James Henry Worman.

An elementary grammar of the German language: online

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opening is left at the top of the tent, through which
the smoke from the fire inside passes out. At the top
there are also a couple of wings, which can always be so
arranged as to break the wind, and keep the smoke
from being blown back into the tent. One of these
tents is usually as large inside as a good sized room,
and they're as comfortable as a house. The fire is
built in the center of the tent, and at night a dozen
Indians will sometimes lie down in one of them,
sleeping in a circle with their feet to the fire. Gener-
ally they sleep on buffalo-robes and other undressed
skins, but sometimes they have a kind of willow mat-
tress, which makes about as nice a bed as a tired
hunter ever stretched himself out on.

*^ Their peltry was piled up inside the lodges, and



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SOME STRANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 17

when we had held a powwow with an Indian, and
arranged to do business at his lodge, we unpacked our
goods and trading commenced. It was all a matter
of barter, and no money value was ever placed on any-
thing. We used to get pretty good bargains in these
trades with the Indians, although I suppose every-
body understands that.

^* Their furs, buck-skins, robes and ponies were
what we traded for. For a good butcher-knife they
were generally willing to give us a buffalo-robe, and
for a pound of powder, the gun-caps, and about sixty
bullets to go with it, we could almost always get two
robes.

** Sometimes when they were disposed to drive
hard bargains we had to give them two common
butcher-knives for an extra good buflfalo-robe, but
even that left us a pretty fair profit. A good beaver-
skin cost us about thirty cents in trade, and it took
three bullets and three charges of powder to get a
nicely-tanned buckskin. ' '

That one may understand somewhat the difficul-
ties of living in this country in the early fifties, it is well
to recall one of Uncle Dick Wootton's stories. In 1853
he decided to try stock-raising about twenty miles from
the site of the present town of Pueblo, Colorado. His
wife and children, however, were in Taos, a distance
of 165 miles away over the mountains. At this time
the Indians were on the war-path and it was only
with the greatest daring that a man would attempt to
make this trip. Yet, several times Uncle Dick crossed
the mountains, always aiming to keep clear of the
trail rather than to follow it and riding hard all the



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18 A LITTLE JOUENEY TO

time, sometimes without stopping an hour for sleep.
On one occasion he made this trip in a little less than
twenty-four hours, and though he came in sight of the
Indians at several points along the way, it was only
once that they saw him and fired upon him, though
he managed to elude their vigilance and escape.

THE RATON PASS

It is to Uncle Dick Wootton that we owe the Raton
Pass over the mountains. In his teaming through the
country he of ten had occasion to hunt out new roads,
and as far back as 1858 had discovered that this could
be made into the best pass, if a satisfactory mountain
road were built from Trinidad on the eastern side to
the summit. Accordingly in 1865 he applied for a
charter from the Colorado legislature authorizing
him to construct a toll road from Trinidad to the New
Mexico line and another charter from the New Mex-
ico legislature covering the road from the New Mexico
line to the Red River. Said he :

** What I proposed to do was to go into this wind-
ing, rock-ribbed mountain pass and hew out a new
road which, barring grades, should be as good as the
average turnpike. I expected to keep this road in
good repair, and charge toll for traveling over it, and
thought I could see a good business ahead of me.

* ' I had undertaken no light task. There were hill-
sides to cut down, rocks to blast and remove, and
bridges to build by the score. I built the road, how-
ever, and made it a good one too. That was what
brought the Santa Fe trail through this way, and as



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SOME STEANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 19

the same trail extended to Chihuahua in Mexico, my
twenty-seven miles of turnpike constituted a portion
of an international thoroughfare/'

THE CORPORAL ^S GRAVE

Just before entering the Raton tunnel, a lonely grave
may be seen. This is the grave of a Mexican corporal
who was murdered near Uncle Dick Wootton's house
in 1865. At this time the Indians were so trouble-
some that all wagon-trains passing through to Santa
Fe or California had to be escorted by soldiers from
Fort Larned. On this occasion there were about 150
wagons escorted by a company mainly of Mexican sol-
diers under the command of Captain Haley. There
was a feud between some of the soldiers and the cor-
poral, whose name was Juan Torres, and three of the
men had vowed to kill him. Uncle Dick says these
four men came down to his house one night and then
left at an early hour. Says he :

**They had not been gone more than half an hour
when I heard them talking, not far from my house,
and a few seconds later I heard the half-suppressed
cry of a man who had, I was satisfied, received his
death blow. I had gone to bed and lay for a minute
or two thinking whether I should get up and go out
to the rescue of the man whose cry I had heard, or
insure my own safety by remaining where I was.

