Prohibition

Wine and beer supplemented the incomes of a number of Greenlee County residents during prohibition . . . until law enforcement cracked down.

CLIFTON — In last week’s Copper Era, Frank Gonzales, of the Greenlee County Historical Society, began the tale of his uncle Pancho. Nicknamed “el Mocho” after losing both legs in a railroad accident, Pancho later learned to ride a horse unaided.

“There’s stories and stories that I could tell you about this man,” Gonzales said, “but I’m going to tell you a story about how he acquired a wife.

“The homesteads were still in Eagle Creek. There were all kinds of homesteads, mostly Mexican people, and they would have what they called charrascas. These were good functions. They’d make their own beer or liquor, maybe slaughter a pig or something.

“So he heard there was going to be a charrasca. He got his horses, saddled them and went. He noticed a guy that was mistreating this woman. This guy treated her real bad — pushed her around, shoved her. Finally, he had an opportunity and went and talked to the lady. He told her, ‘Hey, I see how this man is mistreating you. Do you want to leave him?’

“She says ‘I’ve got two little girls.’

“‘Well, bring your two little girls. Right behind those elm trees there are two horses. By the time you have an opportunity, I’ll have them saddled. You just get over there and we’ll leave.’ So he stole the woman.

“Gossip and stories were faster than the papers. They got around. Stories had it that Pancho el Mocho stole horses and a woman from Eagle Creek. He said, ‘No, I stole the woman, but the horses were mine.’ That’s how he acquired a wife.

“The girls that really kept an eye on him were the girls that woman had; they weren’t his. They took care of him to the very end. He lived to be 68 years of age.”

Gonzales said his uncle received government training as a cobbler.

“I met the guy that trained him. He said he got good; he knew what he was doing. With his hands he could do most anything, but they had a problem in the shop. He had to have a platform because he didn’t have legs. He tried it and he didn’t care much for it.

“So here comes the Depression. People are hurting, including him and his family. The easiest way to make money was booze — moonshine. He had a string of three or four mules, and one night he went all the way to Silver City. The government people were watching. They knew that people were making booze and selling it. So they watched when they loaded the mules for him and he headed this way.

“When it got dark, he had a way of finding a tree. He’d throw a rope and pull the load completely off the mule and leave it hanging. He unsaddled everything, and made a fire. In the morning they went to him and said, ‘We’ve got you surrounded. We’re waiting for your gang to show up.’”

Pancho inquired as to what gang the officer meant. Assured by the man that he could not be acting alone, Pancho affirmed that he was indeed by himself.

“Well,” said Gonzales, “the federal officer told him, ‘I’ll tell you what. You think you’re so smart, if you can saddle that horse with those little barrels of booze on him by yourself, I’ll let you go.’

“It wasn’t something that he hadn’t done before. He did it. He saddled the horse, and the government agent stood to his word. He turned him loose.”

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