Armchair Historians

Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 2

June 23, 2020 Leon Joseph Littlebird
Armchair Historians
Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 2
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Armchair Historians
Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 2
Jun 23, 2020
Leon Joseph Littlebird

Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 2

Leon Joseph Littlebird is an internationally renowned musician, recording artist and performer.  A third generation native of Colorado with ancestral roots in both Pioneer & Native American cultures his multi-instrumentalist style is called: “Native Colorado Music”. His deep sonorous singing voice and masterful Native Flute and guitar styles captivate audiences.

In part 2, Leon regales the adventures of his father as a young child growing up in the rough and tough mining town of Silver Plume, Colorado and then Denver where he meets the most famous cowboy of all time.

Resources:

Leon's website

Leon's Facebook

Leon's YouTube

Photo Gallery

More about Leon’s father, Charles des Moineaux

Support the show:

Become a patron of Armchair Historians

Show Notes Transcript

Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 2

Leon Joseph Littlebird is an internationally renowned musician, recording artist and performer.  A third generation native of Colorado with ancestral roots in both Pioneer & Native American cultures his multi-instrumentalist style is called: “Native Colorado Music”. His deep sonorous singing voice and masterful Native Flute and guitar styles captivate audiences.

In part 2, Leon regales the adventures of his father as a young child growing up in the rough and tough mining town of Silver Plume, Colorado and then Denver where he meets the most famous cowboy of all time.

Resources:

Leon's website

Leon's Facebook

Leon's YouTube

Photo Gallery

More about Leon’s father, Charles des Moineaux

Support the show:

Become a patron of Armchair Historians

Speaker 1:

Thank you for joining us today for armchair historians. I'm your host Ann Marie Cannon . Armchair historians is a Belgian rabbit production. Stay up to date with us through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Wherever you listen to your podcast , that is where you'll find us. You can also find [email protected] also won't you consider becoming a patron of the show in an effort to keep armchair historians commercial free. I have decided to work with Patrion to find out more, go to patrion.com backslash armchair historians, that's historians with an S you can also find a link to our Patrion page. In the episode notes, you will be helping me to keep the lights on, and if you can't make a donation, that's totally cool. I just hope you will continue to listen to our free podcasts . Some of you know that I live in the Colorado Rocky mountains. I love living here and I have met some of the most interesting people. Our guests today, Leon Joseph Little bird is no exception. His family history literally goes back to the beginning with indigenous roots through his mother's family line in pioneer roots through his fathers . This is part two of the interview with Leon, Joseph LittleBird . If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend you go back and listen to part one half century buckle up boys and girls, because Leon is going to take us for an interesting ride. Far as the eye could see that's a side. We will never see a sound. We'll never hear rolling thunder.

Speaker 2:

