's coming to. Nobody's going to kid me, that it ain't so. That's where we're headed for a hard depression to hit, to start like it did during the depression, everything went down. Money and everything. There was very little pay. The highest wages then at the coal mine was $7.75 and we went down to $2.50, the drivers that used to drive the mules in the mine.

Q: $2.50 an hour or a day?

AP: A day. All day for 10 hours, yeah. You see and that's what they're trying to do now, go to the bottom and have a new start. That's just exactly; I may not see it, but that's where it's headed for. They're trying to get us down. You know why? Because the Republicans are trying to get that Dictatorship. That's where Nixon was headed for and he got throwed out. They caught up with him just in time. A weakly start, killing each others for a piece of bread. And that's just where it's headed for, that's why I tell you, people are getting money, save it. Tighten yourselves up and save because you're going to regret it, gonna want it if you live long enough. You're young yet... I put the money in the bank. The Lord helped me I guess. I put the kids through college. But Marie went first and then Juanita. She got to be a registered nurse, and Maria is a secretary. Maria can handle them, what you call them machines?

Q: Computers.

AP: Computers. Yeah.

Q: When you were brought up, was there any kind of disease people feared a lot when they were...

AP: Oh yes, them days they used to call, the small pox were dangerous. Then the measles, (Satantion) they used to call it. Then there was scarlet fever, the people didn't have, there were hardly any doctors over here, but what could, the poor people didn't have money to pay a doctor. They used to just use herbs to cure people. During the influenza, it wasn't so much that people died of the sickness, the influenza, it was the doctors that killed them. The doctors used to give them poison to kill them. When they used to call a doctor and the doctor look at a patient and says, "Give them this medicine after I go, " and then you might as well call the mortuary to come and pick them up in two hours. That's the way they did it, the doctors. We got to, may the Lord bless him, Dr. Chapman. Dr. Chapman used to say to the steward, "Go get that gallon of white mule and get 'em all drunk." And that did it. They used to get a gallon of white mule and fed all the family at night and the next morning, why they were all...Dr. Chapman didn't kill no one. But the rest of the doctors did. Of course, they'd say no cure, no cure, no cure. There wasn't, but they just wanted to kill people. Yeah, during the depression, there was sickness you know, influenza, that's what they fear so much.

Q: Was the flu more feared than the scarlet fever?

AP: Oh, yeah. Flu was. Well, it was a fever too, and flu, catch a cold and just like the moonie, something like it. And, of course, you know them days, there were very few people that died of a heart attack. I remember, but I can't recall who it was out there in Laguna up this way, up in Bear Creek and North Veta and altogether, I believe there was one person that died of a heart attack. One person that I can remember them days. Now everyday, everyday, everybody. I've had two heart attacks in that room there. But still, let's see, in 1929 I believe it was, I went to the Veterans Hospital for a hernia surgery. Captain Klinger, Dr. Ratchet was in this new Veterans Hos- pital, when they checked my heart you know. They took, I believe they call it a catheter, something like that. They put fans down here you know, and they run just like a film. And when they were going, two interns was running it. I was going down. I was in Ward 4 going down to the PX to buy me a bar of candy and a funny book. I used to read funny books. I still the paper everything I look at is the funnies, in the morning. And they were running that film and one of them says, "Hey, hey, hey stop it, stop it!" It had a piece better than three quarters of an inch white. One asked the other, "Why is that?" That patient had a heart attack. So I looked at it and I went to buy me a bar of candy and my funny book. And I raised up my bed from the head to eat my bar of candy and here comes Dr. Ratchet, "Hey, Pineda!" "Yes doctor what's wrong?" I answered. "When did you have that heart attack?" I says, "Doc, I don't recall it. You know I had one way in this life that anything that happens to me happens. I don't, look back. I just try to rub it off of my mind. I don't never look back. I look ahead.” I begin to thinking you know, the next day, I remembered and I told him. He said, "You had that heart attack, I don't know how you're alive. You got a black spot that big around in your heart. That's how bad that heart attack was. I don't know how you're alive." I says, "The old man up above didn't need me yet." And he looked at the other guys, there was eight of us guys, he looked at them and said, "That old man, he's got up there, he's got a lot of faith in him." I says, "That's the last thing I'll ever do is lose faith. He's the big boy. Sickness, I've had quite a few of it." In 1939 I had this leg paralyzed for four months, at the Cor- win Hospital. Finally, they used to give me electric treatments. The doctor used to pinch me with a pin and I didn't used to feel it. The only thing I felt was my big toe. That pain used to run from here on down; they called it sciatic pains. Don't know what it was, but it was four months before I could depend on my foot. I still tripped when I was walking. Then I've had five surgeries, hernia and this last one was my gallstones taken out. Let's see, that was in '72, I believe, '72 or '73. That was the hospital in Denver where Juanita took her training and that's where she used to work. She used to work in the surgery ward. And ever since then oh, I get around pretty well. I can't do no work at all. I try to work but I get so weak. But, otherwise, I get along pretty well. They don't believe that I am 80 years old. I '11 be 81 this corning month. Yeah, that's older than your dad.

