Huerfano County, Colorado
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Alfredo Archuleta, Report

Oral History Report
DOCUMENTED BY: Lucia Rivera Martinez
May 1979

Around the times of our growing up in Redwing I remember a man named Marcos Mares. Marcos Mares was a very good rancher; he rented land from many land owners and farmed this rented land. Marcos rented his land from a first cousin of my father's named Lupe Archuleta.

Marcos was a very good farmer, one of the best, and he farmed by hand. This man worked in the old ways, he wore no shoes when he farmed, he worked barefoot like in times past. When he was irrigating he would always go barefoot throwing his shoes to the side.

There were many other old timers among which were my uncle Tonio Cisneros. Antonio Cisneros was the father of Mr. Cisneros who is in the hospital right now.

As long as I can remember this area has always been named Gardner. There are other places around here too, Redwing, Chama, Malachite, Pass Creek and El Rincon.

No, I don't remember of any mention of a different named for this area, although I did remember of a man named Ramon Martinez de Valdez, I don't know why he was addressed by such a long surname, but he was a very old gentleman. This man lived in the Chama area. He was the grandfather of Luis and Juan Casias. Ramon Martinez de Valdez lived to be 100 years old.

My father-in-law lived to be about ninety years old. He was named Don Elario Cerda. Don Elario came from Texas, Laredo, Texas. He had a big history, he work in many parts of the United States.

One of the celebrations that was observed in May was the feast of San Isidro. That feast was celebrated on May 15. My mother would talk about that often. It was a celebration in conjunction with the Catholic Church. The celebration would begin the night before with a velorio. The velorio would take place in the evening and the Saints way would be lighted with luminarios as he was carried in procession around the church. The next day he would be carried In procession to all the ranches. It seems that in those days the people agreed that everything was very abundant. The harvests were very plentiful in those times. Now the people have forgotten everything. It seems that all of the people that believed in God have died and the young people of today do not really believe in anything. The old people died and the young people moved to the cities. They say that these religious customs are still celebrated in parts of New Mexico and Mexico.

There were other celebrations besides San Isidro there were the celebration of El dia de Santiago, El dia de Santa Ana, the Fourth of July. We would pass those celebrations with much dancing. We would go the whole months just dancing, not praying, but dancing.

My sister Filomena was married in 1936. I have been married for about thirty years. I was pretty old when I got married. I was thirty-nine years old when I finally got married.

In those early good days that there were on two acres a family could survive because everything was so abundant. I remember my mother would plant not even two acres, in fact she would only plant about a half an acres and with the harvest from that we would eat all summer and all winter.

Today man wants the whole world. Today everything is so dry that a person could plant one hundred acres and only reap a hundred pound bag of beans if he is lucky.

An average ranch is one hundred and sixty acres. Some people had that much others had less. Perhaps the best land was the government land which was open range and could be used freely — in those days nothing was fenced, today everything is fenced.

In those days when the women were to give birth they didn't go to the doctor, there were medicas which were better than the doctors of today. I often heard and it was true that in those days a woman who had a child would stay in bed for forty days. For forty days they would keep her in bed taking care of her. Today no — a woman has a baby and the next day she is out hoeing or even drinking, taking a shot of whiskey. How do you like that? That's why in those days the people lasted so long. In those days there were beautiful women, beautiful people. In those days you wouldn't see anyone limping along. I remember my grandmother at eighty years of age; she would walk two and three miles to visit us. We lived by the river and she would come walking to visit us. In those days everyone could see far, they had good vision. In those days no one wore glasses.

For the Feast of San Juan they would say that the river water was blessed. Everyone would come out and bathe themselves in cold water because it was blessed. They would put a rosary around their necks and wash in the water. On the Feast of San Juan they believed the water was blessed and ready for the summer. It was El Dia de San. Juan when they baptized our Lord and they would re-enact the event.

In those days there were many Penitentes who would walk a lot in processions. They would go up to the moradas and re-enact the passion and death of Christ. They would pass the time doing hard penances. Today there is no more of that.

There is a Penitente group in Chico in Walsenburg and there is still one here in (Badito). There were many Penitente groups in Chama. They were part of the Catholic Church. The velorios would start in the moradas then the procession would come to the church. The next ceremony would be the tinieblas. Everything was very well ordered and good in those days. Everyone would help each other. Today it is different. The person who has the most has the most power.

There were very few Italians in the area at that time. Oh— maybe one or two, I remember one named Tommy Daves. He died or something, anyway he disappeared from his home. There were a few Dutch families and some German families in the area around the river. There was a German family named Meyeres and the Deitz. There were more Germans in the West Cliff area but not here.