I mean, my dad remembers seeing a guy that was shot out of the saloon in the morning on his way to school, still lying in the street. I mean , um, and so I'm going to shift down more towards my father because there's really great stories that is strictly just family history. That's so cool that you really can't. There's no access to it cause I've never written that book. And so here he is, my dad was named Charles after his great grandfather. So another Gerald , my family's full of him back. My name's Leon, Joseph, Charles. So I got the moniker in there, Charles France , Joseph. Okay. So his mother was originally from, was half French and Prussian. So France , Joseph was a famous name for the Prussians back then. So he got hit with that moniker. He was named after obviously his iconic grandfather and then his little brother was named Leon. Okay . So that was after his dad's favorite brother. And they left the Frederick off and named him Leon at three years old, he had a toothache and the dentist from Georgetown gave him some pain medication and it killed him. And so my dad very well remembers that his, my grandfather was five 11 and a minor had worked . I have his wedding ring and it's bigger than my thumb. Right. I mean, so he was a big, huh? Uh, no , uh, I have the red , uh , old pictures of him. Yeah. I have photographs of him. Yeah. Uh , it real kind gentleman , my mom always spoke of him, just would love. And he was a great guy, apparently. Um, but he was so grief stricken that his son had been killed by this medication. You loaded his Winchester, 94, 25 35, and was going to Georgetown to kill the dentist. When his wife who was four foot 10, probably weighed a hundred pounds, tackled him in the front yard and sat on him and convinced him. I just lost my son. I don't want to lose my husband. And here's my dad like, you know, five years old watching this whole thing. And so it was a big memory for my dad. You know, that he had lost his little brother and he saw his parents. So grief stricken. And so many years later when Dave Collins owned our old house, it was the post office in silver plume. And I was ski racing and Georgetown at the old red ramp after a ski race and ran into these two guys who worked in the post office, that's silver plume. And they said, it's haunted. I said, what do you mean? And they didn't know me or my family was there any of that? And they said, there's a little boy that if we leave things at a certain level of this little monitory, little boy knocked stuff off, and we come back to the morning, things have been changed and moved around, but only about the height, the little boy could reach, you know, and we feel this there's this Henri little boy. And he's like, that's my uncle. That's the guy named Dave called is actually let me go up and spend the night thereafter through the post office out. And I had no ectoplasmic experience there, but , um, uh, you know, I, I brought him home with me. I said, come home, your dad, your brother's still alive. And when my father passed away, he was 94 and I was the first one to get to his bedside. And he had the biggest smile on his face. And his hand was raised up in the air and he was looking up and he had this, like he had seen. And as I walked in, I already knew that he had passed. So I walked in and crying. I was already upset and I could feel this little boy in the room, but I was focused on my dad and it was little, his little brother came and got it. It was really, really cool. I mean, I could tell by the look on his face and the presence in the room that he had come to take his brother home, really , really kind of a ghost story that , uh , that is of cool. But one of the neatest things that my dad would tell me is, you know, back then the Colorado and Southern railway ran the narrow gauge train from Denver, silver plume. And the turnaround was right there at the end of town in silver plume. And that's what , that's the end of the line that turned the engine around and go back down. So now we all know the Georgetown loop, it's still an operation, you know , and it was a little different back then, the way it looked. But you could hear in silver plume , you could hear the train coming for a long time before it arrived at the station. So my dad would gather up iron pyrite and Polish it up, make it real shiny. Cause it looks like gold and stand on the platform and people with an accent. And if they have , or speaking a foreign language and sell them fools gold, and back in those days, a miner made a dollar a day and my dad would make 50 cents, 75 cents, you know, come home. And my grandmother's like what a great job for a five year old boys. So she became his marketing director and they took some cardboard and made like a little display and Haywood should have him take his shirt and shoes off. So he look poor and he sold fool's gold. Do the tourists at the train station in silver plumber . That was a big part of his deal. And he was really, you know, my dad was a sweet kind, really, really smart kid. But , uh , and if you would have known him as , as an adult, you'd never, you wouldn't believe how Henri he was. I mean, the stories you tell me in Halloween, they would steal the Gates off people's front, front yard. Now the gate hinge , just get , just sat down. It wasn't locked in, so you could pull the gate straight up and then, then hang them over the Telegraph poles. Oh my God. And that was the kind of pranks. And another thing they would do is most of the houses are framed , right? So they would take a square nail and tie a string to it and put the nail up between the slats or the frame house on a, in the middle of a wall and put with Ross and from a violin bow until it's set up a vibration and made the house home , people would come out, freak out and confused by why their house was humming that coal the nail off in Hightail. So this was what , where did they ever get that ? My dad thought, you know , I mean , it was his idea. He was, he was a genius. I mean, he went on to really, truly be a genius with many patents and inventions, incredibly prolific artists. In fact, behind me, you're seeing my dad's artwork on the wall. And , uh , so by 1815, you know, the , the towns and in clear Creek in 1915, by 1915, yes, I'm sorry. By 1915, all those mining towns were starting to shut down pretty much. Um, you know, there was, they , they were become ghost towns really quick, but the train was still running. The train ran until I think 19 early 1940s. But , um, or at least the tracks were still there was during the war. They tore all the tracks down for the metal, but , um, my family could go back and forth. So they maintained their house and silver plume, but moved to Denver so they could work. And they bought a house at 29 31 Marion street, which is called Curtis park now and across the street at 29 32 Lafayette cross, the alley actually was this great big house with an old three seasons screened up back porch and soul man would sit out on that porch every day and watch the kids play . And all the kids have been told, leave him alone. He's old. You sick. Don't bother that old man. He's special. So back in those days, look, boys, I liked Cowboys, especially Buffalo bill. He was the King of the wild West. You have all the nickel novels and you know, it was a big deal. So my dad was out pretending. He was about 14, 15 years old and he's pretending he's a cowboy. So he found this old hat type twine around it. And he made a rifle out of a picket from a picket fence with Shaun . Finally carved it to look like a rifle because you couldn't buy toys . You had to make your own. And the old man is watching my dad play and he calls me over, Hey son, come here. I want to talk to you. And so my dad wasn't afraid anybody grew up in a mining town, you know? I mean, he saw the frontier change, right? And he walks up. Yes, sir. I'm barely see the old guy. And he goes, so I've been watching you play. So who do you pretend you are? And you hold that rifle up . And he goes, I'm Buffalo bill. And the old man says, no son I'm Buffalo bill. It was his sister and Decker owned that house. And bill was at the end of his life. He was in the last two and a half, three years of his life. And she was taking care of him. And so my dad ended up striking up a friendship with Buffalo bill and Buffalo bill convinced him that he should bring him whiskey and tobacco. Cause your sister wouldn't let it . And so my dad would tell me the story of my whole life was a boy growing up, but he never quite finished if he did that. He would always say he called him the old man and say , the old man used to ask me for whiskey and tobacco. And I would say was a kid. I'd say , what'd you do? And you just shrug your shoulders. But when my dad was in his nineties and I was helping my mom take care of him, he was so grateful that come and visit Bay them and take care of it. So humbling and beautiful for me to take care of my father. He was like, what can I do for you? And I said, finish the stories. I want the rest of the details from this family stories. Did you bring Buffalo bill whiskey ? And he kind of hemmed and hawed and goes well , yeah, well you were 15. Where did you get it? He goes, yeah , I had to steal it. It was like , well, why didn't you from your dad? He goes, yeah. And I said, why didn't you ever tell me that I didn't want you to think it was okay to steal my stuff.

