VI

 

We had fenced the ranch in the summer of 1883, as I have before stated. As soon as Uncle Robert had the ranch under fence he began to buy cattle to re-stock it. Father and the various members of our family had perhaps seventy or eighty head of cattle already on the ranch, and Uncle bought up several hundred head more, so within a very few years we had a matter of a thousand head to look after. We also had a good many horses.

 

Uncle was very particular about our looking after the fences around the ranch, and as there were a good many miles of it to be seen to, that took a good deal of time in itself.

We boys had to look after his cattle as well as our own. We got no wages for doing so, but he allowed us to let our cattle and horses run on the range free of charge, and what we derived from the sale of these was all the income we had.

 

In former years when Uncle had lots of cattle and no fenced range, he was on horseback all the time. In fact, in my younger days I can remember of but very few times when I saw him riding in any sort of a vehicle. He usually rode a pretty good horse, and was generally accompanied by one of his best vaqueros.

 

After he had the ranch fenced, however, he took to driving around in a spring wagon, with a span of strong gentle horses. He kept an old man named Peter Drugan at the ranch house, who did the cooking and chores about the place. Peter was a typical Irishman and had a good deal of the native Irish wit. He was a queer old character with a lame leg. This leg had been broken by a fall from a wagon in his middle life. He said he had set the bone himself, and it surely looked as if he might easily have improved on the job he did in setting it, for it was very badly out of shape. It had been broken just above the ankle, and from the place where it had been broken the bone set at an angle from the rest of his leg, and his foot turned in at an angle of something like forty-five degrees.

 

Uncle Robert gave Peter strict orders to prepare a meal for any of us boys who might come to the house while we were riding after the stock on the ranch. So most every day some of us were there to lunch. When Uncle was at the ranch we boys would sit in the front room of the house and talk with him while Peter prepared the meal. But when Uncle was away in San Diego where he spent a good deal of his time, we would sit in the kitchen and listen to Peter’s account of his many adventures. I had heard his stories so many times that the minute he began one of them I knew exactly what was coming. He always made himself the hero of the story, and the number of “Sezzes” that he could get into a story was something wonderful. If he started out to tell of something some other man had said to him it would be like this, “says the fella to me, says he, ‘Peter’, says he,” and then when he had related what the “fella” had said, he would begin his answer with “Says I to the fella, says I to him, says I,” etc. etc. His stories were amusing from their very ridiculousness. But there was one thing I can say of Peter’s stories -- he always told them the same. And his having regaled us with a long account of some one of his adventures on one day would not for one moment prevent him from telling it all over the next day. If some one of the boys complained after we had ridden away of having been bored with Peter’s story, the next day he would surely have to listen to it all over again, for we knew just what remark to make to call forth any story that we cared to hear, and someone would surely call forth the story that had been complained of. He had an especial dislike to the “chinamen”, as he called the Chinese. The “Chinamen” had driven “all the decent laboring men out of employment” in many instances, according to Peter.

 

Uncle Robert had another funny old fellow named Hett that worked on the ranch for quite a while. Hett was a German, and a most radical Socialist. I don’t know why Uncle kept such a man, unless it was from pity for the old fellow, for if there was any one thing worse that another in Uncle’s opinion it was Socialism. He used to lecture Hett in language far more forcible than elegant along these lines. I have heard him tell Hett, on various occasions that in his opinion “A socialist was another name for a ----- thief”. And Hett always agreed with “Mr. Kelly” in everything. When Uncle would say, “Hett do you know that a Socialist is only another name for a ----- thief?” Hett would say, “Yes, sir.”

 

Uncle Robert ordinarily talked in a rather loud voice, but when he was lecturing Hett on some subject he would raise his voice until he could be heard all over the premises. I once remarked to “Old Peter” that Uncle didn’t intend that Hett should fail to hear him. “Yes”, said Peter, “several times I have ran from the barn thinking they were in a fight, but when I got to the house I found that Mr. Kelly was just a-larnin’ him.”

 

Hett used to tell me that “If a man in Germany had so much land like your Uncle, he voot haf the soldiers to behind him go.” Meaning I suppose that he would have a bodyguard.

 

It was very amusing to us boys to hear Peter and Hett vying with each other in their endeavors to gain favor with “Mr. Kelly”. Sometimes they would quarrel while out at work and then when they came to the table Peter (like a true Irishman that he was) would try to see how stubborn he could act. Hett would say, “Have some more potatoes, Pete?” and Peter would say, “Put them down there, I can rache them.” He would then stand up and “rache” as far as he could across the table and get what he had just refused to take from Hett.

