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Bernal, J. Pablo

About | Story: Paralized by a snake bite | Abstract


Pablo Bernal was a rancher in Northeastern NM for 70 years (1912–1982). He discusses livestock raising and marketing. Also discusses his father's history, which included being forced off the Maxwell Land Grant circa 1897.

Interviewee Mr. J. Pablo Bernal, male, born in 1896
Date Range 1854—1982
Date & Location February 13, 14, 15, 1996, Mr. Bernal's home, Springer, NM
Project Farm and Ranch Folks
Region Northeast New Mexico
Number of Tapes 8
Transcribed October 14, 1997
Download Abstract

Story: Paralized by a snake bite

PB: (Pause, with voices in background) Well (pause), I was coming home on-

a horseback, ri-, I, I had been riding cattle. And-a it was on Sunday when-eh we finished picking up peach in a tree, but left a few on top because they were too high. And I told the rest of the pickers that we???d better leave those up there; we might fall down and get hurt. But then, I think it was Monday, after that Sunday, when I was coming horseback and I saw those nice red peach right there on top that tree. Make my water, my mouth water. So I went and picked up a ladder, bring the ladder to set it against the tree and didn???t see the (unintelligible). I put the ladder against the tree and some of those peach fell down. Well, they nice and ripe so I thought I???d pick ???em up. I reached, tried to reach; when I tried to reach for one of those peaches, I found out I had that snake biting me here in this finger. JO: Bit you right in your middle finger. PB: Yeah. I guess I had my hand like that, and she stuck her teeth right there. I raised her to pretty near put her on my (chuckles) . . . JO: Chin, huh? (Laughs) PB: But finally I dropped her to the ground and I jumped back. When I jumped back, she jumped, trying to hit me again. But she couldn???t. I jumped further than what she went. Then I looked around for my shovel with a long handle. When I had my shovel in my hands and I felt like I could fight with that thing, so I went and showed her my shovel and cut her in five.

JO: How much pain were you having at your finger? PB: Huh? JO: How much pain were you in with your finger? PB: Pain? JO: Yes. PB: Oh, I don???t know much about the pain at that time, but anyway, ???twas painful after somebody had hit me there. But then, I was not min-, I was not worrying about the pain, but then I began to, what you say? (Pause) Paralyze. JO: Oh-h. Your, your, your whole hand? PB: Yes. JO: Your whole hand became paralyzed? PB: Yeah. M-, my whole hand went like that, you know. My fingers opened like that. JO: Oh, my goodness. PB: I tried to put them together but I couldn???t. JO: Were you sick to your stomach? Did you get sick to your stomach, too? PB: I don???t remember very well. But anyway, in a few minutes more then I had paralyzed all my arm, then all my side. When I had all my left side paralyzed, I began to worry if I would get paralyzed the whole thing. But I went that much. By the time I finished killing that thing and walked around doing something around

there, then I decided I go to the garage and get my car. Which I did. I could drive all right with my left handed [sic]. So I took my car out the garage; I decided I will come here [Springer]. And-a, when I was coming, Mike Apodaca lives on the side of the road, about, maybe half mile from the road. When I come in close that place, I saw somebody walking outside there, and I thought that if I get paralyzed more than what I was, maybe I couldn???t drive. JO: Yes. PB: So I stopped my car and walked ???cause there was no road right straight. I walked up there to Mike and I told him that I had been snake-bitten, if he would drive the car for me to Springer, and he say, sure. So he got ready, and he, we come to the car, walk-ed about half mile, and get into the car and start to S-, come over here to Springer but right there between Maxwell and Springer there was some road repairs they made. That delayed us for awhile. I did not like the delay, but he says if I get out the road I might break the car. But (pause) anyway, I think it took about two or maybe three hours, between two and three hours . . . JO: Oh-h. PB: . . . for us to get here to Springer. ML: Good grief. PB: When we, we get in here, he called the doctor, and he found the doctor, told him

