M. Josephine “Jo” Cross, local author and former La Veta mayor, joined the Huerfano Journal in July of 2008 in order to write a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant series reminiscing about the funny things that have happened, and about the people that have made things happen in the Cuchara Valley. She told the Journal in November of 2008 that she expected that many of her pieces would be published posthumously. She died Dec. 5, 2008 at the age of 93. We honor her memory by running the remainder of her stories this summer.
By Jo Cross
Cuchara- South of Goemner’s and directly below the Devil’s Stairsteps was the acreage of Daddy Lee, the most colorful person I ever knew. His home was scrupulously clean. He usually had a quarter of venison hanging from a rafter which he referred to as “bar” meat. Daddy Lee gave us a sidelong look to see if we accepted the out-of-season venison as bear meat, which we did, of course.
Years later I asked the game warden about the venison we saw. He said it was well known; but he added that Daddy Lee did not hunt deer for sport and wasted no part of the deer from horns to hooves.
About every third word he spoke was a cuss word, which shocked my mother until she realized he was not swearing, but using what was normal speech to him. Then she began to enjoy him, as did everyone else. He had acres of strawberries in neat rows which he sold. No matter if you had a quart or a bucketful, he’d glance at it and said, “Fifty cents.” Those berries were huge. Any of them would fill a tea cup. Mother would cook down some June apples to mix with the berries to make delicious strawberry preserves.
Daddy Lee, like Asa Arnold, had scouted for the army in his younger days.
Asa didn’t often use his cabin across from the upper Cassai ranch. I believed he had another place further up in the mountains which he preferred. At any rate, he bought land across from the Herbin ranch, built a road about a half mile to the site he chose for his home. It was an attractive peeled log house with a large deck along its front. The only time I was there was when a bunch of us were on a hiking trip and stopped to visit Asa. We all sat on the deck while he told us of his scouting days, battles with Indians, and early times in the Cuchara Valley.
Asa’s son Frank met Mary Hayden from California when she taught at Cuchara. They married and had several children. Gilbert, the eldest, was well-known in La Veta as a building contractor, postmaster and member of the Board of Trustees. Darryl became a successful publisher of a western magazine. Woody was also a builder in La Veta. Another son taught at the high school for several years before moving away. The youngest daughter Peggy had a lovely voice and sang often at La Veta functions. Peggy taught music in the La Veta schools, also.
I’ve no idea how old Daddy Lee and Asa Arnold were in the early 1930’s, but they were strong and vigorous all through the years I knew and enjoyed knowing them.