 

I very well remember Uncle Robert leaving me at the ranch, with Hett to do the cooking while he spent a week or two in San Diego attending to some business. I spent most of my time out on the range attending to the stock but when I was at the house Hett waited on me just as if it had been Uncle Robert at home. One day when he called me in to eat my dinner he was loud in his apologies for not having some rice cooked. He had been “too busy that morning to prepare it”. I assured him that it was all right and that I did not care much for rice anyway. But he kept on talking about it as if it had been a very important matter to fail to have rice on the table. Finally I said, “Oh, it is all right, Hett, you can cook some this afternoon. He said, “Yes sir, yes sir, I vill do dot, Mr. Kelly.” I thought no more of the matter, and after finishing my dinner, sat down in the front room to read.

 

After I had been sitting reading for perhaps a couple of hours Hett suddenly opened the door and thrust his head in, shouting “Mr. Kelly! Der rice is reaty!” and immediately disappeared, closing the door behind him. I was astonished at such a sudden announcement but on going out to the dining room, there stood Hett with the perspiration rolling down his face, and a big bowl of boiled rice on the table, and my plate and chair all in place. I said, “Why, Hett, I meant that you could cook some rice during the afternoon for our supper.” Well, he finally got it through his head that I did not care to engage in a rice fest so soon after eating my dinner, so he put it away, and went about his other work.

 

Sometimes three or four of us boys would be at the ranch house for dinner on the same day. Uncle would immediately order Hett to prepare dinner for the crowd, and we would sit in the front room with Uncle Robert and listen to a lecture by him on the proper way to do something or other, while the meal was being prepared. In the course of half or three-fourths of an hour, Hett would open the dinning-room door, and with a look of awful worry or his face, would count the guests, with a wave of his finger at each one in the room. He would then disappear, closing the door behind him. In the course of the next ten or fifteen minutes he would suddenly appear again, with great beads of perspiration rolling down his face, and again go through the motions of counting the crowd, and again disappear. About this time Uncle Robert would say, “Boys! I will have to go out and tell Hett how many places to prepare at the table. The poor ------fool will never get them right unless I show him. And out he would go, leaving us grinning across the room at each other, and listening to a lecture on setting a table that came to us through the dining room door.

 

Uncle Robert was one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. He was a very exacting man in many ways. If anyone promised to do anything he expected it to be done. He used to devote hours to lecturing us boys (or as we used to think, to scolding us). As I now look back over my boyhood and young manhood, I have great cause to be thankful for the lectures and advice he gave me. But at the time I thought him a very cranky old Uncle and considered his remarks as merely the ranting of a very disagreeable old fellow. As I have said before, Uncle Robert was an old bachelor but he took ten times as much interest in seeing that we boys grew up with proper ideas of how to attend to business affairs, and how to properly do our work, as my Father did. We all knew perfectly well that if we had done any thing which we should not have done, or had failed to do something that we should have done, and Uncle Robert found it out, we were sure to get a lecture the first time we met him. As I have said before he always talked in a loud voice, but when he was reproving any of us for something we had done or failed to do he would get his voice up to a pitch that could be heard at a distance of a city block. And after he had gone on in that manner for perhaps half an hour, he would suddenly say, “Now, you think I am scolding, but I am only counseling you.” And bless his old heart, I know now that I am a better man than I might have been if it had not been for Uncle Robert’s lectures.

 

He used to employ the Indians that lived in various parts of the back country to ride for him when he was in the cattle business, and many of them were exceptionally good in that line. And he was well acquainted with almost all the Indians throughout the entire back country. These Indians always called him “Patrón”. (Which is Spanish for Protector or Master.) These old Indians very well knew that the “Patrón” would give them a severe lecture if they did something that he thought they should not do, or if they failed in doing something that he thought they should have done. But they looked up to him as their friend. And it was really pathetic the way they would come to him for advice when they were in any trouble. Many a time I have seen an old Indian ride up to the ranch house, having come sixty or eighty miles, to ask advice of the “Patrón”. Perhaps some white man was trying to take his little piece of land from him. Or perhaps his son had been arrested for something or other. Or perhaps his squaw or some of his children were sick and needed “medicino” and they had no money. All these Indians spoke the Spanish language, as they had worked all their lives on the various stock ranches, and these were practically all owned by Spanish-speaking people in those days. Uncle Robert could converse in Spanish as well as he could in English, and when he would see one of these old Indians approaching, he would get his field glasses and take a long look at him before the old fellow got very near. The old ranch house was up on a high point of land, and anyone approaching it could be seen at quite a distance.