Q: Happy Birthday. Juanita, was she raised a Catholic?

AP: Yeah. Well, they got married through the Catholic church. And so did Maria. And Ralph goes to church with us. He is married. They got their church. And the little ones say, 'Grandpa, why don't you go to church with us sometimes?" I says, "ok." I've been with them twice to their church. I says, "It makes no difference to me, anybody worships the Lord." That's the way I feel. I don't got nothing against other religions. That's their belief. Course, there is so many religions; only one God. That's what I claim to them. The Catholic religion is the oldest religion there is. The first one. But people started... that that came from, what's his name?

Q: Martin Luther? AP. Yeah. Luther. He was a Catholic priest. And he fell in love with a nun. He wanted to marry her. And Catholics won't allow him to marry her. And he started the protestant religion. He made the people believe there was another religion. Might as well say another God. You know that life is the way you can take it now. I'm taking it easy. I'm pretty old. But I'm ok. I am kicking again. But I feel ok, but I went through my bad times and I don't mean maybe. Did I tell you that my dad got sick first? I was just a little kid. He says, "Sonny, no one to plant this spring but you." I hooked up the team of horses on that plow and that plow used to run out from under the dirt and there I was draggin back in up the horses to get 'em in line you know, and one day that plow liked to kill me. You see, that...what the hell they call it? Mansedra in spanish; it hit a rock going to the plow and it flew up and hit me in the chest. And knocked my wind out. But I managed to straighten up the horses back again. Then when it came to taking care of the crops, and everything started growing up, I had to take care of every- thing. That summer I suffered but I managed. I was only 7 years old, just a little kid. Before that, I was just a little toot, might as well say. We had cows and there were no fence way up there you know. And all that down, clear down to them mines was no fences at all. And the cows used to go down this...round up where the Montez and that little coal mine above the Ideal Road about 23 miles up that canyon is. They used to come down there and I had to walk. My mother won't let me ride a horse because she was afraid the horse would throw me off and get hurt. I used to walk down there, you know old Jeff Farr, there was a fence. The highway used to be all along the track, railroad track. Well, it was just a wagon road but they used to call it, might as well say the highway then. And he had a fence all along side that road. And be brought Texas cattle and them Longhorns like that. They used to get out of that fence. And I used to find them with my cows. The only thing, defense I had was a sling shot. I used to get up on them hills, you know, and I had my little coat in case it rained. Fill up my pockets with them little round rocks. And boy, if they were in the prairie, there was trees and them cows used to start, them steers, towards me and started running after me. I used to climb the trees, but there was no trees. All I had was my sling shot. I put a rock in that, I was pretty good at that. They just took one and ahhhh, they would leave me alone. And the Lord took care of me. One time I remember I was down there way late, got dark and I could hear, cause that bell on one of the cows head was the only bell that sounded that way. I heard that sound you know. Weren't the cows laid down? It was already night. And the cow was chewing you know and it sounded that bell runs and tracked them going up Bear Creek. There's a big ridge of rock, they were behind that. I found them and I used to carry a stick for a care you know. Rattlesnakes, there were a lot of and I started with the cows and I just turned them on, around that cliff and my dad met me. He heard the bell, that's how he found me. He says, "Sonny, what are you doing here so late?" "Well, daddy" I says, "You sent me after the cows." He says, "But we didn't mean for you to stay this late." I didn't know any better. I was going to look for them cows til I found them. Walked, mind you, because my mother wouldn't let me ride a horse. She was afraid I'd fall off of a horse because I couldn't stay on; my legs were too short. And I used to like to make a horse run and the horse, you know the way they'd move, I'd slip off, slide off that horse and down I went. My dad, one day he seen me and he told Mama, "I'm afraid one of them horses will kill this doggone mosquito. He gets on one of them horses and he makes them run when he can stay on.” But I was raised on a horse farm. A lot of them says, you know I wear boots and they say, "Where's the cows?" I say, "No cows now but there was some. I was raised on a horse- back." You know old Jake Vigil, I think you know him. He died over here. He was old Jeff Farrs favorite cowboy.

