Thursday, September 7, 2017

Heap Bueno Papoose

There’s nothing better than finding a treasure.  While cleaning out an old house on our ranch gold surfaced.  It was the book: “Southern Colorado, Historical and descriptive of Fremont and Custer Counties with their principal towns.  Canon City, and other towns, Fremont County Rosita, Silber Cliff, ULA and wet mountain valley, Custer County. With a description of the IMMENSE (caps mine) Mineral Regions of Fremont and Custer Counties.”
ILLUSTRATED!  (Exclamation point, mine.) Whew.  I’m not sure where the title stops and the subtitle(s) begin.  It was published in Canon City in 1879 by Binckley and Hartwell.

Definitely a treasure.

I’ve been perusing this book and have found a few familiar stories, like one about the bloody Espinosas and their demise and also an account of the first discovery of dinosaur bones in Fremont county which they called Bones of the Monsters.
Bones of the Monsters show on the right.
There was also history about the founders of  Canon City, how the town got its name, and sections on thieves and train robbers.

However, it was the section labeled, “Reminiscences, Anecdotes, etc.” that caught my eye.  As I was skimming and scanning, one entry brought me to a full stop.  It was titled, “Heap Bueno Papoose!” (exclamation point NOT mine.)

This half a page story told about a group of peaceable Sioux on their way to get their annuities who stopped at a camp of travelers west of Fort Kearney.  One of the members of the party was Mrs. Thos. Macon, the wife of one of Canon City’s founders.  After the Indians had milled through the camp, made trades, and finally departed, Mrs. Macon discovered her baby missing. She immediately set out, at the front of a search party and they caught up with the Sioux about a mile down the trail.  Not wasting any time, Mrs. Macon found the Sioux woman who was hiding the boy under a blanket.  Mrs. Macon took her child back, and according to the story, the only explanation given by the Sioux about the kidnapping was, “Heap Bueno Papoose.”

This is exactly why this book was such a treasure.  Fiction writers love this kind of gold.  A whole imaginary story unfolded—possibly an entire book.  And my author's mind shouted, “What if?!” What if the Sioux woman hadn’t given the child up?  What if the settlers had gone to the Sioux camp and not been able to find the baby?  What if the Sioux had already traded the baby along the trail?

The most fascinating thing of all was the Sioux’s explanation for the kidnapping: “Heap Bueno Papoose”—the mix of Spanish, Anglo, and the word “Heap” that in my own experience comes from Tonto and the Lone Ranger. (Heap big trouble coming, chief.)  Somewhere before the Lone Ranger, this word was actually used on the Plains…before 1879 to be exact.

This is why I love writing historical fiction.  The gold is in the details of real people who lived real lives somewhere back in time. 


  1. What an awesome find! Great stories, yes, but greater first-hand accounts of history.

  2. Nancy, this is truly a treasure! (Exclamation point mine.) Wow. What years does it cover? My great, great grandparents came to Fremont County to work in the mines. Are there stories about those Welsh miners in the book?

    Your imagination is a gift. Thanks for creating stories and sharing them as you find the wonderful bits of Colorado history.

    1. Sally, this may be a repeat, but here goes. The book goes back to 1540 with some general history, but mostly goes forward after the first permanent group of white settlers in 1869. What was the name of the ancestors who mined here? I'll see if I can find info on the Welsh interesting.

  3. Very cool! Hidden treasure right under your nose so to speak. Heap Bueno story ideas! - Shanna

    1. Don't you love language? This book is full of interesting stuff, but I just couldn't resist the Heap Bueno Papoose.

  4. I'm always on the search for just such 'precious' resources. A gold mine indeed. Doris