**A little reflection convinced me that the mur-
derers were undoubtedly watching my house to pre-
vent any interference with the carrying out of their
plot, and that if I ventured out I should only en-



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20 A LITTLE JOUENEY TO

danger my own life, while there was scarcely any pos-
sibility of my being able to save the life of the man
who had been assailed.

''In the morning when I got up I found the dead
body of the corporal stretched across Raton creek, not
more than a hundred yards from my house.

''As I had surmised he had been struck with a
heavy club or stone, and it was at that time I heard
him cry out. After that his brains had been beaten
out, and the body left where I found it.

' ' I notified Captain Haley at once of the occurrence,
and identified the men who had been in company with
the corporal and who were undoubtedly his murder-
ers.

"They were taken into custody and made a full
confession, in which they stated that one of their
number had stood at my door on the night of the
murder to shoot me if I ventured out to assist the
corporal. Two of the scoundrels were hanged after-
wards at Las Vegas, and the third was sent to prison
for life. The corporal was buried near where the sol-
diers were encamped at the time of the tragedy. '^

Entering the tunnel, we leave Colorado behind us,
and are in the state of New Mexico, — created a state
in the year of our visit, 1910, — and here, while we
travel 2,678 feet, we are in midnight blackness. Then,
as we emerge into the light, Raton Canyon is before
us, down the winding course of which we descend to
Raton, and here begins our introduction to what sixty
years or so ago was a part of Spanish America. No
sooner had we left Raton than Dr. James told us the



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SOME STEANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 21

following interesting story, pointing out, as he did so,
the mouth of the canyon where what he saw occurred.
*^It was at Eaton, going on twenty-five years ago,
that I had my first experience with that wonderful
fanaticism known as the Penitentes. It was Easter
time and I had been staying at Raton for a w^eek or



PENITENTE MORADA AND CROSSES

two, part of the time wandering over the mountains
and surrounding country with one of those rather
interesting characters sometimes met with upon the
frontier, who knows everybody, and whom everybody
knows, who goes where white men, as a rule, dare not
go, and does naturally the many things that w^hite
men never think of doing. We had become great



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22 A LITTLE JOUBNEY TO

chums and it seemed to be his delight to find new and
interesting things for me to see.

*^One morning he came in in a state of great ex-
citement, and, half in anger at his own f orgetf ulness,
he jerked out an oath and poured forth a fervid
stream of statements to the effect that it was Easter
time when the Penitente Brothers would be engaged
in their wonderful ceremonials. The upshot of it was
that we got horses and rode down to the canyon three
or four miles south of town and were soon perched
upon a hillside looking down upon the little Mexican
jacal from which the penetrating tones of a flute or
flageolet wailed forth its dolorous notes. Following
the flute we heard the singing of one or two hymns in
rude uncultivated voices of men. This was the sacred
morada of the Penitentes.

**In a short time several of the Penitente Brothers
emerged. Each votary had a mask or hood over his
head which completely concealed his face and ex-
cluded all possibility of recognition, even by his most
intimate friends. The upper part of the body was en-
tirely nude, the feet were bare, and the only garment
worn was a pair of cotton drawers. Each man held
in his hand a scourge — sl three-foot-long whip, witli
a flap-like end, having the shape and appearance of
a flexible spoon. This was made of yucca and cactus,
and the spoon-shaped end was a large leaf of the
prickly pear, one of the most thorny of the cruel
cactuses of the southwest. The whole scourge was
filled with the spines of cactuses, and no sooner did
the procession form and move forward, each hooded
figure guided by a friend, than, to our utter amaze-
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SOME STEANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 23

ment and horror, these cruel scourges were whirled
over the shoulders and brought down with resound-
ing * thwacks' upon the bare backs of those religious
fanatics. Every third step the back was beaten, and
now and again we could hear the half-smothered
shriek of the self-whipper as the piercing thorns
penetrated the flesh. It was not long before the
blood ran in tiny streams down their backs and the
white drawers were stained crimson. But nothing
daunted the fanatic fury of this band. On they
marched, led by the fifer, the pitero, playing on his
pito a most doleful air, accompanied by the equally
dolorous singing of the Hermano Mayor, or Principal
Brother.

