by Jo Cross
CUCHARA- Cuchara was a happy place, all during the years through the 1930s. We were one big happy family. Before they were moved in, newcomers were welcomed by visitors coming to get acquainted. We were dependent on each other for entertainment, social events, and practically everything else.
Cars were a rarity. We were middle-class people in one-car families. Whenever anyone went shopping to La Veta or Walsenburg, he or she canvassed the neighbors to get their shopping lists and money. Charlie Powell went to Walsenburg once a week, to buy supplies for the commissary, and would take a passenger along. I went with him often, and we became good friends. He would tell me about his early life, how he came to Colorado, and his experiences there through the years. I’m afraid he also told me some bouncers, as I was very gullible and believed everything he told me. I asked Wanda (Powell Jameson), one day about a story he told me about escaping from some Indians. She said he made that up; it never happened. I didn’t really mind, because I liked Charlie, and his stories were always interesting.
Cuchara had its characters, too. One of the most remarkable was Mrs. Neeley. She was a tall, gaunt woman, always dressed in black with long skirts, sweeping the ground, black hat and gloves, except for a white net throat covering, boned to hold it rigid that rose from the black garments to her jawbone. Mrs. Neeley lived on the peak of what became Texas Hill, in the 1940s. She could see all over Cuchara. When a car arrived, she descended her cabin, and queried the newly arrived family, until she knew everything about them, except their great aunt’s maiden name.
The Neeley cabin was as unusual as its occupant. It was built around a living pine tree. I often wondered if ants, bugs, or even chipmunks also were permanent occupants.
I saw Mrs. Neeley smile only once in all the years I knew her. Brother Thomason and I were writing the clues for a treasure hunt, and went to ask her permission to put a clue on a tree next to her cabin. She was immensely pleased and actually smiled.
We had another “town newspaper” in Cuchara. Mr. Hoopingarner was quite fat, so that the only time he left his front porch, was when he walked down for the mail. How he managed to learn all about people was a mystery, but he managed it.