Q: Tell me how you got into fiddling?

AP: Oh fiddling, I learned that all by myself at the faro. See, my Uncle Fronesimo and my brother Pat were the same age when we used to work in 1907 at old Round Dock. They bought a fiddle and I used to work see, and oh, they didn't. They were always squeaking that fiddle and I asked my dad, I says, "I want you to buy me one." Well, I worked already. He says, "No son, use- lessness. You know they ain't going to learn anything. Within a month the fiddle is all yours." and that was right. They couldn't play. I had to get out of my mind how to tune that fiddle, everything everything. I learned by memory, by heart. The music just hear it sometimes when there was a dance or a wedding, from the musicians. And my mother used to tell me that I'd squeak them out and I didn't know how to tune that fiddle. I did the best I could. "Put that fiddle away," she says. My dad says, "Leave him alone, see what comes out of that." She says, "But that squeak!" He says, "Let him go." After about three months, one night I came out from work and I was tired and I went and laid down, just on top of the cot, and my mom says, "Aren't you going to play the fiddle tonight?" And my dad says, "No, you're tired of that squeak." She said, "But we could understand it now." Then I got to learn the fiddle; I learned to tune it; I learned everything, all by myself at the farm. Then a fellow up above you know I wanted a guitar. Well, we were hard up and he says, and he stopped, "Oh kid, I heard you wanted to buy a guitar." I says, "What with, I got no money." He looked at me and says, "I'll take 50 pounds of grain." Ok. We had it. That's what I gave him for the guitar and then I had to learn how to tune it and everything, so I learned to play both instruments. Well, then I played til 1919. I don't like that, always going out to play music. And ok, so I sold the fiddle and the guitar that I had. I had good instruments; for $5 a piece. Then during depression that's one thing that came back on me. Up at the farms where we used to live in Cameron they were making dances every night in different houses. They paid one dollar a piece; one for the fiddler and one for the guitar. And I thought, one dollar is very nice. So, I thought I'd try it and I went to look for the old fiddle. It was all splinters on the top bead and I used some glue and I pasted it all together just to try it out and when I fixed it up there was snow up to here, and I didn't have a car. Me and Modesto, it was late about 5 o'clock I guess, and it was dark and I says, "You want to walk down town with me, I got to get things for that fiddle." I walked in that Fawks Drug Store and he says, "Can I help you?" I says, "I want everything but a fiddle; strings, russin, and bow." He looked at me and says, "I might as well sell you a fiddle." I says, "Not yet. I got an old fiddle that I fixed up at home. I'm gonna try it. I was a fiddler before, since 1919, it's '32 now." Ok, I took them and fixed up the fiddle and start playing and says, "Well, you play that fiddle just like you used to before." Then I got to playing just as soon as the people heard my music back again. Well, I was playing every Saturday at the dance and that's how come I got so that I had a wedding to play every Saturday then on a Sunday, a baptism or a party, in the middle of the week a party. A birthday party, and oh God, I went so far workin so hard in the coal mine that I used to come to town and meet a friend of mine there and I stopped to talk to him on the sidewalk and before I knew it, I was sound asleep standing up. I was all tired out you know, till I told him. I says, "I better quit this or I'm going to die standing up."

