My Life’s Story
by Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen
Chapter 3: Farmington, New Mexico
In the spring of 1922, Mother decided to move to Farmington, New Mexico, which is in the northwest part of the state, because Father would not stay away from her and leave her alone. She began to get ready for the move just before school was to be let out for the summer and it became quite a project for her. Mother had to buy and outfit a covered wagon with a stove, supplies, our own personal effects and beds for all of us. She bought a pair of mules to pull the wagon. We took with us two cows who names were Bess and Heart. We made a coop for a half dozen hens which would lay eggs and a white dog of mine, I had named Yep, who had a black spot around one eye.
When we were ready to go, Grandfather insisted on sending along a young cowboy, whose name was Charley Rhodes, for our protection. He rode a horse of his own and carried his bedroll across the back of his saddle, and had a rifle strapped to the side of this saddle. I often wonder what Grandfather thought we might encounter. Was it a bunch of wild Indians or maybe it might be a drunken cowboy or two? Anyway, we got Charley Rhodes for an escort.
We would average anywhere from ten to fifteen miles a day, according to the weather and the terrain of the countryside. At night, we would find a wide place beside the road and camp in it. We did not have to worry about water, since, we carried a barrelful on each side of the wagon. There was always the chores to do night and morning. We had to feed and water the livestock and milk the cows and tend the chickens.
Harry and I walked most of the way to Farmington, either behind or ahead of the wagon and team. One day when we were running ahead of the wagon, Harry and I found a little, lost lamb who was very weak. We took it into the wagon and taught it to suck old Bess to get its milk. It soon learned to tag along behind us in the road, after it became strong enough to run.
Once Harry and I encounter a bear in a roadside cave. Another time, we ventured into what we thought was a haunted house until we discovered that it was bats in the attic, because they flew out of a window while we were there.
One night, we ate what Mother called a two legged, red rabbit. It was really a red chicken that Charley Rhodes had thrown a rock at and killed it.
We were in Bayfield, Colorado on the Fourth of July. It was full of people and the Main Street was crowded with them. I could not see around, between or over the people and I had to ask bow to find our wagon that was parked in front of the Free Methodist Church. It was the first time in my life that I had ever gotten lost, and it had to be in a town of only about five hundred people, at that. There was a rodeo getting ready to start and there were fireworks going off everywhere.
It was a hot day when we arrive in Farmington. Mr. Austin, a friend of Grandfather’s, was in town, waiting, to take us out to his farm. It had taken us about thirty two days to make the trip. Now a days, we can make the same trip in about fifteen hours at the most, in a good car.
On July 22, 1922, Mother married Mr. James H. Austin which came as a big surprise to me. I think that my father coming to Farmington was partly the cause of her marrying again so soon.
Mr. Austin went to Bayfield, Colorado in November where he rented the Mars Ranch which was twelve miles north of town.
To be continued…
Curiosity got the better of me. I did a quick check into Charley Rhodes, Eleanor’s grandfather, George Barrett’s ranch hand. He was born 1903 in Oklahoma to James King Rhodes and Laura May. His family was in the 1920 Elizabethton, Colfax County, New Mexico US Federal Census. Charley is listed among four other siblings; Elmer Thomas, Let a Rosetta, Era Mural and Floyd James.
Thank you for reading.
J. R. Findsen