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 Author: JE1947
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:26 pm 
Sometime ago, John Crow, who've I known since the Grant County Peace Coalition days, wondered if I'd like to write a column about the Apaches.

Having slowly returned from the near dead; recoiling from the loss of my wife Dorothy, she was formerly circulation supervisor of the Silver City Library, friend, lover, wife, fellow hiker of Apacheria for some years; Dorothy had a double Masters: Developmental Reading and first and second grades, in Ohio and: a Masters of Library Science. I thought, yeah, I NEED to write again. I had a bachelors in East Asian and Middle Eastern Political Science (BS) and Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from University of Oregon. Much of my undergraduate work had been done, however, at Indiana University, Bloomington. I believe that returning to writing about the Apaches and what I've learned about them from years of "Hiking Apacheria" is something I can do from time to time.

So, searching for an entry point, I looked "over the board" and found the topic of "Water."

One thing I've seen "out here" in 13 years of hiking in SW NM is the importance of water: how important it was 250; 500; 1000; probably 2000 years ago for those human beings who have lived here is obvious. Some of those thousands, barely making it, when they were walking, no other forms of transportation ... even before dogs were used as transportation aids. Later, when the Spanish, Mexicans, Apaches, and Americans inhabited this section of the southwest (Northern Chihuahua; Sonora; Arizona at least north from Mexico to Tucson; east on a line crossing the current Ft. Apache (White Mountain Apache Reservation), (at least as far as Chiricahua Apaches are concerned); along a line cutting through Quemado, east to the Big River (Rio Grande); south, along the west side of the Rio Grande to the Mexican border of Chihuahua; back east to the Sonoran border, south of Wilcox, the Sulphur Springs Valley, south of the Dragoon Mountains. An enormous chunk of country. In all that, probably no more than 10,000 Apache souls at the peak. Several hundred thousand square miles for 10,000, in the last 500 years. Other native Americans, but I've only focused on the Chiricahua Apaches. Not the Jicarilla. Not the Mescalero. Not the Lipan or Western Apaches. Only the Chiricahuas west of the Rio Grande.

But every person from all those cultures, and many unnamed groups of Native Americans, from the arrival to the departure of the Mogollon, Saladan, Pasayan, their successors ... Apaches ... needed water.

"Out there," as I call it, "hiking the apacheria lands," I've taken several thousand photos of water. Wherever I've found it, regardless of season.

I've seen water pouring over falls and cascades; rushing down arroyos; bursting from hillsides and sacred places such as Ojo Calienete, the Warm Springs (two of them) near Cañada Alamosa, the cañon 15 miles long (approximately) from Monticello,NM, on the east, to the Monticello Box, the Rio Alamosa on the west.

The waters emanating for Ojo Caliente have never stopped. Fed from the aquifer of the San Mateos, the water gushes. Gushes.

Those waters running regularly, steadily, have never dried up. Compared to 150 years ago, perhaps other springs have become more infrequent as deep mine pumping; deep wells for cattle; increasing human use ... those aquifers -- the Gila-Mimbres-San Francisco-Rio Tulerosa-Rio Azul (Blue), Rio Mimbres, any number of small seeps, drips, springs ... places where nature and rocks began holes ... that humans ground out and improved upon by the "Ancient Ones" and Apaches. Where wind mills were erected, often, springs dotted this arid land, and ranchers (mostly), converted them for & into "water tanks" for livestock. Now, one finds solar powered windmills to bring the water up for the livestock.

When rain and snow comes, water comes out of the ground. It sometimes pours, it sometimes trickles. It sometimes falls for a few hours or days, and then, sinks into the sand and rock for a day or two. Then, it's gone. I've seen this and it's been a marvel. Used to the Midwest, a tour in South Korea and South Vietnam, and five years in Oregon, I lived where weather is wet and moist. In the dry seasons, in South Korea and South Vietnam, I've experienced where both become dry as "a bone," with soft, red or tan sand or dust. But, most of my experience with water has been in the Midwest, where I grew up and spent much of my life -- Indiana and Ohio. Oregon, Eugene, far far too wet and gloomy for me after five years. In those places, rain isn't a luxury. It's common, as is snow.

Out here, though, I've found, over 13 years, that in effect, the Mogollon people, and the Apache people, created places where water could be collected and increased from natural "catchments," whether from snow melt and/or rain that came down from the heavens.

The photos that accompany this article are from a cañon in the south end of the Florida mountains. Floor ee das.

They lie just south of Deming, to the east. The Chihenne N'de (meaning Red Paint People), known to Spanish, Mexicans and Americans as the Warm Springs Apaches), led by men like Delgadito, Ponce, Cuchillo Negro, Loco, Nana, Victorio, had an encounter with the American Buffalo Soldiers from Ft. Cummings on January 24, 1876. There is a bronze bust of the African-American Corporal Clnton Greaves, who was awarded the Medal Of Honor for heroism that day. The bust of Corporal Greaves was made by former Border Patrol agent and friend, Greg Whipple.