Q: Playing the fiddle?

AP: Yup, playing the fiddle. Well, I played it til I found out, you know, the last wedding. I don't remember, they were Mondragons, his daughter, they used to live on 8th Street. They paid me to play in their reception. And all I could get f or me and my partner was $12. Six dollars a piece from about 11 o'clock to 5 o'clock in the evening. Then they asked me to go to the dance at the Pavillion. They had an orchestra see. There was this Buddy Griego from La Veta, he second for me twice because the war separated me and Modesto. First they took me and then they just exchanged that. Modesto used to second for me, my boy. Well, I had to look for a second all the time and this boy second twice and he was in that orchestra. When we finished dancing, I came over there. I said, "Hi, hi." "Are you still play- ing Mr. Pineda?" I said, “Right, I played on that reception today.” He says, "You giving that pretty music away Mr. Pineda? You know well what I'm talking about. They don't pay soles hardly anything. That's why I got a new orchestra." And I says, "Well, how much do they pay you?" He says, "Five dollars an hour a piece. Fifteen dollars for three hours." "And I played," I says, "ti1 5-10:30, 11 o'clock til 5 o'clock for $6 for me and $6 for my mate? They'll never hear my music again." I came home and I put that fiddle away; no more. It's been put away. You see, after I learned and found out that I could play music, I ordered the fiddle that I got. I ordered it from a fellow that had a music house here, his name was, his last name was Holiday. And I went to see if he had a fiddle there and he says, "I have to order one Mr. Pineda. I haven't got one." And one day I was coming to this street and he hollered at me and says, "Oh, I got an old time fiddle here." I looked at it and says, "How much do you want for it?" "$75. It's an old timer." I says, "Mr .Holiday , I want to tell you one thing. I don't want you to get mad, at me, but do you want to really know the truth?" He says, "Yes." I says, "I wouldn't give you $5 for that fiddle." "But it's an old timer." I says, "It makes no difference how old the instrument is, it's the wood in it. It hasn't got it. Get a piece of paper and write down What I'm gonna tell you to write down. That fiddle...with spruced up Mohagany neck, and the wood stripped across on the neck, and stripes across two piece back with stripes across, wide stripes. No more than $100," because that was during depression. "I can't pay you more than $100 for it." "Ok," he said. He sent the order and he sent for 2 of them. And he called me and said, "Come in Mr. Pineda, I got two fiddles there. " He didn't tell me he was gonna try me out see. He says, "This one is $25 and this is what you ordered, $100." "Ok," I says, "I'm gonna tune up the $25 fiddle and play you a hoe down." Cutillio they call it in Spanish. I played it. "Now I'm gonna play it on the better fiddle, what I ordered," I says. I played the same thing. "Ahhh, there is a difference in that tune, in that fiddle. You know instruments," he says. I says, "We11, I played music since I was a boy. I can tell if the instrument is any good or not. You got me what I wanted." And after that, I was at home and the guy from the factory was on vacation. He was looking for trainees. He used to give them 20 lessons for $20 and he used to give them small fiddles for training. And if the boy learned to fiddle, he let him have the fiddle. I told him, "I got a little fiddle there that I can lend you." So