Editor’s Note: Roland has been part of our small community – here at ask a prepper – for a long time. He often talked about his grandfather, as being his lifetime model. His grandfather was one of the last cowboys and a true embodiment of the values of the Greatest Generation, who struggled though the hardships of the Depression.
To honor someone in death brings meaning to their life as we reflect upon what’s most important in our own.
I want to tell you about my grandpa Felix, an old, proud cowboy from Colorado who shaped me into the man I am, and to share with you some lessons he taught me.
Felix Duran was nothing short of a man’s man. Even in his 80s, his charismatic cowboy charm could still make ladies giggle. The many lines in his face told the story of countless hours he’d spent in the field digging the ditches and setting water for crops. His kind eyes never scolded, but only let you see their disappointment when you’d done something wrong. As kids spending our summers on the farm we would try our hardest not to do something wrong.
My grandfather was a proud Mexican of Spanish/Indian descent from Southern Colorado and wasn’t afraid to let you know it! He was an inventor, a cowboy, steel worker, political figure, and husband of 62 years. It’s all too easy to just say that my grandpa was my hero.The problem being that there just isn’t a single word in the English language that can best describe what he meant to me. I remember him not because I miss the person, but because I miss the larger than life figure that lived in my imagination as a child and that had so much more to teach me.
On the vast dry open plains just in sight of the twin mountains called the Spanish Peaks sits an old tiny adobe house, built by my great grandfather on land given to us by the Spanish in the mid-1800s. In this 3-room house my grandfather was born, as was my mother and most of my aunts and uncles.Grandpa would tell me stories of him as a young ranch hand in Colorado breaking horses for $.50 cents a day during the Depression, or of being in charge of the chuck wagon on long cattle drives through the open range that lasted weeks. Later, he would ranch his own land where he had built a beer hall at the edge of the property next to the road. People from all over would stop on their way home from the rodeos to have a good time drinking and dancing.
Related: 6 Essential Differences Between the Greatest Generation and The Ones That Followed
When it was time for his children to go to school he moved his family to the closest big city, where he took a job working in the steel mill so that the kids could get a proper education.
There, he built a small house for his family on Beech Street, raising six children with his wife, my grandmother, Aurora. When his kids started making families of their own he moved back to the prairie, where he lived out his long life with my grandmother and us grandchildren during the summers. He was big on education, making sure that all of his children went to college, which for a Mexican family in those times was quite a statement.
I swear sometimes I think the only reason I finally graduated from the university was because I didn’t want to disappoint him. In his day girls on the farm were not supposed to be educated, yet he insisted on it.He would say that even if you were only going to change diapers you still need to get an education, so that you can teach your own children. As a boy back then the Mexican children were put in the back of the class, so he only made it through to the 8th grade. He would say that he didn’t want me or anyone else to have to “scratch s*** with the chickens” the way that he did. He was the patriarch of our big family.
All of the kids would gather at the farm in Colorado every summer to help out when the alfalfa was ready to be cut, the cows needed to go to market or there was work to do. My cousins and I would spend time playing in the fields, exploring the many ditches, riding bicycles and always watching out for snakes.
Grandma would make beans and tortillas from scratch on her cast-iron wood stove. Grandpa would come in from the fields, take his boots off, give grandma a big kiss on the cheek, tell her how much he loved her and turned to Paul Harvey on the radio as we would listen to what was happening in the world while we sat down for lunch.He was a simple man, who didn’t go to church that much but thanked God every day for what he had. Of course, he wasn’t without his flaws. He drank beer every evening and spit tobacco since the age of three – well, that’s what he told us. He cussed like a sailor around the kids, but we didn’t understand much as we didn’t speak Spanish. But his old-world charm and class was something to behold when we would all get into the old pickup truck and head into town.
He would hold his head up high as we walked down the street together, talking to everyone with a warm familiar tone and introducing me as his son Cheyenne. He made up names for all the grand kids. There was Gallina (chicken), Indio (Indian), Pecosito (little freckles). To him I was Cheyenne.Out of all of us, I think I spent the most time with him. My parents would let me stay on the farm for the entire summer, allowing me to get to know the family.
When he got the news of pancreatic cancer he sat me down to tell me very plainly, with a beer in hand, that he only had six months left. But, before he would go he would have to spend three days in purgatory to pay for his sins.
No one knew quite what he meant by that. But sure enough, when they brought him home from the hospital he remained in a deep coma for three days.
We were all there with him as he passed, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, girlfriends, boyfriends, a couple of dogs; 50 as I could count.
There, in his living room with a hospital bed brought in and all of the family around, we held his hand as he took his last breath.
It was a moment I will never forget.
I still tear up thinking about how blessed I am to have been his grandson. And I know I’m not alone in that.
