Written by Betty Newcomb Owens. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”
David Polk Newcomb was the second child and the eldest son of pioneer cattle ranchers and land owners on Colorado in the early days. His father Clarence Pollack Newcomb was born in Henrietta (Clay County), Texas on November 17, 1877, and came to Las Animas County with his parents in 1888, driving a trail-herd of cattle from Texas to the Barela Ranch area east of Trinidad. After a time they moved to California, then back to town where they lived in a mountain ranch west of town. They then moved back to town where they engaged in the dairy business for a time before returning to ranching in the Barela and Trinchera district in 1899.
David’s grandmother was born in Ohio and married his grandfather, a New Yorker, who as a young lad had run away from home and served as a seaman for a few years. The trails and tribulations of a young Ohio bride living in the Indian country of Texas were terrifying at times. One especially interesting story told by David’s father, Clarence, was about when he was a tiny little boy in Texas. The Indians came and took him from his yard, leaving a calf in his place. It frightened his young mother from Ohio so much she was almost incoherent, but when his father , John Newcomb, was finally able to figure out what happened, he immediately got on his horse and headed for the Indian camp to retrieve his son. He had to do a lot of bargaining to get him back. The Indians were feeding little Clarence some of their boiled meat and he was perfectly content among the savages when his father returned the calf and traded it again for the little boy.
Young Clarence became a cowboy and helped his father run their ranch. He was sometimes sent as far as Kansas City to the stockyards with carloads of cattle for marketing. It was on one of these trips, and through business associations with Canby Hawkins, that he was invited to Mr. Hawkins’ home, a large tobacco farm near Weston, Missouri, where he met and courted Veva Polk Hawkins. They were married in Trinidad June 6, 1906, and set up residence at the Barela Ranch place where their first child. Laura Ellen, was born. (Laura Ellen married Jimmy Fox and they were prominent ranchers in the Branson area. She is now widowed and resides in Trinidad.) Two years later’ when a second child was about to make his appearance, Veva returned to Missouri where David was born in her home on June 27, 1909. He was brought to Colorado when he was about six weeks old by Santa FE train, and introduced to the family.
David’s memories of living in Barela were vague and very few, for when he was quite young Clarence acquired the Butcher Block Ranch north of Trinchera, and when the children became old enough to attend school, the family moved to Trinidad where they lived part of the time. Three other children, a sister, Clara Ethel, and two brothers, John Canby and Phillip Donald, followed rapid succession. Another brother, Clarence, Jr., arrived several years later.
David’s early memories were of the baggy trousers and bulky shirts his grandmother, Veva Hawkins Newcomb, made him, and of the home cut, bowl-type haircut styles worn by many young lad of his time. His father taught him to ride horses and to help with the ranch work at a very early age. He had a small saddle, spurs, quirt, and chaps which were handed down to younger members of the family as he outgrew them. His first pair of boots were a prized possession. He enjoyed the little-toy things of childhood and spent many hours listening to stories told to him by his grandmother and also early day happenings as told by his father.
His grandmother told of interesting happenings on their many trips from Kansas City to Colorado by car before the roads improved or even had markings on them. It took several days for the trip and they d\stayed at farm houses along the way at night. She always brought enough food along for the days they travelled and she rode along with the car door open so she could jump out if it was necessary.
David’s first memories of Trinidad were of a new red wagon that carried him over the high wall on Grant Avenue again and again, until his mother removed the wheels so he wouldn’t break his neck. A large sled given to him one Christmas, on which he burned his initials and the Butcher Block brand, gave him many hours of pleasure and was used by the entire family. It was also used by David’s four children in later years; therefore, it covered a span of well over forty years of service and many, many miles traveled up and down the ice and snow covered hills of Trinidad.
At an early age he learned to drive the family Model T, and it was on one of the many rides he took with his father and sister that upon looking back they discover that the sister had fallen out of the doorless back seat. Luckily cars didn’t travel with much speed in those days, she was only slightly scratched when they found her sitting beside the road very much abused and feeling forsaken.
David spent a lot of time on the ranch helping his father and the ranch hands, so he learned more and more about the work he had to do. His father gave him a calf and the increase from the animal soon grew into a nice herd of cattle for him. Each steer was traded for a heifer, which helped to increase his herd more rapidly.
When living at the Butcher Block Ranch the children had fun at play on high rocks behind the house and laid logs across the crevices for crossing the areas they could not reach otherwise.
The Newcomb children attended school three miles from the Butcher Block Ranch headquarters for a few years. David drove the trusty car or the old tame horse hitched to a buggy to take the children to school. It was while attending this one-room school that he began to separate the girls from the boys and where first love of his life appeared in a cute little neighbor girl who shared her lunch with him. He took her for many a ride in the horse-drawn buggy and Model T. The young people of the community enjoyed many parties and picnics and had all sorts of fun get-togethers that country folk enjoyed in those days.
Each summer his mother, Veva, and all her brood visited for a few weeks in Missouri. At first they went by train, but after David was old enough he drove the family there by car. The last summer David went he learned to drive a tractor and to do other farm work. He courted a girl while there and gave his grandmother and mother many anxious moments. One day he took the family car without permission and drove to Kansas City all by himself and spent the day sight-seeing in the big city. On their return trip home to Colorado he was driving to fast when he hit a dip in the road. His mother, who was riding in the bach seat, was sound asleep, took a mighty bounce, and hit her head on the top of the car. She came home from her long journey with a marvelous black eye.
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