Michael Webster
June 18, 2009
My earlyman grandfather
Excerpts from The Redroad
By Michael Webster

As a young boy I became aware of my grandfather's strong work ethic. I remember him going to work Monday through Friday and often on Saturdays. He would rise well before dawn with my grandmother. They would have their morning glass of Raw apple cider vinegar with some maple syrup or molasses, black coffee, eggs sunny-side up, thick well-done bacon with toast, a wedge of sweet white onion and a hot Chile pepper. The bacon cooked first in the big black iron skillet, and then the eggs cooked slowly with the bacon grease splashed over them. One of my fondest memories was the wonderful aroma that would awaken me whenever I stayed overnight with my grandparents. That early morning coffee percolating on the kitchen stove, bacon & eggs frying in the frying pan, and fresh bread in the oven toasting I thought was a great way to start a day. But even to this day, when I am on one of my early morning walks with my wife, and we pass a home with a similar aroma drifting from the kitchen, it reminds me of those wonderful days with my grandparents. I have never felt that I belonged more, was welcomed more, or was more at home than when I visited with my grandparents. Every workday after breakfast Granddad, as I called him, would journey off to the bus stop two blocks away. In 27 dedicated years on the railroad he never missed a day and was late only twice. He worked long hard hours in the hot southwest summer sun and the bone chilling cold, and sometimes snowy, and often windy winters.

He was an honored member of the railroad's work gang. The work gangs of those days repaired and built the railroad. Whatever needed to be done, they did it, be it laying the iron track or creosote wooden ties, or driving spikes using a 12 pound sledgehammer, or building wood, steel, or concrete bridges, he did all of this excruciating work with vigor and pride. My Granddad would tell me, "it's a good job and I'm glad to have it."

The wonders of the Lemon:

I first heard of the amazing Lemon/Lime and their wondrous properties when I was very young.

My granddad while working on the Railroad as a member of those work gangs some of the gang members that he help get hired were some local Apache and Yaqui early peoples, who shared with us the legends of the Lemon and Limes.

The Yaqui's were well known for their amazing ability to go for long periods of time with very little to eat or drink. In fact, they could travel for days and even weeks without food or water. This was one of the great advantages they seemed to have over their enemies and most likely contributed to the fact they never signed any treaties or concessions with anyone, then or to this day. Which included their adversaries the so-called superior U.S. Calvary and The Mexican armies. Who in the 18 and 1900's pursued them relentlessly. They shared with us some of their secrets that were handed down from their ancestors. They told of how they would take Lemons or Limes with them and they would eat the whole fruit and nothing else and that would sustain them completely and they would not get hungry. They claimed they could just add some water from time to time from remotely scattered desert springs along with wild honey combs and an occasional herb tea (sage) and that would in able them to go even longer without any other food of any kind. Yet stay strong, healthy and mentally alert.

The lemon or lime will help turn your system from acid back to healthy alkaline and to cleanse your body and at the same time lose 2 lbs or more per day. It will give your internal body a rest by washing away unhealthy toxins and fat, starting at the cellular level

My Granddad said, "the Yaqui always have been and always will be." They were in the area long before the apaches, Spanish or anyone else. Their origins date beyond written record, and for millenniums they lived in the valleys around the Rio Yaqui River in Sonora, Mexico. The Spanish, invading Mexico in search of treasure in 1517, conquered the Aztecs in 1521 and in 1533 finally reached Rio Yaqui. Following their first incursion into Yaqui territory, battle-hardened Spanish soldiers retreated. They claimed the Yaquis were the fiercest warriors and best battle tacticians they had faced in New Spain. The Yaqui were the only peoples the Apaches feared and it was most likely more respect than just fear as the Yaqui helped to hide the Apache and would welcome them to their land of the fibulas Sonora as brothers.

Tribal map of Yaqui Indian lands

A special relationship with the Spanish eventually developed. However, even into the 20th Century, the Yaquis, who did not consider themselves a conquered people, fought unwanted intrusions into their lives and territory, first against the Spanish and then the Mexican and U.S. governments. Because of the fierceness of the Yaqui, government military forces only periodically overwhelmed Yaqui communities, separating families and sending Yaqui men to distant parts of Mexico to live in forced labor conditions. Mexican military occupation of Yaqui territory continued into the 1970s.

In the early 1880s, as railroads dominated shipping between the United States and Mexico, railroad companies came to appreciate the Yaqui's work ethic. Yaqui workers began moving to job sites in Arizona, and New Mexico creating settlements in and around Tucson and Gila Bend in Southern Arizona, and in a few areas between Tucson and Phoenix and in a small settlement called Guadalupe, now a southeast suburb of Phoenix. They could also be found as Far East as the Pecos River in west Texas and west to the Pacific Ocean and throughout what is called today the great Sonora Desert. Which spread south from deep into what is now called Mexico, and north far into what is now called the United States.

Today, there are more than 12,500 members of the Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, with another 5,000 individuals seeking membership. More than 3,000 members live on the Yaqui reservation southwest of Tucson.

My Granddad was also very fond of the Apaches and many of his friends were numbered among them.

