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Parent Category: Kansas Reading Library
Category: Castañeda's Narrative Of Coronado's Search For Quivira
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My silence was not without mystery and dissimulation when, in chapter 7 of the second part of this book, I spoke of the plains and of the things of which I will give a detailed account in this chapter, where all these things may be found together; for these things were remarkable and something not seen in other parts.

I dare to write [p542] of them because I am writing at a time when many men are still living who saw them and who will vouch for my account. Who could believe that 1,000 horses and 500 of our cows and more than 5,000 rams and ewes and more than 1,500 friendly Indians and servants, in traveling over those plains, would leave no more trace where they had passed than if nothing had been there—nothing—so that it was necessary to make piles of bones and cow dung now and then so that the rear guard could follow the army. The grass never failed to become erect after it had been trodden down, and, although it was short, it was as fresh and straight as before.

Another thing was a heap of cow bones, a crossbow shot long, or a very little less, almost twice a man’s height in places, and some 18 feet or more wide, which was found on the edge of a salt lake in the southern part,[290] and this in a region where there are no people who could have made it. The only explanation of this which could be suggested was that the waves which the north winds must make in the lake had piled up the bones of the cattle which had died in the lake when the old and weak ones who went into the water were unable to get out. The noticeable thing is the number of cattle that would be necessary to make such a pile of bones.

Now that I wish to describe the appearance of the bulls, it is to be noticed first that there was not one of the horses that did not take flight when he saw them first, for they have a narrow, short face, the brow two palms across from eye to eye, the eyes sticking out at the side, so that, when they are running, they can see who is following them. They have very long beards, like goats, and when they are running they throw their heads back with the beard dragging on the ground. There is a sort of girdle round the middle of the body.[291] The hair is very woolly, like a sheep’s, very fine, and in front of the girdle the hair is very long and rough like a lion’s. They have a great hump, larger than a camel’s. The horns are short and thick, so that they are not seen much above the hair. In May they change the hair in the middle of the body for a down, which makes perfect lions of them. They rub against the small trees in the little ravines to shed their hair, and they continue this until only the down is left, as a snake changes his skin. They have a short tail, with a bunch of hair at the end. When they run, they carry it erect like a scorpion. It is worth noticing that the little calves are red and just like ours, but they change their color and appearance with time and age.

Another strange thing was that all the bulls that were killed had their left ears slit, although these were whole when young. The reason for this was a puzzle that could not be guessed. The wool ought to [p543] make good cloth, on account of its fineness, although, the color is not good, because it is the color of buriel.[292]

Another thing worth noticing is that the bulls traveled without cows in such large numbers that nobody could have counted them, and so far away from the cows that it was more than 40 leagues from where we began to see the bulls to the place where we began to see the cows. The country they traveled over was so level and smooth that if one looked at them the sky could be seen between their legs, so that if some of them were at a distance they looked like smooth-trunked pines whose tops joined, and if there was only one bull it looked as if there were four pines. When one was near them, it was impossible to see the ground on the other side of them. The reason for all this was that the country seemed as round as if a man should imagine himself in a three-pint measure, and could see the sky at the edge of it, about a crossbow shot from him, and even if a man only lay down on his back he lost sight of the ground.[293] [p544]

I have not written about other things which were seen nor made any mention of them, because they were not of so much importance, although it does not seem right for me to remain silent concerning the fact that they venerate the sign of the cross in the region where the settlements have high houses. For at a spring which was in the plain near Acuco they had across two palms high and as thick as a finger, made of wood with a square twig for its crosspiece, and many little sticks decorated with feathers around it, and numerous withered flowers, which were the offerings.[294] In a graveyard outside the village at Tutahaco there appeared to have been a recent burial. Near the head there was another cross made of two little sticks tied with cotton thread, and dry withered flowers. It certainly seems to me that in some way they must have received some light from the cross of Our Redeemer, Christ, and it may have come by way of India, from whence they proceeded.

Notes:

[290] Ternaux, p. 236: “l’on trouva sur le bord oriental d’un des lacs salés qui sont vers le sud, un endroit qui avait environ une demi-portée de mousquet de longueur, et qui était entièrement couvert d’os de bisons jusqu’à la hauteur de deux toises sur trois de large, ce qui est surprenant dans un pays désert, et où personne n’aurait pu rassembler ces os.”

[291] Compare the Spanish. Ternaux, p. 237: “Ils ont sur la partie antérieure du corps un poil frisé semblable à la laine de moutons, il est tres-fin sur la croupe, et lisse comme la crinière du lion.”

[292] The kersey, or coarse woolen cloth out of which the habits of the Franciscan friars were made. Hence the name, grey friars.