We were all lucky.
The first of Felix’s Spanish ancestors came in the early 1600s from Asturias, Spain. His own grandmother was a full-blooded Indian from the Picuris Pueblo tribe of New Mexico. He told us to be proud of our heritage and would say that we were “people that belonged to the land.” Because of this, I have always loved the idea of ancestry, that we belong to the parents of our parents. For us it was the Spanish, and before them the Indian people of the Pueblos.
In spirit, my dear Grandpa is with them and someday I will join them too. But, hopefully, our family will endure long after my passing from this world.
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This was beautiful, and reminded me of my own Mexican grandparents. Thank you, and lots of love for your grandfather and family.
I offer my condolences. Sorry about your loss.
I’m so sorry for your loss. What a great man and family! You are very blessed. You will always have and treasure the memories. I had no Grandparents, Mother and an alcoholic father. I always was jealous of people that had Grandparents. I tell people to treasure them as that won’t always be around. Thank you for sharing the wealth of his wisdom and knowledge. I’ll be praying for your family.
Great message and I too miss my elders… peace
Thank you for making my eyes water. A 83 year old man would not cry over such a wonderful tribute to one of our ancestors. Mine were English and French, but hat makes no difference as all of them built this country for us.
I don’t now you, Roland, but my sincerest condolences. I’ve only met one “man’s man” in my entire life and I consider myself very lucky that I had that opportunity. Unfortunately it wasn’t my father. I know my dad did his best but he was just human and a very flawed individual. You’re very lucky you had the dad you did and I know you miss him with all your heart. Celebrate his life. Remember the good times. 🙂
My grandfather lived to be a gentleman of the land. When he died, I was told that he was making repairs to the roof of his house in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens. He was dead when he hit the ground but he finished the job at hand.
That whole generation is gone. All we can do is celebrate their lives and revere their memories.
How lovely that your Grandfather was such an outstanding person, and example to you children. It’s heart warming to read about him. It sounds like he taught you well. Be thankful.
Claude and family, I am sorry to hear of your loss. It is always hard to lose a loved one but I can tell from your tribute that you all were proud of him and he was well loved. I am so grateful that I had family that taught me right from wrong and helped me teach my children too. I work as a family advocate and see so many children come into this world whose parents do not provide positive examples and who do not have a snowballs chance of growing into responsible adults. I am happy you had your grandfather!
My condolences on the loss of your grandfather. May Jesus comfort & guide you. My Aunt, my last living elder relative, past a few days ago. Her funeral is this week. She was “wonder woman” to me. One of 16 children, she could cook, sew, bake, reupholster, etc. like a dream; had 4 upstanding kids, and her home was always spotless, plus she always looked perfectly dressed, like one of those 1950’s TV moms, even when at their remote cabin in the woods! Lovely lady, few like that today!
I am truly sorry for your loss.
God bless you and you’re family in this time of Grief.
Thank you for the blessing you also give each one of us with your informative articles
So sorry to hear of your Grandfathers passing. He seems to have led a very hard and very wonderful life. You are blessed to have had him in your life. May he sleep with the angels.
Beautiful tribute to your grandfather! How blessed you are to have spent those hours, days and seasons wrapped in his love, wisdom and pride in your heritage. This loss and legacy he left you all will guide you always…
Your Grandpa was a great representative of the older generation. I too grew up with similar influence from my elders in South Western Colorado. Others who have not had those experiences will likely not understand but can only wish they could have had such heritage. My condolences to you and yours on your Grandpas passing.
Wow! You wrote almost exactly what I wrote in 1984 when my dad died also of pancreatic cancer. I’m very sorry for your loss. A person like that is really a loss to the whole world. As time flys by for us, we seem to lose more and more of the great ones. Hopefully you have absorbed most of what he wanted you to learn and are now teaching others. God bless you and your family.
Sorry for your loss he sounds like he was a wonderful man.
What a beautiful story. I felt that way about my Polish/American grand mother, Anna Lapin Jennings. She had a garden in the city,made baby clothes from tobacco sacks and the best chow chow ever. She loved her snoops and McGyver shows and cussed in Polish. She was found in her garden dead of a heart attack, clutching a peach seed in her hand. I miss her every day.
Sorry for your loss. You will miss him every day. What a beautiful testimony to your grandpa and what a glorious life you had with him.
What a beautiful tribute to, what sounds to me like, a beautiful human being! I pray that one day my boys will have as fond of memories as you shared!
That you for such a moving eulogy.
Sorry for your loss. Your grandfather was truly someone worth knowing. These days young people think they have to hang off dangerously high buildings taking selfies to be “someone.” Your grandfather was someone by doing his daily life fully and faithfully to his family.
