I have her beginning… that started mid-adolescence. She never spoke to me about her young memories of childhood except that she grew up in a very rural area. I guess she lived those memories alone. I will never know. This is the beginning of the story I know. When she was 13 or 14, her father traded her to a white man for a team of mules and a plow. I never knew the name of this person. It was a terrifying situation I believe. She was enslaved, essentially to be done with as pleased. This was a situation of degradation of her as a person. She bore two children. While the youngest was still nursing, a sickness came, measles I believe, and both children died. When this happened, she ran away.
At this time, she became a wet nurse for a white family and so was able to stay very sheltered and hidden caring for a young child. She was able to educate herself. She befriended a dry goods store owner named Bruce Wilson. Throughout her life, he remained a great friend. She was then able to take a job with the phone company. Bruce was the oldest sibling of 12 children of a Baptist minister and teacher. One of his brothers came to visit from Arizona. He was the youngest brother. She met his brother Bert. They began courting and she eloped to New Mexico with him and then returned with him to his homestead ranch in Springerville, Arizona.
This is the beginning of my family as I know it. They ranched and he cowboyed for neighbors to make ends meet. They had two sons and two daughters, that have many memories of them foraging in the mountains and river banks for plants to eat and hunting and fishing for food. When the depression hit they lost everything. They had cousins in Phoenix, AZ and they went there and lived in the chicken coop on his cousins’ property. He went to work farming in the area.
They were able to get back on their feet and survive through the depression. They saved and bought land outside of Willcox, AZ in the Stewart district. They were able to buy a house that was in the Chiricahua mountains and moved it with teams of horses onto their land. With help from their children, they hand dug a well almost 200 feet deep, the remnants of which are still on the land today.
Here they farmed and prospered as a family, having cattle, chickens, hogs etc, to supplement hunting. My Grandfather raised grand, big workhorses because my grandmother never allowed a mule to come onto their place! He continued farming and raising cattle, plus helping neighboring ranches to supplement their income. He planted two small orchards of multiple types of fruit trees and sold fruit. She gardened and canned everything we ate. She began sewing for the public and did so until she was well into her 80s.
She became a great advocate of underprivileged people. Through my childhood, I grew up assisting my grandparents with many functions that involved gathering clothing, personal items, shoes etc. for the people of Mexico. She would then send these items down to the people in need. She did fundraisers, selling handmade quilts that her women’s club made every year. She was very active in her community always helping sponsor something to aid the town library, 4-H club or another group in need. She was a devout Christian and I don’t remember her missing Sunday church.
She grew up in an era with the reality that educating Indians was illegal. She raised 4 children, Two of which hold multiple PhD’s. That was miraculous! What an amazing person she was! Always advocating for someone else, for someone else’s rights! But always teaching to be humble, be kind, be gentle and still. Be of service! Always read! Read everything you can, form your own opinion based on your own knowledge. Seek knowledge in whatever form you can process. To listen for guidance and heed what was happening around you. Pay attention to the animals, the trees, to the plants for they tell you everything you need to know if only you will listen.