Growing up in Baca County Episode 10 By John Havens

    On Saturday afternoons and evenings there was usually a little more activity in Vilas than other times, unless there was a ball game going on out of town.

Tony’s Market by Lucille Homsher

     Farmers would come to town and bring their cans of cream to leave at Tony’s Market and to stock up on groceries for the coming week.  Many would hang around just to visit with their neighbors.  One couple who had a pet dog named Wanda would park in front of Terrill’s Drug Store, go in and buy one ice cream cone then sit in the front seat of their car and all three share the cone.

    But Saturday nights was when Western pictures were shown at the theater in Springfield.  Before I was old enough to be of help around the service station I would often be invited to go to the picture show with some family who was going.  Nothing was more exciting than to sit down front with a whole gang of kids and yell at the cowboys and Indians.  There was Hop-Along- Cassidy,  Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and others, who were our heroes.

     After I was in my teens Dad expected me to help wait on customers at the station.  I enjoyed meeting new people and made many friends.  I guess I was somewhat like Will Rogers who once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”  Even in Vilas there were the occasional visitors who were just passing through on their way East to Kansas or West to the mountains.

    During broomcorn harvest in the Fall of the year there was a lot more activity in Vilas.  Broomcorn Cutters came from Eastern Oklahoma, Southwest Missouri, Arkansas, and other places.  Some became residents of Baca County.  Some who came were Indians, some were Mexicans, but all came to work.

    One Saturday evening a car pulled into the station and they were Black people.  I had seen a few Black people, but had never been around any of them.  In fact, I don’t believe there were any Black people in or near Vilas.  I soon got acquainted with the drier and we had a great time visiting.  The next Saturday, they were back again, and Dad started to wait on them, but the driver wanted to know where I was.  He told Dad he wanted me to wait on them.  My nickname was a child was ‘Junior’, and he told Dad, “I want Junah to wait on me.”  So, dad called me over to the car and I gave that fellow full service.  This continued through the next few times they came in.

     I never asked where these folks were from and if I found out their names, I failed to remember.  But I never met them again.  I graduated from high school, served my two years in the Army, went to college and graduated, and after pastoring a church in Miami, Oklahoma I became pastor of a rural church out of Hugoton, Kansas.  I moved my family from a city of 12,000 to a church 13 miles SE of Hugoton.  What a change!  In order to supplement my income, I went to work for IGA Grocery Store in Hugoton.  One day a Black man came in to the store, very frail, having only one arm, and could hardly walk.  As I looked at him I wondered where I had seen him before.  That night it dawned on me that he was the Black man I had waited on as a teenager back in Vilas.  A few days later he came in to the store again and I asked him if he had ever cut broomcorn near Vilas years ago.  He responded that he had.  I said, “Do you remember a teenage kid who waited on you at the service station?”  He looked at me and said, “Junah, is that you?”  What a visit we had after more than 16 years.

2017 Baca County Fair: Early Baca County History Presentations

Steve and I would encourage you to bring maps, clippings, and stories that will add to the database of information about places all over the area of what is now called Baca County.   Very excited to get the chance to share a few more tidbits about early Baca County Colorado History.  

A 2014 Thank You for Telling Your Stories

In this era when people expect information at their fingertips and instant response to everything, our local history,  local stories and local collections which are so rich in history and cultural heritage are increasingly inaccessible.  Issues such as budget cuts and staff reductions are the usual culprits but part of this inaccessibility is also occurring because we are losing many of those precious souls who know those stories.

Some big institutions are digitizing their collections and making them available, but at this point that’s an option only for the largest and best funded. Even then, their systems aren’t always made to work with others, so that users can effectively search archives across the country. In essence, they have created isolated silos of information.

So where does that leave us?  Well…I for one like where we are at in collecting and sharing Baca County Stories.  Our use of our two Facebook Groups  in collaborating to share stories memories and stories has worked really well.   Everyone is dispersed geographically, we literally have participants from all over the world.  Everyone is also very busy.  We/I don’t always have the time to jump on and comment all the time.  So although I don’t necessarily like Facebook and the privacy questions its use brings to light I am glad this tool is available to facilitate conversation.  If you are really bored and read my technology blog at I use a term “Meaningful Social Collisions” in several posts to describe interactions facilitated by social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook.  Guess what? You all are having “Meaningful Social Collisions” to record some of what you, our parents, and our grandparents did to give Baca County the rich heritage it has.

I have participated in a couple of oral history projects projects and getting participation is sometimes very difficult.   I created because I trust me more than I trust Facebook.   I must admit we could not have added the rich stories we have without this technology resource facilitating our conversations.   This resource would still be worthless without all of you who are jumping in and sharing a few of the stories and thoughts which you have experienced or which have been handed down.

Since it is the last day of  2014 I thought I would thank everyone for comments and participation in telling a few stories about our Baca County Heritage.  We have been very fortunate to have the participation we have had on both Baca County related  Facebook groups.  I have had several comments about how much  participation we have had.

  • You Might be from Baca County if….
  • Wandering Banished Exiled Souls of Baca County

Thanks Sylvia Harrison for starting up “You Might be from Baca County if… and Thanks to Wandering Banished Exiled Souls of Baca County admins Butch Forrest, Debbie Kuroiwa, Jeanette Simms, Jim Womack and Mandy Womack Bonner for wrangling that group (I believe Jim Womack started it but I am not 100% sure).

I would like to offer a special thanks to Cotton Huffman for getting several of these conversations going and to the Plainsmen Herald for reposting a few of the stories which have come about as a result of some of these Facebook conversations.

We may not get everything recorded, but at a minimum we will have alot of fun having these conversations.    Feel free to touch base with me if you ready to start writing on  If you have forgotten the rules of engagement a refresher is located here.  Keep the conversation rolling.

For you data wonks here is the total traffic since this blog was put up February 25, 2014.

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