about my si-, situation, and the doctor told me to go to the hospital. So I went down there, and right away he begun to take care of me. I think when-a, I was in there, the poison had taken possession of half my . . . JO: Body. PB: . . . body. And I thought if I keep like that then I will be all paralyzed, but-a by that time the doctor arrived, and he hang some medicine up there [medicine given intravenously], on top, and I think that they get them going to my body until both (unintelligible) matched. It was about half way in my body. ???Cause I felt this side was paralyzed . . . JO: Yes. PB: . . . and this side was all right. JO: Did he keep you in the hospital overnight? PB: Heh? JO: Did he keep you in the hospital overnight? PB: Sure. Kept me there, oh, I don???t know, maybe for about nine days. JO: My goodness. PB: But, I wasn???t very sick. But in the night I dreamed about that thing [snake] hanging there. (Chuckles) JO: Oh-h-h! Did your, did the, did the paralysis slowly go out of your, the side of the

body that was paralyzed? JO: No, well, I was kind of paralyzed, I don???t know how long. But I remember the first time I tried to get down from the bed. I fall down. Because I couldn???t . . . JO: Mo- PB: . . . mo-, move like I thought I could. But I went back to bed and lay down quiet. Oh, I don???t remember much about the rest of the night, but in the next morning, I didn???t feel bad. Well, I knew I was snake-bitten and was kind of paralyzed, all this side, and had it turned kind of black-pink, all . . . JO: Ah-h! PB: . . . my side. I didn???t like that color. JO: No. (Laughs) ML: (Unintelligible) color. JO: Did that doctor ever tell you if he had treated a snake bite before? PB: Did he said what? JO: Had the doctor ever treated a snake bite before he treated you? PB: I don???t know. I never asked him. But anyway (clears throat), sometime I felt that I want to walk during the day, and I went to walk. I was kind of paralyzed on this side but I was all right on this side. Finally, I begun to get better and better until I get good. But I stayed nine days in the hospital, I think.


Tape 1, Side A

Pablo Bernal's father was born in Albuquerque, date of birth unknown. His father and his uncle owned land near Tecolote. They exchanged this land for some on Ponil Creek. This land on the Ponil was claimed as part of the Maxwell Land Grant. Bernal's father was eventually forced off this land. Many of the people who had been forced off the grant took homesteads at Tinaja (north of Maxwell). The Maxwell Land Grant Company paid his father for the improvements on the land on the Ponil, but not for the land itself.

Bernal's father was older when they left the grant. He applied for homesteads in two or three places, but was turned down. That is why they settled at Tinaja where there was no water. Initially, his father built a 20 x 18 one-room house. By 1912, he had turned the ranch over to Pablo.

Pablo attended school only "periodically," because he had to help his father. The school only operated for three months during the winter. He thinks he attained only a third grade education.

Many of the homesteaders were unable to make a living at Tinaja. The Bernal's bought their land when they decided to leave. Pablo still owns his land at Tinija, but it is leased out.

The Bernal's ran both sheep and cattle on their ranch. The first price for wool that Pablo remembers was $ 0.12 per pound. Markets for lambs and cattle were almost non-existent. Finally, he began to receive quotes from the markets in Kansas City, which gave him an idea of what cattle were worth. They sold "whatever they found," because there were no fences and sometimes it was difficult to gather the cattle they needed. Eventually Pablo decided to market his cattle in Denver. Describes in detail the process of taking his livestock to Denver. The railroad would figure the cost of freight, and it would be deducted from the selling price in Denver.

Tape 1, Side B

The usual wool buyer in their area worked for Bond & McCarthy. Pablo raised Rambouillet sheep. He sheared in July when the sheep were in better condition. A good shearer could shear 100 head per day. In the early days they paid the shearer $ 0.02 or $ 0.03 per head for shearing.

The sheep were herded during the day and brought back to the corrals at night. Pablo started herding sheep when he was six or seven. Describes his fear of being alone when he first started herding.

Pablo lost an older brother when he was age nine and his brother was eleven. Evidently there was and outbreak of diphtheria in the community.

The Bernal's owned about 300 sheep, and the number of cattle was unknown, because the cattle were held with everyone elses. His father's, Gabino Bernal, brand was G.B., and Pablos's was 7h.