[293] The earliest description of the American buffalo by a European is in Cabeza de Vaca’s Naufragios, fol. xxvii verso (ed 1555): “Alcança aqui vacas y yo las he visto tres vezes, y comido dellas: y paresceme que seran del tamaño de las de España: tiene los cuernos pequeños como moriscas, y el pelo muy largo merino como vna bernia, vnas son pardillas y otras negras: y a mi parescer tienen mejor y mas gruessa carne que de las de aca. De las que no son grandes hazen los indios matas para cubrirse, y de las mayores hazen capatos y rodelas: estas vienen de hazia el norte . . . mas de quatrocietas leguas: y en todo este camino por los valles por donde ellas viene baxan las gentes que por allí habitan y se mantienen dellas, y meten en la tierra grande contidad de cueros.”

Fray Marcos heard about these animals when he was in southern Arizona, on his way toward Cibola-Zuñi: “Aquí . . . me truxeron un cuero, tanto y medio mayor que de una gran vaca, y me dixeron ques de un animal, que tiene solo un cuerno en la frente y queste cuerno es corbo hacia los pechos, y que de allí sale una punta derecha, en la cual dicen que tiene tanta fuerza, que ninguna cosa, por recia que sea, dexa de romper, si topa con ella; y dicen que hay muchos animales destos en aquella tierra; la color del cuero es á manera de cabron y el pelo tan largo como el dedo.”—Pacheco y Cardenas, Documentos de Indias, vol. iii, p. 311.

Gomara, cap. ccxv, gives the following description to accompany his picture of these cows (plate LV, herein): “Son aquellos bueyes del tamaño, y color, que nuestros toros, pero no de tan grandes cuernos. Tienen vna gran giba sobre la cruz, y mas pelo de medio adelante, que de medio atras, y es lana. Tienen como clines sobre el espinazo, y mucho pelo, y muy largo de las rodillas abaxo. Cuelgan es por la frente grandes guedejas, y parece que tienen baruas, segun los muchos pelos del garguero, y varrillas. Tienen la cola muy larga los machos, y con vn flueco grande al cabo: assique algo tienen de leon, y algo de camello. Hieren con los cuernos, corren, alcançan, y matan vn cauallo, quando ellos se embrauecen, y enojan: finalmente es animal feo y fiero de rostro, y cuerpo. Huye de los cauallos por su mala catadura, o por nunca los auer visto. No tienen sus dueños otra riqueza, ni hazienda, dellos comen, beuen, visten, calçan, y hazen muchas cosas de los cueros, casas, calçado, vestido y sogas: delos huessos, punçones: de los nernios, y pelos, hilo: de los cuernos, buches, y bexigas, vasos: de las boñigas, lumbre: y de las terneras, odres, en que traen y tienen agua: hazen en fin tantas cosas dellos quantas han menester, o quantas las bastan para su biuienda. Ay tambien otros animales, tan grandes como cauallos, que por tener cuernos, y lana fina, los llaman carneros, y dizen, que cada cuerno pesa dos arrouas. Ay tambien grandes perros, que lidian con vn toro, y que lleuan dos arrouas de carga sobre salmas. quando vã a caça, o quando se mudan con el ganado, y hato.”

Mota Padilla, cap. xxxiii, p. 164, says: “son estas vacas menores que las nuestras; su lana menuda y mas fina que la merina; por encima un poco morena, y entre sí un pardillo agraciado, á la parte de atras es la lana mas menuda; y de allí para la cabeza, crian unos guedejones grandes no tan fines; tienen cuernos pequeños, y en todo lo demas son de la hechura de las nuestras, aunque mas cenceñas: los toros son mayores, y sus pieles se curten dejándoles la lana, y sirven, por su suavidad, de mullidas camas; no se vió becerrilla alguna, y puede atribuirse, ó á los muchos lobos que hay entre ellas, ó á tener otros parajes mas seguros en que queden las vacas con sus crias, y deben de mudarse por temporadas, ó porque falten las aguas de aquellas lagunas, ó porque conforme el sol se retira, les dañe la mutacion del temperamento, y por eso se advierten en aquellos llanos, trillados caminos ó veredas por donde entran y salen, y al mismo movimiento de las vacas, se mueven cuadrillas de indios. . . . y se dijo ser desabrida la carne de la hembra, y es providencia del Altisimo, para que los indios maten los machos y reserven las hembras para el multiplico.”

[294] Scattered through the papers of Dr J. Walter Fewkes on the Zuñi and Tusayan Indians will be found many descriptions of the páhos or prayer sticks and other forms used as offerings at the shrines, together with exact accounts of the manner of making the offerings.

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