When my Father was a young boy there were no cars. I know that this is hard to believe. In this modern day and age it just doesnít seem possible. My Dad swears it was true. In those days the isolated reservations, and the surrounding communities only had roads that were good enough for horses and wagons. There were autos in existence but few, if any, made it to the back country.
To go anywhere was a big deal. The horses had to be gathered, watered, fed and then hitched up, two horses side by side. It was the most common thing in the world. Everyone did it.
To get some place took an extremely long time. There were no freeways or even paved roads. It just took a long time to go from point A to point B. For some reason my Dadís family would journey to the reservation named Santa Ysabel. There were relatives there and they would often go for a visit. The old trail did not follow where today's road is and it was a two day trip. There was a place where they would always stop and camp for the night. Then on the second day they would rise early and make a huge effort to get there in the second day. Near the end of the trip there was a steep grade to climb and you couldn't ride the wagon up the hill you had to get out an walk.
My Dad also remembers when his Father purchased a real fancy wagon. My Dad remembers the exact place in the near-by town of Alpine where the wagon was purchased. It was real fancy with a flat roof and tassels hanging down around the edge. What my Dad remembers the most was that it had rubber rims. In those days all wagons had metal rims but this one had real rubber edges. To this day my Dad couldnít get over how quiet the ride was. Those metal rims must have made a loud racket. That wagon was really something.
Eventually the roads widened up and his Dad got a Model A. The trip to Santa Ysabel would then only take one day. However, the Model A also could not make that steep climb. They would still have to stop at the bottom of the hill and walk up. His Dad took out all four coils, from the engine, and hide them in a near-by hollowed out tree. If you know what a Model A coil is you are a history type guy or you like cars. Then again you could be like my Dad and maybe you actually drove one. After hiding the coils they would hoof it up the mountain.
Today the drive to Santa Ysabel takes only one hour. When my Dad drives there, in his Lexus LS400, he just scoots up that hill like it wasnít there. He told me that today that grade is steep and long. To walk up it would be a feat for a modern man. Yet he remembers that even his old Grandma, who must have had 90 years, would just take that long and difficult walk and not even bat an eye.
Today my Dad has 85 years. He has the habit of taking a constitutional across the field and up a hill across from his house. One day some young fellow took the walk with him to ask about the culture and history. A few young people will do that but not many. Well about half way across the filed my Dad hears what at first sounded like a panting horse. He looks over and the young guy seems to breathing his last breath. His face is red and sweaty. My Dad told him he best be getting back so the young guy hobbled back across the field.
That young guy lived but I am not too sure for how long. What about the rest of us. Do we still have hills to climb?
My Dad and I got to talking about cars. He filled me in on the Model T. I now know that you controlled the throttle with your hand. You had two gears, high and low. If you put your foot down, you would get low gear. If you let it up you would get high gear. If you went up a steep hill you would have to keep your foot down all the way up the hill. Later on a two speed differential was added that would give you a middle gear. That was a great boon to the drivers because may times you did need that middle gear. The transmission had bands in it that would need replacing. Changing the bans was something that you had to do from time to time. Originally there were some small metal lips that caused changing the bands to be one heck of a job because you had to take the transmission out. Later the design changed where the lips would fold up. Man, that made life easier.
Later the throttle was moved to the floor so you do it with your foot. There were some kits that you could buy so the older ones could have it on the floor also. The crankcase had a small flywheel and there where lead bearings in the connecting rods. When you threw a rod you took out the connecting rod cap and filed it down. If you filed too much you would have to put shims on it to make it big again.
If you drove up hill, in the night, the lights would be real bright but as soon as you got to the top you switched gears and the lights got dim because the generator went slower. My Dad remembers missing that bright light when he got to the top of the hill. You started on battery power, dry cell, and then switched to magneto once the engine started. The starting crank originally hung down but people would hit something and it would bend then you couldn't start it again. No electric starters back then. Later there was a hook installed so the hand crank could be put out of harms way. If you were unlucky the thing would back fire and the hand crank would break your arm as it travel against your arm movement.
Oh yeah, if you have a hard starting one just jack up the rear wheel and it would act like an additional flywheel as you turned the hand crank. There were devices you could buy that were driven off of the real wheel. My Dad's Dad has a saw that ran off of a band that encircled the real wheel. Real handy.
When my Dad told me these things I found it fascinating. Those were really amazing times. I am glad that things have changed so I didn't have to do what he did, but you know it somehow gives me confidence that I now know these things. When I see an old Model T somewhere I will appreciate it more than those guys who's Dads didn't take the time to tell them the tricks and trades of that lost era.