Dorsey, who built the Dorsey mansion, controlled nearly all the surface water in Colfax County by homesteading around the "water holes." Later, homesteaders had to dig wells in order to get water. The wells were dug with pick and shovel and they would line the wells with rocks. On the 160 acres homesteaded by the Bernals there was a creek that could be cleaned with a "stripper and a plow."

Tape 2, Side A

In later years Pablo Bernal bought additional property that contained springs. In the 1970's, they piped water out from the springs for livestock use and for use in his home. He could also irrigate about seven acres of land with the new system. He grew alfalfa in the irrigated fields.

He describes marketing all the lambs for the Tinaja community in 1932. He took them to Denver, which was a gamble because there was no market. He was very lucky and sold the lambs for $ 2.00 a head.

Pablo never sold any of his livestock during the federal government's stock reduction program.

In 1926, Pablo made the decision to sell his cattle and buy sheep because there was a good market for wool and mutton.

Tape 2, Side B

This side of the tape is blank.

Tape 3, Side A

His father was raised on the community land grant at Albuquerque. Discusses that his father joined the Militia during the Civil War, but it was disbanded after a short period of time. After his service, Gabino worked at Fort Union and saved enough money to purchase two freight wagons and oxen to pull them. Gabino would go to the "Salt Lakes" and dig salt and then distribute it to farms and ranches. The work Gabino did at Fort Union was making adobe bricks. There was stiff competition for this work. The older men would take advantage of the younger ones by taking their clean adobe molds (thus slowing the boys down). Gabino got into a physical altercation with a man, and hit him with a mold. Gabino was court-martialed, however he was not found guilty, because everyone was aware of what had been happening.

Gabino Bernal hauled freight between Las Vegas and Mora and Tecolote.

His father married a woman whose last name was Valdez.

NOTE: The remainder of Tape Three, Side A is inaudible.

Tape 3, Side B

Tape Three, Side B is inaudible.

Tape 4, Side A

Discusses his memories about when New Mexico was admitted into the United States. They held meetings at the school to discuss the proposed constitution. His father supported New Mexico becoming a state.

Discusses the tradition of holding a wake (Velorios) for a particular saint, which was both a "religious and social thing." On the 25th of July they celebrated, and played the game, Gallo. Later this game was prohibited.

Discusses the system of justice in Tinaja, and the ideology taught at church, school, and home.

Pablo married Teresta Lopez in 1918 or 1919. They had eight children, who were born at home with Teresita's mother attending.

Discusses the death of his brother in some detail.

Some of his family members were ill during the influenza epidemic of 1918, but no one died.

Describes that his father, Gabino, when he was a boy would accompany buffalo hunters out to the eastern plains of New Mexico, and would dress the buffalo once they were killed.

His father grew grapes at the place in the Ponil. The irrigated farming land there was very fertile. They grew plums and apples there and later Pablo grew fruit trees at his place at Tinaja.

NOTE: A large portion of this side becomes inaudible at this point, and then resumes.

His father lived on the place in Ponil Creek for 17 years, before having to leave. Pablo describes that his father swapped his place at Tecolote for the land in the Ponil creek. Describes again the problem with the Maxwell Land Grant Company.

Tape 4, Side B

Continues to discuss the settlers leaving the Maxwell Land Grant.

Tape 5, Side A

Sibling's names were Soloman, Genoveo, Delfida and Carmelita.

Genoveo died at approximately nine years of age. Soloman took a homestead that abutted the Gabino Bernal homestead when he reached the age of 21.

Pablo Bernal was taught to read and write by his 15-year-old sister Delfida, who attended school in Cimarron before the family moved to Tinaja. She also taught her uncle's children and neighbor's children. Delfida taught the children both English and Spanish. She also acted as the father's interpreter, as he did not speak English.

Delfinda married a Chavez, whose family came from Ocate. They were "well-to-do," owning 5000 head of sheep.

Discusses the settlement of the Maxwell Land Grant. The present day Raton Highway was a "boundary line." The Bernal and Chase Ranches were to the north of the highway and the other settlement was to the south. When the people who had settled the grant were forced off, most settled on homestead claims in the Tinaja area.