What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. I was really touched by your article. Thank you for sharing his life with me.
Claude, I am very sorry Grandpa Felix passed away, he was an extraordinary man for his time and ours, beside being the best Grandpa! The rich family history makes me wish I had a family like yours. You are very blessed. Peace be with you and your entire family.
A very great heart warmth sendoff.
What a wonderful tribute. Treasure the memories ,but more importantly remember the lessons and examples of how to be a responsible human being. Sounds like you had a great teacher. Look to your Bible Matthew 5:4
So very sorry for your loss. I lost my grandfather when I was 11 years old. He taught me the meaning of being an upstanding human being, his words. His word was his bond, taught me to value a hard days work AND if one said they would do something ,then by God you had better do it and to finish what you started no matter how difficult the task was Respect others no matter who they were. Get a good education in an era where females were expected to be homemakers only. I’ve tried to raise my boys that way and can say, your grandfather is very proud of you as I know my grandpa is of me and my boys.
So sorry to hear about your loss. May God bless you and keep you strong.
At 66 I’m at a lost of words from your story. Made me think of both my granddad and my father both good men that put the family first Granddad had a small farm that I got to spend lots of summers at. The thing I regret most was dad many a times wanted to teach me auto mechanic I never wanted to have an interest and he was the best know mechanic in the area at the time. Now I which I did, cause I had to learn the hard and expensive way when I got older. Grandpa farmer though and though having 9 kids I’m sure was an handful. Thanks for the lovely memory you gave me with your story. As I’m sure you have many more at heart.
Thank you for sharing your story about your Grandfather. I too, had a Grandfather like him and remember the summers with him and Grandmother. I learned as much as I could from him and Grandmother on the “Old Ways”. I still do those things that bring joy to me and I share with my Grandchildren. Thank you!
What a beautiful memory. He obviously has left a part of him in you; sorry he had to leave but you will carry him on. I hope when I leave I will have created some memories with my grands and great grands They certainly have given me some to take with me. Thanks for sharing.
Roland, I’m so sorry for your loss, and deeply thankful that you and your family were so blessed, in having this amazing man, as a loving role model. Thank you for sharing him, with us.
HIJO DE LA TIERRA, AAHHH, QUE BUENA VIDA, Y !!! QUE BUENA MUERTE, bendito el abuelo, y bendiciones para los que quedan y los que vendran—
Very wonderful to read of your family & ancestors. Am so sorry for his passing, but he is young and happy with the others.
A beautiful tribute to your grandfather. Both of mine were dead before I was born but, luckily, I had a grandmother who taught me many things. I have always wanted to be like her.
My grandfather’s were both gone when I was born. My mother’s mother was my dear friend and strict little lady that never left home without gloves and hat dressed as fine as could be. Yet she worked hard on her garden and home. She was president of the garden club, a women’s club, she taught a Bible class for 50 years at her church. She was alone for close to 40 years. She’d purchased the land and with her cousins she built a lovely 2 story home and raise a grandson.
People of those past generations learned to work hard and hold their heads high.
The year she turned 70 she passed the physical and tests to be a welder at a naval ship yard. They only problem with that was mandatory age 70 retirement from most government work.
My great grandfather was alive but lived a different sort of life. Even in old age he was still afraid of being forced to live on the Reservation. He’d survived Wounded Knee and lived on the run ever since. He spent a wonderful winter with us when I was 5. Even in his 90s he was doing carpentry work moving from job to job. He was a medicineman. He still helped many people where ever he went. He and I spent many hours the in hills that summer. He made sure to develop a respect and interest in the medicines and food that had been provided for us.
Without knowing my future, my mother and great grandfather gave me knowledge that saved my life.
He was a strong proud Lakotah medicine man. Still supporting himself with hard construction jobs. No one knew he was in his 90s. Most guessed this hardworking proud man was 45-50. His hair was still dark. His dark skin, leathery, from a lifetime of working in the sun. He’d tried settling down with a new wife and a combined his surviving child and new little ones. His wife died when the children were about grown. As they left home He also left. He stayed on the move ’till a morning came that he didn’t wake up. He usually camped on the job, started a fire and made coffee for the crew he was working with. They had no idea he’d lived both the old ways and in the new ways, he’d seen death and heartbreaking devastation at Wounded Knee. They didn’t know he was still afraid of being forced back to what he called a prison, an Indian Reservation. He never shared his scars from the sun dance. He never told them about dancing to bring back the freedom of the old ways and the loss of his wife, all his children but one baby, his brother and dear friends… All because the power of the dance caused fear in soldiers. He carried horrific scars from being shot and left for dead. He awoke at dawn a day later and crawled through the fresh snow packing his wounds with snow as he crawled to look for his family. The bleeding stopped but he wished for death as he found them one by one; dead and cold and stiff. He gathered up his infant daughter and promised her life.