The action took place, at least in part, because both Americans and Apaches were interested in locating water. An Apache encampment, probably a rancheria in a spot of long standing location, where the Apaches knew water could be found, collected, consumed, an American patrol of no more than 10 men, left Ft. Cummings, east of Deming, west of Hatch, and went into the lower end of the Floridas. They met and attempted a parllay, no more than 15-20 miles, at most to the Mexican Border @ Palomas.

The American commander, Lieutenant Henry Wright, an officer we in Vietnam would typically have labeled "a real genuine American shitforbrains no nothing Lieutenant" took his troops into the cañon. He tried to talk with the Apache warriors that were, hopeful they might disarm. He was again, as we said of our inexperienced officers "simple minded enough" to think he could actually persuade heavily armed-to-the-teeth Apache warriors into surrendering their weapons -- to him.

Corporal Greaves, is often the case in combat situations where enlisted men and non-commissioned officers have learned a thing or two, began to urge the Lieutenant to slowly back out of the situation. Supposedly, the Apache warriors, perhaps even the women, sensing an "idiot in charge" and an "easy take down", closed in around the Lieutenant and the soldiers. Finally, alarmed at perhaps his lifetime passing before his eyes, Lieutenant Wright, pulled out his colt revolver, and aiming from a few feet, fired into the head of an Apache about to pull his weapon from his hands.

I'd say the closest parallel scene I've witnessed in film history is the scene in Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" where Robert Wallace (Gibson's character) comes into an English encampment where his fiancee had been brutally murdered a day earlier, and naive British soldiers try to man handle him and his horse ... only to die violent deaths from him and his fired up followers. A battle of no mercy for the perpetrators.

The water features shown here are of two natures.
One appeared to be to us, as we hiked in the hot summer (post rainy season) heat where temperatures were probably 90º+ as we were so close to Mexico, a man made "catchment" that was of arranged stones, taking advantage of a natural drainage coming off a large series of boulders. The drainage was to the east, and we'd seen it twice. A second time, the catchment was nearly full of water; likely after a rain, the water not yet evaporating. Whether Apaches made the first such object or not, I do not know. I do believe that there were more than likely many such man made catchments within 200 yards of where we were. That was one way the "old ones" and Apaches "created" water for themselves.

Less than 100 yards from this site, modern ranchers (within the last 125 years), had built a tank of mortar or concrete, and large boulders. It naturally served like a check dam, a large arroyo that drained farther south. Without interdiction, the water would've most likely splayed out into the mesquite, ocotillos, barrel cactus, prickly pear, and cat claw on the lower slopes of the mountains. Perhaps 500 years ago, when water was more plentiful, there may have been a pond of sorts out there somewhere. Within 1000 yards is another area of larger "tinajas" --natural basins that have often been eroded smooth by thousands of years of water pouring down and collecting. Some of those "tinajas" are large enough for people to bathe in ... certainly, for dozens of horses to drink from ... as well as spots for people laying on the warm rock and perhaps, with some home made straws, or gourds, drinking till their thirst was quenched.

There are faint pictographs near this Florida site where six or ten "mortar in bed rock" holes exist today (more than in this one photo). Again, perhaps started many thousands of years ago, as water dripped onto the tilted rock ... and as the drips deepened the holes ... "ancient ones" came and began to grind them out more smoothly.

Some call them "mortar in bedrock" holes. This is a simplification of their utiliatarian value. My moment of enlightenment as to other uses for these holes came when I found several, in shadows, on a February hike in the Burros. The holes, when I broke the ice that had formed on the surface of the water that had collected ... were nearly a foot deep. I returned, a week later, and found that because of their location, in the persistent shade, the water level was not much different.

Only, perhaps in April, as the sun rose higher and higher in the day time, did the waters rapidly disappear due to evaporation. Until then, there would've been water there every day in the winter, unless drunk dry, or, conversely, replenished if snow or rain fell. All had been positioned directly along a drainage line in the rock. Astute monitoring, perhaps by many people, perhaps Mimbrés or Saladan, perhaps Jocomes or Sumas -- i.e., names of tribes of Natives applied to them by Spaniards and BEFORE the arrival of Apache -- and for generations, Chiricahua Apaches -- those original holes were ground out more, wider, deeper.

The holes shown in these photos taken in the Floridas, near this fire fight sight, collectively, would probably hold 3-6 liters of water. Apaches, used to drinking such water, may not have noticed a thing so far as "purity" was concerned.

If, as I suspect, there are dozens more scattered in this very large cañon, and Apaches knew where many lay, a group of Apaches could all have their water needs met as well as that of their animals. On the run, say, headed south, they'd know where other springs lay (not far to the southwest, for certain), and would've broken up into small groups, each headed towrds what modern U.S. infantrymen call "a rally point." Each group of Apache would have a mind's eye map of these water holes burnt into their brains from decades of travel from the Ojo Caliente area, south, into Chihuahua.