Several hundred yards up the canyon a large
cross was standing, and the whipping continued each
third step until this cross was reached. Then the
flagellantes threw themselves face downwards, pros-
trate before the cross, and lay there for some time,
while prayers were offered by the Hermano Mayor.
Rising, the cross was marched around, and then
the procession returned in like manner to the
morada.

That afternoon, about three o'clock, another pro-
cession formed with five of the brothers whipping
themselves. This time there were several women
following in the procession. It almost made one sick
to hear the swish of those fearful cactus whips
whirled over the shoulders and the dull spat as they
came down thwack on the back of the fanatical
victims.

There was one of the brothers, however, who



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24 A LITTLE JOURNEY TO

marched along for twenty or thirty steps and at each
swing of his whip, though he appeared as if about to
strike himself with vigor, he so twisted and turned
that his body dodged the prickly whip. There were
several spectators near me and some of them spoke
out in derision : * * Look at that fellow. He is dodging.
He is not whipping his sins out.'' Then to my amaze-



PENITBNTE FLAGELLANTES AND CROSS BEARERS

ment, one of the Hermanos de Luz (brothers of light)
or guides, seized the whip, and, calling upon another
of the brothers of light to guide the cowardly mem-
ber of the fraternity, he proceeded to bring the whip
down with a resounding thwack upon the bare back
of the pilgrim. At every stroke the blood spattered
out on each side and when the procession was over
I picked up a number of pieces of wood and leaves,

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SOME STRANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 25

etc., which were splashed over with the sanguinary
fluid.

All this time the pitero was wailing out his pierc-
ing tones, while the cracked voices of two or three of
the men united in singing the hymn, ^My God and
My Redeemer.'

The following day the procession with its flagel-
lations was repeated, but in the afternoon there was
a startling change. Outside the morada leaned three
large and heavy rude crosses made of pine trees, on
which the bark still remained. Three of the blind-
folded brothers were led to these crosses and it
seemed with considerable effort on the part of four
or five of the attendant brothers of light each cross
in turn was lifted upon the back of one of the pil-
grims. Then, led by the Hermano and the pitero
fifing and siiiging, and followed by a dozen or more
women, the procession slowly started up the canyon.
The poor wretches on whose shoulders the crosses had
been placed staggered along with their awful bur-
dens, evidently moving only by the exercise of the
strongest will-power, as the burden seemed heavy
enough to have staggered several men. One of the
poor victims at last staggered and fell with the cross
crushing the upper part of his body. He must have
fainted for he lay perfectly still for what seemed
quite a little time while the procession halted, but
not for a moment did the doleful wailing of the fife
or the quavering of the singing cease. There was a
brief consultation of some of the brothers of light
and three of them stepped forward and raised the
cross, whilst another gave the prostrate pilgrim sev-

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26 A LITTLE JOURNEY TO

eral fierce and resounding thwacks with a cactus whip,
following his blows with several kicks at the pros-
trate form. The poor wretch staggered to his feet
and again the cross was put on his shoulders, and as
he staggered forward, he was urged on his way at
about every other step with a vicious blow from the
whip of his attendant brother of light. A little fur-
ther on, one of the other cross-bearers fell, but he
seemed to have more strength than the first one who
had fallen, and soon regained his feet. It seemed
a pitiably long time before that strangely solemn yet
pathetically hideous procession reached the little
knoll where holes already had been dug for the stand-
ing up of the crosses. This knoll or hillock is called
El Calvario — The Calvary.

Here other ceremonies were gone through, and
that evening in the little church in town there was a
graphic and dramatic representation of the events
that followed the Crucifixion — the darkness, the rend-
ing of the Veil of the Temple, the earthquake, the
arising of the dead from their tombs, etc.