Speaker 1:

That's awesome.

Speaker 2:

So he , uh, so this, this precocious and intelligent young man , uh , with all of this cool history and great stories and Buffalo bill told him some great stories, which I've put in some of my songs, I've written a song called the ghost to the Buffalo. That's all about that meeting of my dad and Buffalo bill and the stories he told about the train having to stop for five days. Well, the Buffalo herd cross the track. Wow. So many millions of Buffalo there were so , um , pretty crazy. So, but he was a prolific artist and a craftsman and an inventor, and really got a great dad, really tremendous teacher and patient bought me my first guitars and encouraged me and made my first native flute for me. And , um, you know, I mean, just so, so incredible, but he got the job with only an eighth grade education, which he got in silver plume, right. He went to night school to art school, but he got the job in 1925 when he was 26 years old to be the art director for mountain States, telephone and Telegraph, which was at and T and it was his idea to put the commercial phone directory on yellow paper now. Yep . Seriously. So that all started in Denver as well . They didn't call it the yellow pages until 1957. So I, and when that became, let your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages, we can real big deal. And so at eight years old, right. So dad, you invented the yellow pages and he's like, no, that would Mark it and called it the yellow pages. It was just my idea to put it on yellow paper.

Speaker 1:

That's interesting. So was that original phone? Oh , the phone book. It just, you know , it just brought back so much just that thought of the phone book, you know, and that I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, so it was pretty thick. One book,

Speaker 2:

The yellow pages and the white pages were together in one book. Right , right. Yeah. So they used yellow paper to separate it . That's interesting.

