Written by Louise Benavidez Sanchez. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”
My dad, Cecilio Benavidez, was born at Red Rocks, Colorado on February 2, 1914. His parents were Pas Benavidez and Vicentita Gonzales Benavidez. My father married my mother on June 27, 1893. My mother was born on March 4, 1876.
Her parents were Juan Moya and Josepha Montoya Moya. I do not know where they lived when they were first married, but we lived at the River place next to the Purgatory River ever since I can remember. It is located in Alfalfa, Colorado which is about 18 miles east of Trinidad.
Our house was made of adobe. There was a great big barn and corrals where my brothers tamed the bronco horses. There was a pond north of our house, where they hauled the water for our use. They brought it in big wooden barrels or a tank and dumped it into the cistern. They had a big cheese cloth to strain the water. In the winter time they filled the cistern with snow.
My dad was in partnership with Mr. W.G.Rupp in the sheep business. I don’t know how many sheep they owned, but at a rough guess they had at least 3 or 4 thousand. My father, mother and older brothers and sisters homesteaded there between Alfalfa and Model, Colorado. This is where the sheep herders camped while taking care of the sheep.
In the spring, everyone worked very hard when the sheep were lambing and the shearing had to be done. My dad hired about ten or twelve men that came from Roswell, New Mexico to shear the sheep. They traveled with their own shearing equipment. It was a big job when we would have to pack the wool in big sacks.
The men made a big round hole and there was a big iron rim that they hung the sacks from, and we would have to jump up and down on the sacks to press the wool down. It was fun, but it was also real tiring. Each sack held 1000 pounds or more. They would hang the sacks from the ceiling in the barn. Then there was the cooking for twenty five or more people, which included the shearers’ families.
We were a family of thirteen children. I was the eleventh down the line. They were: Servana, Maxine, Steve, Mar y Orlando, Josie, Big Joe, Celio, Sophia, Don, Louise (myself), Lee and Joie. My oldest sister and first born was Servana. She died at the age of 5 or 7. There was a brother, Don, who was born between Celio and Sophie. He passed away when he was four months old. That left eleven of us – six boys and five girls. At the present time, they have all passed away with the exception of three of us- Josephine Freyta, Sophie Bacca and Myself.
In November of 1930, there was a big blizzard. The snow was so high that on the south side of the house there was a tunnel that you could go through. My dad lost all of the sheep and went broke. The ducks were frozen on top of the snow.
My dad had a big room which he kept a lot of staples and groceries in. It was called the “Commissary”. When the neighbors would run out of groceries, they would come to buy some food from my dad. It was so bad after that blizzard that we began to run out of groceries ourselves, so my brothers and my dad built a big sled, and with a team of horses, they made a trip to Hoehne to get groceries from the Dunlavy Store. The cars could not travel because the roads were so bad.
We had quite a few cows that the boys had milked and we would separate the milk in the separator. We would make butter out of the cream and use some for cooking. We always had a lot of beef for our own use. We also had a lot of pork, chicken and lamb (mutton). When the men would butcher a pig, my older brothers and sisters would cure the meat and make delicious hams. I don’t really know how they cured them, but I do know they rubbed a lot of brown sugar into the meat, then they would hang the hams in the “Commissary” for a long time before they would be ready to eat. It was delicious!
In the winter, when they would butcher a cow or sheep or pig, they would hang the meat in the “Commissary” and it would freeze and we would use the meat as we needed it. In the summer time, they only butchered one animal at a time, and we used the meat until it was all gone; then they would butcher again.
My older brothers and sisters made real good sausage and they stored it in great big crocks of lard. I’ve never eaten such good sausage as the ones made at the ranch. We also had chickens, ducks and turkeys for our own use. My mother always had a garden, where we got our vegetables from; I always remember the good peas that grew in the garden. She even raised cantaloupes and watermelons.
She dried a lot of the vegetables that we used, like squash, and green chile; the corn she would make into “chicos”. She roasted the corn in the outside oven, which was built of adobe, then she dried it and cooked it with meat or ham. It was delicious. Sometimes she would cook it with pinto beans. She would also bake bread in this outside oven. I have never tasted better bread. She would make sour kraut and pack it in great big stoneware crocks; we would have kraut for a long time.
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