I’ll never forget he wanted me to know his story but he didn’t want me to see his tears. He sat down and asked me to sit with him facing away. I’ll never forget the hot tears spilling down my back. Sometimes even cold rain will remind me. People will say those things were so long ago that no one remembers. But I remember his firsthand account and it doesn’t seem so long ago.
In my travels I’ve been near there but the heartbreak is still so painful I couldn’t go look at the memorial. I’m not a tribal member yet they are in my heart because he is in my heart.
Roland, What a loving and inspirational tribute to Your beloved Grandfather ! No doubt he was and still is an epic force who helped mold You into the man You are today ! I could see him and Colorado in the descriptions You so vividly painted with Your words in the tribute. My ancestors came to America from England in the 1600’s,four brothers. My Great-Great-Grandfather was an American Civil War Veteran who survived the War and was taken prisoner at a battle in Farmville,VA. After the War was over,he took the “ Oath of Alligiance “ and was released from being a POW in an upstate New York prison. He walked all the way back home to his 60 acre farm in rural Duplin County,NC. I am a member of “ The Sons of The Confederate Veterans “ as a way of honoring the men who fought and died during the CW. We also are preserving our “ Heritage “ and preserving the true cause of “ The War of Northern Aggression “, not being taught in today’s public schools and colleges in America by liberal teachers and professors. So Roland, stand tall, pass on the “ Heritage” of Your great Spanish/Native American Ancestors as long as You live ! I leave You with this thought, “ You will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory , “. Dr. Seuss once said. Please accept my sincere heart felt condolences. May God continue to bless You and all of my Brothers and Sisters of the Prepping Community.
Thank you so much for sharing your rich family history. I enjoyed it very much. My best to you, and all the rest of your family.
a beautiful tribute to your Grandfather and am sure, he is smiling, at the wonderful knowledge, you share with others.
YOU SOUND LIKE A VERY LUCKY MAN. NOT ONLY TO HAVE SUCH A FIGURE IN YOUR LIFE BUT TO UNDERSTAND AND CHERISH IT .
Que en paz descanse!
Hold on to the “Promise” of eternal life and a glorious reunion when we are gathered together with our Creator because of the redemption by the precious blood of Christ. His blood lives on in you, and you have honored his memory.
Roland, you’re fortunate ( I prefer the word fortunate rather than lucky) to have had such a Grandfather.
Blessings to you and yours.
Even though your grandfather has died he will live in your heart and in your memories he will always live. He reminds me of my grandfather who came from Mexico when he was 8.
Sorry to hear of your loss. But what a legacy he left behind. It is wonderful. Memories are like a waterfall in the desert so precious.
Condolences on your loss. What a loving tribute to a wonderful man.
Sorry for your loss friend.
I am so sorry for you and your families loss.
Sorry for your great loss.
There are only a few great men in our lives. Glad you had one to love and look up to.
Thanks for Sharing.
Thanks for Sharing. Bless him and prayers for your family.
One of the highest praises given in Native America is this: You come from respectable people. Even higher, He walked in beauty. My sympathy because I miss my grandparents and parents. One aunt left out of 16 aunts and uncles, my parents’ siblings, and she’s precious to us. You were blessed and now you need to be the blessing. Niio.
You are lucky to have had such a sweet loving man to look up too and learn from. What a beautiful story, Thank you for sharing that with us. God Bless You and Your Family ♥
so very sorry for your loss
Many offer condolences for a loss, I’ll offer condolences for the passing of a loving man. The life-long gift he was to your family should not be a loss even in death. I’m sure you will feel his presence for many years to come.
Thoughts and prayers for your family.
This was wonderful of you to share. I never knew my grandparents–they all past young before I was born.
But I did know my greats and had all the love in the world
from all my aunts and uncles who I miss and plan to rejoin them when my time comes. There are many people who do not understand the importance of descent adults to a child. I pray that every child will be treated as you were–what a wonderful family you come from.
Wonderful memories!!!! of a great man!!! I pray that we can do as good, before our time is up! He is loved!!!!
Thank you for telling us about Mr. Duran. His was a life well-spent.
so sorry for your lost, your grandfather seemed like a fine man. you must be so proud
You were very fortunate. You were with your family to mourn with and support them. I was on a lightship when my Granddaddy died. His death was my impetus to get my amateur radio license. I owe him for the people I could help voice to voice via MARS and regular amateur radio for the next 35 years when I retired in 1996.
He was a lumber cruiser who took me with him in the summer. As I look back on it, he was teaching me to be a prepper, I just didn’t realize it.