Anniversaries honor trials of early settlers
The second weekend of September, 2009, stands out in my mind as one of those “not to be forgotten” times.
I had been one of a group to hike up Pike’s Peak — or rather, hike halfway up Pike’s Peak, to turn around and hike back down from the halfway camp, due to serious weather conditions on the boulder-laden, above timberline summit.
What was snow on the summit, was rain on the bottom, rain that covered all of southeast Colorado and much of northern New Mexico.
Driving back to Santa Fe to rejoin my wife, the normally four or five hour drive from Colorado Springs to Santa Fe took eight hours, as all but 20 miles of it was in a thunderstorm.
The urgency, aside from not being able to afford a night in Colorado Springs, was so we could attend Fiesta Parade the next day when it did not rain.
Fiesta 2009 kicked off the 400th anniversary of our capital city, and was well worth driving through the rain. As most readers know, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of New Mexico statehood. Not to be overlooked, in this barrage of numbers and dates, is the recent and ongoing celebration of Curry County’s centennial (2009), coupled with the efforts of a group of citizens to make that centennial more real. Yet to be celebrated will be the internment of a time capsule, with objects emblematic of our time, space and culture, and this column will certainly devote more coverage as that spring event draws nearer.
Already accomplished, though still current, are the creation of a centennial coin and a centennial cookbook.
Each and all of these fulfill an educational as well as historical purpose, so let’s begin our journey to that time with a glimpse of what life was like, a mere 10 decades ago.
Even at that time, a family moving to Curry County would have needed to make the long journey from let’s say, Pennsylvania, with most of their supplies either carried or gathered (hunted or picked) along the way.
Sure, there were scattered towns, but also long stretches without towns.
Pneumonia and influenza were among the leading causes of death, and the average life expectancy of this early pioneer, (of anyone in 1909), was 47 years.
Twenty percent of adults could not read or write, and only 6 percent of Americans had graduated high school. Teachers and clergy were valued because, among other reasons, they were among the most literate in a community.
However, in this part of the country, at least among the clergy, it wasn’t a matter of “in the community.” That circuit rider might serve half the state, and only come around, therefore, every month or six weeks.
The rest of the time, church was you and a few neighbors, with one of you who could read presenting the Bible lesson.
The Bible would almost certainly be one of the few books a family would own.
Many of the hazards faced a few years previously were gone, though not forgotten, by those founding mothers and fathers of 1909.
However, enough challenges remained to make most of us balk at the idea. One hundred years is not so long ago, yet much of what we take for granted simply didn’t exist.
Over the next few months, we’ll be coming back to some of these issues, geared specifically to what our centennial committee has done and continues to do.
For now be thankful that, unlike the average 1909 person, you can easily wash your hair more than monthly — and don’t have to use Borax.