Opel Paul Linson was born on 9 August 1899 in Dale Township, Kay County, Oklahoma. His father was James Luther Linson and mother was Cora Belle Cherryholmes. He was my grandpa and very special to me.
From what I know he left Oklahoma with his dad and mom before he was ten years old and they settled in the New Mexico Territory. He married my Grandma Bertha May Ingledue on Christmas day in 1917 in Colfax County New Mexico.
Sometime between 1930 and 1935 he and Bertha moved to Carthage Illinois with their adopted daughter Georgene Maud Linson. The only reason that I know why they would have moved to Illinois is because Bertha’s mother, Maude Shipman had moved to Carthage to marry Mr. Prince Allen Lovell.
Opel and Bertha bought a small house on the edge of town at 213 S. 1st St. and this house is still standing. CLICK HERE to view the home in Google Street View. They lived in this house until about 1980 when their son Richard Earl Linson Sr. moved them to Lafayette Indiana to be closer to him. His address in Lafayette was 1913 Whitcomb Ave.
In December 1975 Opel sat down with a Mr. Hobbs at his church in Carthage Illinois and gave an interview regarding his life. The following is the transcript of the interview which I have copied word for with original punctuation and grammar.
“Cowboy Life In The Territory of New Mexico”
As related in an interview with
Mr. Opel Linson
Mr. Opel Linson, an RSVP volunteer from Carthage, was a cowboy in New Mexico when it was still a territory. In a recent interview with Mr. John Hobbs, RSVP director he recalls what his life was like in those days:
Mr. Hobbs: Mr. Linson, when were you a cowboy? What age were you and what years did it include?
Mr. Linson: I started when I was about 12 – pretty early – but that was the way I was brought up. I’d say that would have been about 1911 or 1912; I don’t remember the exact date. I was a cowboy for about four years.
Mr. Hobbs: Where did you work?
Mr. Linson: I worked at home for my father. He had cattle out West in Mosquero, New Mexico, and I was the main cowboy.
Mr. Hobbs: What did you call yourself? Did you call yourself a cowboy, and did you wear the Western clothes you see on TV and in the movies today?
Mr. Linson: No, I didn’t call myself a cowboy, but I wore the cowboy clothes – hat, boots, spurs.
Mr. Hobbs: What type of cattle did you work with? What was your typical day like? What kind of food did you have? Did you have the old chuck wagons that we hear so much about?
Mr. Linson: The cattle were the white-faced range type, the Hereford type, and the regular old Western cows that they raised out there. As far as chuck wagons are concerned, we never had any. And as to getting up in the morning to start the day, well, that was when Dad kicked us out of bed and said, “Let’s go!” And when he decided that we had had a day, that was it. The food was just plain old pinto beans and bread, and maybe sometimes we would kill a rabbit or something.
Mr. Hobbs: How long would your day usually last? How many hours of work?
Mr. Linson: It would be from daylight, when you could see to ride, until dark. Quite a day. During the winter we worked out of the ranch house, I guess you would call it; it was a home. In the summer time we slept out; we had a little wagon team, and slept out when it was necessary. However, it wasn’t all the tie that we did that.
Mr. Hobbs: Was it comfortable out there?
Mr. Linson: Well, if you want to roll a bed out on the ground and that “comfortable,”….well…..
Mr. Hobbs: Was you work dangerous?
Mr. Linson: It could be; not all the time, though. If you were rounding up and cutting out your cattle your horse could tumble and fall with you; or a rattlesnake could crawl in bed with you at night. I don’t know if you would call that dangerous or not, but…….
Mr. Hobbs: Well, I believe we would! What were you paid?
Mr. Linson: I just got my board and clothes, working for Dad.
Mr. Hobbs: Did you ever meet any famous people?
Mr. Linson: No, I never met any famous people. Most of them were just old Westerners who grew up in that part of the country.
Mr. Hobbs: Were they pretty rough characters?
Mr. Linson: No. No, they weren’t rough characters. Some were sheep ranchers and some were cattle ranchers. Some man would have a herd of cattle, and the other man would be a sheep man and he would have quite a herd of sheep.
Mr. Hobbs: Was there any bad feelings between these two groups? We have always heard that.
