OLD BILL – 2 of 6

He entered the Ute camp warily, one hand on the mules’ lead rope, his rifle in the other. A man rose and came forward. Old Bill snorted a laugh. “Three Hands!” he said. “I done found you!”

The man studied him. “You searched for me?”

“Well, not ’xactly. But I sure am glad t’ find you.”

Three Hands nodded. “You are cold.”

“Warmer now than I was,” Old Bill said. “This is quite a little valley you have here.”

“Not so little.” Three Hands gestured to the south. “More below.”

“Sure am glad I stumbled in,” Old Bill said. “I was nigh to freezin’ comin’ over Bobcat Pass.”

The other man looked at the mules. “You trap?”

“I was, but the beavers are iced in nasty hard this winter. Can’t get at ’em.”

“The signs say the cold will continue.”

“That how come you’re here?”

Three Hands smiled noncommitally.

from Moreno Valley Sketches

Kit Carson’s Home is Attacked!

On June 26, 1850, while Kit Carson was traveling home from Missouri with trade goods, a band of Native Americans attacked the Carson’s hamlet of Rayado, in the shadow of the Cimarron mountains. Despite the presence of a company of Army dragoons at Rayado, the Indians—no one was sure if they were Ute or Jicarilla Apache—drove off six horses, four mules, and 175 head of cattle valued at over $5000. Two Rayado men were killed: an unarmed Army bugler and a civilian (possibly trapper William New).

The dragoons had been stationed at Rayado in response to the Indian raids against the communities on the eastern mountain slopes and on the Santa Fe Trail on the eastern plains since the middle of 1849. Some of the violence was undoubtedly triggered by events in August 1849, when Jicarilla Apache Chief Chacón took his band to Las Vegas to make peace, but was attacked by an armed party led by Lt. Ambrose E. Burnside, the future Civil War General. Burnside’s men killed fourteen Jicarilla and  captured the daughter of Chief White Wolf, who was then incarcerated in a Las Vegas jail. She was shot and killed during an escape attempt later that year.

June 26 illustration
Source: Fort Union and the Frontier Army of the Southwest by Leo E. Oliva

Following the June attack, the army sent another company of dragoons from Las Vegas and called for citizen volunteers to assist with a campaign against the Indians. The resulting expedition doesn’t seem to have helped much, although people died. Only after Fort Union was constructed in the Spring of 1851 did things settle down a bit.

Rayado had been established in 1848 by Lucien B. Maxwell and Christopher “Kit” Carson on land owned by Maxwell’s father-in-law. The idea seems to have been to raise stock. When the military unit was stationed there, Maxwell took the opportunity to rent out living space to them as well selling them fodder for their animals.


Sources: Howard Bryan, Wildest of the Wild West, Clear Light Publishers, 1988. Leo E. Oliva, Fort Union and the Frontier Army of the Southwest, Southwest Cultural Resources Center, National Park Service, 1993; Marc Simmons, Kit Carson and His Three Wives, UNM Press, 2003.

Half-Grown Pup

The half-grown pup had followed Old Pete and the mule from the Ute Indian encampment down-canyon. It was a gangly thing, large for an Indian dog, with dirt-matted curly black hair. Pete looked at it in disgust as it half-crouched at his feet.

“Damned if the thing ain’t smilin’,” Pete muttered. He poked the dog’s side with his foot. “You a doe or a buck?” The animal rolled over obligingly, paws in the air. “Buck.” Pete toed it again. “Well, you won’t last long, I expect. Be runnin’ off to the first camp with a bitch in heat.” He turned and twitched the mule’s lead rope. “Giddup.”

They trailed the Cimarron River up-canyon through the afternoon and settled into camp under an overhanging sandstone boulder as the light began to fade. It was still early: the sunlight went sooner as the canyon walls narrowed. But Old Pete was in no particular hurry and the pup was acting a mite tired.

“Gonna hafta keep up,” Pete told it as he cut pieces of venison off the haunch he’d traded from the Utes. The dog slunk toward the fire and Pete tossed it a scrap. “Too small fer my roaster anyway,” he muttered as he skewered a larger chunk onto a sharpened willow stick and lifted it over the flames.

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson