233 Years Ago Today . . .

I’m so blasted sick and tired of politics that it’s all I can do, anymore, to even barely keep up with the nonsense embedded in the 2012 “presidential” campaign. In all my life, I’ve never seen such crap, and considering that the first presidential election I can remember was the Truman-Dewey race in 1948, that’s saying a lot! The Republican Party has devolved by untold orders of magnitude since 1952, the first year that Dwight D. Eisenhower was its candidate. We all thought they’d reached bottom in 2000 with George W. Bush (actually, to “hit bottom” after the likes of Nixon, Reagan, and Poppy Bush was no small accomplishment in itself), but today the retroview of Dubya is that he was a true and brilliant gem when judged by current “standards.”

So I do what I can to avoid much or even most of the current political scene. For diversion, I walk a lot. A LOT, actually. Thirteen hundred miles so far this year, in fact, and all have been in and around the small SE Colorado town in which I’ve lived the last four years.

Interesting place, this. Eight miles to the west stand the Rocky Mountains. The tallest peak in this portion of the Front Range is a thirteener named Greenhorn Mountain. Greenhorn Creek flows off the mountain and through our town which is located in what the map refers to as Greenhorn Valley.

Greenhorn? One of the major streets (it’s paved and even has a dashed yellow line down the middle, a rarity here!) is called Cuerno Verde Blvd. Cuerno Verde is Spanish for Green Horn. One of my frequent morning walks takes me along Anza to Cuerno Verde to Apache to Cibola and into our wooded picnic and camping area called Greenhorn Meadows Park (located on Greenhorn Creek, of course). In that park the State of Colorado long ago erected a cement and stone pillar upon which is mounted a brass memorial plaque. The plaque offers a bit of an explanation of sorts, an answer to the enduring question that ponders the origin of so many of the local place names. Here’s what the plaque looks like:


So, Greenhorn — Cuerno Verde, aka The Cruel Scourge — was a Comanche Chief, killed by the Spaniards on September 3, 1779. That’s 233 years ago today, if my arithmetic is correct. The name of the Spaniard responsible for thus “civilizing” SE Colorado was “Juan B. Anza,” according to the plaque a “Governor” of sorts. I got curious and did a search.

The Juan Bautista de Anza of Colorado fame was, in fact, the same Juan Bautista de Anza who had led a 1776 expedition from the Tubac Presidio in what is now southern Arizona to Alta California where his party established missions and Presidios in, at the least, what we today know as San Gabriel, Monterrey, San Francisco, and San Jose. After that successful mission, de Anza was assigned by the Viceroy of New Spain to become Governor of the province known as Nuevo Mexico, and he relocated his operation to the Presidio of Santa Fe. His immediate task was to clean up the neighborhood, so to speak, and subdue the hostile Indians that were native to the area, who for some odd reason were resisting Spanish incursions and settlements on their lands. The local Comanches were led by a chief named Tabivo Naritgant (“Dangerous Man”) whose father, a former Comanche chieftain of the same name, had been killed by the Spaniards some 15-20 years prior. Naritgant — called ‘Cuerno Verde’ by the Spaniards because of his distinctive leather headdress topped by green-tinted buffalo horns — was bound by tribal tradition to avenge his father’s death and had recently led several attacks on the Spanish settlement of Taos in Nuevo Mexico and was therefore an enemy to be hunted, located, and killed on sight.

Juan Bautista de Anza assembled a punitive expedition of some 600 men consisting of Spanish-friendly Apache and Ute tribesmen plus a contingent of Spanish soldiers, and led them northward from Santa Fe, into and through the San Luis Valley in what today is southern Colorado. From there they continued northward beyond what’s today known as Pikes Peak, then turned east and entered the Great Plains near Manitou Springs. From there, they headed south and eventually encountered (and exterminated) an encampment of Comanches. It was not led by the sought-after Cuerno Verde, however, so following the successful skirmish the Spaniards continued southward beyond the area of present-day Pueblo until, somewhere along the eastern face of the Sierra Mojada (Wet Mountains), they finally encountered a Comanche war party, recently returned from yet another assault on Taos, and this time led by none other than Tabivo Naritgant himself, complete with Cuerno Verde headdress. A battle ensued, and a day or two later — September 3, 1779 — Naritgant was killed in a barrage of Spanish musket lead balls.

Anza took the chief’s headdress as evidence, and later presented it to Teodoro del Croix, Commander General of the Internal Provinces of New Spain, who later, so the story goes, forwarded it to his superiors in Spain, who donated it to the Vatican where it was placed on display in the Vatican’s museum. So far as anyone knows, the headdress worn by Tabivo Naritgant 233 years ago on the day of his death in the Greenhorn Valley of Colorado, in the shadow of Greenhorn Mountain, possibly on or near the banks of Greenhorn Creek, remains there in the Vatican.

But (returning to domestic politics for a moment — don’t we always), The Cruel Scourge is back, although with a huge difference: this time around, The Cruel Scourge is not an aboriginal chieftain working to avenge the death of his father at the hands of European invaders. Nope, this time The Cruel Scourge appears before us as the Mitt Romney — Paul Ryan presidential ticket.

History repeats. Again.

