CHAPTER XV:Riding The Circuit—Continued
Passion Week.—Processions.—Leave Santa Fé for Albuquerque.—The Cañon.—Stop at Algadones.—Grape and Wine Culture.— Vintage. —The Country.—Market-people.—Arrive at Albuquerque.— The Town.—Court.—Dinner-party.—Leave for Tomé.—Stop at Mr. Baird's.—Dr. Connelly.—Arrive at Tomé.—The Town.—Host and Dinner.—Court.—The Grand Jury.—Baile.—Start for Socorro.—Sand Storm.—La Hoya.—Supper.—Leave La Hoya.—Cross the River.—Limitar.—General Armijo.—Appearance of the Room.—Leave Limitar.—Smith's Adventures.—His medical Experience.—Arrival at Socorro.—Accommodations.—Mexican Family.
I remained the balance of the week in Santa Fé after my return from Peña Blanca, which afforded me an opportunity of witnessing the ceremonies of Passion Week. This season, so universally observed in Catholic countries, commenced on Saturday, the ninth instant, and, with the mass of the people, the entire week was kept as a holiday, the time being divided between amusements and the church. During this period the religious fervor is aroused to a higher point than at any other season of the year. The day most observed with pomp and parade is Good Friday, or Viernes Santo. The afternoon before a large assemblage collected in the Paroquia, or parish church, where appropriate service were celebrated by the bishop, whence a long procession afterward issued, which marched around the Plaza and through some of the principal streets. A large wooden cross, carried upon the shoulders of four greasy fellows, and to which was nailed an image of the Savior, headed the procession. It was surrounded by a band of women
I can not refrain from bearing testimony against these religious processions. The image of the Savior, and others of a similar character that held a prominent place in the exercises, were disgusting to the sight, and failed to create in my mind other feelings than those of pity for the worshipers of these unmeaning bits of ill-carved wood. Some of the virgins were known as among the most notorious females in town, but character seemed no requisite to fill a prominent place in the exercises. These parades are not seen in the States, and the sight of such an exhibition in the streets of our large cities would shock the feelings of all religious denominations. It is one of the practices of a darker age that still clings to the worship of the people of New Mexico; but I sincerely
I left Santa Fé on Sunday morning, the sixteenth of the month, for the town of Albuquerque, where the first session of the District Court in the third judicial district was to commence the following day. Our party numbered eight persons, composed of members of the bar, marshal, and servants—mostly mounted. I was detained near an hour after the others had started, and was obliged to ride at a rapid gait the first few miles to overtake them. About the time I came up with them my horse stumbled, and threw me several feet headlong into the road, and with force sufficient to cause me to see several full-grown moons and stars of the first magnitude. The distance from Santa Fé to Albuquerque is about seventy-five miles, south, and most of our road lay down the Valley of the Del Norte. The first fifteen miles we traversed a plain, level and dry, which brought us to the cañon of the Rio de Santa Fé, six miles in length. This is a narrow passage between opposite mesas, in some places at least two hundred feet deep, through which runs the little River of Santa Fé, seeking an outlet into the Del Norte. The same mesa bounds the cañon on the right that we crossed on the road to Peña Blanca, but here the slope is almost perpendicular. In some points, after rising up at an angle of sixty degrees for about a hundred feet, the side of the mesa starts into a perpendicular rampart, formed of vertical rows of stone like artificial masonry. Where the formation is an ash-colored clay, disposed in layers, the action of water and the atmosphere has caused it to assume many interesting appearances, and at one place the part just visible above an intervening point resembles the entablature of a Grecian portico, which distance mellows down into nearly
Debouching from the cañon, we entered upon another mesa, which we crossed, and then descended into the Valley of the Del Norte near the Indian pueblo of Santo Domingo. The village lies a little way off the main road, on the bank of the river. The houses are two stories high, built of adobes, with the usual form of terrace. The roof, supported by pine logs, is nearly flat, covered with bark and dirt. Like the other pueblos, the houses are entered by ascending to the roof by means of a ladder in the first place, and then through a hole left as a sort of companion-way to the rooms below. The estufa is built in the usual form, and is entered through a trapdoor in the roof.