Pablo's father bought out the Tinaja homesteaders, as they realized they could not make a living dry farming 160 acres. His father had the advantage over most of the Tinaja homesteaders, because he owned two freight wagons and hauled goods from the railhead in Las Vegas to local areas.

Gabino Bernal, Pablo's father originally traded land that he owned in Tecolote for the place at Cimarron. The original owner of the ranch at Cimarron had shot a man and needed to get out of the area. The fact that there was so little currency in the state led to this kind of a barter system.

Discusses the failure of the Maxwell Bank. The depositors were eventually paid back in "three or four years."

The Bernal's raised mostly Hereford cattle, but with a mixture of Longhorns. They were better suited for the rough country around Tinaja. He usually did not have to do a great deal of supplemental feeding in the winter. There were some protected areas on the mountainside, and he did occasionally cut hay and stack near these areas. His ranch had springs, which did not freeze over in the winter.

Tape 5, Side B

Discusses snowstorm in 1913. Usually the cattle and sheep could eat oak brush if there was a great deal of snow.

States that his father always had a large supply (a wagonload or two) of staples in hand for the winter. People also would shoot deer, although they were "protected," and it was not a "public thing."

Some of the area ranchers worked at nearby coalmines to earn extra money. One or two family members worked the mines, while others stayed on the ranch to work.

Discusses his practices during lambing season. He used a system of cross-fencing to manage his sheep. His other neighbors did not.

He attended courses offered by the Extension Service of New Mexico A&M College. He believes the only rancher from his area who attended the courses.

Tape 6, Side A

Discusses some of the techniques taught by the Extension service. How wool is sheared, the fleece tied, and then how it is packed into sacks. Discusses grading wool, the buyers were aware of conditions in the local areas because they were living in all the small communities. In other words, they knew the condition of the sheep, and hence the wool before the sheep were shorn.

Pricing of wool—impact after WWII because of the development of synthetics.

Discusses the patron saint of agriculture, San Ysidro. The church at Tinaja is dedicated to the saint. He discusses the place of the saint in the people's belief system, and the celebration of the saint usually held in the summer.

Tape 6, Side B

This side of the tape is blank.

Tape 7, Side A

Describes getting bitten by a rattlesnake in the finger. He became paralyzed—first his hand, then his arm and then his side. He was hospitalized for nine days recovering from the bite.

Mr. Bernal married his second wife Amalia in 1946. His first wife died in 1938. (He married his first wife in 1919).

There were many buffalo bones at his ranch in Tinaja. He approximates about 200 skeletons. He thinks they were shot there. He noticed many arrowheads, but now there are neither buffalo bones or arrowheads, as they have been picked up by people. He also described camps used by American Indians along the creek bottom. There are petroglyphs in the canyon walls where the Tinaja and Eagle Tail Mountains meet. The Kiowa Indians were nearby Tinaja.

When Gavino Bernal, Pablo's father, was a young boy he would herd livestock for the wagon trains traveling the Santa Fe Trail. It took six months to make the trip.

Captain José Antonio Chávez raised a militia in New Mexico during the Civil War to serve for the Union. Gabino served only about six months and instead of pay was given a bonus when he mustered out, but he lost the bonus.

Tape 7, Side B

Later, Pablo Bernal was assisting his uncle with some problems arising from his owning land in three different school sections. Pablo found his father's bonus sewn into his uncle's ledger. Since his father was dead when it was found, no one could cash the bonus and once again it has been lost or misplaced.

A document was produced and read into the record. The document dated 1910, was a certification that Gabino Bernal was mustered into the New Mexico militia in 1863.

Discusses powerful interests in Colfax County. One group of men were associated with the Maxwell Land Grant, and the other group formed around Dorsey. He stated that they "controlled everything in the State of New Mexico." He stated that the "native" New Mexicans were at a disadvantage because of being unable to read and write.

Discusses that many people voted for the state constitution who had never read it, particularly when the only copies were in English.

He believes that one of the biggest impacts in the lives of people he knew was being forced to leave the Maxwell Land Grant.

Tape 8, Side A

States that the community at Tinaja was "short-lived" because people would get their homestead patent, and then sold them for whatever money they could get.