Baca County History

by the Plainsman Herald

Growing up in Baca County Part 7 By John Havens


 I read once of a tourist who was traveling through the country and realizing he needed gas he stopped at a very small village to fill up with gas.  While the station attendant was filling the car, the tourist noticed there was very little activity going on.  Finally, he said to the old gentleman, “Tell me, Old Timer, what do you do around here for excitement?”  The old Timer thought for a minute and then said, “Well, I don’t rightly know. I ain’t never been excited.”

 Perhaps that village was Vilas, because there was seldom anything exciting happening.  Oh, there was that Saturday morning when the church bell started ringing.  That never happened except on Sundays.  So what was going on?  Was there a fire in town or some crisis?  Finally, someone went to the parsonage to find out.  Now, since the church did not have a resident Pastor, they had allowed a man known as Uncle Dick to live in the parsonage with the agreement that he do the janitor work and ring the church bell on Sundays.  When asked why he had rang the bell, he replied that he always did on Sundays, then he was informed that it was Saturday.  Seems he had gotten his days mixed up.  So, everyone settled back into daily routine.

    There was one summer when the merchants of Vilas decided to have Saturday afternoon drawings and give away gifts and cash to those with winning numbers.  Now that brought a crowd into Vilas, and that was exciting.

   Then there was the annual Amateur Program and box supper.  It was amazing how the wives and girlfriends could take a box, transform it into a thing of beauty, fill it with delicious food and expect the husbands and boyfriends to spend their hard earned money to buy it.  But that was the object of a box supper.  I bid on a box that I know belonged to a pretty girl, but I was outbid and had to settle for a box that belonged to a less popular girl, but her food, and the pie sure was good.

    The Amateur Program was made up of local talent, mostly musical numbers.  I was asked to sing that western song, Strawberry Roan and use the name of Mr. Pritchard in it.  Mr. Pritchard was a local rancher.  He and his wife built a Spanish style house in Vilas, and had the word HACIENDA written above the front door.  I sang the song as requested and Mr. Pritchard seemed pleased that he would be so honored.

   What else for excitement?  Well, there was the occasional Shivaree.  Do communities still have these?  It is when several in the community gather at the home of a newlywed couple to celebrate the marriage by making the groom push the bride in a wheelbarrow down the street, or on some occasions dunk the groom in a pond or horse tank.  But then the couple was supposed to reciprocate by handing out treats to everyone, usually cigars and candy. 

(Next week see what excitement happened in one such Shivaree… wasn’t pretty!!)


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