 

I have frequently been sitting on the porch talking with Uncle when he would suddenly say, “Who is that coming yonder?” Immediately he would get his field glasses and take a long look. Then he would say, as the horseman came closer, “It looks like Old Celedonio”, or perhaps, “It looks like Old Francisco from the Mountains”.

 

Then he would put his glasses down and go out to the end of the long porch and as soon as the old fellow was within fifty yards and had been recognized for a certainty, he would be greeted in a loud voice, in the Spanish language, with “Que hay? Celedonia”. Or, “Que hay, Francisco? Como estamos? Pues, hombre?” Then they would shake hands and then it would be ---“Como esta la familia?” (How is the family?).

The old Spanish style was for a visitor never to dismount from his horse unless asked to do so. And if one came who was not welcome, and was not asked to “A pie ti” (dismount) he simply sat upon his horse and stated his business, and then went his way.

 

These old Indians who had worked on the ranch in times past were always asked to dismount, and if the grass was good, to “quita la silla” (take the saddle off) and picket the horse out. Then the cook would get orders to prepare for him something to eat, “in the kitchen”. (Uncle never allowed an Indian to eat at his table, but always in the Kitchen).

 

After the old fellow had eaten he would come out and he and Uncle would sit down and have a long talk. And if the Indian thought at the beginning that he was going to conceal part of the truth for any reason he would find himself very much mistaken. For when that interview was ended he would find that he had told it all. But, as a general thing, those old Indians knew before they left home that they would have to tell the truth to the “Patrón Kelly” for he would question them in so many roundabout ways, that he was sure to get at the whole truth before he got through, whether they had intended he should or not.

 

When he had all the facts of the case he would give him some good sound advice. At those times he would talk to one of those simple fellows just as a Father would talk to a child, and if he thought their case deserving he would loan them money, even to quite an amount.

 

I am going to relate one case of this kind even at the expense of boring some readers, for I know some who may read this in future years, and who knew Uncle Robert, will appreciate it.

 

After Uncle’s death, which occurred in November 1890, an old Indian who went by the name of “Kanack” came to the ranch to tell us how sorry he was to hear of the “Patrón’s ” death. He had been one of Uncle’s old vaqueros, and had worked on the ranch, off and on, for many years. He showed genuine sorrow and told us that if he had heard in time that his old “Patrón” was dead, he would have come and tried to do something to show his gratitude for the many things his “Patron” had done for him in years gone by. He then told us that he should always consider himself under obligations greater than he could ever repay. On asking him what it was that caused him to feel under such obligation he told the following story.

 

“It was many years ago”, said Old Kanack, “I had been sick for a long time, I thought I surely would die. My woman also was sick. We had awfully hard time. Finally I got a little better but I was not yet well. My woman too was better but neither of us were well. We have been obliged to sell our horses, and all our chickens, in order to get something to eat while we were too sick to work. Then when I was well enough to be up I was not strong and no one would give me work. They said I was no good in the field, and they were right, for I had no strength. Finally we had only enough food in the house to keep us alive about three days. Then I told my woman I was going away. She said, ‘Why do you go away?’ I said, ‘The food will last you maybe one week, but if we both stay here it will all be gone in three days’. She said, ‘You better stay and we die together; you are not strong enough to get work’. I knew she was right but I said nothing and went away.

 

“I did not know where to go, but I traveled north by the wagon road, I had started “Muy mañanita” (very early in the morning). My woman was still sleeping when I left. Well, I traveled all day and that night I slept by the roadside. I was very hungry and very tired. I got up and started on the next morning, ‘muy mañanita’. In the middle of the forenoon I came to the Agua Hedionda Ranch house. The Patrón came out and said, ‘Que hay Kanacka? Que tienes, hombre?’ (Hello, Kanacka. What ails you, man?) I told him I had been sick a long time. He asked me where I was going. I said I did not know. He then called the cook and ordered him to prepare me something to eat. While the cook was preparing the meal the Patrón had me tell him my story. He then told me to go to the kitchen and eat, which I did, for I was very hungry. After I had eaten the Patrón asked me if I had had bastante (enough). I told him I had. He then said, ‘Go and saddle my horse’. I did as he told me. He then said, ‘Go and find the caponero (band of saddle horses) and bring them to the corral. I mounted his horse, and went out and rode until I found the caponero, and drove them to the corral. He then came into the corral with a riata and pointing out a grey horse, he handed me the riata and told me to lasso him. (All horses had to be lassoed in those days.) I lassoed the horse and led him out to the gate, where the Patrón had a saddle, bridle and everything ready. He told me to saddle the horse and I did everything just as the Patrón ordered me, without asking any question.

