I’ve spoken often about family history and the need to keep the stories handed down. One thing I like to do is to at least try to verify some of the basic facts. if you’re my fellow writer, Joy Neal Kidney, that’s easy. She has boxes of old letters to draw from. She assures me, that often times, even that isn’t enough.
In my case, a lot of it is handed down word of mouth, and except for some odd scribbling in family bibles, much of which can’t be read anymore, word of mouth is all I have.
In this case, I tried to locate data on mining claims in the 1800s and failed. Perhaps none of it has ever been put on line and that information is setting in some vault in a county courthouse someplace in a dusty book.
Maybe it was a story told my an imaginative old man to a group of wide eyed grandchildren.
Of course, the story became fact, if that’s true.
That said, here’s the story.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Augustine Muniz who worked a mining claim in the Cripple Creek, Colorado, area. I doubt he made much money off it, but gold has a magnetism all it’s own, and that’s why he worked it.
He was a tough old bird that didn’t take a whole lot from people. The old timers said he was kind who would draw a line in the sand and if you tried to cross it, he’d defend it with his dying breath. They also said that I remind them a lot of him in that I was always looking beyond the horizon, and would sign up for any damn fool adventure that came down the pike.
I always reminded them that like him, I at least have great stories to tell.
Well, this story concerns a local Native American who also resided in the area. I guess Augustine never knew his name because that hasn’t been passed down. He didn’t know if he’d done something to offend the man but the man hated him. Maybe he forgot to say hello or maybe my Great, Great Grandfather reminded him of an enemy. All we know for sure is this man hated my grandfather with a passion that bordered on insanity.
Several times he’d tried to provoke a fight with my grandfather. But Grandfather was a smart man. Augustine knew if he got into it with him, he’d sour the relations he enjoyed with the rest of the Native Americans in the area. He got along fine with them, and since the peace between the “Whites” and the Native Americans was tenuous at the time, he didn’t want to upset the cart.
So he went into town, bought his supplies, and did everything to stay out the man’s way.
So one day he was at his camp when some other Native Americans dropped in.
“Watch yourself,” they warned him. “He’s in town getting drunk and he says he’s coming for you tonight.”
Augustine thanked them and sent them on their way.
That evening, he put a log in his bed, and then camped out under a tree near the small cabin with a rifle.
As he told the story, there was a full moon that night. Anyone who’s been on a battlefield knows lighting is important. Seeing your enemy before he sees you puts you in the position to dictate the battle. Today we use NVGs, and flares to make that happen.
He had none of those but did have a full moon lighting everything up, Augustine could easily see for several hundred yards. And it put his enemy at a disadvantage because being in the shadow under the tree, Augustine was almost invisible.
Sure enough, along about midnight, he hears a rider coming. A few minutes later, about a hundred yards away, he sees the horse with a rider. The rider dismounts and starts walking towards the cabin. Even from that distance, it was obvious Augustine could see the man carried a rifle.
What astonished Augustine was the man was dressed in full Native American regalia, including warpaint. He could see that the man was drunk because his path meandered and weaved towards the cabin.
Augustine stayed perfectly still, waiting.
After a minute or two of standing and listening, the man approached the cabin door. With a violent kick, he exploded open the door. Then with a yell, he brought up his rifle and emptied it into the bed. What had been a quiet night echoed with the shots.
From under the tree, Augustine got his sight picture with his rifle, and fired a single shot. The bullet tore through the man’s skull, blasting brains and blood out the other side. His enemy was dead before he hit the dirt.
When quiet returned, the only sound was the dripping of blood.
Knowing that the man had relatives who might avenge him, Augustine got his saddle, saddled his horse, and ran. When he got to Grand Junction, Colorado, he turned himself into the Sheriff there. When he told the Sheriff what had happened, the Sheriff put him on a train for Alamosa, Colorado, and told him not to come back.
And he didn’t.
Now, my problem is simple.
How do I prove the story is true? As I mentioned, I’ve tried to find old mining claims, but they aren’t on line. That would go a long ways to proving the story. The few facts I’ve got, I can’t verify. I’m not finding anything in census data or the likes.
Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree to find information to support the story.
Or maybe, that’s exactly what it is. A story.
So, I’m appealing to you, the reader for ideas where I could go to find things out to prove or disprove the story.