Mr. Linson: No, not at that time; that had died out. There were no bad feelings, that is, not enough like, you know, in the stories you’ve read about when years ago, in the 1800’s, they would kill one another, but they never did that. Of course, the sheep men and the cattle men had a little difference, but not enough to go into anything like that.
Mr. Hobbs: Do you have any unusual stories or funny ones that you can remember?
Mr. Linson: The only thing I remember that was kind of funny was when I bought a horse for a rope horse, and I didn’t know that he hadn’t been ridden. I put the saddle on him, and got on him, and in about three jumps I was on the ground. Someone said, “Why didn’t you hit the saddle horn?” and I said, “I couldn’t find it!”
Mr. Hobbs: Did most of the cowboys at that time wear sidearms, say revolvers, and did you wear one? If so, what kind? And what was it like during the winter months on the range?
Mr. Linson: Most of the cowboys wore sidearms and I wore one, a 45 Colt. It wasn’t for protection against the other guy or anything; it was mostly for wolves, coyotes and there were a few mountain lions around there. That was the purpose of the sidearms. Some of the winters were pretty rough. I remember one winter there after I was married that a big rancher has a bunch of cattle, that came an 18-inch snow and lost 300 head of cattle. That was the first year we were married, in 1918. The winters could be very severe.
Mr. Hobbs: How many worked with you at one time when you were out on the range, and secondly, did you have any particular variety of horse that you would ride?
Mr. Linson: There were just Dad and I, and a fellow I use to ride with, named Emilio Trujillo, a Mexican fellow who knew the country pretty well, so he was always with us. The horses were just the wild range horses that we would pick up out there; those were the only horses we had, and sometimes, you would get a good one and sometimes you’d get a “dud.”
Mr. Hobbs: What type of area was the ranch located in- mountains, desert? And what duties did you have when you were actually riding the herd?
Mr. Linson: When I was out, the duties mostly were rounding up and cutting out the cattle. There would be several groups of us in the herd doing this. In my group there were the three of us, Dad, Emilio and me, and some others would be about the same. We would all round up a bunch of cattle, and then ride in and pick out our brand and cut them out, and then you would go your separate ways. Where we were, it was sort of a mesa, flat farming ground, but when you got out to the edge of it, it was mountains. It was high altitude.
Mr. Hobbs: What was the name of your ranch?
Mr. Linson: No special name. We just has a brand recorded in Clayton, New Mexico, the county seat.
Mr. Hobbs: New Mexico at one time was pretty must a frontier area, even into the 20th Century. What was Christmas like at that point in time, in the early 20th Century, out on the range in New Mexico. Can you tell us about that?
Mr. Linson: Well, a lot of fellows, I think, never knew what Christmas was. When we went out there we never had any Christmas. The cowboys on those bigger ranches, when they would celebrate, would always go to town and have a “wing-ding” – Tom and Jerries and what have you. They did some drinking. That was their celebration, but the people that didn’t do that would maybe go to the neighbors and have dinner with them. As far as the kids were concerned, they didn’t know what a present was.
Mr. Hobbs: It was more religious in nature, then?
Mr. Linson: More so, I’d say.
Mr. Hobbs: Did you follow any Spanish traditions?
Mr. Linson: No. The Spanish people knew what Christmas was, but they never celebrated in the way taht we know today. It wasn’t until the country has been pretty well settled by the Americans that they began to celebrate like today. It was much different back in those days.
Mr. Hobbs: What would a Christmas meal be?
Mr. Linson: Well, among the Americans who came out there to take up homesteading, it may have been a turkey, duck, or a chicken, more likely chicken. Sometimes they’d have venison. That’s about all there was to it.
Mr. Hobbs: How about the Mexicans or the Indians – what did they have for a meal? Would they do anything special?
Mr. Linson: No, nothing special.
Mr. Hobbs: Would you have a Christmas tree, and did you decorate it all?
Mr. Linson: No.
Mr. Hobbs: I guess frontier life was just too hard then?
Mr. Linson: Yes, hard, too hard. And a lot of people, some of the settlers that came out, just didn’t have the money to celebrate. Living ten to fifteen miles apart, if you went to see your neighbor you would be gone all day. That is about all there was to their Christmas.
Mr. Hobbs: Thank you, Mr. Linson.