Friday, November 14, 2014

Yampa Crossing: an Elkins family story.

Dorothy Dale (Elkins) Muirhead was born on this day 100 years ago, November 14, 1914. She was the fourth child of C. C. Elkins and Maude (Luekens) Elkins.  This picture was taken not long after her father died in a military hospital in Hot Springs, SD. He was never in very good health after fighting in the Spanish-American war, where, according to family legend, he was shot with a poison arrow.

In honor of my mother and grandmother, who raised her family of six mostly on her own in hard times, I am going to retell some of the stories that they passed on to me.
The Elkins family: Back row—Hazel, Carrol, Gene
Front row—Marvin, Dorothy, Maude, Martha

First: Yampa Crossing: The first time my mother almost died, by Janet Muirhead Hill
(A much longer, more detailed account of this story was published twice in a weekly magazine, called Junior Guide.)

My mother, Dorothy was eight or nine months old when the family tried crossing the Yampa River to get to the new homestead near Milner, CO, where C. C., my grandfather, had just finished building a house. Maude, Gene, and baby Dorothy were riding on a horse-drawn wagon, loaded with household furniture and clothing and driven by Maude's father, my great-grandfather Luekens. He followed the other wagon driven by C. C. 

The river was deep with spring run off. The horses stumbled into a hole just below the ford. They went under momentarily and the wagon capsized, dumping all its contents and passengers into the swift water. Grandpa Luekens found his footing and was able to grab Gene and pull him to safety. He saw his daughter, Maude, come up and stand, but the baby she clutched in her arms was still under water. (Maude had hit her head on a rock on the bottom of he river and was "addled" or so it was explained to me.) 

Grandpa Luekens pulled baby Dorothy from her arms and got her above water in time to save her, but Maude thought it was the river that had taken her baby and dove back into the current, trying to save her. She couldn't swim. Her husband, my grandpa, saw it all from the far side of the river. He ran along the bank until he saw her come up for the third time, dove in and pulled her out. She wasn't breathing, but, laying her on her stomach, he pumped her back until the water was expelled from her lungs and she was able to draw a breath. Thankfully, they all survived to have many more adventures and some scary scrapes with death. 

Next time: Gunshot wound.


1 comment:

Nan said...

Taking just a moment to tell you that I love reading your entries.