Speaker 1:

Wow. The I'm I'm most, so far, that's the most impressive thing you've said

Speaker 2:

Again, incredibly gifted artisan and craftsman. And , um, our basement was full of tools laves and drill presses and routers. And I, part of my education was to learn to use tools and, and to paint and to draw to sculpt. And I'm so grateful that I have this incredible pioneer heritage here in Colorado. That includes , um, all these wonderful artists and musicians. And I am trying to keep that heritage alive.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. That's about it . My family was very musically inclined and I love to hear stories about like what you said about that legacy of passing the music down from generation to generation. And I wish I had that, but I , you know, somebody has to be an appreciator of find music. So that's me. That's what I do. We need fans . That's right. We're fans.

Speaker 2:

Well, thank you so much for giving me the honor and the time to share , um, my favorite history of today, my talking about , uh, the, those who preceded me and, and, you know, I think often is when I'm up on , um, Waldorf for Argentine pass or something with my $2,000 mountain bike feeling like I'm a real stud that it was my grandfather and great uncle were up there with shovels and picks making that road, you know? So it's , uh, it's humbling and it , and it's, and it's, you know, that most of the stories I do about the other side of my family, which is the indigenous side and the creation of music and musical instruments. And that's where I've spent the majority of my time doing research. And , um, the more, most of the professional storytelling gigs that I get are about that, how the indigenous created music, did your dad meet your mom? Oh, well, this is really cool. So here here's my mother whose family moves to Colorado dirt poor. Their first place they lived in Denver was an abandoned theater. Oh wow. Cause they couldn't afford anything else. And there was a hole in the roof so they could light a fire to keep warm. And so my mother taught in one of, two of her sisters had tuberculosis. It was really one of those incredible stories. But my mother found a typewriter that someone had thrown away, fixed it and taught herself to type. She was 14 and went to the typing pool at mountain States, telephone and Telegraph, and got hired because she was faster and more accurate than all the other girls. And she was a hard worker and she was funny, had a great sense of humor and cute as a button. So she went up the ranks and became the secretary of the president of mountain States, telephone and Telegraph, who was my dad's boss. Ah, and now my dad had already been traveling by this time. This was 1933, but that's what I , my dad was this handsome debonair, 34 year old artists , president of the art Guild, traveling to Taos where my mom was born was one of his favorite places in Santa Fe to show his art, but also monument Valley loved the Navajo. So he laid eyes on my mom. It was love at first sight. And even at his old, at 94 years old, when my mom would walk in the room, my dad light up and go, there's my angel. He , they were completely in love. She wanted, she wanted a blue eyed guy to get her to be her savior. My dad had brilliant blue eyes. So , um, they both got their wish and they were devoted to each other. So that's how they met. And from the day that they first met, it was, that was it. It was a pretty, it's really kind of a cool love story. That's beautiful. I love hearing stories like that. And that's, and so that's , uh , you know, my dad kind of came to the rescue and help, you know, my grandmother, my Navajo grandmother, whose name was Leon Knorr . So I get Leon from both sides of the family. What a coincidence. Well, it's really cool because when it came time to name me, I have an older brother and older sister and I was, they were quite a bit older than me. So when I came along, I was the last kid by , cause my mom wanted choose a lot younger than my dad. So she wanted one more kid and my dad was very successful. So I was like, sure. You know, and he was 50, almost 52 when I was born. So , uh, which was great for me cause you live to 94. So I had him a long time, but my brother and sister got married, were gone when I was still in high school, you know? So , um, I had my dad all to myself and he was retired and he would just say, pack up your bag. We're going for a couple of weeks. And we'd head to monument Valley and towels and , um, Canyon to Shay . And you know, it was my dad who kept me connected to my heritage. That's nice. Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you would like to say, or I would like to say thank you very much for your time. And uh , for giving me the honor of sharing , uh, my family history of pretty passionate about my heritage and um, and for good reason, they , the , these were some extraordinary people. And when you think about how tough life was back then , um, you know, they were all in the business of surviving every day. And um , I look at how fortunate I am to live here in the mountains still. And to be able to make a living as a singer songwriters , storyteller, you know, someone who gets to do ceremonies for people and uh , very, very fortunate. And you know, in this current thing that we're going through, I just keep looking ahead is to, we're going to learn some new ways to live. And , and I think this was one of those new ways that we're going to become more reliant to poem .