we started to talking and he said, "Let me see that fiddle that you say you got," and I brought it out and took it out of the case and handed it to him. "Ooh, you call that a little fiddle? That's a fiddle," he says. Then he looked at me and he says, "You don't know who you are talking to." I says, "No, of course not. This is the first time I've met you.” He says, "The fiddle is age, wood age 1720. The way it's got written on the inside. I put that fiddle together. That wood came from the old buildings from Italy. We got scalpers fixed up hanging at the factories, and I put it together for you." See, that was during the depression. And he asked me then, he played me a hoe down and I played one. He says, "You could play that fiddle pretty good." And he says, "How much did you pay for that fiddle, how much did he charge you?" I says, "$100 bucks." He says, "He gave it to you, because that fiddle is worth $500. And I kept it and kept on playing it. One time in 1965, between 60 and 65, I was playing in La Veta for the fourth of July for the Spanish and American people and they had a dance at the Kincaid Hall, you know that big house going in, you know, that you used to call it the Kincaid building. When I finished playing a Waltz, a guy in front of me, he looked at me and says, "You mind if I look at your in- strument?" I says, "Not a bit." I handed it to him, you know and he told the guys standing on behind him and behind me, he says, "No wonder, look at what he's playing, a 1720 Strand divories. He says, "That fiddle, we could just finished playing the hoe down," and I says, "Right." "We could hear that fiddle so plain; while the orchestra was playing this hoe down, we could of danced it over there, across the street," he says. And the other fellow told him, "Don't give all the credit to the fiddle, that man could play that fiddle." You know that guy offered me $1,000 for it and I told him it's not for sale. And when I was working at the bank, one time Mr. Dowdy asked me when we were having a dinner at the bank, in the evening, he asked me, "Alfonso, bring your fiddle down so you give us a little entertainment." I go, "Ok." I brought it down. And Paul Krier, he was one of the bank men and stockholder and he carried insurance all the time. He looked at it and saw the date it was made and he says, "Alfonso, I'll give you an insurance for $50,000 on that fiddle." I says, "That's pretty high, ain't it?" He says, "That fiddle is worth every bit of it. " And I still got it. They wanted to buy it, this other Spanish people, they wouldn't give me nothing for it. He says, "Will you sell the fiddle'?" "Useless me telling you what I want for it." "Cause you want a fortune for it!" "It's worth a fortune." Yeah, I wouldn't sell that fiddle to nobody. I still can play it but I don't want to. You see, they had me playing down there. Father Gallagher and Sullivan they heard me play it over there. "Gee Alfonso," they say, "boy you could play that fiddle." "Nothing like I used to," I says, "I'm all out of practice." "But you done well." Now they want me again at the Senior Citizens. I says nothing doing. I'm fet up with it. I don't want people to get after me that they want me to play parties, they want me to play this and that. I says no more. They won't pay me. Because after I put that fiddle away, there were weddings right along, and, come on I want you to play the wedding. I says, "You pay me five dollars an hour, I'll go." "Oh, that's too much money." "Well pay it to the orchestra men."