Leaving Santo Domingo a little to our right, we continued down the valley. A few miles below we passed the pueblo of San Félipe, situated upon the west bank of the river. Near the present village are seen the ruins of the old pueblo, upon a high bluff bank some two hundred feet above the water. On either side of the river runs a chain of hills, those on the west side extending inland in extensive mesas. The valley is mostly uncultivated, except here and there a few acres susceptible of irrigation. In front of us we could trace the serrated ridges of the Saudia Mountains, yet several miles to the southeast. Before sundown we arrived at the little village of Algadones, where we found quarters for the night, with fare at a reasonable price.
When we came to saddle up the next morning, we found that our horses, during the night, had broken out of the corral, and we could now see them making for the mountains as though the Evil One was after them. A party of mounted peones were sent in pursuit, who, after
At this place we enter the vine-growing region of New Mexico, which extends down the Valley of the Del Norte to some distance below El Paso. Throughout this extent grapes of a superior quality are cultivated. When pulled fresh from the vine the flavor is very fine, and they are thought to be equal to those imported from Spain and the Mediterranean for table use. It is impossible to tell how much wine is made yearly, as there is no means of arriving at the quantity, but it will reach several thousand gallons. It is manufactured altogether for home consumption, and very little, if any, finds its way into the United States—at least, it never gets into the market. It is a good article, and is said by those who are judges to be superior to many of the wines that are imported from Europe. That made in the Valley of El Paso has become quite celebrated, and is thought to be a better article than is manufactured elsewhere.
The mode of cultivating the grape is different from that pursued in the United States, but whether such treatment is required from the nature of the vine I am unable to say. The vine is not trailed on frames, as is usually the case elsewhere, but is kept trimmed close to
There are two kinds of grapes grown in New Mexico, the Muscadel and a common grape, both of which are said to have been brought from Spain. The former is a light red, and the latter about the color of the native Fox grape found in the United States. They are smaller and sweeter than the Isabella grape, and are more juicy. Two kinds of wine are made from them, white and red. In the Rio Abajo the vintage begins about the tenth of October, but earlier at El Paso. The grapes are picked from the vines and carried to the vats, where the juice is pressed out of them. The vats are made of bull-hide while green, and, to keep them in shape while drying, they are filled with dirt, which is thrown out when they have become thoroughly dried. The top is covered with the same material, perforated with small holes, upon which the grapes are thrown as they are brought from the vineyard, and trod into a pulp by the feet of the peones, the juice running into the vat below. The pulp that remains is made into excellent vinegar. The vats are then covered with plank, the cracks being
While writing of grapes and wine, we have been slowly pursuing our way down the valley toward our place of destination. The country appears to improve as we advance southward, the hills recede farther from the river, more land is under cultivation, and the mode of farming appears in advance of that in the northern part of the Territory. In some few places the old plow, of Jewish memory, has been thrown aside, and a more modern implement introduced in its stead; but they still patronize oxen, which drag their lazy bodies along the furrows at the slowest possible speed. As we passed through the Indian pueblo of Saudia, the young Indians were running about the village naked, amusing themselves shooting with the bow and arrow and kindred
I found comfortable quarters in the building used as the military head-quarters of the department. Before I left Santa Fé, Major Nichols, assistant adjutant general of the army, tendered me the use of his rooms while I should remain in Albuquerque, and gave me a letter of introduction to Mr. David Garland, which contained the request that he would place them at my disposal. During the week I passed there I received many kind attentions from Mr. Garland, my host, to whom I yet feel under obligations.
