|Winter 1998-99 Bulletin|
|"I have seen quite a few rivers but they are either too wide or too deep, but the Río Grande seems perfect"
This is one in a series of interview summaries from an ongoing Oral History Project Amigos Bravos is conducting in an effort to preserve some of the rich traditional knowledge about rivers in northern New Mexico communities. Please contact the Amigos Bravos office if you would like a copy of a preliminary report on our Oral history Project.
Frances Varos Graves was born in 1910 in Arroyo Seco and has spent her entire long life within sight of the Río Grande Gorge. In 1929 she moved with her husband Claude across the gorge to the dry, wind-swept community of Carson, but returned eventually to live alongside the Río Pueblo de Taos in Los Córdovas. Mrs. Graves has won numerous national awards for her unique embroidered blankets, or colchas, and teaches this traditional art to many students.
"It was beautiful [in Arroyo Seco] because we always had plenty of water there. There was a big ditch going right by the house . . . and my father was mayordomo there. Oh yes, we had water to irrigate, and up there by where they have these big houses now.
"We drank it and it was clean, and after we moved to Carson we never had as much water or as clean water as we used to have in Seco. "[In Carson] that was dry and we had to haul water for everything. There was a steep hill there [to get to the spring at the bottom of the gorge]. They had a pipe coming out of it to fill up the truck. My husband had a truck and we used to haul it in that. Sometimes my husband would have to work for the state and I had to take care of the cowswe had fifty cows thereso I had to haul the water."
Reminiscing about an aborted attempt to build a reservoir at Carson, Mrs. Graves laughs, "Yes I remember that. Well, the first years when they fixed the reservoir it filled up and the water came all around Carson but it didn't hold out. Some people say it came out way down there near [Black Mesa, by San Juan Pueblo]. It left a few puddles and we used to use that for the cattle."
When asked about changes along the Río Grande, she said, "One thing is that there is not as much water as there used to be. A lot of times that water got so big that it went over that [John Dunn] bridge there and finally it washed it out. I guess we don't get as much snow as we used to get or something. Probably because there is a lot more people living here now.
"And there used to be a lot of berries all along the river. We used to come and pick berries from the bridge there. Raspberries I think. Something like that. There used to be a lot of bees too. We used to get a lot of honey down there too. [Now] there's nothing, no berries or no honey. There's nothing like that left, I don't think. I don't hear anybody else talking about them anymore.
"There was good fishing, but I never fished. There is still good fishing. A lot of people from around here go down to Pilar to fish. Well, sometimes people would go down to the river for parties and things. And they would spend a few days there.
"Oh yes, the Indians would gather down there. They used to use it like we always did, but I guess the river got so high that one time all their goats were stuck on the other side. Some of them stayed there a long time. They were there for years. There were no problems [sharing the water]. I don't know why there are more problems [today]."
Asked about people who work to clean up rivers, Mrs Graves offered, "Well, I think it is a good idea because it will help everybody to have cleaner water. To do the right thing."
A lifelong relationship with the Río Grande has nurtured in Mrs. Graves a familiar affection for the river. "The Río Grande, I really think it is beautiful. I have seen quite a few rivers but they are either too wide or too deep, but the Río Grande seems perfect. Yeah, it still is pretty good."
|Please return to Winter Bulletin 1998-99 Index.|