Q: They pay more than that now, they pay about $20.

AP: Oh, yeah. They get good pay. But they won't pay it to me, so nothing doing. I could play that old time music just the same.

Q: You played for our wedding too, I remember.

AP: Yeah, I played for all of yous. All the families' weddings. Ever since then they don't get me to play, nothing doing now. They wanted me to play for this doings they had here about a month ago, remember, in the court house, for Father's Day. I went to Broomfield. Mrs. Marchiori mentioned my name over there that I was gonna be on the music. I said, "No, Josephine. No, no, no, don't put me on that." They all looked at me. They were all pretty sure that I'd go. I says, "No." Then I told Marchiori I haven't got a second. The guy is sick. I says, "You understand what I am talking about?" "Now I know why." I says, "If I could get a second man, a man that would give me the right time, I'm willing to, for the Senior Citizens but, otherwise, no way. Them Garcias they call them.

Q: Oh, yeah, Shorty?

AP: Shorty and...they wanted here about five years ago. Shorty asked me if I'd join them, playing that fiddle, all that old time music. And they wanted it. Uh-uh, not in the taverns. I don't believe in playing in the taverns. I never did play in the taverns, I don't believe in it. I'll play in a dance hall or anyplace, a wedding or anyplace except a tavern. Because drunkards, you see, I got just playing in the dance some other fiddler was drunk, I got saliva, I got everything on that fiddle that I can't take it off. It's got a spot, a mark on there that I can't take it off. I don't dare to scrape it and paint it, cause that will ruin the tune. That will ruin the tune. Unless you get an expert, and send it to the factory, see, have it sand papered again, and repainted and finished. Because over there, they use some kind of oil and all that finish, no paint. That's why that fiddle I won't get rid of it. You know I told the Misses that if anything happens to me, leave it in the family. But don't go let the kids if they learn to play it, let them have it. If they just gonna fool around, I says, then not a toy. That's worth a lot of money. Don't let them have it. If they're gonna break it, don't let them have it. One of the little ones, I got an accordian that's...Juanita used to play. I paid a hundred and 50 dollars for that second hand they make...I got a five hundred dollar white one in there yet, it's a hundred, made in Switzerland. I was playing it already see, because Mary Ellen used to play it when she was at St. Mary's too in the orchestra. They both played it. But, you see, I was playing the fiddle and before you know it, I had put the fiddle away. That's why I quit playing. I already, I knew it by heart. I could play polkas, waltzes and everything with the accordian. That's why I put it away. Yeah, well that's about all that I could tell that I can remember, you know, of course, there are a lot of things that I don It remember. Worked in the coal mines all my life till, 40 years to be exact. Forty years since 1908 to 1948 that the doctors throwed me out, for total disable. I went through a lot in the coal mines. That's an experience that I don't care, I don't remember at all well. I was injured in the mine, in 1918. I got my back, you know I didn't know how bad I was injured, because I didn't report that. And the doctor was in Ideal, the CF&I doctor, was in the camp. I stayed home three days with that leg para- lyzed, might as well say limping and the fourth day I told the misses to rub some linament and I went to work with that leg kind of numb. And ever since then I know, when I didn't have a car you know, from Ideal, about 6 miles up to my dads, I had to walk them hills, and when I got up there I was bleeding from that left leg. I didn't know, I didn't think I was injured that bad. When I went to the service, they caught up with me. You see, I was limping all the time on drilling on arms. Finally the commander, we was gonna go overseas in December the 7th in '42 and November just before we went, about November the 15th, the commander caught up with me, he says, "Pineda, what's wrong with that left leg of yours?" I asked him why. I used to clinch my teeth you know, the drilling, just the same as the rest of the boys. But I limped. He says, "I've been noticing that you limp that left leg." I says, "I'd like to know." He send me for a physical and when they got through with me, that captain, major, three doctors, he says, 'Put your clothes on, and will you interpret two boys there for me. And he found out that I was...speak the English real well you know. I says, "Ok." And I interpreted, see there's a letter, a paper written like that in English that you got to read to every soldier. They give it to you to read and if you don't know how to read, they have somebody. And they were Spanish and I translated, read it in Spanish, and it was written in English. Well, then we got through with those two boys and he says, "Have your papers filled?" I said, "No, where are they?" I left them at that stool over there that I was sitting on. He said, "Go get them." When we got down to education, "How much education?" I says, "Well, sir, might as well say none. Second grade." He Looked at me, "You