The epitome of a real rail-road-man

My granddad was a big man, nearly six-feet tall. He had a dark leathery complexion with strong features revealing his Early peoples heritage. He was a man of conviction. He was a man not afraid of hard work. He had worked hard all of his life. Even before he worked on the railroad, he worked his own Farm/ranch, raised cattle and was a blacksmith near Clayton, New Mexico. Folks would bring him blacksmith work from a hundred miles around. The famous Santa Fe Trail and its cut-off the Cimarron Trail run right alongside his farm/ranch for over a 1/4-mile. Today, as I stand there, a chilling fall wind whistles through the rusty barb-wired cedar posts and waving tall grama grass,... just tall grama grass covers the still remaining deep indentations carved into the hard weathered earth from bygone years of settlers passing in their great mode of travel, the Prairie Schooners, and early trade wagons.

These ruts that remain stretch to the east and the west horizons and are all that remain offering any evidence of my Granddad's stories of his old place and of the first major trade route that connected New Mexico to the eastern United States.

Wagon Ruts on the Cimarron

The Cimarron Cut-off was the main trade route to the southwest and cut off more than ten days of the trip. But it meant crossing a 60-mile chunk of the feared Llano Estacada. Some of the hazards they had to contend with were not only the weather, hunger and the hard going of the trail but also the roving bands of Kiowa, Apache, Comanche, Pawnee and Ute Indians who roamed across the vast grassland, hunting buffalo but leaving no evidence of any permanent settlements. The Athabascans probably passed through the area during their fourteenth century migrations from Canada whom later was to become known as the Navajo people.

From the turn off the Santa Fe Trail continued on into Colorado where there were fewer hostel Indians, but more water, and where firewood was more plentiful and where there were many trading posts to buy, sale and trade their goods.

The story of the Santa Fe Trail is a story of business — international, national and local. In 1821, William Becknell, bankrupt and facing jail for debts, packed goods to Santa Fe and made a profit. Entrepreneurs and experienced business people followed — James Webb, Antonio José Chavez, Charles Beaubien, David Waldo, and others.

The Santa Fe trade developed into a complex web of international business, social ties, tariffs, and laws. Merchants in Missouri and New Mexico extended connections to New York, London and Paris. Traders exploited legal and social systems to facilitate business. Partnerships such as Goldstein, Bean, Peacock & Armijo formed and dissolved. David Waldo "converted" to Catholicism — and also became a Mexican citizen. Dr. Eugene Leitensdorfer, of Missouri, married Soledad Abreu, daughter of a former New Mexico governor. Trader Manuel Alvarez claimed citizenship in Spain, the United States and Mexico.

After the Mexican-American War, Trail trade and military freighting boomed. Both firms and individuals obtained and subcontracted lucrative government contracts. Others operated mail and stagecoach services.

Trade created other opportunities. From New York, Manuel Harmony shipped English goods to Independence for freighting over the Santa Fe Trail. New Mexican saloon owner Doña Gertrudis "La Tules" Barcelo invested in trade, and trader Charles Ilfeld ran mercantile stores. Wyandotte Chief William Walker leased a warehouse in Independence and his tribe invested in the trade. Hiram Young bought his freedom from slavery and became a wealthy maker of trade wagons — and one of the largest employers in Independence. Blacksmiths, hotel owners, muleteers, lawyers, and many others found their places along the Trail. In 1822, trade totaled $15,000; by 1860, $3.5 million, or more than $53 million in today's dollars.

As I looked around in a whipping wind I could see brown specks of cattle in the distance in a broader landscape which I envisioned the Cimarron, Canadian and Pecos rivers, which are the longest of the waterways. They snake through the sprawling plains of northeastern New Mexico, a land known as the Llano Estacada, stretching north to southeastern New Mexico and west Texas. Also known as Wild Indian Territory.

You can see that time, weather and erosion have not erased the deep wagon ruts stretching across this vast country. I was sensing the stark isolation of prairie travel and was able to glimpse the subtle prairie tapestry that was savored by countless Trail travelers. I was Stepping back in time and enjoying virtually the same prairie vistas and unspoiled beauty that travelers encountered more than 120 years ago.

The Santa Fe Trail on the Kiowa National Grassland affords an almost three-mile stretch of exceptionally well-preserved wagon ruts. This area is reserved for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding and camping. Several windmills along the route provide ample water. The trail is well marked with limestone "Kansas fence posts." One homestead ruin is located at the end of the hiking path.

The Trail across the Kiowa lies between McNees Crossing and Turkey Creek, both resting and watering areas for weary trail caravans. Rabbit Ears Mountain and Round Mound can be seen looming to the west.

All of Mr. Webster's articles, books/CD's are downloadable & free at: http://www.lagunajournal.com/michael_webster.htm

© Michael Webster

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Michael Webster

Michael Webster's Syndicated Investigative Reports are read worldwide, in 100 or more U.S. outlets and in at least 136 countries and territories. He publishes articles in association with global news agencies and media information services with more than 350 news affiliates in 136 countries... (more)

Subscribe

Receive future articles by Michael Webster: Click here

Latest articles