Makes me ponder the vision of Mittens or Ryan in a headdress adorned with green-tinted buffalo horns.


Time for a walk, I think. Maybe this afternoon I’ll walk Anza to Cuerno Verde to Apache, cross Cibola, turn right on Geronimo, and enjoy the view, from there, of the Sierra Mojada and the range’s highest peak, named Greenhorn Mountain in honor of Comanche chieftain Tabivo Naritgant, aka Cuerno Verde, The Cruel Scourge:


And while there enjoying the views, the peace and the quiet, I’ll do everything I can manage to NOT waste a single thought or a single moment’s breath on Mitt Romney or on any other neo-Fascist currently labeled “Republicans.”  Life CAN be sweet, yes indeedy. Just takes a bit of effort. Make that a LOT of effort!


9 thoughts on “233 Years Ago Today . . .

  1. Very interesting Frugal… also very telling that the more things change, the more that they stay the same. (Cliche’ – I know) The same attitudes that people held hundreds of years ago, still go on today. Wasn’t that part of the reason we went into Iraq? To avenge G. W. Bush’s father for an attempt on his life by Saddam? Or was that just a bonus after the oil?

    • I remember the first time I picked up a copy of Wm. Shirer’s classic history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It was in the early sixties and I was a college kid, just beginning to cultivate an interest in what had gone down in years, decades, centuries, millennia, etc., before. Just inside the front cover, Shirer caught my immediate attention by quoting something new to me at the time in George Santayana’s famous line, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.” I’ve been a history freak ever since — not a scholar, of course, but one who enjoys learning the details about most any ‘stuff’ that went on before but which suddenly seems to become reincarnate with recurring (and sometimes alarming) frequency.

      When we were new arrivals here some four years ago, I was puzzled about many of the place names, wondered about their obvious Spanish origin. Then I ran across the plaque in the park that mentions “The Cruel Scourge” as a synonym for a long-dead Comanche chief; the msg. implicit immediately brought images of Romney and Ryan to mind, so I visited Google and … the rest is history, sotospeak. 🙂

      In re Bush, Iraq, and Poppy’s problems with Saddam, I suppose one could compare Dubya’s actions against Iraq to either de Anza’s interference with Comanche local interests or to Naritgant’s attempts at revenge against the Spanish for the murder of his father. To compare Dubsy with Cuerno Verde, though, falls immediately on hard times, given the fact that while Cuerno Verde / Naritgant was apparently an intelligent and principled leader of his people, Dubya’s only claim to fame is to make the CURRENT crop of Republicans look mentally insufficient!

      • I think my point was that as humans, we tend to get locked into the eye for an eye scenario until everyone is blind approach to life… perpetuating war in whatever way we can.

        I understand ‘proportional response” is sometimes necessary, but creating war out of thin air, is not.

        I think I have explained myself badly. I did enjoy your post though.

        • You nailed it: when the “proportional response” becomes the creation of “war out of thin air” (a very typical and unfortunate happenstance, in fact), then eventual failure becomes predestined and automatic. Sadly, though, disproportionate response remains one of the few enduring descriptors of both the current and historical human tradition, and probably describes its future as well. Why are we still in Afghanistan? Why the anti-Iran bluster and fist-shaking? Why, for that matter, the continuing trade embargo with Cuba? And of course, why does the US waste $700+ billion PER YEAR on warmongering, and why are the Republicans currently so panicky about upcoming minor reductions in “defense” appropriations that they themselves recently agreed to?

          Given the details of human history, one thing becomes highly visible and obvious: the human species truly doesn’t have a lot to recommend it.

  2. Enjoyed that historical walk – and your daily routine!
    We know Anza from his CA expeditions/rounding up the locals to teach them the ‘civilized’/Spanish/Catholic ways. I’d not known or perhaps forgotten about his South West invasion.
    That one man, Tabivo Naritgant, should put so much fear and hatred into the Spaniards as to be hunted…
    Religion was a cruel invention.

    As for

    …today the retroview of Dubya is that he was a true and brilliant gem when judged by current “standards.”

    Never, ever thought it would come to this…yet so true compared to the RR running team of today..each a consumate liar. Baby-boy Bush generally lied by omission. Well not really, his were couched more in his ‘reality’/imagination and we suffered for the delusions.

  3. Fascinating piece of history – not something widely known is the history of the Spanish colonies in southern US. Thanks FC.

  4. As I traveled throughout the “plains”, I couldn’t help but think about the First People and their devastating encounter with the “white man”. The other evening, Mark Rubio told Jon Stewart that the first night of the Republican Convention was about “American Exceptionalism” which is just another way to phrase “Manifest Destiny”. It is this kind of thinking that lead our nation to the genocide of the First People. Our nation is filled with shame and the “yahoos” continue with the “Manifest Destiny” way of thinking.

    • To those who like to refer to “manifest destiny” and the (presumed) resultant “American exceptionalism” as the brightest jewels in America’s crown, I’ve noticed that substituting the phrase “the European invasion of North America” for “European immigration” (or some approximation thereof) is almost always cause for a nasty and mean-spirited response on their part. They refuse to see and comprehend the truth of the matter, that white European terrorism brought/brings nothing exceptional” to the table save for the possible exception of its maxed-out viciousness.

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