mean to tell me that's all the education you had in school, Second grade?" "That's right. I went to work in the coal mine when I was 10 years old, in 1908," I says. "Is that how old you are? You don't show any more than 35," he says. "I am 44 years old sir. " And he says, "You mean to tell me that's all the education you got? You speak your English so well. You read that letter in Spanish and it's written in English, translated it in Spanish. You read it just like you read it in English to them boys, I can't understand it." I says, "Well, to make it short sir, I learned it all the hard way." He said, "Boy you got a good head on you." I says, "Well, in 1915, they fired me from the coal mine. I was driving the mule and I got fired. Let's see, the last part of November, that's when I got fired, before Christmas, about 2 weeks before that I walked in the store, and Mr. Erkins, the store manager, he says, "Hey kid," they used to call me at the CF&.I, kid, all the time! I've worked since I was a kid. "Kid, you ain't working are you?" I says, "No, I got fired. " He looked at me and he says, "You want to work in the store?" I says, "I'll try it." "Good," he says, "you come out tommorrow morning." I went to work, he put me driving the store wagon. And it was two days and boy, they had that store crowded. See, all them farmers above Ideal used to come to Ideal and buy there and trade there. Groceries, clothing and everything. And finally, they used to use books you know to charge it. I got in behind that counter and I started waiting on the people and writing it down. Mr. Erkins looked at me and says, "Let me see, keep it up kid," so I kept up. Well, he just hired me for the holidays after the holidays he looked at me and says, "You could stay in the store kid." And, well I worked till about late 1920. When the wages of the drivers went up to $4.75 I was only getting $65 a month at the store as a clerk. And I asked Mr. Erkins for higher wages and he said he couldn't give them to me because that was the standard salary of the company, the CF&I and the Colorado Supply was the same thing. Standard wages they had. And I told him, "Well, I'm going to go back in the coal mines and drive them mules for $4.75." Boy, he looked at me and says, "Alfonso, I hate to lose you. I need you so bad," because they had about ninety percent old Mexico people and them ladies used to walk in there and they didn't speak a word in English and I was the only one that could wait on them. They used to buy from shoes, socks, for babies and everything from the store. And I told him, "If you can't give me no more, I'm going back to the coal mine. " So, I went back again. Well, as I was telling you, when they got through with me over there the papers came the third day. The captain, I don't remember, Montgomery or Ward was his name, the doctor in the wards name or either of them. He called me over and he says, "Pineda, you're going home." I says, "Why?" He says, "You ain't mad are you?" I says, "No, of course not. I'm not mad but I'm willing to go through." He says, "You ain't afraid to go on the other side to the war?" I said, "No. I want to go see what the other side looks like." "You ain't afraid to get killed?" "No. If I was born to die over there," I says, "that's just as far as I go; if I wasn't born to die over there, I'm coming back. " He says, "You got a lot of faith." I says, "The good old boy up there, he'll know what to do with me. If I'm coming back or not." He says, "Boy you got a lot of faith." I says, "Right, that's the last thing I'll ever lose. "He says, "But Pineda, you got a bad leg on you." I says, "Well, I know I got trouble with it. " He says, "You don It know how told me you squeezed by a pit car in the mine against the timber in 1918, right? What were you, a human being or a mule?" I says, "Well, I got to admit I'm a pretty strong man." He says, "You ain't broad; you're just slim and tall." I says, "Yeah, but I was a pretty strong man." And he looked at me and said, "As I said before, mule not a man." You had, your back is twisted, you got a sciatic nerve injured, a broken disk, your back is twisted. And didn't you feel that hip of yours broken? It shows on the x-rays, where it healed. There is a scar there. That's why I tell you. A mule not a human being." I says, "Yeah." He says, "It healed up itself, but you still limp because your back is in bad shape. You go on home, and ask for a lighter job." Ok, then I asked McBreyer, the superin- tendent; I had worked almost a year, on pick and shovel again. I stopped at the office and the superintendent, he turned his back at me and the boys were leaving then to the war you know, to the service. And he told me he didn't have nothing but a pick and shovel and I told him what to do with it. I got mad. And I lost my head. Because I was told by the, Mr. Lee, the president of the company, he put it in the books, because he found out that I was fired twice from the com- pany because I stuck for my rights, see. Then he found out and he put it in the books: The kid can't be fired from the company unless I fire him and that will never happen. He told me after. But, I lost my head and I quit on my own. And I was over 45. So, CF&I wouldn't hire in them days, men over 45. And I still