Life Was Hard

By Don Kirk

Life in early Carson was hard, but it was a good way to live. Most of the people were farmers, so one of the first things they did was grub sagebrush so they could have clear land to plow. Pinto beans, corn, wheat and oats were grown here by dry farming. If the rains came it was a good year. If not, times were bad that year. That’s why they were looking forward to the Carson Reservoir for water to farm with.

There was always work to do, fields to plow, water to haul, wood to get for the cook stove and to heat their homes. Whatever you had or needed you made or raised. Just about everyone had a milk cow, chickens, pigs, and a horse or two. This way they had eggs, milk, butter and meat to eat, horses to plow or ride or pull a wagon.

But there was time for fun too. They held dances in the rock schoolhouse that went from sundown to sunup, picnic suppers, taffy pulls, cakewalks and potlucks. Corn husking parties were fun too. You would husk dry corn and if you got a colored ear, you could kiss the boy or girl of your choice. Remember this was before radio or television.)

Then there was that trip to town, maybe twice a year. This was a two-day outing, one over and one back. Traveling by horse and wagon was not too fast, but there was time to look around and talk. The journey to town was to get what you couldn’t make or raise yourself. Money was hard to come by, so you would trade for whatever you needed if you could. You would take beans or wood and trade for seed, feed, coal oil, salt, sugar, canned milk and flour.

There was always time to go visit a neighbor or do a little fishing or hunting. When there was a fifth Sunday in a month, people would get together from Tres Piedras, Servilleta and Carson for “Fifth Sunday Singings.” They would sing, dance, talk and eat, but most of all, dance. These get-togethers made the hard times a little easier in early Carson.

Water was not something to be taken for granted as it was hard to come by. There was no road into the gorge and water came from the rain or was hauled from the Rio de la Petaca. Back then the Petaca carried more water and there were hand-dug wells along the creek bed, two east of the Post Office, two near the Busick’s place and two more south of there where the old road crossed the Petaca. There was also a good spring up the canyon west of the P.O. but it wasn’t always accessible since the road was impassable when the Petaca was running.

Folks would haul water and put it in cisterns or stock tanks, and there were rain barrels around most homes and out-buildings. After the train came to Taos Junction, there was a water tank car where you could buy water for 25 cents a barrel. Water hauling was one of the first ways to earn money in Carson. After the road was built to the gorge, people could haul water from the river or the spring. As trucks replaced horses and wagons, water became a lot easier to get, but trucks used gasoline and gasoline cost money, so times were still hard.

Most of us have never had to go without water or have it in short supply. And how many have ever used water from a stock tank or rain bar-that had pollywogs swimming in it? They’re not too bad in stew, but not so great in bread. But one did what one had to do in time need, such as Saturday night bath time when the cleanest one got in first and the dirtiest one last. One tub of water for all!