The River Of Lost Souls
Category: ALONG THE ROCKY RANGE
Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land
In the days when Spain ruled the Western country an infantry regiment was
ordered out from Santa Fe to open communication with Florida and to carry
a chest of gold for the payment of the soldiers in St. Augustine. The men
wintered on the site of Trinidad, comforted by the society of their wives
and families, and in the spring the women and camp-followers were
directed to remain, while the troops set forward along the canon of the
Purgatoire--neither to reach their destination nor to return. Did they
attempt to descend the stream in boats and go to wreck among the rapids?
Were they swept into eternity by a freshet? Did they lose their
provisions and starve in the desert? Did the Indians revenge themselves
for brutality and selfishness by slaying them at night or from an ambush?
Were they killed by banditti? Did they sink in the quicksands that led
the river into subterranean canals? None will ever know, perhaps; but
many years afterward a savage told a priest in Santa Fe that the regiment
had been surrounded by Indians, as Custer's command was in Montana, and
slain, to a man. Seeing that escape was hopeless, the colonel--so said
the narrator--had buried the gold that he was transporting. Thousands of
doubloons are believed to be hidden in the canon, and thousands of
dollars have been spent in searching for them.
After weeks had lapsed into months and months into years, and no word
came of the missing regiment, the priests named the river El Rio de las
Animas Perdidas--the River of Lost Souls. The echoing of the flood as it
tumbled through the canon was said to be the lamentation of the troopers.
French trappers softened the suggestion of the Spanish title when they
renamed it Purgatoire, and--bullwhackers teaming across the plains
twisted the French title into the unmeaning Picketwire. But
Americo-Spaniards keep alive the tradition, and the prayers of many have
ascended and do ascend for the succor of those who vanished so strangely
in the valley of Las Animas.
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