think they got that rule. They won't hire a man over 45. So I quit on my own. After about 5 years after, Bob Harris, the general superintendent of the coal mines, he dropped me a card, and I don't know who gave him my address, over here. I went down there and I walked in and sit down, and a man came out and says to me, "Who do you want to see?" "Mr. Harris. " "Your name?" And I told him my name and he said, "Tell that guy to come in here. I want to talk to him." I stepped by the door. "Hi kid.” I says, "Hi Mr. Harris." "Come in sit down. I wanted to see you so bad," he says. I says, "Yes Mr. Harris, what's on your mind? Shoot." He says, "Are you still with the company or not?" I says, "No, Mr. Harris, I'm not with the company." "I've been missing your names in the books for quite a while," he says, "that's why I dropped that card to you. I wanted to see you. You didn't get fired, did you?" "No," I says, "I quit on my own." "What happened? I says, "Mr. McBreyer made me lose my head, made me mad, and before I realized it, I quit. I knew I lost, that's why I never tried to get a job with CF&I anymore." He says, "You are right, but they didn't fire you." I says, "No, I quit on my own. He made me mad and I told him what he could do with that pick and shovel." He says, "I know more or less what you're talking about. Kid, I'm sorry; I'm helpless but I'm the only one of the old timers still alive. Mr. Lexton and Mr. Masinton, something like that, was vice-president, secretary-treasurer and all of them knew me well, you know. They're all gone. All new men, they wouldn't allow me to put you back to work. You're over age. But, I'd like to. Kid, you gave the company your life. and you got me helpless. I can't help you." I says, "Don't worry about me Mr. Harris, I'll get along." He says, You're a good man, that's why I'm telling you, you gave the company your life. Kid, now that you're getting old, if you would have came to me instead of when McBreyer turned you down, you know there was a higher step?" I says, "I got so mad that I forgot all about you." "That's where you made your mistake," he says, "If you would have came to me, I would have given you a job sitting down or just doing nothing, because you had it coming kid. You earned that from the company." I says, "Well, it's gone." He says, "Right." "I'll get along." He says, "You will get along, your a good man. We hate to lose you. " Now you see to claim for my black lung, I went down there after my record. As soon as I gave them my name and right on out, "Yes Pineda, we got it for you. " He came right on out and he says, "Here. Them records on them books, you was a good man to the company. Them records will be in them books for the rest of the days. Your reputation is you were a good worker. Good man, you didn't lose no time. But you're too old now, so you go claim your black lung. I hope you get it." And you know I had to wait four years for it. Just like your dad. We had to " wait. They didn't want to give it to me. So finally, the last blank they sent me from Denver here, the man from Washington was sent over here to Denver. He sent me that blank to go for an examination again. I went to Dr. Merritt. He was my doctor. And he wouldn't want to cover it. I got mad and I came home and on the back of that blank I wrote him a letter that they were nothing but a bunch of crooks; the union men and social security, black lung doctors and everybody and quit bothering me sending me blanks. If I had it coming to give it to me or leave me alone. But I was satisfied. I says, "If I got to go to Fitzsimmons to get my records from the service, I'm gonna do it. " Three days after that the phone rings at ten thirty at night; good thing I was home, and that man says, "Mr. Pineda?" And I says, "Yes." "This is so and so.', He gave me his name and I remembered it on the envelope that he wrote and sent that blank and he says, "We're not all crooks, Mr. Pineda," and I laughed and he laughed. He says, "I know what you mean. Well, I'm willing to consider it." "Ok." "But," he says, "I'm gonna send you another blank." I said, "No blanks. If you want to give it to me, I know I got it coming because I saw a black half moon in my lungs before I left the service. They got careless with my chest x-rays. I saw it. 1527 was my last four numbers in the serial. The serial that was 1527 was on it. That's how come I knew it was mine." And he said, "No, I'll send it to you, just to make sure. You know Dr. Vialpando, Dr. Mesias and Dr. Gonzalez?" I says, "I don't know them, just by name." He says, "Well, I'll send them a blank." You know they kept that blank three weeks. So, I told Clara when she was taking mother down there, "You ask them if they got that blank. " Them girls, they looked and say, oh sorry, we had it put away and we for got it. Yeah. They gave her an appoint- ment. He checked me out and he says, "Well, Mr. Pineda, I don't guarantee you'll get it, because I don't got no records of you, but we'll see." Soon as they got it, I got a letter that I was getting it. That helped a lot. It still is helping me, that's the only thing that I got from the coal mine; was the, black lung. I guess that's about all right now.

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© Karen Mitchell