The Americans in that incident managed to extricate themselves. Casualties were all on the Apache side. Reportedly, five Apaches were shot and killed wounding others and capturing eleven animals. Hard to say. In Vietnam, where "body count" was a measure of our "success," many people may have shot at the same person. If the person went down, perhaps knowing going down would take them out of the bullseye, who knows what may have happened. People are excited in such times. If the Apaches killed weren't verified, who knows?

It was a violent encounter, precisely, over water needs. In a broader sense, it was about the territorial rights of Apaches that had actually fought in this very same spot, in 1790 with Chihuahuan Spaniards who had launched a "punitive expedition," to "punish" Apache raiders. In this case, the Americans were the "new guys on the block."

Today, were not cattle run here, and had those original springs not been capped, there might be more free flowing water during several periods of the year.

We found evidence of heavy rushes of water coming from the high mountains to the north, west, and east, and the velocity and volume
of the downpour had been such that the force had bent saplings over, in some cases, breaking them.

Oh, to behold such a downpour and outflow just once. Probably at night. In one of those late afternoon, early evening "ball buster" thunder and lightning storms, that dump prodigious amounts of rain water down over a small area in a small amount of time.

So, water has been a subject of fascination for me for 13 years.

I hope that the "diversionistas" who see siphoning off Gila River water, at peak flood stages, pumping it over the Continental Divide, into a pond, lake or reservoir, get a GRIP and just give it up.

There are better small scale measures that would channel, collect and retain water for many people, at least in Grant County. To me, "diversionistas" are just another phalanx of conquerors. They see straight lines, established by barbed wire, as lines of ownership. Their lines dissect what was once a vast circle or oval that all traversed. 500 years ago, 300 years ago, and if you stood anywhere in such a circle, you were at "a center," with horizons always receding away ... never to be reached. The straight lines (all from Western European minds, of course), cut up Apacheria. Now, private ponds, reservoirs, lakes, are the next step in domestication of a wild river. They will "cut" the free flowing nature of the Gila River here in New Mexico. Why?

I do not want this to come to violence as that incident mentioned above did.

In many cases, these "political conservatives," and "diversionistas" are also card carrying gun owners. Not one gun. Often, a bunch of guns.
I have some guns, but they're not something I want to use on another human being. If we get desperate for "our water," what will some do if they have guns and many of US don't?

I was trained to kill other human beings in Vietnam and Korea (Infantry all the way). I say to those who want to "blast off a few caps" or shoot an animal: "Where were YOU in Vietnam (or Iraq or Afghanistan), when the war drums were beaten? You could've hunted other human beings ... who, by the way ... could've hunted you. Like U.S. Cavalrymen did with Apaches. Playing for keeps. No holds barred.

For sure, I don't want it to come to that.

Next time you're out, and it's raining, or snowing, maybe you'll find a spring or seep or drip flowing ... and maybe, if you align some rocks there ... take an hour or two ... you can build your very first check dam for Gaia. Come back later ... I did yesterday ... and yes, the small "dams" had slowed down an incision. The sand had built up. In a few places, it had gone over or around what I'd built. It was time for another course,

It's fun. The "check dam" slows runoff velocity. The velocity and volume cause incisions, or gutters, and erode the land. Big deal. It's the fifth largest state in the Lower 48. Who cares? But, my experience is: my puny efforts have created some pools that weren't there before. After the rainy season, I've returned, and inspected the results. Some of the incision has healed. Some soil was preserved.

If it worked, you just saved some water running in waste down a well broken down arroyo, perhaps onto a highway, spreading sand across, which will have to be bulldozed off by county employees, wasting gasoline to do it.

The way of conservation A "conservative approach" for this fundamental, God give grace of rain, allows the rain to percolate into the ground supply and replenish Mother Earth as has happened for millions of years. A. T. Cole and Lucinda have done enormous work restoring wetlands and streams along Burro Cienega. Someone always points the way. I was a "pointman" in Vietnam. That day in November, 1966, I was "running point" when one man shot the shit out of me and two tried to kill me. I do not have the knowledge to point the way on this "issue" of water, but among those of us who want to keep the Gila River from being squandered. A hundred years from now, the "water wars" will be intense. We are at only the "edge" of these wars now. How we do this is about us. How they do this is about them.

I do know that Apaches and those who came before wouldn't have squandered this resource. Enough. In the world of the last 33 years, I call myself, Jerry E.

 Author: JE1947
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:34 am 
A correction. The second photo is a stony "arroyo" in the Little Burros." As I walked up it in the end of a rainy season, water had collected at numerous dips. A man/men on horses could ascend nearly to where the arroyo began. At the top of this "U" shaped canon, I found evidence of temporary shelter, and a couple of nice, fat rattlers. Some fragments of wood that had been whittled and cut ... For what and by whom ... I could not say. It was another private, quiet moment of discovery. The other photo I referred to I'll use @ another time. No hurry.

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