My late Mom told us to yell if we went to a fair and got on one of the rides. She said that you would get to stay on longer if you did. When she told us this she would also tell of going to a fair with no money. One time, when she was single, some guy offered to take her to a county fair. There were lots of rides and things to do. She got the bus tickets and the entrance ticket. On the day she was suppose to go she called him but he said that he had no money. So she invited a girl friend and they went with neither one of them having any money. All they did was watch people go on rides. Sometimes crowds would gather to watch something. They would join the crowd and then when the crowd would break up they would join the next crowd. That was all they did. They couldn't eat or even have a soda. So when times were good and she did get money she would just have the time of her life. She did notice that the louder she yelled the longer the ride.
One day some friends and I went to a fair. We didn't have a lot of money so we looked around to see what ride would be the most fun. I saw some type of tilt a whirl ride with no one in line. I guess the guy wasn't doing too much business. My buddy and I got on the ride and screamed, yelled and used profanity like we were being killed. That was the longest ride I took in my life. When the operator finally let us off we tumbled onto the ground. The operator was smiling and there was this huge line of people just waiting to get on.
My Late Mother's side of the family are Curos. I am not too sure what the name means but it is a true Indian name deriving from some meaning. I read that it had something to do with the shade of a tree. Some members of that family have a curious physical trait. If you look at them the outside of both eyes have a fold of skin. My Late Grandmother Phil called it "Curo Eyes." I guess it can make them look kind of sad or something that I can't really describe. When I was a kid my good friend was my cousin that has the name "Thorpy." Once my Grandmother remarked how handsome he was. I always notice that Thorpy had the Curo Eyes. I told my Grandmother about Thorpy's eyes. I guess it stuck in my Grandma's mind because a couple of years later she said, "I used to think Thorpy was such a pretty boy until you told me about his eyes. Now when I look at him it is the first thing I notice. Since that time on I no longer thought he was good looking."
There was another incident that had to do with the Curo Eyes. One of the Curo relatives lived in the near by town of Lakeside. He was dying and as part of the custom the family would go down and pray by his bed as he lay there very ill. This is hard to believe but an apparition appeared on the bedroom wall. It was a face. Many people saw it and my Grandma remarked that she knew a lot of people in her life but she did not recognize the face. She did notice that it had Curo Eyes, so it was one of our ancestors. I know that people see potatoes that look like Elvis and other stuff but something else happened. As the relative neared death they called the local parish priest to come and pray and give the last rights. Now this was not a priest who services Indians but a city type priest who does not know our beliefs. When he came he went to the bedside and knelt down to pray. Before he could even pray he looked directly at the face on the wall. He turned to the people and said, "Don't be alarmed. That is a good thing." After the relative died the face went away. No one told the priest about the face before he came because people thought it was a Indian thing and other people might make fun of us.
I guess there are some things we believe that are just people things and maybe other people have forgotten them.
Sometimes Indians know things that are true but others do not. People know that when a person is an infant there is a soft spot on top of the head. Within a few months it eventually seals and becomes hard like the rest of the head. We believe that it remains a weak spot in one's life. If you ever fall or have some type of accident there is a chance it will sink in. If it does the person will get sick and not get well. If you get to it before it gets rotten you can reach into the persons mouth and push against the roof and it will pop back up and the person will get well. If it is not too rotten you can shave the top of the head. Put some type of leather cap on top that is coated with pine pitch. When you push on the roof of the mouth the sticky stuff will keep it up and you will get well. When my late uncle was a kid they did that to him and he got well. When my son was young he was ill, we took him to a regular doc but he didn't get well. We then took him to a traditional healer and she said his head had fallen in. She put some type of stuff on the top of his head so it would lube up and pop back up. My son got well.
Then there was this white family that lived near the reservation. As it sometimes happens this was a good family. Their young son played with the Indian kids and the parents were just and honest with the Indians. The son had an accident and fell off the roof of the house. They took the boy to the hospital but the boy remained unconscious. The Indians knew what was wrong and hatched a plan. They did not tell the boys parents because they would not understand. A group of Indians went to the hospital. The all went into the room and crowded around the boys bed. When the doctors and nurses weren't paying attention one of them reached into the boys mouth and pushed hard against the roof. The boy moan when they did it. A short time later the boy woke up and fully recovered.
Just because you don't believe in something, doesn't mean its not true.†