 

“While I was saddling the horse the Patrón went into the house. When I had the horse listo (ready) the Patrón came out with something tied up in a handkerchief. He handed it to me with orders not to open it until I got to a store that was some fifteen or twenty miles back towards my home. He told me there was enough in the handkerchief to get some provisions for my woman, and that I was to take the horse and go quickly and get what provisions and medicine were necessary, to take it home, and as soon as my woman was well enough and I was well enough, to come back to the ranch. He gave me very strict orders not to talk with anyone on my way home. When I got to the store I untied the handkerchief and found in it thirty dollars in gold. I got all the provisions the horse could carry and took them home. My woman cried and said, ‘The Diós (God) had sent it’. But I told her ‘No. My old Patrón had sent it.’ In a few days I felt well again, and I went back to the Agua Hedionda Ranch and worked for my Patrón for a long time. He kept a little out of my wages every month until I had the debt all worked out. I wish I could have done something for him to show I had not forgotten. I might have dug his grave if I had heard of his death in time. He was a muy buen hombre” (a very good man).

 

This was Old Kanack’s simple story, as near as I can remember it. I would rather have an Indian say that much for me after I am dead, than to have a tombstone erected over me as high as the Washington Monument.

 

Of course his story was told to me in Spanish and changing it to English has detracted much from the beauty of it. When it comes to beauty of expression the English language utterly fails as compared with Spanish. I have related this little bit of ancient history simply to give a little insight into the true life of an old pioneer of this county, and a man who was generally misunderstood by many who knew him. Uncle Robert almost never talked of the hardships he had been through, though he had been through some experiences that would have been considered thrilling by most anyone. When coming to California in 1850 and while passing through the part of Arizona known as the “Apache Indian Country” he and one other man went back six or eight miles and buried three or four members of the Oatman family who had been murdered by the Apaches the day before. Traveling through that hostile Indian country with ox teams in those early days was no pleasure excursion. But for two lone men to go back six or eight miles from the wagon train, to bury a party that had just been brutally murdered by those Apache fiends would certainly take some grit. And yet I never heard Uncle Robert so much as mention his having had that experience. And I probably would never have known of it only that it came to me through reading the account of the “Carrying away of the Oatman Girls by the Apache Indians”.

In early days he was one of the Judges of the Plains. These were men appointed by the Supervisors of the county to settle all disputes over the ownership of cattle. They naturally provoked enmity, especially from the lawless portion of the community. Just at dusk on the evening of July 15, 1856, after a hard day’s ride looking after cattle, he was attacked out in El Cajon by a gang of Mexican desperadoes who attempted to kill him. They succeeded in wounding him severely, three bullets taking effect. One grazed the top of his head, one struck him in the back of the neck, coming out through the cheek, and the other went through his left arm. That he escaped with his life was owing partly to the fact that he was riding a better horse than any of the bandit band that were intending to kill him. Most men would have talked a great deal in after years of such an exciting event in their lives. But in all the years that I knew Uncle Robert I never heard him bring this event in his past life up but once. And then he merely recalled being at one time in the hospital with three balls shot into him.

 

Only a short time before his death, I asked him to tell me about this event, and he did, in about as many words as I have used in relating when and where it happened. He attributed his escape from death at that time to the protecting hand of God.

 

He once rode a mule from Fort Yuma to San Diego in two consecutive days. This was a distance of two hundred miles, and was one of the most remarkable rides that I have ever heard of anyone making. I once asked him some questions about that trip. He did not seem to consider it so very remarkable. I asked him if the mule was not completely tired out when he finished the second day. He said, “No, she was not. When I was coming down the mountains back of the Jamacha Ranch I met a manada of my horses going up the trail. In order to turn them back I fired my pistol in the air, which frightened the mule, and she ran away with me. And I had to throw my pistol away so that I could hold her. After I got her quieted down I had to go back and get my pistol.” That would be good proof that there was a good deal of life still left in that mule, even it she had gone nearly two hundred miles in the past thirty-six hours. I have made a good many long hard day’s rides, but I am quite sure I never rode a hundred miles in a day. To ride one hundred miles, you would have to keep up a six-mile an hour gait for over sixteen and one-half hours. And to keep that gait up for that many hours in one day, and then get up in the morning and do it again the next day, is something that very few animals could do. It would also be a hard test on a man’s endurance. I had my first lessons in riding on the same mule that made that remarkable trip. But at the time I rode her she was probably over twenty-five years old. She never got over her fear of firearms, and would snort and run, even in her old age if any shooting was done around her.

 

Whenever Uncle Robert saw one of us small boys riding her, he would say, “Be good to the old mule. She is getting old, but she has been a splendid animal in her younger days.”