The town of Albuquerque is venerable with age, whose settlement dates back about two hundred and fifty years, to the time the Spaniards first obtained a foothold in the country. It is situated a few hundred yards from the river bank, and in one of the most productive regions
I had no more than time, after my arrival, to dispense with a little of the dust of travel, and make the necessary ablutions, before my presence was required in court, then about to open the session. I took my way to the eastern edge of the town, and in a modest-looking mud building found quite a throng assembled, and the judge upon the bench. The court at this place continued in session during the week; but as the details of legal proceedings can not be otherwise than wearisome to the reader, I will not claim the attention to their recital. There were five separate indictments found for the crime of murder, which does not speak well for the morals of the county. One little circumstance I will mention, which shows the actor to have been either a fool or a knave, or a little of both. A man was indicted for stealing fifteen mules, and as he could not be then tried, he was directed to confer with his attorney about giving bail for his appearance at the next term. He treated the whole matter as a good joke, and hardly thought it worth while to look for security for his future appearance. He said he understood the whole matter, and knew well why they had placed his name upon the books of the court: they wanted somebody as defendant in the case, and had only used his name for the sake of convenience, but that they might as well have chosen some one else. The poor fellow did not appear to realize the position he occupied, but most likely came to his senses after he was convicted and "sent below" for two or three years.
The dullness of a week's hard work in the court-room was somewhat enlivened by a dinner given by Mr. Garland in the mess-hall at head-quarters, and which was attended by the court, members of the bar, and officers of the army on duty at that post. As all such assemblies are in duty bound to be, it was a "feast of reason and a flow of soul." The usual quantity of witty things
From albuquerque we continued down the valley to Tomé, the county seat of Valencia county, the next point at which the District Court is held. I started for that place about the middle of the afternoon of the twenty-third instant, Sunday, in company with Judge H., my old traveling companion. The day was clear, but one of the strongest winds of the season was blowing up the river, almost fierce enough to lift us from our horses. The valley increases in width as we advanced, but in that section it is mostly adapted to grazing purposes. About sundown we arrived at the rancho of Mr. Baird, where, by previous invitation, I tarried all night, while my companion continued on to Peralta, a few miles farther down. Several other gentlemen, on their way to court, arrived before dark, and also remained over night at the rancho. We were all treated with genuine Southern hospitality, and passed a pleasant evening with our host and hostess.
We took an early start the next morning, as we had a ride of thirty miles to make before reaching Tomé. Our course lay nearly due south along the bank of the river, which here rolls toward the Gulf of Mexico in a deep and muddy current. On the eastern side runs a ridge of rocky hills, bare of vegetation, while on the west the country is more level, with mesas extending back from the river. Numerous flocks of sheep and herds of cattle were feeding upon the excellent pasture
Some time before we reached our place of destination we could see the green trees that shade the Plaza of Tomé, and the spire of the church above the level of the valley. It was about noon when we arrived, and I found comfortable quarters awaiting me at the house of a fair widow, having been secured through the kindness of Judge Benedict. The court being already in session, I had only time to dismount and lay off pistols and spurs, when I was obliged to go thither. I wended my way to a small one-story mud building, where I found his
Tomé, the county seat of Valencia county, is a village of not more than four hundred inhabitants, with the usual number of burros and dogs. The situation is rather picturesque, and in this particular compares favorably with any Mexican town in the country. The valley spreads out several miles between mountain ranges that bound it on both sides of the river. The soil appears naturally fertile, and, wherever cultivated, produces good crops. The Plaza is shaded and ornamented by a number of fine old cottonwood trees. The hand of Time has lain heavily upon Tomé, and a change has come over its appearance. In former days it was one of the most prosperous towns in the Rio Abajo, and was the scene of annual festivals, when hundreds of people from far and near flocked thither for purposes of religious worship and amusement, and feast and fun were kept up for several days. In the course of time, the hostile Nabajos made descents upon the town, and carried many of the inhabitants into captivity. From this period we may date its decline. The people deserted their houses for a more secure home, the trade fell off, and the religious
By this time the cook has completed the preparations for dinner, and the viands are smoking upon the table. We found the eatables at the house of our fair hostess superior in quality to those placed before us in the generality of Mexican houses, and the cooking was more after the American manner of doing such things; and then it was something of a relief not to see the omnipresent chili, like the shortcomings of one's ancestors, staring you in the face at every meal. The plates were clean, which was not always the case elsewhere; and then, as an additional comfort, each person was provided with a knife and fork.