These things transpire every year in quite a num-
ber of the Mexican communities of New Mexico, Ari-
zona and Southern Colorado. The Encyclopedia
Britannica declares that the last procession of pern-
tentes or flagellantes took place in Lisbon, Spain, in
1820. But in this, as in other things, authorities are
not always sure of the facts they state. It would make
no difference if a thousand authoritative encyclope-
dias all declared that self-flagellations were at an end,
in view of what the eyes of living men and women
of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have seen



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SOME STEANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 27

in Arizona and New Mexico. I have since seen this
performance, with slight variations, at four different
settlements.

And yet, even in Arizona and New Mexico, good
Catholics will tell you that the penitentes no longer
exist, for the Archbishop has promulgated certain de-
crees against it which render its ceremonies impos-
sible. But even this makes no difference to the facts,
which are, that the penitentes exist and still conduct
their woefully piteous ceremonies in the belief that
thereby they are partaking of the sufferings of Christ
and that they thus render themselves partakers of
his ultimate glory.

Again and again I have said to these flagellants,
**But how can you be a good Catholic and a penitent e,
when the Archbishop has forbidden it?'' The reply
has invariably been : ^ ^ It is nothing to me what he for-
bids. I don't care whether I am a Catholic or not.
I am a penitente/' This last declaration is made with
a self-conscious air of pride and superiority that de-
notes that the last word has been said. To be a peni-
tente is to be above anything and everything that such
an one could desire.

At the same time it cannot be denied that the in-
fluence of the church is gradually reducing the num-
ber of members of this order and doing away with
many of its hideous celebrations. Quietly but firmly
the priests are extending their influence and one by
one the hillside moradas are falling into ruins.

It is hard to tell just how the order of penitentes
came into existence in Arizona and New Mexico in
its present form. For while it undoubtedly was

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28 A LITTLE JOURNEY TO

brought into this region by the Spanish Gonquistor
dores some three hundred years ago, it is scarcely to
be believed that they brought it in its now existent
form. While many a monk and nun had practiced
self-flagellation in Europe, and even the sweet-
spirited Saint Anthony of Padua, soon after the dawn
of the thirteenth century, had founded a fraternity,
which regarded the use of the rod and whip in public
penance as part of its discipline, such practices had
long been frowned upon by the church authorities.

It is well known that there was a ^Hhird order'' of
Franciscans, for as late as 1793 we are told Spanish
letters often referred to it as ^^La Cofradia del terces
orden de Franciscanos,'' — the brotherhood of the
third order of Franciscans.

It is more than possible that the existence of the
penitentes in their present form is owing to certain
customs that the Mexicans found to exist among the
Pueblo Indians and which prevailed from time im-
memorial. Each pueblo has had its professional peni-
tentes called caciques who, at certain periods of the
year, retired to solitude and completely fasted, spend-
ing their days and nights in prayer interceding with
^^ Those Above'' for the forgiveness of the sins of the
people. Every pueblo has its stories, more or less
legendary, perhaps, about the self-abnegation and
self-sacrificing spirit of these noble men. They are
looked up to and revered by the Indians as are few
white men in any position.

In the olden time, some of these caciques used to
do penance. Tradition has it that one tribe received
its name, Poo-ya-tye, from the fact that the caciques

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SOME STEANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 29

pricked themselves in penitential punishment with
the poo-ya, or fierce thorn of the cactus.

It is possible that here we have the secret of the
growi;h of the ceremonies of the Mexican penitente.
He has combined the idea of the third order of St.
Francis with the flagellant and self-sacrificing Indian
caciques, and with the fervor of an untutored fanatic,
the thing grew to the proportions in which it was
found, until the severe penalties of the church, and
more potent still, the increasing influx of disapprov-
ing white men and women of the new civilization,
have either compelled its abolishment, or its retire-
ment to the complete secrecy of hidden recesses in
remote mountains or canyons.'^

As Dr. James concluded his story we all felt that
we were indeed in a wonderful land, if such cere-
monies as these were still permitted. It merely goes
to prove the truth of the old saying: ^^One half the
people never know how the other half lives.''

THE OLD SANTA FE TRAIL

But our minds were not allowed to dwell very long
on these things. Our attention was called to the fact
that we were journeying over what a few decades ago
was called the Santa Fe Trail.

It is a difficult matter for those who travel over
the country in a Pullman car to realize that less than
fifty years ago, all freight was taken over this country
in ^^ prairie schooners'' and passengers were con-
veyed by the overland stage. We found on the train
one of the oldest pioneers of New Mexico and he



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30 A LITTLE JOUENEY TO

kindly gave us this interesting description of the way
he used to haul freight over the plains and moun-
tains:

^^To begin with then, I had thirty-six wagons, and
to each of these wagons^ were hitched five pairs of
oxen. This made ten head of cattle to each wagon,
and three hundred and sixty in all. In addition to
these, I drove along with the train, a pretty large
herd of cattle, upon which I could draw to fill out the
teams in case any of the oxen were killed or injured
in any way, or as frequently happened, got sore-
footed. Altogether it took over four hundred cattle
to keep up the train, and when the teams were hitched
and stood ready to start, we had a procession nearly
a mile long.

^^Our wagons were what we called ^prairie
schooners.' They were strong, heavy wagons, with
long high beds, and would carry loads three or four
times as big as can be carried on the ordinary farm
and road wagons in use now.

^^It took forty men to manage the train. There
was one driver to each wagon, and then the wagon-
masters, who had a general oversight of the train,
and the herders who took charge of the stock when
we went into camp, brought the number up to forty.

*'In addition to the freight wagons we always had
an ambulance in which we carried some of our pro-
visions, and had room for a teamster or any one else
traveling with the train, who might happen to get
sick along the road. Sometimes we would carry two
or three passengers in the ambulance.

'^The men were divided into parties of ten each.



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SOME STRANGE PLACES AND PEOPLES 31

which we called a 'mess/ and each ^mess^ was fur-
nished with a camp-outfit for cooking purposes.
Then each ^mess' selected a cook, who was also a
teamster, but got extra pay, and was relieved of
guard duty and certain kinds of work which the
others had to do.

^^ When we selected a camping-place and got ready
to stop for the night, the wagons were driven up into
two lines so as to form a pen or, as we call it, a corral.
The tongues of the wagons were turned outside the
corral, and the fore wheel of a wagon rested against
the hind wheel of the one directly in front of it.
Driving them up in this way left the cattle all out-
side of the corral, and they were then unyoked and
driven to water, after which they were watched by
the herders, while they fed on the prairie grass, until
they got ready to lie down for the night. That was
what we called a camp-corral. What we called a
^fighting corral,' which we formed when we were at-
tacked, or likely to be attacked by the Indians, was
made by turning the wagon tongues inside the circle
of wagons. This brought the cattle all inside the cor-
ral, and made it easy to protect them and keep them
from stampeding.

^^We always started to drive early in the morn-
ing. The cattle were driven inside the corral, yoked
together, and hitched to the wagons in the order in
which they were to start out, those which had been
driven behind and had taken the dust of the train
one day, going ahead the next.

*^As I had charge of the train, I was called the
major domo, a term we borrowed from the Mexicans



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32 A LITTLE JOURNEY TO

and always used. My two assistants were wagon-
masters. My orders had to be obeyed by all my em-
ployes as promptly and strictly as would the orders
of the captain of a military company by the men
under his command, and we moved with about the
same precision as a military organization on the
march. I had so many men on guard all the time at
night, and one detail was relieved by another at regu-
lar intervals. When the wagons were driven into
line in the morning, each man took his place along-
side his wagon, and then awaited the order to start.
When the start was made, the wagons had to be kept
up within a certain distance of each other, like sol-
diers marching in single file.

^^By observing these precautions and preserving
perfect discipline among the men, I avoided having
any stragglers to look after when we were surprised
by the savages, and could always be prepared for a
fight in a few minutes.

** We started from the camp in the morning with-
out breakfast and drove until about ten o'clock, when
we stopped to eat. Then we rested until two and
sometimes three o'clock in the afternoon, while the
cattle were grazing and getting water.


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Online LibraryJames Henry WormanAn elementary grammar of the German language: → online text (page 2 of 16)