We got along well with the Meyers. I used to work for them. They were the only ones who had any money. Yes, they were the only ones who had any money to pay peones. This was a very poor area and the people had to work very hard to make a living. When I say poor, I mean poor in money. We didn't notice the poverty much because we always had plenty to eat we would harvest and with that harvest we would have enough to last us until the following year. We would have enough of everything.

In those days the people wouldn't hire out to work very much. They subsisted mainly from their labors on the land. They harvested a lot of potates and they ate a lot of potatoes. Some times they would sell the potatoes but not too much, hardly ever. The people would also go to Walsenburg to get their wheat ground into flour. They bought hardly anything, in fact they even made their shoes out of cow hides. These shoes were called teguas. The times were very poor but not poor with food because there was food in abundance, but poor with money.

Sometimes groups of men would go to Wyoming to shear sheep in order to make some money. In general the area was very poor, but like I say poor in money, because other things there were plenty - plenty of food and plenty of water. There wasn't any machinery in those days either; everything was done by horse or by mules.

Most of the people that had ranches here usually got them through homesteading. They got them free, it was free government land but in those days, my dad tells me, they were like terrible, brutal lands. They were like jungles. They developed them into real territories by the force of their own hands.

Since most of the land was homestead land I really don't know how or if they negotiated with banks in the early days. In our times yes, we did do business with the banks but very little. You see there was very little money and the land was valued very low by the banks so they wouldn't lend too much on the land.

They said the farms were only worth ten cents an acre. The banks would lend maybe twenty-five, thirty, fifty or even one hundred dollars to one person but not over one hundred dollars in most instances, because that is all they could afford to pay back. The times were very poor.

There were however many sheep, they had many sheep. This whole area was sheep. My family started with sheep and that was our school. We had a few pigs and cattle but mainly sheep. That was my schooling, herding sheep. I never went to school. My sister went to school, but I never did. I would spend my time with my father up in the mountains herding sheep. My dad at one time had a thousand sheep. I don't know how to write my name. I don't know how to write anything nor do I know how to read. What I am though is a lawyer of the rules, I talk too much.

My sister went only to grade school. She would not go to school regularly since our mother was very sick and she had to stay home and take care of her. She would go to school one day then miss a few.

In those days you didn't need a lot of land to run sheep since all the government land was free and unfenced and no one bothered you. Aside from the few farms and ranches everything was government land. A11 the land that was removed from the river was government land and one could use that land for the animals.

If it hadn't been for free use of government land the people could not have raise their herds. Today everything is fenced and there is no chance for the small rancher. The government has put the lands in the hands of the Band Man, there is not much for the poor.

The ones who did benefit much from the new rules were the Texans, they came about twenty years ago flashing their money around and buying up all the land. Overfelt was one of the first Texans to come here, so was the White family. These people came and began renting from the government and fencing in the land, there is no chance for the poor one. Now, now what did I need land for I have my little farm.

We grew up here helping our dads herd sheep and the girls would grow up helping our mother. After the girls got married their husband would many times hire out to the Dutch people that lived here, the German people. My sister Filomena worked thirty years at the JM ranch. She worked with the patrona. Faustin also worked there.

The Meyers from the JM ranch have been here many years. I even think he came from the “Old Country”. He made those ranches because when he came these lands were wild. That old man brought cattle from Mexico. He would bring up to three and six thousand calves from old Mexico. The old man Meyer, John Meyer, was the one who started here. He came from the old country, he could hardly speak English. The old man also had a hotel in West Cliff. His sons, Gus, Fritz, John, Henry, Albert the veterinarian and they say he had another son that I never got to know. They say he would come home, get his hat and an ax and go on up to the mountains.

These people did not join in the celebration of San Isidro. I really don't know what beliefs they had maybe just believing in work, that's what it appeared like to me. They had churches here, but I don't think the old man ever went to church. There were a lot of Mexican people here in Chama, Turkey Creek, Rito and Malachite. In Chama and Malachite alone there were about two hundred persons. Now the old people have died and the younger ones have moved to Pueblo, Springs and other places, who knows. The old people, the really old people have all died, like the comadre of my mom and dad they have all died.

Yes, I saw how it was in the old days, I remember the Penitentes. I remember how everything was very abundant in those years and how everyone was very Catholic, everyone believed in God. Everyone helped each other, this neighbor helped that neighbor. Everyone would get together on a farm, lift the harvest and together they would go on to the next farm and also lift the harvest in a community manner until everything was harvested. It was very beautiful in those days. They would all bring the machinery together to help out from ranch to ranch to raise the harvest. Today that does not happen any more.

