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Before civilization came to West Texas, traders served as ne

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Before civilization came to West Texas, traders served as ne
« on: August 10, 2006, 01:56:33 AM »

Before civilization came to West Texas, traders served as news reporters  
Burr Williams<br>MRT Correspondent
Midland Reporter-Telegram  

In 1871 Col.

John Shafter discovered Comancheros had traded some lead to both Apaches and Comanches shortly before he found their tracks in the sand dunes. History does not record the name of the Comanchero who traded there with Magoosh of the Apaches and Mow-way of the Comanches, but it very well could have been the famous Comanchero Jose Piedad Tafoya. As is my wont, one day while I was "botanizing" in the region, I released my imagination to envision a scenario that would portray how information was passed along in those days on the Llano Estacado and the surrounding regions. I focused on what Tafoya, the trader, would say.

Tafoya often rode the plains alone, keeping up with the always-changing location of his trading partners. Northeast of modern-day Kermit is a location that until recently was a popular 4-wheeling location, but the property recently sold to an individual does not approve of the hobby. In that area is a number of groves of willow trees where in wet years pools of open water can be found. Tafoya found Magoosh there. They conversed in Spanish, the lingua franca of everybody that visited the region until it became open range for Anglo ranchers another 10 years in the future.

"Hola, Magoosh. I heard you were in los medanos near Willow Springs and the burned wagon train. Ma'am Jones and her boys send their regards. I think Ma'am Jones thinks that oldest boy of hers -- John -- is getting in too many fights at Lincoln and Mescalero. He keeps getting in trouble with the Anglos who are claiming the Rio Hondo. Every time an Anglo hurts or bullies either the Mescaleros or one of mi paisanos, John jumps on him. He is supposedly looking for someone who beat up one of the Mexican farmers along the creek and raped his wife. The army did not do anything about it, of course, because the Anglo said the Mexican cheated him on a sale, and of course he was believed just because he was white." Magoosh told him John Jones had been with him until a few days before. Jones would later die at the hands of Bob Olinger not long before Billy the Kid filled Olinger full of dimes from a shotgun blast from the window of the Lincoln jail.

"Oh, so John was here? I know John gives that family meat because their grandmother gave them an herb that cured a fever for the Jones family when they lived on the Hondo River." Magoosh had been friends with the Jones family for six years, ever since Ma'am Jones had saved him from a near fatal wound. Tafoya waved at his packhorses grazing on the dark green dune sedge growing in damp soil.

"You need any lead? I got two dozen bars of it like this one from the sutlery near Fort Bascom. They had just got it from St. Louis. There is a wagon train on the Sante Fe Trail almost every day nowadays -- what with rumors of more mines in the Black Range and the Gila mountains." Magoosh hefted a bar of lead and explained why he was in the dunes.

"You say some of Jose de la Paz's young people came out to hunt antelope near the big spring at the edge of la ceja (the caprock escarpment) just north of here? I heard from my cousin who is freighting goods between the forts that Col. Shafter is headed this way from Fort Davis. (Shafter would build a monument at the abovementioned spring a week later.) Mow-way sent me word he would be hunting on the western Llano pretty soon -- something to do with the need of antelope skins and antlers for some big dance young Quanah is putting on later in the year. The lead is for his hunt. What will happen if he runs into the La Paz's young Mescaleros? Quanah might see a chance for some quick spoils of battle, and Mow-way would not be able to stop him." Magoosh told Tafoya he was looking for Mow-way.

"Oh ... you have heard that Mow-way is coming this way, too? And what -- you want to meet him? I ran into Carnoviste coming back from Casas Amarillas. He said he had a friendly meeting with Mow-way and a small hunting party up at Canyon de Rescate."

"Nothing like mutual enemies to make peace between old enemies -- is that what you and Carnoviste are thinking? You want to make sure you Apaches can hunt on the Llano without get bothered by young Quanah? Is Castellito and the rest of your Lipan Apaches still down on the lower Pecos and Devil's rivers? You want to ensure their ability to hunt buffalo on the Llano too? Smart thinking, amigo. I tell you what, I will head on to the east, and see if I can find Mow-way. You want to meet him at Willow Springs? Why so far west?" Tafoya suddenly understood and flashed a big grin.

"Oh, I see. You are thinking if things go badly, you can get lost in the dunes because he doesn't know this country as well as you. La Paz's group is handy, so you can fight, if Mow-way gets pushy. I think things will go pretty well because I know your power as a talker. You see things in a broader perspective than most people do. Knowledge is power, isn't it?" Tafoya noticed Magoosh was nibbling some small white nuts.

"Since you are nibbling on the seeds of those bullnettles growing here, you probably planted them here so you could have a familiar treat when you are visiting. I don't see bullnettle further north or west." Tafoya laughed at Magoosh's noncommittal shrug, and laughed even louder at the faint smile on Magoosh's lips and then stood up to head east.

© 2006



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