The business of the court occupied the entire week up to about ten o'clock on Saturday morning, but nothing of much importance or interest was transacted. We were all somewhat amused at one circumstance that took place. Two indictments for trading without license were tried, in both of which the jury rendered a verdict of "Not Guilty," and fined the district attorney fifty dollars for prosecuting, at which rate it would be dear work attending to the "pleas of the crown." If there is any truth in the old adage, "Set a rogue to catch a rogue," the composition of the grand jury at the present term was most admirable. They had been chosen, as his honor or informed them in his charge, because of their honesty and integrity, to ferret out crime committed in the body of the county of Valencia; and, according to the standard, the selection was well made, for just before they adjourned one of their number picked the pocket of the
The people of Tomé were not unmindful of the rites of hospitality while we remained in their village, and on Tuesday evening a baile was given for our amusement at the house of one of the most respectable inhabitants. The sala had been decorated for the occasion, and the Paganini of the village had been called into requisition. As is customary upon such occasions, a table well supplied with liquors stood in one corner of the room, where all who were so disposed could regale the inner man with a little spiritual comfort. It is quite the custom, after each set, for the gentleman to take his partner to the table to treat her, and it is rarely the case that the fair sex are averse to imbibing.
I made my adieus to the fair hostess of Tomé a little before noon, and, in company with one traveling companion, started for Socorro. Our course still lay down the Valley of the Del Norte, upon the east bank of the river. For the first fifteen miles the appearance of the country was about the same as that hitherto traveled over. As we went south, the mountains called Las Sierras de los Ladrones rose in view in the distance, and served as a landmark until we reached our place of destination. At Casa Colorado we struck a young desert, an excellent pocket edition of the great African Zahara, over which we journeyed for about four miles. A high west wind was blowing at the time, and there was no grass upon the ground to keep the sand where it belonged: it drifted about like snow in a winter's storm; the particles
We traveled that afternoon to La Hoya, about twenty-five miles from Tomé, and remained there for the night. The country nearly the whole way is too barren to be susceptible of cultivation, and the only fertile spots are occasional small patches in some of the valleys close to the river. It was near sundown when we entered the town, and as we rode in the whole canine population saluted us from the roofs of the houses, and, as is always the case with Mexican dogs, the more secure they are the more impudent they become. We stopped at a house where two other Americans, who had preceded us, were staying.
Supper was over when we arrived, but the landlord had the table respread in a short time, and some simple food placed upon it. I had lain down upon a colchon to rest, and could but watch and be amused at the operation of getting supper. First and foremost came the master of the house with a few small pieces of bread wrapped up in a dirty cloth; next the maid-servant with a pitcher of coffee; then followed a second with a large dish of chili colorado, a compound of red peppers and dried buffalo meat stewed together, flaming like the crater of Vesuvius; and a third servant, with the knives and forks, closed the procession. These articles, with a few corn-cakes, made up the repast; and hunger, which is
La Hoya is situated on the east bank of the Del Norte, a few hundred yards from it, and contains some four hundred inhabitants. In times past the Nabajo Indians used to make frequent descents upon the town, and our host exhibited, with much pride, a bow, quiver of arrows, and a lance which he captured a few years ago in one of the encounters after having slain the owner. Mattresses were spread in the sala, and, being travel-wearied, we retired early, and slept soundly until morning.
We were astir on the morrow at early dawn. The host, with his "man-servants and his maid-servants," had chili, tortillas, and coffee prepared for us by the time we were ready to partake, when, the meal swallowed and bill paid, we mounted and rode away. We took the beaten track that leads toward the south, and traveled at a brisk gait through a sandy and barren country. In a ride of fifteen miles we came to a small village on the Del Norte, opposite the town of Limitar, and near the point at which we wished to pass to the west bank of the river. Two of us rode directly to the ferry, while the balance of our party tarried in the village. The river was quite high and rapid, and the only means of crossing was in an old canoe made out of a cottonwood log, the horses being obliged to swim. We divested them of their saddles and bridles, and tied the cabestro (a long hair rope) around their necks to guide them while in the water. We had some difficulty in getting them to take the water; but, once fairly in and striking out for the opposite shore, we converted them into a convenient motive power, and made them drag canoe and passengers to the other side, where we arrived in safety. Our efforts to induce our animals to enter the stream reminded us of those made use of upon a certain occasion when
|I bored a hole in æsop's nose,|
|And through it run a string;|
|I led him to the river bank,|
|And kicked the bugger in.|
Arrived upon the opposite bank, we paid old Charon his fee, saddled up our dripping animals, and rode away to Limitar, where we stopped for dinner and siesta at the late residence of General Manuel Armijo.