Speaker 1:

Yeah. It's it's yeah, it's been a real mixed bag. I was thinking about that before we started talking was there's been some really positive things about it, but you know, there's also that downside and that change in the, you know, having to think differently and, and yet all those things are positive at the same time.

Speaker 2:

Well , we'll learn and we'll grow , uh , if we're as smart as we think we are.

Speaker 1:

Definitely, definitely. Did you say you had some music that you wanted to wanted me to use to send it to you? Yeah. You can just send me a digital file and I'll use it. Cause you know, I have a format for how I start the podcast and I start out with my own music, but then I always have some special music with Kevin w it's like an old French musical piece. Um, and so every time I'll have something, a little different and that would be great if I could use,

Speaker 2:

Well, I can send you several things I can send you, you know, like from the ghost of the Buffalo, which I, which I mentioned. Cause that's , uh , so, and there's, and I can also send you some of the native flute stuff. That's really cool that for mental that you can use, so I'll send you, I'll send you a few things you can and use what you want. You have my permission.

Speaker 1:

All right . Okay, cool. Very cool. Thank you so much for being here and talking to me today. I really enjoyed it. It was my pleasure. That was a lot of fun. Thank you for listening today. I'm going to leave you with the ghost of the Buffalo by Leon Joseph Little bird have a great week.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

Not long ago on the Eastern plain . It's funny how fast

Speaker 4:

Things can change. Cities sprawl. The open range was the land of the Buffalo one and a half centuries. Since the Prairie was flooded by a BICE and see Brown and dusk moving endlessly far as the ag , it's see that's aside . We will never see a sound. We'll never hear rolling thunder through the Prairie. Grass is the bison herd moves near running through the legends of the past, but goes to the Buffalo.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible]

Speaker 4:

Even from a hundred miles away, you can hear him come sometimes for days. See the dust feel the shake of the earth beneath your feet. I heard some old timers say the herd was moving. It could take five days. Stan . It's still in there coming your way. You'd swear. They never end , but that's a side. We will never see a sound. We'll never hear the rolling thunder through the Prairie grass. As the bison herd moves near. Now, there is no shadow cast by the ghost of the Buffalo.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible]

Speaker 4:

Old man sits on a screened up porch. His days looked at him, his eyes bear the torch of a young man who was a hero born out of blood, into history. He sits alone there every day . Watching as the children play, one boy gets close and he says, son, who do you pretend to be? He says, I am the star of the wild West show the King of the open rain . I travel around with a rodeo and a woman with a deadly aim. The whole world knows that I got my fame from the ghost of the Buffalo.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible]

Speaker 4:

Old man says, boy, I love those words these days. That's about the sweetest thing I've heard here . You'd tell the tale of my younger days and pretend you are me. That's the first time the young boys sees his long white hair, sharp goatee . He's looking at a legend out of history. He says, sir, who are you? He says, I was the star of the wild show. The King of the open rain . I traveled round with an Indian chief, had a woman with a deadly. Hey , the whole world knows that I got my fame from the ghost of the Buffalo.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible]

Speaker 4:

Old man fills the boy's head with tales of frontier life. Great detail. Being a scout ride, pony express. How the red man was his friend. The boy brings whiskey and tobacco plug. See cross legged on a Navajo rug. While the old man spent his yarns and tells how the West was really one . But those are stories. We will never hear old memories fade away like the rolling thunder through the Prairie grass no longer heard today. Now there is no shadow cast by the ghost of the Buffalo.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] .