In those days we would hardly ever go into Walsenburg. When we went in the Ford it would be mainly to take the wheat to get ground up into flour. In earlier days we would go by horse to Walsenburg. We would set out early in the morning and if we didn't want to go all the way into Walsenburg we would stop at a stable in Badito to sleep. At Badito there was an old Adobe house where stoves were kept so that the people could cook and eat and rest. The place was a community place. In the old days they would used to say ”hay sestiamos”. The next day people would get up as early as they wanted and go on to Walsenburg where there was another stable where they left their horses while they shopped and got provisions for the winter, then they would return again to Badito, it was the half way mark, sleep, and the next day reach home. It took them two days to make the trip, a good two days not counting the time they would spend in town.

In those days there was not too much use of commercial medicine. Once in a while a Raleigh man would come around selling red lightning for stomach aches but not much. What people did buy was nyne for stomach aches. It was horse medicine. For the people they used mainly herbs from the fields. But they did buy medicine for the horses, sometimes it appeared that they took better care of the horses than they did of the people. They had to, the horses meant survival. There were no machines in those days so the work was mainly done by horses.

There were a lot of medicas, they were the ones who made the medicines out of the herbs. The mothers too helped keep the family healthy through the use of herbs. The herbs of yesterday were better than the doctors of today. Even the cattle were not vaccinated, no one used vaccines for the cattle and the meat was better than it is today.

The old people would say that this whole area belonged to the Indians all these mountains were inhabited by Indians. The Green Horn mountain range was named for the Indian Cuerno Verde. There are many signs that the Indians were here before. One day when I was out in the Yellowstone rounding up cattle with this fellow named Burnstein I found a knife made of stone. It was a very long knife made of stone with one side like a saw. I still have it at home. That knife was used by the Indians. There were also many arrowheads. Up in the sand dunes there were many arrowheads and also metates together with their grinding stone, but in those days we did not appreciate them, we used to leave them there.

There was an Indian camp on the other side of the mountain, up on the side of Mosco pass. There was a man named Juan Avila he said he saw their camp on the Mosco. I never saw them myself, that was a long time ago. That road that goes straight up there, that was the Indian path it was only a narrow path then.

My father's people raised an Indian girl. Yes, my father's grandfather's name was Cruz and they raised an Indian girl. I did get to know her, she lived to be around eighty years old. She was named Trinidad, grandmother Trinidad we used to call her. She was really good at making tortillas. She would make them on a comal, they were very good, very round, and thick and she didn't use baking powder, she used salarata (baking soda) but not baking powder. They used to come out nice and yellow and very good.

I was up in Wyoming one time, up around Montana and I met up with these Basques. They said that baking powder was very bad for the blood. These people used no yeast either. They used to make that sour dough bread, for yeast they would make yeast out of potatoes. They used very little salt, they said that salt was bad for the heart. These people took very good care of themselves, what they used a lot was garlic. They said garlic was good for the blood and also onion, they said onion was good for health. They used to say that baking powder that we were eating was pure poison.

The Basques that I worked with were from around the French and Spanish border. I worked for many of them. One was named Juan Taverna, Jim Shosky and one they called El Espanda that my brother worked for and one named Telos Acosta. They came from the old country, from France, they were very handsome men.

The story of these Basques is that they brought them over on contract to herd sheep. Some of these men worked ten years, some eight and some five years and when they paid them, they paid them in sheep. These men were sharp, they were smart, then they got the desert land much like it was here and they homesteaded like their patrones did. They tamed the jungles of their land but they started out with their own animals, their own sheep. When these men were paid they were paid in sheep instead of money, not young sheep, but old sheep, sheep that were seven or eight years old. The Basques didn't care, they took the sheep. That's the story that they told by the time I knew them, they were men.

When I met them I really wasn't looking for work as a sheepherder, I was looking for work as a cowboy. I wanted to work with cattle. I only looked for work when times were slack and needy.

When the Indians left, some went by that path called Wagon Wheel Pass that cuts through Yellowstone to get to San Luis. Another group went across the Mosco into New Mexico. They're not too far away, some are in Taos. I think when these groups were passing, was when my people came by that Indian girl. I don't know if they bought her, asked for her or just took her. I think they might have just taken her. They used to call them captives. As they passed many times they would take Indians from them. There was one who they called Joe Indian, Juan Antonio, Joe Indian they used to call him. He was deaf, but who knows they might have mistreated him, I don't know.

In those days we would work only for a dollar a day and hard work from sun up to sunset. Some people would even work for fifty cents a day.

The first cars that came here was the Model T.

I can't think of any newspapers around here although I know that my brother-in-law received a newspaper called “La Prensa”. I think it came from Mexico.


Alfredo Archuleta still lives in Redwing, Colorado. He had no children although he notes that the woman he married did have children, that have moved and no longer live in the area.

Mr. Archuleta was born and raised in the Gardner area, his contribution about the customs and atmosphere of the times has been invaluable.

The Archuleta family seems to have been one of the earliest families to have settled in the area.

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