General Armijo was the most distinguished man that New Mexico has ever produced, and for many years before the Americans occupied the country he held the highest position in the Territory. His rise from the lowest obscurity to great distinction among his countrymen is one of those rather romantic occurrences that mark the course of every people. He came up from the lowermost round in the ladder of Fame, and, solely by the force of his native genius, eclipsed all his compeers in the race. His origin was so humble as to be almost unknown. When a boy he tended sheep and goats upon the mountains, and grew up a pastor, without education and without friends. It is said of him by some of his countrymen that, when a shepherd, he would steal the sheep and goats of his employers, and in some instances would sell them to their owners two and three different times. In this manner he is said to have obtained a start in the world, and his talent helped him to the goal. He taught himself to read and write long after he had grown up to man's estate. He was the governor and commander-in-chief of the province at the time the American army entered the country, but he gave up his power without a struggle. He died in
The mayor domo of the establishment received us in the court-yard and conducted us into the house, where we were welcomed by the owner of the establishment, a son-in-law of the deceased general. As is customary with a Mexican gentleman, he placed every thing at our disposal, but we well understood that nothing farther was donated to us than accommodations for ourselves and horses. We were ushered into the main sala, where servants soon made their appearance with water for the necessary ablutions and the accompanying toilet fixtures.
The room exhibited a singular mixture of modern elegance and barbaric taste. In one corner stood an elegant canopied brass bedstead, after the most approved Parisian style, while in close contact was another clumsily made of pine and painted a dirty red; heavy wooden benches seemed misplaced beside velvet-covered chairs and a beautiful Turkey carpet; and the time-stained wooden beams that supported the roof were reflected in twenty gilded mirrors that hung around the room. Dinner was served up with more than the usual style of the country, and the respective dishes were as palatable as could be desired. Besides water and coffee, we had native wine and whisky upon the table. After dinner was concluded we all indulged in a siesta, which is as much in the programme of good manners at a gentleman's house in a Spanish country as genteel behavior in the drawing-room.
We resumed the road for Socorro at three o'clock in the afternoon, and reached that place about sundown. The balance of our party had overtaken us at Limitar, and we were also joined on the way by the marshal and his deputy, which increased our number to a respectable cavalcade. The marshal's deputy was a member of the Smith family, who relieved the tedium of the ride by
Now and then our friend Smith tried his hand at the healing art, and, being quarter-master-sergeant of the regiment, he always used horse-medicine in his practice. He was known among the peasantry, with whom his practice lay, as Doctor Simon. Upon one occasion he administered a stiff dose of saleratus and vinegar to an old woman for the rheumatism, and, strange as it may seem, she got well under his treatment. Her friends looked upon the cure as a most miraculous one. A few days after, her son visited the camp with a present of eggs and chickens for Smith, as a reward for curing his mother. He inquired for "Doctor Simon," but was conducted through mistake to Doctor Simpson, the surgeon of the regiment, whom he told that he had brought him
In Socorro I took my meals at the house of Mr. Conner, an ex-Mormon, but lodged in another part of the town. The marshal and myself occupied the room together at a rent of fifty cents a day. It was a small and uncomfortable affair, with one door and one window, and before the latter dangled a dirty rag instead of glass. The floor was the bare, damp earth, and the furniture consisted of a small pine table, a rude bench, and two mattresses: the ornaments were a couple of family saints, a small piece of looking-glass set in tin, and a few paper rosettes stuck upon the wall. The remainder of the building was inhabited by two families, one occupying the wing across the court-yard, while the other lived in the sala. One evening I entered the sala to light my candle, and found the poor family seated upon the bare earthen floor eating their supper, which consisted of atole, without bread or meat. The room was cheerless in the extreme, and they did not appear to possess a single comfort of life. They were surrounded with filth, with hardly enough clothing to cover them, and yet in this condition live the great mass of the people of the country.