Chokecherry butter – coyote medicine

Thursday, March 9, 2017 6:16 PM
Early morning, Dolores, Colo., on Jan. 10, 1893.

When we lived on the Dolores River at Lone Dome we saw a great deal of the Indians in our first years there.

Mr. Dunham used to ride at night to escape their attention.

He took a steep trail to the top of a hill and was greeted by some of the Indians he was trying to avoid. Goodman, a sort of a leader among the Indians, made him tell where he was going and why. He assured the Indians he was alone, and they let him go away unmolested.

Goodman used to visit us as a friend afterward. Later on he and two other Indians came to the place and wanted to stay the night, and my husband said they could sleep in the haystack.

I got supper for them, and they scrubbed and scrubbed themselves in preparation for eating. When the main part of the supper was over, the Indians produced some watermelons, which they brought from McElmo Canyon to treat us. But the melons proved to be unanimously green, and the Indians were disappointed.

The Indians called a spring on our place “Bob Water” and they would ask permission to camp there. (Mr. Dunham’s name was Robert, and is known to all as “Bob” Dunham – hence the “Bob Water.”) Their leaders would never let them get off their horses until Mr. Dunham came. Then they would get off and come in and sit around waiting to be fed.

One time a man named George King wanted to trade a pony to the Indians for a pair of chaps and then stole the pony. All the men down the Dolores River had gone to Rico and left the women and children alone there. An Indian came to our place and asked me if I had seen George King. He explained to me what King had done. I told the Indian they had better not kill George King, for when the cowboys returned; they would make him give back the pony to them. But the Indian chased King and shot at him. He jumped off the pony and let them get it without more trouble. Then the Indians came back and told me how the matter had been settled. This was about 1887. If such an episode had taken place years earlier, it would probably have been the case for someone being killed. Mr. Dunham thinks that in almost every case, Indian trouble around this part of the country could have been avoided if the white people had kept their heads, and he thought the years in the ’80s were the worst.

Jim Moore bought a ranch eight miles down the river that had belonged to a cat lover. He had 50 housecats on it. Mr. Moore had agreed to buy the ranch on condition that the man would kill all the cats. He did so, and Mr. Moore tanned the 50 hides and brought them to me to make into a robe. I used a government blanket to line the robe and took a great deal of pains to arrange the cat skins by size and color so that it would look as well as possible. It really made up nicely, but it wasn’t the sort of thing I would personally want to have about. I was afraid Mr. Moore would not care much for it, but he did. He was much pleased with his cat robe. Some years later a tourist purchased it for $50.

The Indians would come to our place to buy potatoes in the fall. We had a great many chokecherries down there, and I made chokecherry butter. The Indians called it coyote medicine and liked it very much. So I traded the coyote medicine for buckskin.

One Indian took a great fancy to my son Ralph, then a small child. He called Ralph his “Migo” and wanted to take him to the reservation. He gave him a pony.

One time an Indian with his hair cut short came to the place when I happened to be curling my hair with an iron. He asked me to curl his hair, and I fixed him a few curls and let him look at himself. He then insisted upon having his entire head of hair curled up in style, and I complied. He had noticed that Mr. Dunham’s hair is curly, and he wanted to know if I curled it for him as I curled his.

Anna Florence Robison interviewed Mrs. Dunham in 1934. June Head is the Historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society and may be reached for comments, questions, or corrections at 970-565-3880.