As we were caring for father the other day, he approached us with this very old letter in his hand and said he wanted to share something his father had sent to our family a long time ago. Now I want to share a piece of it with you (some identifying information withheld):
The date of the letter is July 3, 1966. The letter begins by telling of a resent death in the family. We join it with, “Mom is the only one left of that family. I am the only one left of my family. Aunt Laura is the only one left of her large family – the original family that came from the Uncompahgre Valley, I think in the 1870’s with covered wagons and ox teams. There were Indians all over the valley at that time. But Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta were friendly to the whites. There was an old fort at Uncompahgre station and soldiers were maintained there. The soldiers used to have fun getting the Indian boys to practice shooting with their bows and arrows.
They would set up quarters on fence posts and if an Indian boy could hit it with an arrow he could keep it. But the Indian boys soon became so expert this was costing too much so the soldiers set up dimes for them to shoot at instead, but this also proved too costly, so then they set them up edgewise. Now the Indian boys had a harder time hitting them but would get one now and then.
I still have the old double barreled muzzle-loading shotgun that my grandfather had when he came into the valley. If it could talk it could tell stories. I will tell you one of them.
This gun might have saved the lives of all of our clan at one time. It happened this way. When the family were traveling across country in their covered wagons and ox teams, before they reached the Uncompahgre valley, they also brought with them a herd of cattle and horses. One day a band of Indians overtook them and stopped the wagons. They wanted grandfather to give them one of the cattle so they could kill it for meat. They said their squaws were hungry. Grandfather pointed out one he said they could have and some of them immediately took out after it but most of them stayed there milling around the wagons. They seemed to not be satisfied and might demand more. Grandfather knew there might be trouble. He had the old double barrel shotgun loaded with buckshot, but it did not have caps on the nipples at the base of the barrels and it would not fire without the caps, so he cocked the hammers on both barrels and put caps on both nipples. Now it was ready for action. The he tried to let the hammers down easy on the caps so it would not fire unless he had to use it, but one of the hammers slipped and BANG went that barrel and shot a hole through the back of the wagon and right through a hive of bees he had on the tail end of he wagon. The bees swarmed out, drove the Indians off, stinging them severely. Their arrows were no good against the bees.
Soooo maybe you and I and the whole clan owe our lives to those little yellow-banded busybodies – the smallest foe that ever whipped a band of Indians!!